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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/615

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THE ORIGIN OF FRUITS.

and rearranged them as little as possible, preferring the certainty of leaving them in an inartificial state to the risk of spoiling by manipulation whatever value they may possess as records made at the time.—Mind.

 

THE ORIGIN OF FRUITS.
By Professor GRANT ALLEN.

IN the whole museum of Nature the eye of the artist can find nothing lovelier than flowers; but the second rank in beauty may be fairly claimed on behalf of fruits. Whether we look at the golden oranges, the pink-cheeked mangoes, the purple star-apples, and the scarlet capsicums of the south, or at our own crimson cherries, blushing grapes, bright holly-berries, and rosy apples, we are equally struck with the delicacy of their melting tints and the graceful curves of their rounded form. Our painters have reveled in their rich coloring; and even our sculptors, whose fastidious art compels them to reject that meretricious charm, have loved to chisel their swelling contours in snowy stone. As they hang pendent from their native boughs, clustering in brilliant masses, or scattered here and there as points of brighter light amid the dark foliage which throws up in strong relief their exquisite hues, we may recognize in their beauty the ultimate source of all that refined pleasure which mankind derives from the varied shades of earth and sea and sky, of flower and bird and butterfly, and even of the "human face divine" itself. From the contemplation of ruddy or snowy berries in primeval forests the frugivorous ancestors of our race first acquired the taste for brilliant hues, whose final outcome has produced at length our modern picture-galleries and palaces, our flower-gardens and conservatories, our household ornament and our decorative art.

In a previous paper on "The Origin of Flowers,"[1] we endeavored to trace the mutual reactions of insects and blossoms upon one another's forms and hues. But we then deferred for a while the consideration of the further question—"Why do human beings admire these bright whorls of colored leaves, whose primitive function consisted in the attraction of bees and butterflies? Through what community of origin or nature does the eye of man find itself agreeably stimulated by the tints which were first developed to suit the myriad facets of primeval insects?" The answer to this question we have now to attempt, by showing the various steps through which the coverings of certain seeds acquired, for the vertebrate orders—the birds and quadrupeds—exactly the same allurements of color, scent, and taste, which flowers had already acquired for the articulate orders—the bees and butterflies.

  1. See Popular Science Monthly Supplement, No. XIV., p. 151.