Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/691

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THE EUCALYPTUS IN THE FUTURE.

What, then, is the logic of these facts? Let us give the geologist the last word; for it may be that, from his habit of dealing with the floras and the faunas of the long ago, his generalization may be more profound than that of the mere systematic botanist.

What about the eccentricities of the young eucalypt? Our mentor here denies the eccentricity in the sense of freakiness. He sees in it a law of the Creator. The young eucalypt, he thinks, in its marvelous vigor of growth, is tending to, or striving after, the forms and conditions of the higher and more recent groups; but that, with something of its growth-vigor abated in the adult state, it reverts back to its legitimate ancestral type. But we may not be too knowing; and surely a devout science can well afford to admit with reverence that "His ways are past finding out."

And this delver in the earth after organic relics assures us that these eucalypts are an extremely ancient race, and that they were formerly wide-spread. He even finds them in the Eocene times, composing in part the great forests of Europe. These, he tells us, were the arboreal ancestors of the gum-trees of Australia; and he bids us note that, of the existing floras of the world, that of Australia has the highest antiquity. With this instance, as almost paralleled, we may adduce the "big trees" of California. There can be no doubt that these gigantic and graceful trees once covered a large area, extending into an antiquity scarcely less ancient than that of the eucalypts. Even snow-clad Greenland in that ancient time had its flowery age, and was a home for the princely sequoias. 'Now, what reduced them to but two species, and what pushed them over the mountains, and bade them be content with that small domain centred by the Calaveras grove? And what a change must earth have undergone, that Australia should be isolated from its once-continental alliance, and these noble eucalypts, the tallest Titans that the world has known, should be thus put upon their limits! The sequoias promise little, and seem doomed ere long to pass away. Beyond their beauty and scientific interest, their virtues are few. Not so with the eucalypts. Give them a fair showing of place and climate, and they will thrive and enrich their environment. This tree has the hardiness of the ancient; it also has virtues which will enlarge the comforts and lengthen the days of men. As when some beneficent art, once enjoyed by a former people, has been lost, and, long known only in tradition, has been rediscovered and revived, and men are again enlivened with hope, so is the possession by the modern world of this ancient tree.