Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/335

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SOME VEGETABLE MALFORMATIONS.

four inches in some places, while its thickness is less than half an inch. Numerous small side branches arise from the broad surface of this peculiar shoot, while the end is made up of a large number PSM V42 D335 Asparagus fasciation.jpgFig. 1.—Asparagus Fasciation.of small buds fused together. As they grow, the individual stems lose their identity in the common belt of blended shoots. The photograph is made from a specimen brought last spring to the writer's laboratory, where the upper foot or more is still to be seen preserved in a large museum jar.

The sweet-potato vine perhaps most frequently illustrates this broadening of the stem, but upon a less grand scale than that shown in the asparagus. Only last week a student brought me a plant in which all the several vines were like ribbons, an inch or more in width and several feet in length. It is only a singular instance of a failure of the young formative branches to separate as they are developed from the closely situated buds at the tip; but that this failure should be constant in all the branches of a plant is more difficult to explain.

The reader will call to mind several other kinds of plants that illustrate this same abnormity, to which botanists have given the name of fasciation, from the resemblance of the stem to a bandage. Larkspur and dahlia stems sometimes show the same peculiarity, and, should we here include flower-stalks, the dandelion would afford abundant examples, for the long, hollow scapes are frequently doubled or flattened to a ribbon that sometimes has not strength enough to support the abnormal head of flowers. The garden "cockscomb" (Celosia) owes its attractiveness largely