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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/589

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571
FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

chief, who used them for the adornment of his house, and is said to have prized them as trophies of war. They are decorated in the frontal region by engraved designs, and the parts are attached to one another by very skillfully adjusted cords. The ornamentation and the bindings are the subject of a special comment by William H. Holmes. Importance is attached by natives of New Guinea to the preservation of the skulls of friends as mementoes and of foes as trophies, and of both categories on account of the virtue—the best qualities of the individuals whose skulls they are—which they are supposed to impart in some mysterious way to their possessor. Hence special care is taken to have them preserved in detail, and that no part be lost. In the present specimens the jaws were secured by fastenings at right and left and in front. The teeth were carefully tied in, and when lost were replaced by artificial teeth. A cord was fastened around the back molar on one side, and carried along, inclosing each tooth in turn, in a loop, so as to make a very effective fastening when the cord was tightly drawn and attached to the back molar on the other side. The lower jaw was very firmly fastened to the skull by closely wrapped cords tightened by binding the strands around the middle portion. In some cases these fastenings are very elaborate and neat; in others, imperfect and slovenly. All the skulls in the collection are decorated with designs engraved on the frontal bone, and in some cases the figures run back. The execution of the work is not of a very high order, but is rather irregular and scratchy. Nearly all embody easily distinguished animal forms, and the more formal or nearly geometric ones are probably animal derivatives or representations of land, water, or natural phonomena. They are possibly totemic or mythological.

 

Galax and its Affinities.—One of the most interesting plants of the Southern mountain region is the galax (Galax aphylla), which grows in the highlands more or less abundantly from Virginia southward. The slopes of Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, are carpeted with it for many square miles of almost uninterrupted extent. Besides being an attractive plant at home, its thick, leathery, rounded cordate leaves, deep green or crimson or mixed, according to the season, make it much in demand for decoration, and tons of it in the aggregate are shipped, from places where it grows abundantly, for that purpose. Its affiliations with certain other Alpine and arctic plants are described in a carefully studied paper on the Order Diapensisceæ, published by Margaret Farsman Boynton in the Journal of the National Science Club, Washington. Liunasus found in Lapland a creeping evergreen herb, matting the surface with its stiff, spatulate leaves, and described it in 1737 as Diapensia lapponica. Then galax was discovered by Gronovius and given a place by Linnæus—because of its stamens rather than of its natural affinities—along with Diapensia. Michaux, in the last decade of the eighteenth century, found Pyxidanthera barbulata, resembling diapensia, in the pine barrens of New Jersey and North Carolina. More recently other species of diapensia and Berneuxia have been found among the Himalayas, and Schizocodon of several species in Japan. One of the most remarkable discoveries in the list was that by Michaux in the mountains of North Carolina of a plant which was afterward called Shortia galacifolia, from the resemblance of its leaves to those of galax. This plant in a living state was then lost, and when Gray and Torrey looked for it in 1831 in vain, only one preserved specimen of it was known to be extant and that in fruit; and it was not till 1877 that it was collected, rediscovered, in fact, in flower, as Gray has said, "by an herbalist almost absolutely ignorant of botany, who was only informed of his good fortune on sending to a botanist one of the two specimens collected by him." The Shortia, so far as is known, grows only in a very narrow district, and those who know the place are careful not to direct the public to it. Specimens have been collected by a few nurserymen, who cultivate it and have it for sale. The plants of this list are variously classified as among one another by botanists, but are regarded as belonging to a common group. "The real story of their development," says the author of the paper, "can be gathered only in hints from their present distribution, for unfortunately they have neither gallery of ancestral portraits nor re-