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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/230

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

PSM V70 D230 The first picture.pngFig. 19. The First Picture. first introduction into the civilized world, and many of them are really beautiful plants; but while one of them has leaves only an inch long, the size of others is so great as to render them unsuitable for ordinary cultivation under glass, and really representative collections have been made by only a few amateurs and botanical gardens. About forty years ago a taste for growing some of the smaller species was fostered by Belgian dealers who successfully exhibited and advertised select specimens of new importation, some of which sold for very profitable sums; but I do not recall a single one of the private collections of a generation ago which is still kept up, though fortunately some of the better plants have found their way finally to Kew or some other botanical establishment.

Botanists have generally agreed to date their scientific naming of plants from 1753, when Linnæus PSM V70 D230 Figured by camerarias.pngFig. 20. Figured by Camerarias. substituted the convenient binomial for the awkward if usually terse description that had been used up to that time when reference was made to a plant. This date, consequently, begins the modern history of Agave, which, some years earlier, had been segregated from the African genus Aloe.

In his 'Species Plantarum' published in that year, Linnæus describes only four species—one of which, the 'cabuja' of the tropical mainland, belongs to a sufficiently distinct genus, Furcræa, which was separated from Agave half a century later. One of the remaining three is the century plant, A. Americana; another is a characteristic large species of the Greater Antilles, A. vivipara; the other is an interesting little plant of our own flora, with thin leaves which die down every