Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Animal Flower

ANIMAL FLOWER (Actinia Sociata) from its supposed property of stinging, was formerly called Sea-Nettle, or Sea-Anemone, but by late English writers has received its present name. This singular animal was found in some of the islands which were ceded to this country in the late treaty of peace with France. It is of a tender, fleshy substance, which consists of many tubular bodies, gently swelling towards the upper part, and terminating like a bulb, or very small onion: its only orifice is in the centre of the uppermost part, surrounded with rows of tentacles or claws which, when contracted, appear like circles of beads. This opening is capable of great extension, and it is amazing to see what large fish some of them can swallow, such as muscles, crabs, &c. When the animal has scratched out the fish, it throws back the shells through the same passage. From this aperture likewise, it produces its young ones alive, already furnished with little claws, which they extend in search of food, as soon as they are fixed. At low water, they are found on the rocky coasts of Sussex and Cornwall, attached in the shallows to some solid substance, by a broad base, like a sucker. This base is worthy of notice—the knobs observable on it, are formed into several parts, by its insinuating itself into the inequalities of rocks, or grasping pieces of shells, part of which frequently remain in it, covered with the fleshy substance. By its assistance, they are enabled to preserve themselves from the violence of the waves, and withstand the fury of a storm. Animal flowers very much resemble the exterior leaves of the anemone, and their limbs are not unlike its shag, or inner part. They are said to possess, in an extraordinary degree, the power of re-producfion, so that to multiply them at pleasure, nothing more is necessary than to cut a single one into several pieces.