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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/170

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

In the first place, then, during growth, seeds in many cases require protection. This is especially the case with those of an albuminous character. It is curious that so many of those which are luscious when ripe, as the peach, strawberry, cherry, apple, etc., are stringy and almost inedible till ripe. Moreover, in these cases, the fleshy portion is not the seed itself, but only the envelope, so that even if the sweet part is eaten the seed itself remains uninjured.

On the other hand, such seeds as the hazel, beech, Spanish chestnut, and innumerable others, are protected by a thick, impervious shell, which is especially developed in many Proteaceæ, the Brazil-nut, the so-called monkey-pot, the cocoanut, and other palms.

In other cases the envelopes protect the seeds, not only by their thickness and toughness, but also by their bitter taste, as, for instance, in the walnut. The genus Mucuna, one of the Leguminosæ, is remarkable in having the pods covered with stinging hairs.

In many cases the calyx, which is closed when the flower is in bud, opens when the flower expands, and then after the petals have fallen closes again until the seeds are ripe, when it opens for the second time. This is, for instance, the case with the common herb-robert (Geranium Robertianum). In Atractylis cancellata, a South European plant, allied to the thistles, the outer envelopes form an exquisite little cage. Another case, perhaps, is that of Nigella, the "Devil-in-a-bush," or, as it is sometimes more prettily called, "Love-in-a-mist," of old English gardens.

Again, the protection of the seed is in many cases attained by curious movements of the plant itself. In fact, plants move much more than is generally supposed. So far from being motionless, they may almost be said to be in perpetual movement, though the changes of position are generally so slow that they do not attract attention. This is not, however, always the case. We are all familiar with the sensitive-plant, which droops its leaves when touched. Another species (Averrhoa bilimbi) has leaves like those of an acacia, and all day the leaflets go slowly up and down. Desmodium gyrans, a sort of pea living in India, has trifoliate leaves, the lateral leaflets being small and narrow; and these leaflets, as was first observed by Lady Monson, are perpetually moving round and round, whence the specific name gyrans. In these two cases the object of the movement is quite unknown to us. In Dionæa, on the other hand, the leaves form a regular fly-trap. Directly an insect alights on them they shut up with a snap.

In a great many cases leaves are said to sleep; that is to say, at the approach of night they change their position, and sometimes fold themselves up, thus presenting a smaller surface for radiation, and being in consequence less exposed to cold. Mr. Darwin has proved experimentally that leaves which were prevented from moving suffered more from cold than those which were allowed to assume their natural position. He has observed with reference to one plant, Maranta arundi-