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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/174

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162
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE PINE-TREE LIZARD.
By CHARLES C. ABBOTT, M. D.

ON the outskirts of the quaint little village of May's Landing, N. J., there is seen that rare object, an abandoned railroad. Starting near this place, and running eastward for a distance of some six miles, is a single track, laid upon a substantial road-bed of gravel, and extending through typical Jersey pine-barrens and cedar-swamps. For several years not a car has passed over the rails, which, left to nature, have grown nutty-brown with rust, and often concealed by luxuriant growths of false ipecac (Euphorbia ipecacuanhæ), great circular mats of deep purple or pale-green foliage, for such is the freak of the plant to vary thus in color.

When I visited this spot late in May, 1887, the charm of the abandoned railroad was rivaled by the beauties of the surroundings. The glistening snow-white sands were thickly starred with golden Hudsonia; the creek's banks, weighted with densest foliage, brilliant with sarracenia in the height of its glory, and everywhere the more modest grasses gave way to sparkling sun-dews. One knew not where to turn, so crowded were the spot's enticing features, and the rambler was likely to return empty-handed, as is so apt to be the case where attractions are spread out in bewildering profusion. Wondering what novelties might be in store as I passed the outlying traces of the village, I soon found my progress suddenly and effectually stayed—I had reached the tottering, crumbling trestle over Babcock's Creek. Here the gray lizards found a most congenial home, and the peculiar locality offered every reasonable facility for studying them. A long-desired opportunity was at last mine, and birds and botany were no longer thought of.

PSM V34 D174 Pine tree lizards.jpg
Pine-Tree Lizards {Sceleporus undulatus).

This pretty creature, known as the gray or pine-tree lizard (Sceleporus undulatus), is also, in many localities, called the "brown swift"; and this seems a most appropriate name, as we read the remarks of Holbrook, De Kay, and of Alexander Wilson, on the habits of the creature. For instance, the last named, in his "Ornithology," expresses surprise that a sharp-shinned hawk should have captured one, "as lightning itself seems scarce more fleet than this little reptile." I was not prepared, therefore, to