Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/181

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A BOTANICAL garden is a museum of plants in the broadest sense of the term, and its chief purpose is to represent, by means of living specimens so far as possible, the principal types of the vegetation of the globe. It is obviously impossible to cultivate on any small area more than a few thousand of the quarter of a million of species in existence, and hence the plantations are supplemented by preserved specimens to illustrate the forms, which, by reasons of limitation of space, climate and soil, cannot be grown in the locality. In addition the species which formed the vegetation of the previous geological periods are represented by fossil specimens completing the history of the plant world so far as it is known, and yielding suggestions as to the descent of the present types.

Two general educational purposes are served by an institution of this character. Its collections are arranged to present information on the form, relationship, mode of life, habit and general biological character of the principal types of vegetation, in such manner as to be capable of comprehension by persons unacquainted with the technical aspects of the subject. Further interpretation of such facts may be made by means of books, journals, and lectures devoted entirely to this phase of the subject.

The material accumulated for the exploitation of popular knowledge of plants also affords an excellent basis for the induction of students into the more strictly scientific aspects of botany, and when supplemented by laboratories furnished with apparatus, miscroscopes, and other instruments of precision, the activities of these students may be carried beyond the frontiers of the subject in the investigation and discovery of new facts and phenomena. This extension of the boundaries of knowledge concerning the plant world may be carried on to advantage, only when a library is at hand, which contains all of the more important literature bearing upon the subject. The descriptions of the results of such researches should be made in publications devoted exclusively to this purpose, in accordance with the practice of all the more important botanical institutions in the world.

The general scope of the New York Botanical Garden has already been described by the writer in a previous number of this magazine (January, 1897). The greater part of its actual construction and or-