Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/858

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

fruits, and vegetables, become more aromatic in the northern latitudes, through the long constancy of light in summer, but their color also deepens, while the production of sugar decreases from the insufficient quantity of heat. Thorough experiments will reveal the effects of electric light upon vegetation, and we have no doubt that interesting results will be obtained in time, with regard to the influence of this light upon the pigment of flowers.

Our knowledge of the chemistry of vegetable pigments is not yet sufficiently advanced, for which reason the effect of artificial influence upon the color-tone of flowers has not yet received its merited attention. According to my view, tannin is an important factor in the generation of vegetable colors; it is found in almost every plant, the petals not excepted, and by the action of the most varying reagents—alkalies, earths, metallic salts, etc.—it assumes the most manifold hues from pale rose to deep black. A darker color, therefore, is produced in flowers rich in tannin, when manured with iron-salts, since, as everybody knows, tannin and iron-salts dye black, and produce ink. A practical use has been made of this fact in the raising of hortensias and dahlias. The former, which in ordinary soil blossomed pale-red, became sky-blue when transplanted into soil heavily manured with iron ochre, or when occasionally watered with a dilute alum solution. English gardeners succeeded in growing black dahlias by similar manipulations. It is well known to every florist that a change of location, that is, a change of light, temperature, and soil (replanting), occasionally produces new colors, whence it may be deduced that an interrupted nutrition of the flower may, under circumstances, effect a change of color. We see no valid reason why the well-authenticated fact of the change of color produced by manuring with iron oxide, thereby changing the nutrition of the plant, should not be practically employed by the hothouse gardener. Another very singular and successful experiment, in producing a change of color in a bird, has recently been made. A breeder of canary-birds conceived the idea of feeding a young bird with a mixture of steeped bread and finely pulverized red Cayenne pepper. Without injuring the bird, the pigment of the spice passed into the blood, and dyed its plumage deep red. The celebrated ornithologist Russ believes that the color of the plumage of birds might be altered according to desire, by using appropriate reagents.

Apart from chemical operations, there are also physical ones which, I believe, influence the color of flowers. It is a well-known fact that a most intimate relation exists between color and form. We know very well that the minute division of a pigment exerts a great influence upon its shade of color: a solid piece of vermilion does not possess the pale-red hue of the finely pulverized article; it is dark brown, and only shows a high red when scratched with a hard body, the color increasing with a continued comminution. Mercury oxide, while deep-red in a crystalline condition, becomes light orange-yellow upon con-