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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/842

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

prise. In the splendid surroundings which, as if by the wave, of a magician's wand, had been so suddenly unfolded to our view, the mere worshiper of the beautiful in nature had sufficient to demand his warmest devotion; but to the scientist the spot was more especially holy ground. My friend the geologist beheld in those great Kerry hills—the Magillicuddy Reeks, the Toomies Mountain, and magnificent Mangerton—one of the oldest formations in Europe; while the botanist speculated upon the treasures which lay scattered above and around him in the shape of ferns and club-mosses and purple broom.

The following day we specially dedicated to the collecting of those rare and delicate ferns which abound in mossy nooks and in spots kept constantly moist by the spray of some foaming cascade as it leaped from ledge to ledge in its impetuous course. One of the ferns, specimens of which we were most desirous to obtain, was the Trichomanes, or bristle fern. This exceedingly beautiful plant, though plentiful in Madeira, is absolutely unknown in any European country except Ireland, and even there is only now to be found in certain districts of the extreme west. It may be described as having fronds three or four times pinnatifid, segments alternate, linear, entire or two-cleft, obtuse; involucres solitary in the axils of the upper segments. The bristle fern delights in shade and moisture, and our first find was in a rocky cleft in the immediate neighborhood of the Tork waterfall. Subsequently, within the dim recesses of a cave, the mouth of which opened upon the upper lake and could only be approached by a boat, we discovered several splendid specimens, one of which, with a creeping rhizome, some three feet long, contained no fewer than thirty perfect fronds. Nothing that I have ever seen in my varied experience of fern-life equaled the delicacy and pellucidness of these fronds, nurtured in the darkness and the mist. The veins were so prominent, and the green portion so like a membranous wing around the veins, that it resembled more a beautiful sea-weed than a fern. In this natural cave we also discovered some of our finest specimens of the Adiantum, or maiden-hair fern. This plant is called the true maiden-hair, to distinguish it from some other ferns which share its familiar name. The bright evergreen tint, the elegant form, and lightly waving attitudes of this fern render it very attractive, and when growing against the sides of the sea-washed rock, or any moist place in any abundance, no fern exceeds it in beauty. It has not been found in Scotland, and in but few districts in the south of England; in the ravines and mountain gorges throughout the west of Ireland, however, the collector is seldom permitted to go unrewarded for his diligent search. Two other rare species we also discovered in this "home of the ferns"—that exquisite variety of the polypody denominated Hibernicum, and the beautiful beech