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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/107

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THE NEW FIELD BOTANY.

ter of botany during the last half century. From this work it can be gathered that early in the centuries since the Christian era botany was little more than herborizing—the collecting of specimens, and learning their gross parts, as size of stem and leaf and blossom.

This branch of botany has been cultivated to the present day, and the result is the systematist, with all the refinements of species making and readjustment of genera and orders with the nicety of detail in specific descriptions that only a systematist can fully appreciate.

Later on the study of function was begun, and along with it that of structure; for anatomy and physiology, by whatever terms they may be known, advance hand in hand, because inseparable. One worker may look more to the activities than another who toils with the structural relations and finds these problems enough for a lifetime.

This botany of the dissecting table in contrast with that of the collector and his dried specimens grew apace, taking new leases of life at the uprising of new hypotheses, and long advances with the improvement of implements for work. It was natural that the cell and all that is made from it should invite the inspector to a field of intense interest, somewhat at the expense of the functions of the parts. In short, the field was open, the race was on, and it was a matter of self-restraint that a man did not enter and strive long and well for some anatomical prize. This branch of botany is still alive, and never more so than to-day, when cytology offers many attractive problems for the cytologist. What with his microtome that cuts his imbedded tissue into slices so thin that twenty-five hundred or more are needed to measure an inch in thickness, with his fixing solutions that kill instantly and hold each particle as if frozen in a cake of ice, and his stains and double stains that pick out the specks as the magnet draws iron filling from a bin of bran—with all these and a hundred more aids to the refinement of the art there is no wonder that the cell becomes a center of attraction, beyond the periphery of which the student can scarcely live. In our closing days of the century it may be known whether the blephroblasts arise antipodally, and whether they are a variation of the centrosomes or should be classed by themselves!

One of the general views of phytoecology is that the forms of plants are modified to adapt them to the conditions under which they exist. Thus the size of a plant is greatly modified by the environment. Two grains of corn indistinguishable in themselves and borne by the same cob may be so situated that one grows into a stately stalk with the ear higher than a horse's head, while the