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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 26/December 1884/Queer Flowers

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 26‎ | December 1884

QUEER FLOWERS.
By GRANT ALLEN.

IF Baron Munchausen had ever in the course of his travels come across a single flower one standard British yard in diameter, fifteen pounds avoirdupois in weight, and forming a cup big enough to hold six quarts of water in its central hollow, it is not improbable that the learned baron's veracious account of the new plant might have been met with the same polite incredulity which his other adventures shared with those of Bruce, Stanley, Mendez Pinto, and Du Chaillu. Nevertheless, a big blossom of this enormous size has been well known to botanists ever since the beginning of the present century. When Sir Stamford Raffles was taking care of Sumatra during our temporary annexation, he happened one day to light upon a gigantic parasite, which grew on the stem of a prostrate creeper in the densest part of the tropical jungle. It measured nine feet round and three feet across; it had five large, fleshy petals with a central basin; and it was mottled red in hue, being, in fact, in color and texture surprisingly suggestive of raw beefsteak. One flower was open when Sir Stamford came upon it; the other was in the bud, and looked in that state extremely like a very big red cabbage. Specimens of this surprising find were at once forwarded to England (how, history does not inform us); and, after the place of the plant in the classificatory system had been strenuously fought out with the usual scientific amenities, it was at last duly labeled (through no fault of its own), after the names of its two discoverers, as Rafflesia Arnoldi.

The mere size of this mammoth among flowers would in itself naturally suffice to give it a distinct claim to respectful attention; but Rafflesia possesses many other sterling qualities far more calculated than simple bigness to endear it to a large and varied circle of insect acquaintances. The oddest thing about it, indeed, is the fact that it is a deliberately deceptive and alluring blossom. As soon as it was first discovered. Dr. Arnold noticed that it possessed a very curious I carrion-smell, exactly like that of putrefying meat. He also observed that this smell attracted flies in large numbers by false pretenses to settle in the center of the cup. But it is only of late years that the real significance and connection of these curious facts have come to be perceived. We now know that Rafflesia is a flower which wickedly and feloniously lays itself out to deceive the confiding meat-flies and to starve their helpless infants in the midst of apparent plenty. The majority of legitimate flowers (if I may be allowed the expression) get themselves decently fertilized by bees and butterflies, who may be considered as representing the regular trade, and who carry the fecundating pollen on their heads and proboscises from one blossom to another, while engaged in their usual business of gathering honey all the day from every opening flower. But Rafflesia, on the contrary, has positively acquired a fallacious external resemblance to raw meat, and a decidedly high flavor, on purpose to take in the too trustful Sumatran flies. When a fly sights and scents one, he (or rather she) proceeds at once to settle in the cup, and there lay a number of eggs in what it naturally regards as a very fine decaying carcass. Then, having dusted itself over in the process with plenty of pollen from this first flower, it flies away confidingly to the next promising bud, in search both of food for itself and of a fitting nursery for its future little ones. In doing so, it of course fertilizes all the blossoms that it visits, one after another, by dusting them successively with one another's pollen. When the young grubs are hatched out, however, they discover the base deception all too late, and perish miserably in their fallacious bed, the helpless victims of misplaced parental confidence. Even as Zeuxis deceived the very birds with his painted grapes, so Rafflesia deceives the flies themselves by its ingenious mimicry of a putrid beefsteak. In the fierce competition of tropical life, it has found out by simple experience that dishonesty is the best policy.

The general principle which this strange flower illustrates in so. striking a fashion is just this: Most common flowers have laid themselves out to attract bees, and so a bee-flower forms our human ideal of a central typical blossom: it looks, in short, we think, as a flower ought to look. But there are some originally minded and eccentric plants which have struck out a line for themselves, and taken to attracting sundry casual flies, wasps, midges, beetles, snails, or even birds, which take the place of bees as their regular fertilizers; and it is these Bohemians of the vegetable world that make up what we all consider as the queerest and most singular of all flowers. They adapt their appearance and structure to the particular tastes and habits of their chosen guests.

Now, the fact is, we are all a little tired of that prig and Aristides among insects, the little busy bee. We have heard his virtues praised by poets, moralists, and men of science, till we are all burning to ostracize him forthwith, for the sake of never more hearing him called industrious and intelligent. He and his self-righteous cousin, the ant, are in fact a pair of egregious Pharisaical humbugs, who have made a virtue of their own excessive acquisitiveness, and have induced Solomon, Virgil, Dr. Watts, and other misguided human beings to acquiesce far too readily in their preposterous claims. For my own part, I never was more pleased in my life than when Sir John Lubbock conclusively proved by experiment that they were both extremely stupid and uninventive insects, with scarcely a faint glimmering of brotherly love or any other good ethical quality. I propose, therefore, in this present paper, to leave the too-much-belauded bee, with the flowers that cater for his tastes, entirely out of consideration, and look only at some of the peculiar blossoms which appeal rather to the senses and sensibilities of other and more original insect guests.

The wasp, though undoubtedly an irascible and ill-balanced creature, and a chauvinist of the fiercest description, is yet a person of far more width of mind and far wider range of experience in his own way than the borné and conventional bee. His taste, in fact (like the taste of that hypothetical person, the general reader), is quite omnivorous: while he does not refuse meat, he has an excellent judgment in the sunny side of peaches, and he can make a meal at a pinch off the honey in more than one kind of wasp-specialized flower. But the peculiar likes and dislikes of wasps have produced a curious effect upon the shape and hue of the blossoms which owe their traits to these greedy and not very aesthetic insects. Your bee has a long proboscis and a keen sense of color; so the flowers that lay themselves out on his behalf store their honey at the end of a long tube, and rejoice in brilliant blue or crimson or purple petals. Your wasp, on the other hand, in his matter-of-fact Philistine fashion, cares for none of these things: he asks only plenty of honey, and no foolish obstructions in the way of getting it. Accordingly, wasp-flowers are remarkable for having a helmet-shaped tube, exactly fitted to a wasp's head, with abundant honey filling the bottom of the bell, while in color they are generally a peculiar livid reddish brown, more or less suggestive of a butcher's shop.

We have two or three good typical wasp-flowers, wild or cultivated, in England, of which the snowberry of our shrubberies is probably the best known to the outside public, other than wasps. But the dingy fig-worts that grow by the water-side are far more noteworthy, because they have such extremely odd-looking, one-sided blossoms, made to measure by nature for the wasp's head. The minuteness with which plants adapt themselves to the merest tricks of habit in the insects to whom they are habitually at home is very well illustrated in this queer plant. Bees and butterflies, and all other regular flower-haunters, have a trick of beginning at the bottom of a spike of flowers (as in foxglove or sage), and working gradually upward; so in these cases the pollen-bags ripen first, while the sensitive surface of the seed-vessel doesn't mature till a later period. Thus, the bee, lighting first on the older and lower flowers, in their second stage, fertilizes them with the pollen he has brought from the last plant; while on the upper part of the spike he gathers more pollen, which he carries away to the next plant, and so insures the great desideratum of nature, a healthy cross. But the wasp, with his usual perversity of disposition, reverses all this: he begins at the top of the spike, and works gradually downward. To meet this abnormal fancy of the vespine intellect, the fig-wort makes its sensitive surface mature first, while its pollen-bags only shed their mealy dust a little later. So the wasp, lighting first on the newly opened blossoms at the top, comes in contact with the ripe summit of the seed-vessel, on which he rubs the pollen from the last spike he visited; and then, proceeding downward, he unconsciously collects a fresh lot to carry away to the next figwort. Of course, the wasp himself is not in the least interested in these domestic arrangements of the plant whose honey he seeks; all he wants is his dinner, but in getting it he is compelled, without at all suspecting it, to act as carrier for the fig-wort from one spike to another.

Wasps are remarkably sharp and wide-awake insects; and it would be very difficult indeed to take them in. Flowers that bid for their attentions must provide real honey, and plenty of it. It is quite otherwise, however, with flies. Those mixed feeders are the stupidest and most gullible of all insects; and many unprincipled blossoms have governed themselves accordingly, and deliberately laid themselves out to deceive the poor foolish creatures by false appearances. On most mountain bogs in Britain one can still find a few pretty white flowers of the rare and curious Grass of Parnassus, They have each five snowy petals, and at the base of every petal stands a little forked organ, with eight or nine thread-like points, terminated, apparently, by a small round drop of pellucid honey. Touch one of the drops with your finger, and, lo! you will find it is a solid ball or gland. The flower, in fact, is only playing at producing honey. Yet so easily are the flies for whom it caters taken in by a showy advertisement, that not only will they light on the blossoms and try most industriously for a long time together to extract a little honey from the dry bulbs, but even after they have been compelled to give up the attempt as vain they will light again upon a second flower, and go through the whole performance again, da capo. The Grass of Parnassus thus generally manages to get its flowers fertilized with no expenditure of honey at all on its own part. Still, it is not a wholly and hopelessly abandoned flower, like some others, for it does really secrete a little genuine honey quite away from the sham drops, though to an extent entirely incommensurate with the pretended display.

Most of the flowers specially affected by carrion-flies have a lurid red color, and a distinct smell of bad meat. Few of them, however, are quite so cruel in their habits as Rafilesia. For the most part, they attract the insects by their appearance and odor, but reward their services with a little honey and other allurements. This is the case with the curious English fly-orchid, whose dull purple lip is covered with tiny drops of nectar, licked off by the fertilizing flies. The very malodorous carrion-flowers (or Stapelias) are visited by blue-bottles and flesh-flies, while an allied form actually sets a trap for the fly's proboscis, which catches the insect by its hairs, and compels him to give a sharp pull in order to free himself: this pull dislodges the pollen, and so secures the desired cross-fertilization. The Alpine butterwort sets a somewhat similar gin so vigorously that when a weak fly is caught in it he can not disengage himself, and there perishes wretchedly, like a hawk in a keeper's trap.

These cases lead on naturally to certain other very queer flowers which similarly take advantage of the stupidity of flies by actually imprisoning them (without writ of habeas corpus) in a strong inner chamber, until they have duly performed the penal servitude of fertilization enjoined upon them by the inexorable blossom. The South European birthwort, a very lurid-looking and fly-enticing flower, has a sort of cornucopia-shaped tube, lined with long hairs, which all point inward, and so allow small midges to creep down readily enough, after the fashion of an eel-buck or lobster-pot. Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras—to get out again is the great difficulty. Try as they will, the little prisoners can't crawl back upward against the downward-pointing hairs. Accordingly, they are forced, by circumstances over which they have no control, to walk aimlessly up and down their prison-yard, fertilizing the little knobby surface of the seed-vessel with pollen brought from another flower. But, as soon as the seeds are all impregnated, the stamens begin to shed their pollen, and dust over the gnats with the copious powder. Then the hairs all wither up, and the gnats, released from their lobster-pot prison, fly away once more on the same fool's errand. Before doing so, however, they make a good meal off the pollen that covers the floor, though they still carry away a great many grains on their own wings and bodies. One might imagine that, after a single experience of the sort, the midges would have sense enough to avoid birthwort in future"; but your midge has really no more intelligence than your human drunkard, or gambler, or opium-eater. He flies straight off to the very next birthwort he sees, conveys to it the pollen from the last trap he visited, and gets confined once more in the inner chamber, till the plant is prepared to let him out again on ticket-of leave of short duration. Thus, like an habitual criminal, he spends almost all his time in getting from one jail into another. His confinement, however, is not solitary, but is mitigated by congenial intercourse with the ladies and gentlemen of his own kind.

A very similar but much larger fly-cage is set by our own common wild arum, or cuckoo-pint. This familiar big spring flower exhales a, disagreeable, fleshy odor, which, by its meat-like flavor, attracts a tiny midge with beautiful iridescent wings and a very poetical name, Psychoda. As in most other cases where flies are specially invited, the color of the cuckoo-pint is usually a dull and somewhat livid purple. A palisade of hairs closes the neck of the funnel-shaped blossom, and repeats the lobster-pot tactics of the entirely unconnected South European birthwort. The little flies, entering by this narrow and stockaded door, fertilize the future red berries with pollen brought from their last prison, and are then rewarded for their pains by a tiny drop of honey, which slowly oozes from the middle of each embryo fruitlet as soon as it is duly impregnated. Afterward, the pollen is shed upon their backs by the bursting of the pollen-bags; the hairs wither up, and open the previously barricaded exit, and the midges issue forth in search of a new prison and a second drop of honey. This is all strange enough; but stranger still, I strongly suspect the arum of deliberately hocusing its nectar. I have often seen dozens of these tiny flies rolling together in an advanced stage of apparent intoxication upon the pollen-covered floor of an arum-chamber; and the evidences of drunkenness are so clear and numerous that I incline to believe the plant actually makes them drunk in order to insure their staggering about in the pollen and carrying a good supply of it to the next blossom visited. It is a curious fact that these two totally unrelated plants (birthwort and arum) should have hit upon the very same device to attract insects of the same class (though not the same species). The trap must have been independently developed in the two cases, and could only have succeeded with such very stupid, unintelligent creatures as the flies and midges.

From plants that imprison insects to plants that devour insects alive is a natural transition. The giant who keeps a dungeon is first-cousin to the ogre who swallows down his captives entire. And yet the subject is really too serious a one for jesting; there is something too awful and appalling in this contest of the unconscious and insentient with the living and feeling, of a lower vegetative form of life with a higher animated form, that it always make me shudder slightly to think of it. Do you remember Victor Hugo's terrible description (I think it is in "Quatre-Vingt-Treize") of the duel between the great gun that has got loose from its chains on a ship in a storm, and the men who try to recapture it? Do you remember how the gun lunges, and tilts, and evades, and charges, exactly as if it were a living, sentient creature; and yet all the while the full horror of the thing depends upon the very fact that it is nothing more than a piece of lifeless, senseless metal, driven about on its wheels irresponsibly by the fury of the storm? Well, that description is awful and horrible enough; but it yet lacks one element of awesomeness which is present in the insect-eating plants, and that is the clear evidence of deliberate design and adaptation. When a crumbling cliff falls and crushes to death the creatures on the beach beneath it, we see in their fate only the accidental working of the fixed and unintentional laws of nature; but when a plant is so constructed, with minute cunning and deceptive imitativeness, that it continually and of malice prepense lures on the living insect, generation after generation, to a lingering death in its unconscious arms, there seems to be a sort of fiendish impersonal cruelty about its action which sadly militates against all our pretty platitudes about the beauty and perfection of living beings. It is quite a relief that we are able nowadays to shelve off the responsibility upon a dead materialistic law like natural selection or survival of the fittest. Hartmann's "Unconscious" stands modern naturalists in good stead vice the personal interference of the mediæval or Miltonic devil, absent on leave.

On most English peaty patches there grows a little reddish-leaved, odd-looking plant, known as sun-dew. It is but an inconspicuous, small weed, and yet literary and scientific honors have been heaped upon its head to an extent almost unknown in the case of any other member of the British floral commonwealth. Mr. Swinburne has addressed an ode to it, and Mr. Darwin has written a learned book about it. Its portrait has been sketched by innumerable artists, and its biography narrated by innumerable authors. And all this attention has been showered upon it, not because it is beautiful, or good, or modest, or retiring, but simply and solely because it is atrociously and deliberately wicked. Like the late Mr. Peace and the heroes of the Newgate Calendar, it owes its vogue entirely to its murderous propensities. Sundew, in fact, is the best known and most easily accessible of the carnivorous and insectivorous plants.

The leaf of the sun-dew is round and flat, and is covered by a number of small red glands, which act as the attractive advertisement to the misguided midges. Their knobby ends are covered with a glutinous secretion, which glistens like honey in the sunlight, and so gains for the plant its common English name. But the moment a hapless fly, attracted by hopes of meat or nectar, settles quietly in its midst, on hospitable thoughts intent, the viscid liquid holds him tight immediately, and clogs his legs and wings, so that he is snared exactly as a peregrine is snared with bird-lime. Then the leaf with all its "red-lipped mouths" (I will own up that the expression is Mr. Swinburne's, ubi supra) closes over him slowly but surely, and crushes him by folding its edges inward gradually toward the center. The fly often lingers long with ineffectual struggles, while the cruel crawling leaf pours forth a digestive fluid—a vegetable gastric juice, as it were—and dissolves him alive piecemeal in its hundred clutching suckers, I have seen this mute tragedy enacted a thousand times over on the bogs and moorlands; and, though I often try to release the fresh flies from their ghastly living but inanimate prison, it is impossible to go round all the plants on a whole common, like a philodipterous Howard, ameliorating the condition of all the victims of misplaced confidence in the good intentions of the treacherous sun-dew.

Our little English insectivorous plants, however (we have at least five or six such species in our own islands), are mere clumsy bunglers compared to the great and highly developed insect-eaters of the tropics, which stand to them in somewhat the same relation as the Bengal tiger stands to the British wild-cat or the skulking weasel. The Indian pitcher-plants or Nepenthes bear big pitchers of very classical shapes (it is well known that Greek art has largely affected India), closed in the early state with a lid, which lifts itself and opens the pitcher as soon as the plant has fully completed its insecticidal arrangements. In some kinds the pitcher ludicrously resembles a hot-water jug of modern British manufacture. The details of the trap vary somewhat in the different species, but as a whole the modus operandi of the plant is somewhat after this atrocious fashion: The pitcher contains a quantity of liquid, that of the sort appropriately known as the Rajah holding as much as a quart; and the insect, attracted in most cases by some bright color, crawls down the sticky side, quaffs the unkind Nepenthe, and forgets his troubles forthwith in the vat of oblivion prepared for him beneath by the delusive vases. A slimy Lethe flows over his dissolving corse, and the relentless pitcher-plant sucks his juices to supply his own fibers with the necessary nitrogenous materials.

The Californian pitcher-plant, or Darlingtonia, is a member of a totally distinct family, which has independently hit upon the same device in the Western world as the Indian Nepenthes in the Eastern hemisphere. The pitcher in this case, though differently produced, is hooded and lidded like its Oriental analogue; but the inside of the hood is furnished with short hairs, all pointing inward, and legibly inscribed (to the botanical eye) with the appropriate motto, "Vestigia nulla retrorsum." The whole arrangement is colored dingy orange, so as to attract the attention of flies, and it contains a viscid digestive fluid in which the flies are first drowned and then slowly melted and assimilated. The pitchers are often found half full of dead and decaying assorted insects. This circumstance, of course, has not escaped the sharp eyes of the practically minded Californians, who accordingly keep the pitchers growing in their houses, to act as flycatchers. Such an ingenious utilization of nature, in unconscious competition with the papier moule, would surely have occurred only to the two great Pacific civilizations of the Californian and the heathen Chinese.

There are a great many more of these highly developed insect-eaters, such as the Guiana heliamphora (more classical shapes), the Australian cephalotus, and the American side-saddle flowers, and they all without exception grow in very wet and boggy places, like our own sun-dews, butterworts, and bladderworts. The reason why so many marsh-plants have taken to these strange insect-eating habits is simply that their roots are often very badly supplied with manure or with ammonia in any form; and, as no plant can get on without these necessaries of life (in the strictest sense), only those marshy weeds have any chance of surviving which can make up in one way or another for the native deficiencies of their situation. The sun-dews show us, as it were, the first stage in the acquisition of these murderous habits; the pitcher-plants are the abandoned ruffians which have survived among all their competitors in virtue of their exceptional ruthlessness and deceptive coloration. I ought to add that in all cases the pitchers are not flowers, but highly modified and altered leaves, though in many instances they are quite as beautifully colored as the largest and handsomest exotic orchids.

The principle of Venus's fly-trap is somewhat different, though its practice is equally nefarious. This curious marsh-plant, instead of setting hocused bowls of liquid for its victims, like a Florentine of the fourteenth century, lays a regular gin or snare for them, on the same plan as a common snapping rat-trap. The end of the leaf is divided into two folding halves by the midrib, and on each half are three or five highly sensitive hairs. The moment one of these hairs is touched by a fly, the two halves come together, inclosing the luckless insect between them. As if on purpose to complete the resemblance to a rat-trap, too, the edges of the leaf are formed of prickly, jagged teeth, which fit in between one another when the gin shuts, and so effectually cut off the insect's retreat. The plant then sucks up the juices of the fly, and, as soon as it has fully digested them, the leaf opens automatically once more, and resets the trap for another victim. It is an interesting fact that this remarkable insectivore appears to be still a new and struggling species, or else an old type on the very point of extinction, for it is only found in a few bogs over a very small area in the neighborhood of Wilmington, Southern California.

Strongly contrasting with the æstheticism of the artistically minded bees, who go in chiefly for peacock blues and Tyrian purples, as well as with the frank Philistinism of the carrion-flies, who like good, solid, meaty-looking red and brown flowers, is the ingenious secretiveness of the ichneumon-flies, who chiefly patronize invisible green blossoms, indistinguishable to a casual observer among the thick foliage in whose midst they grow. Most insects are very casual observers: they require a good sensible flaring patch of yellow or scarlet (like the posters of a country circus) to attract their giddy attention. But the ichneumons are sharp-eyed and highly discerning creatures, which have developed a whole set of pale-green flowers, so inconspicuous as to escape the notice of color-loving bees and butterflies, yet with a good supply of easily accessible honey to reward their cunning visitors. This honey the monopolist ichneumons of course keep strictly for their own use. That large and very odd-looking English orchid, the tway-blade, extremely common in woods and shady places, though seldom observed by the general public on account of its uniform greenness, is an excellent example of these ichneumon-made blossoms. The whole spike stands a foot and a half high, with numerous separate green flowers, each about half an inch long, yet it is very little noticed save by regular plant-hunters, because its color makes it all but indistinguishable among the tall grasses and sedges with whose blades it is closely intermingled. Yet, if it were only pink or purple, like most of the other English orchids, it would certainly rank as one of the largest and handsomest among our native wild-flowers.

In a few cases, the relation between the plant and the insect that habitually fertilizes it is even closer and more lasting than in any of the instances we have yet considered. Everybody knows those large and handsome tropical lilies, the yuccas, with their tall, clustered heads of big white blossoms. Well, Professor Riley, the great American entomologist, has shown that the yuccas are entirely run (to use a favorite expression of his countrymen) by a comparatively small and inconspicuous moth, solely for its own benefit: and so completely is this the case, that the yucca can't manage to exist at all without its little winged intermediary. Professor Riley has, therefore, playfully named the little insect Pronuba yuccasella; freely translated, the yucca's bridesmaid. The moth bores the young capsule of the flower in several places, lays an egg in each hole, and then carefully collects pollen, with which it fertilizes the blossom, of set purpose, thus deliberately producing a store of food for its own future larvæ. The eggs hatch inside the capsule, and the young grubs eat part of the seeds, at the same time prudently leaving enough for the continuation of the yucca family in the future. As soon as the grubs are full-grown, they bore a hole again through the capsule, lower themselves by a thread to the ground, and there spin a cocoon which lies buried in the earth all through the autumn and winter. But in the succeeding summer, just fourteen days before the yuccas begin to flower, the grubs in their cocoons pass into the chrysalis stage; and, by the time the yuccas are in full blossom, they issue forth as perfect moths, and once more commence the fertilization of their chosen food-plant, and the laying of their own eggs. So singular an instance of mutual accommodation between flower and insect is rare indeed in this usually greedy and self-regarding world.

The extremely odd, inside-out, topsy-turvy flowers of the fig owe their fertilization, however, to a still more extraordinary and complicated cross-relationship. Hardly anybody (except a botanist) has ever seen a fig-flower, because it grows inside the stalk, instead of outside, and so can only be observed by cutting it open lengthwise. The fig, in its early youth, in fact, consists of a hollow branch on whose inner surface a number of very small flowers cluster together; and, when they are ripe for fertilization, the eye or hole at the top opens to admit the insect visitor. This visitor is the fig-wasp, who comes, not from other cultivated fig-trees, but from a wild tree called the caprifico. On this tree the mother wasps first lay their eggs in the inedible figs, which thereupon swell out into galls, and become the nurses of the young wasp-grubs. When the wasps are mature, they eat their way out of the wild fig where they were born, and set forth to lay their own eggs in turn, either on a brother caprifico or on its sister, a true fig-tree. Those wasps which enter the wild figs of a caprifico succeed in carrying out their maternal purpose, and lay their eggs on the right spot for more grubs to be duly developed. But those which happen to go into a true fig merely fertilize the flowers without laying their eggs, because the figs are here so constituted that there is no proper place for them to lay on. In other words, the true fig is a cultivated wasp-proof caprifico. But, as the figs won't properly swell without fertilization, it becomes important to conciliate the attentions of the wasps; and for this reason the Italian peasants hang small branches of the caprifico on the boughs of the cultivated fig-trees, at the moment when the eye of the fig opens, and so shows that they are ready to be fertilized. The wasps, as they emerge from their own homes, enter the figs at once, and there set the little hard seeds, on whose impregnation the pulpy part of the fig begins to swell. The fruit of the caprifico itself never comes to anything, as it hardens and withers on the tree; but, since the true figs are dependent upon it for pollen, it follows that, if the caprificos were ever to become extinct, the supply of best Eleme in layers would forthwith cease entirely.—Cornhill Magazine.