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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/880

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ical injury such as is produced in horses by the hairs of crimson clover, or to the effect of parasitic growths, such as ergot on rye. Excluding all which operate in these ways, there are, however, a large number of really poisonous plants, the properties of which are comparatively unknown. It is concerning these that information has been sought by the botanical division. Its report contains descriptions of about forty plants, with figures, belonging to seventeen families.

 

The United States Biological Survey.—The Biological Survey of the United States Department of Agriculture aims to define and map the agricultural belts of the country in order to ascertain what products of the soil can and what can not be grown successfully in each, to guide the farmer in the intelligent introduction of foreign crops, and to point out his friends and his enemies among the native birds and animals. For information on these subjects so important to him the farmer has had to rely on his own experiments or those of his neighbors, often carried on at enormous cost to persons little able to bear it. The Survey and its predecessor, the division of ornithology and mammology, have had small parties in the field traversing the public domain for the purpose of studying the geographic distribution of our native land animals and plants and mapping the boundaries of the areas they inhabit. It was early learned that North America is divisible into seven transcontinental belts or life zones and a much larger number of minor areas or faunas, each characterized by particular associations of animals and plants. The inference was natural and has been verified that these same zones and areas, up to the northern limit of profitable agriculture, are adapted to the needs of particular kinds or varieties of cultivated crops. The Survey is engaged in tracing as precisely as possible the actual boundaries of these belts and areas, and in finding out and designating the varieties of crops best adapted to each. In this undertaking it aims to point out such exotic products as, from their importance in other lands, are likely to prove of value if introduced on fit soils and under proper climatic conditions. The importance of this work will be realized when it is recollected that all the climatic life zones of the world, except the hottest tropical, are represented in our country. The colored maps prepared by the Survey furnish the best guide the farmer can have for judging what crops will be best adapted for his particular region; and in connection with the work of the entomologist, show the belts along which noxious insects are likely to spread. The report of the Survey, prepared under the direction of its chief, C. Hart Merriam, though full of valuable information not before presented consecutively, is preliminary and only touches the edge of a subject which is susceptible of copious elaboration, and is destined to be worked up with immenseprofit.

 

A Neolithic Lake Dwelling.—A crannog, or lake dwelling, discovered in the summer of 1898 on the banks of the Clyde, has received much attention from English archæologists because of its unique situation on a tidal stream, and of its being apparently neolithic or far more ancient than any other crannog yet examined, in all others the relics being of the bronze age. Careful excavations have been made in it and are still in progress, and the refuse mound of the former settlement has been sifted, with results that have made it plain that there were design and execution in the building, and that it was occupied and inhabited for a long period. Positive evidence of fire is afforded in the shape of numerous firestones and calcined embers, and indications of the condition of life at the period are given by the implements, ornaments, and tools recovered. The crannog is about sixteen hundred yards east of the Castle Rock of Dumbarton, and about fifty yards from the river at low tide, but is submerged when the tide is in to a depth of from three to twelve feet, and is one hundred and eighty-four feet in circuit. The piles in the outer circle are of oak, which below the mud surface is still quite fresh. The transverse beams and pavement inside are of wood of the consistence of cheese—willow, alder, and oak—while the smaller branches are of fir, birch, and hazel, with bracken, moss, and chips. The stones in the outer circle and along the causeway leading to the dwelling place seem to have been set in a methodical order, most of the bowlders being about a lift for a man. The refuse