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The Crocus was dedicated to St. Valentine, as it appears about the period of that Saint's day, which is regarded as peculiarly sacred to affection ; St. Valentine is recorded to have been erninent for love and charity. One species of daisy appears about the time of St. Margaret's day; this is called in France, La Belle Marguerite, and in England, Herb Margaret.
The Crown Imperial blossoms in England about the 18th of March, the day of St. Edward, King of the West Saxons ; nature thus, as was imagined, honouring the day with a royal flower.
The Cardamine, or our Lady's flower, distinguished for its pure white, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The Mary-gold, so called from a fancied resemblance of the florets of its disk to rays of glory, is also consecrated to the Virgin.
On the day of St. George, the patron saint of England, the blue bells, there called field hyacinth, tinge the meadows and pastures with their deep blue colour; they are thought to afford an emblem of the empire of the ocean, over which Eng. land assumes the rule.
The St. John's-wort blossoms near that saint's day. The scarlet Lychnis, called the great candlestick, or candle (CANDELABRUM ingens), was supposed to be lighted up for St. John the Baptist, who was a burning and a shining light. The white lily expands about the time of the annunciation, affording another coincidence of the blossoming of white flowers at the festivals consecrated to the mother of Christ. The roses of summer are said to fade about the period of St. Mary Mag. dalen's day.
The passion flower is said to blossom about Holy Rood day. Allusions to this day being frequently found among writers of former days, it may be well to inform you that according to the legends of the Romish church, the cross on which our Saviour was crucified was discovered in the year 326, by Helena, the mother of Constantine, who is said to have built a church on the spot where it lay. The word Rood signifies the Cross ; thus this day is the day of the Holy Cross.
It was during the middle ages, when the minds of men were influenced by the blindest superstition, that they thus imagined every operation of nature to be emblematical of something connected with their religious faith. Although these supersti. tions are trifling and absurd, they are interesting as connected with the annals of the human mind, and as showing us the ori. gin of many names of plants. Had the superstitious monks
During the middle ages men imagined the operations of nature connected with their peculiar religious tenets--Ignorance of the monks and nuns.
and nuns, who were the authors of these conceits, and at that time the most learned part of the community, been possessed of as much knowledge as most children in our country, they would have known that plants bloom earlier or later, according to various circumstances of climate; and that a flower which in Italy blossoms as early as February might not appear in England before April ; while the day of the Saint which the flower was supposed to commemorate, would occur at the same time in both places. Phenomena of Plants, arising from changes in the atmosphere.
Plants exhibit some phenomena which are supposed to arise from the state of the atmosphere ; accurate observers of nature have made remarks upon these changes in plants, as preceding certain changes of weather. Lord Bacon, who was remarkably attentive to all the appearances and changes of natural objects, is the author of the following observations.
“ Chickweed (Anagallis). When the flower expands boldly and fully, no rain will happen for four hours or upwards : if it continues in that open state, no rain will disturb the summer's day ; when it half conceals its miniature flower, the day is generally showery ; but if it entirely shuts up or veils the white flower with its green mantle, let the traveller put on his great coat, and the ploughman, with his beasts of draught, expect rest from their labour.
“ Siberian Sowthistle (Sonchus). If the flowers of this plant keep open all night, rain will certainly fall the next day.
Trefoil (Hedysarum). The different species of trefoil always contract their leaves at the approach of a storm : hence these plants have been termed the Husbandman's Barometer.
African Mary-gold. If this plant opens not its flowers in the morning about seven o'clock, you may be sure it will rain that day unless it thunders.
“ White thorns and dog-rose bushes. Wet summers are generally attended with an uncommon quantity of seed on these shrubs, whence their unusual fruitfulness is a sign of se. vere winter."
Beside the above, there are several plants, especially those with compound, yellow flowers, which during the whole day, turn their flowers towards the sun, viz. to the East in the morn. ing, to the South at noon, and to the West towards evening.
This is very observable in the sowthistle, Sonchus arvensis ; and it is a well known fact, that a great part of the plants in
Various phenomena of plants-Lord Bacon's observations—Changes of flowers indicating changes of weather-Plants which turn towards the sun.
a serene sky, expand their flowers, and as it were with cheer. ful looks behold the light of the sun; but before rain, they shut them up, as the tulip.
The flowers of the chick-wintergreen (Trientalis) droop in the night, lest rain or moisture should injure the fertilizing pollen.
One species of woodsorrel, shuts up or doubles its leaves be. fore storms and tempests, but in a serene sky expands or unfolds them, so that husbandmen can foretel tempests from it. It is also well known that the sensitive plants, and cassia, observe the same rule.
Besides affording prognostics of weather, many plants fold themselves up at particular hours, with such regularity as to have acquired names from this property. The following are among the more remarkable plants of this description.
Goatsbeard. The flowers of both species of Tragopogon, open in the morning at the approach of the sun, and without regard to the state of the weather, regularly shut about noon. Hence it is generally known by the name of go-to-bed-at-noon.
The Princesses' leaf, or four o'clock flower (Mirabilis), in the Malay Islands, is an elegant shrub, so called by the natives, because their ladies are fond of the grateful odour of its white leaves. It opens its flowers at four in the evening, and does not close them till the same hour returns in the morning. Many people transplant them from the woods into their gardens, and use them as a dial or clock, especially in cloudy weather.
The Evening Primrose (Enothera), is well known from its remarkable properties of regularly shutting with a loud popping noise, about sunrise, and opening at sunset. After six o'clock, these flowers regularly report the approach of night.
The tamarind tree, the water lily (Nymphæa), the marygold, the false sensitive plant, and several others of the Dia. delphia class, in serene weather expand their leaves in the day time, and contract them during the night. According to some botanists, the tamarind tree enfolds within its leaves, the flowers or fruit every night, in order to guard them from cold or rain.
The flower of the garden lettuce, which is in a vertical plane, opens at seven o'clock, and shuts at ten.
“ A species of serpentine aloes, without prickles, whose large and beautiful flower exhales a strong odour of the Vanilla dur. ing the time of its expansion, which is very short, is cultivated in the imperial garden of Paris. It does not blossom until to. wards the month of July, and about five o'clock in the evening, at which time it gradually opens its petals, expands them,
Plants which hang their heads at night and in storms-The Go-to-bed-ad noon–The four o'clock-Evening Primrose.
droops and dies. By ten o'clock the same night, it is totally withered, to the great astonishment of the spectators, who flock in crowds to see it.
“ The cereus, a native of Jamaica and Vera Cruz, expands an exquisitely beautiful flower, and emits a highly fragrant odour, for a few hours in the night, and then closes to open no more. The flower is nearly a foot in diameter, the inside of the calyx of a splendid yellow, and the numerous petals are of a pure white. It begins to open about seven or eight o'clock in the evening, and closes before sunrise in the morning.
-- The flower of the dandelion possesses very peculiar means of sheltering itself from the heat of the sun, as it closes entirely whenever the heat becomes excessive. It has been observed to open in summer at half an hour after five in the morning, and to collect its petals towards the centre about nine o'clock."*
Linnæus has enumerated forty-six flowers which possess this kind of sensibility: he divides them into three classes. 1. Meteoric flowers, which less accurately observe the hour of
folding, but are expanded sooner or later, according to the
cloudiness, moisture, or pressure of the atmosphere. 2. Tropical flowers, that open in the morning, and close before
evening every day, but the hour of their expanding becomes earlier or later, as the length of the day increases or de.
3. Equinoctial flowers, which open at a certain and exact hour
of the day, and for the most part close at another determinate hour.
Habits of plants.-Agents which affect their growth.-Their
habitations, and geographical situations.-Elevation corresponding to latitude.
The constitution of plants and that of animals seems to fit them for particular climates, and for digesting food of a certain kind. The plant cannot, like the animal, rove about in search of food best suited to its nature, but, fixed in one spot, must receive the nourishment that there offers itself. If this nou
Night-blooming Cereus, &c.- Meteoric flowers-Tropical-EquinoctialThe constitution of plants Atted for particular climates.
rishment is too abundant, the vessels becoming loaded with excess, cease to perform their accustomed functions, and the plant dies of surfeit; if on the other hand the food offered is too little, or not sufficiently nourishing, the plant dies of star, vation.
Yet plants may be brought to live in climates, and on food not naturally suited to their constitutions ; or in other words their habits may be changed. Although we may suppose that many things now necessary to our comfort and even our lives, are rendered so by nature; yet if we reflect a moment we shall see that very many of our own wants are the result of habit. Did you never see the children of poor parents running about in the snow with' bare feet, and apparently much more healthy than the little master or miss whom a servant must carry to school, for fear the winds of heaven may visit them too roughly? Why does this difference exist between individuals of the same species? It is owing to habit. Thus we may see lingering
of a northern winter, the nasturtion; but the same temperature which it bears without injury, would at once destroy those of the same species which have flourished only beneath a tropical sun.
In changing the habit of a plant, or, as it is frequently termed, naturalizing it, the temperature is the principal thing to be considered ; although the soil and the quantity of moisture should be rendered as similar as possible, to those of its native habitation.
Plants from warm climates are gradually accustomed to a lower temperature by placing them in hot-houses, then in green houses, and lastly in the open air. While the plant is going through with this kind of discipline, an opportunity is afforded of observing the kind of soil most favourable to its growth, the quantity of moisture which it requires, the degree of light which seems necessary, and the kind of exposure as to wind which appears most favourable.
Plants vary much in their susceptibility of naturalization. The horse-chesnut, which is now common in the middle and northern United States, was originally brought from the tropical regions. In these regions, however, it usually grows in grounds somewhat ahove the level of the sea, and therefore its habit, as to temperature, renders it in some degree fitted for more northern countries. Orange and lemon trees cannot be brought to bear the roughness of our climate, without some protection.
Remarks on their habits— Temperature considered in the naturalization of plants—Observations necessary in the process-Plants vary in susceptibility of naturalization.