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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/844

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

formed te most prominent feature throughout the Killarney district was the Osmunda regalis, or flowering fern. This stately species is not unfrequently called the king fern, and certainly it well deserves its regal name, which, however, appears to have been bestowed upon it through other circumstances than its crested form. Its name, Osmunda, is of Saxon origin, and perhaps was given in honor of some chief who in olden time bore the name of Osmund, that being one of the titles of Thor, the Celtic Thunderer. This attractive plant is so different in its appearance from other species that the botanist only would recognize it to be a fern, unless the veining of its leafy frond were examined. It generally rises to the height of five or six feet, and in congenial situations not unfrequently attains the height of ten feet. The young fronds of the Osmunda are usually about ten or twelve in number. Their large leaf-sprays are thin and crisp, and of a bright sea-green color, usually assuming a deeper green as the plant grows older. The stalk, which is at first reddish brown, afterward becomes green, and contrasts well with the rich rust-brown spikes of fructification. Nothing could be more beautiful, more in accordance with the surroundings, than the manner in which a considerable portion of the two lakes were literally fringed by the Osmunda, the long fronds of which arched gracefully over and dipped their masses of seed in the crystal water, while beneath the canopy thus afforded them the saucy coots flitted to and fro and gazed fearlessly upon the passing stranger.

Though some of the ferns I have mentioned may have superior claims in the eyes of botanists and collectors of rare species, it must be acknowledged that there is not one more universally popular than the graceful Athyrium filix fœmina, or lady fern. Indeed, not a few botanists have pronounced it to be the loveliest of all British ferns, possessing as well the great charm of commonness. Walter Scott, alluding to this plant in "Waverley," mentions its love for the moist, shady woodlands:

"Where the copsewood is the greenest,
Where the fountain glistens sheenest,
Where the morning dew lies longest,
There the lady fern grows strongest."

Undoubtedly, among the copsewood which covers a considerable portion of those grand hills which cast their shadows over the upper and lower lakes of Killarney, the lady fern attains a perfection not observable elsewhere, though the writer has gathered a somewhat scarce variety (A. latifolium) near Keswick, in Cumberland, and also a very peculiar species called crispum at Braemar, in Scotland. The plant is doubtless too well known to need description here, though it may be observed that its fecun-