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The Naturalist's Diary
For APRIL 1829.
Childhood, who, like an April morn, appears
Now APRIL pours its copious showers,
Replenishing the glebe anew;
Her tender herbage rears to view.
Shall in immortal vigour grow;
Who bids the springing floweret blow.
In this month the business of creation seems resumed. The vital spark rekindles in dormant existences; and all things live, and move, and have their being.' The earth puts on her livery to await the call of her lord; the air breathes gently on his cheek, and conducts to his ear the warblings of the birds, and the odours of new-born herbs and flowers; the great eye of the world - sees and shines' with bright and gladening glances; the waters teem with life; man himself feels the revivifying and all-pervading influence; and his
Spirit holds communion sweet
See, APRIL comes! a primrose coronal
Watts's Poetical Album.
O! now glad Nature bursts upon mine eye-
D. L. RICHARDSON.
The student of botany will find ample amusement in this month: vegetation, in all its forms, presents countless objects for admiration--for inquiry and reflection. There is a positive source of pleasure in knowing the species of plants individually. Every plant of which we acquire a knowledge by sight, so as to be able to recognize it again when it comes in our way, is not only a distinct source of pleasure at first, but the pleasure is repeated and increased when we see it for the second and third times, or after some time, or in any other circumstances relatively to ourselves or to the plant. In this way, with no other knowledge of plants than that of being able to name them when we see them, and, consequently, to communicate our ideas respecting them to others, they may prove sources of the most interesting associations. But even this pleasure, derived from what may be termed the trivial knowledge of plants, may be greatly enhanced by extending our views to circumstances connected with them not strictly botanical. Thus we may view them with regard to their geological relation in any particular country, their geographical distribution relatively to the world, their migration from one country to another, their relation to climate, their being domestic plants following man, their being social (growing in masses) or solitary, their being abundant or rare, their natural modes of propagation, their natural enemies or friends whether among other plants or among animals, their history with regard to man, and their properties, uses, and culture. A mere general lover of plants, therefore, who knows no more of them, in a strictly botanical sense, than their names, may add greatly to the pleasure which he derives from this taste, by simply acquiring something of that knowledge which may be called the biography of plants. It must be evident that cultivators, by adding to their stock of this description of knowledge, would not merely greatly increase tbeir enjoyments, but would also contribute to their professional improvement, and would add to their power as well as to their pleasure.
The number of different species of plants which have been described is about 50,000 ; but botanists are generally agreed that probably as many still remain undescribed ; and, that the number of vegetable species on the surface of the earth ought not to be estimated under 100,000. We may be struck at the amount of this number; but our astonishment abates wben we find that our own island, wbich is but a mere misty speck, compared with those broad zones of sunshine where the flowers ever brighten,' contajns about 1,500 native flowering plants. Of the 50,000 plants described, about eight thousand belong to the first of the two classes, and of these nearly 2,000 are grasses. In cold and temperate climates the species, of this most interesting and important family are comparatively diminutive in size. In our climate, for instance, the grasses are somewhat remarkable among vegetables for their bumble stature, and their inconspicuous appearance; while in the warmer regions of the earth, the bamboos and canes, which are species of the same family, emulate trees in height and beauty. But what our species want in individual magnitude, is far more than compensated by the comparative vastness of the number of individuals. In tropical climates, one plant inay be seen here, and another there, wbich, in their size, astonish an European, when he is told that they belong to the family of the grasses; but there he would search in vain for those swards of grass, and green meadows, with which almost the whole aspect of his own climate is verdant. He might find one plant stately enough to shade him from the torrid sun, and to harbour among its boughs many a tropical bird with its bright metallic plumage; but he could not find a lea covered with lowing herds, or with bleating flocks, on the soft sward of
which he could lie down, and listen to the lark that sings to him from heaven, sending down its clear notes on the first sunbeams of spring. It is in temperate climates—in those regions where man has made the greatest advances in civilization—where the comforts and conveniences of this life are most numerous around bim-and the realities of that which is to come are most brightly seen above bim-that this family of plants exists in greatest economic value. It is one of the most important in every climate; for it is from one species of grass or other that the present numbers of men, as well as the domestic animals that serve him, derive their sustenance. The maize or Indian corn of the west; the rice of the east; the wheat and other grains of the north ; equally belong to this tribe of plants.
The vegetable kingdom observes Dr. Lempriere) may be considered one of the principal instruments by which Providence keeps in union the several parts of the natural world, and promotes its respective operations. Without it the earth, from a deficiency of covering, would soon lose its texture; and its integral parts being exposed, its aggregation would be disjointed and destroyed by the operation of the other elements. The atmosphere, whose purity and elasticity depend upon vegetable evaporation, would no longer preserve animal life, or by its pressure keep in due place the minuter parts of which the crust of the globe is composed ; while the various animals, many of them of vast magnitude and powers, that may be considered graminivorous, would become beasts of prey, that would soon depopulate the world, and, with the other causes, render it a mass of chaos and desolation. Even man would be gross and ferocious, and his energies being no longer called forth, or his intellectual powers exercised, he would soon be more dangerous than the beasts of the forest by which he is surrounded, and the world would have been created in vain. But it has been wisely and most benevolently ordained to be otherwise. In the place of a rough and unseemly covering, which the earth would in that case present to the eye, or that disturbance of its several parts which would render it useless to the purposes of creation, or inaccessible to buman approach; we uniformly find in all those countries most fitted for the occupation of man, vegetation abounding in all its beauty and usefulness, giving life and character to the surrounding scenery, and preserving in due form and place the several parts in all their natural shapes, proportions, and distances, affording capabilities of production suitable to the constitution and wants of those that are dependent upon it for its supplies,-preserving in due purity and equilibrium the vary. ing states of the atmosphere, constantly deteriorated by animal respiration, combustion, and mineral absorption,-and, above all, conferring on man, indubitably the first object of the creation, those comprehensive resources and excitements to action, through the operation of wbich his intellectual and moral powers have been developed, and his social propensities have been directed to the most useful ends.--Lectures on Natural History.
April, sweet month, the daintiest of all,
Fair thee befal:
There closely lapt,
All round thee strew,
Whose colours quaint
With whispered sighs,
Their aëry mesh