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Vegetation is highly worthy of our attention; and in itself is of the utmost consequence to mankind, and productive of many of the greatest comforts and elegancies of life. To plants we owe timber, bread, beer, honey, wine, oil, linen, cotton, &c. what not only strengthens our hearts, and exhilarates our spirits, but what secures us from inclemencies of weather and adorns our persons. Man, in his true state of nature, seems to be subsisted by spontaneous vegetation : in middle climes, where grasses prevail, he mixes some animal food with the produce of the field and garden : * and it is towards the polar extremes only that, like his kindred bears and wolves, he gorges himself with flesh alone, and is driven, to what hunger has never been known to compel the very beasts, to prey on his own species.t
The productions of vegetation have had a vast influence on the commerce of nations, and have been the great promoters of navigation, as may be seen in the articles of sugar, tea, tobacco, opium, ginseng,
* The kings of Rome seem to have been their own gardeners, for Pliny tells us that Tarquin sent a certain cruel and sanguinary order from the garden he was then cultivating with his own hands to his son; and he adds, “At the present day, under the name of Horturum, we have pleasuregrounds in the very heart of the city as well as extensive fields and villas." James I. of Scotland sung of
“A garden fair, and in the corner is set
Ane herbere green." Shakespeare and Milton had grand conceptions of a garden; Pope improved them by his satire; Shenston created one of the finest gardens in the country, and sung its charms in his pastorals; and Walpole wrote of gardening as a relaxation of statesmanship.-ED.
† In allusion to the supposed cannibalism of the South Sea Islanders.-ED.
betel, paper, &c. As every climate has its peculiar produce, our natural wants bring on a mutual intercourse; so that by means of trade each distant part is supplied with the growth of every latitude. But, without the knowledge of plants and their culture, we must have been content with our hips and haws, without enjoying the delicate fruits of India and the salutiferous drugs of Peru.
Instead of examining the minute distinctions of every various species of each obscure genus, the botanist should endeavour to make himself acquainted with those that are useful. You shall see a man readily ascertain every herb of the field, yet hardly know wheat from barley, or at least one sort of wheat or barley from another.
But of all sorts of vegetation the grasses seem to be most neglected; neither the farmer nor the grazier seem to distinguish the annual from the perennial, the hardy from the tender, nor the succulent and nutritive from the dry and juiceless.
The study of grasses would be of great consequence to a northerly, and grazing kingdom. The botanist that could improve the swaird of the district where he lived would be an useful member of society: to raise a thick turf on a naked soil would be worth volumes of systematic knowledge; and he would be the best commonwealth's man that could occasion the growth of “two blades of grass where only one was seen before.”
SELBORNE, June 2, 1778.
S onN a district so diversified with such a
US variety of hill and dale, aspects, and soils, laat it is no wonder that great choice of plants We should be found. Chalks, clays, sands, sheep walks and downs, bogs, heaths, woodlands, and champaign fields, cannot but furnish an ample Flora. The deep rocky lanes abound with filices, and the pastures and moist woods with fungi. If in any branch of botany we may seem to be wanting, it must be in the large aquatic plants, which are not to be expected on a spot far removed from rivers, and lying up amidst the hill country at the spring heads. To enumerate all the plants that have been discovered within our limits would be a needless work; but a short list of the more rare, and the spots where they are to be found, may be neither unacceptable nor unentertaining :
Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus fætidus), Bear's foot, or Setterwort, all over the High-wood and Coney-croft-hanger; this continues a great branching plant the winter through, blossoming about January, and is very ornamental in shady walks and shrubberies. The good women give the leaves powdered to children troubled with worms; but it is & violent remedy, and ought to be administered with caution.
• Green Hellebore (Helleborus viridis), in the deep stony lane on the left hand just before the turning to Norton farm, and at the top of Middle Dorton under the hedge; this plant dies down to the ground early in autumn, and springs again about February, flowering almost as soon as it appears above ground.
Creeping Bilberry, or Cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos), in the bogs of Bin's-pond.
Whortle, or Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), on the dry hillocks of Wolmer forest,
Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundiflora), and Longleaved Sundew (Drosera longifolia), in the bogs of Bin'spond. * Purple Comarum (Comarum palustre), or Marsh Cinquefoil, in the bogs of Bin's-pond.
Tustan, or St. John's Wort (Hypericum androsæmum), in the stony, hollow lanes.
Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor), in Selborne-hanger and Shrub-wood,
Yellow Monotropa (Monotropa hypopithys), or Bird's nest, in Selborne-hanger under the shady beeches, to whose roots it seems to be parasitical, at the north-west end of the Hanger.
Perfoliated Yellow-wort (Chlora perfoliata, Blackstonia perfoliata, Hudsonii), on the banks in the King's-field.
Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia), True-love, or One-berry, in the Church-litten-coppice.
Opposite Golden Saxifrage(Chrysosplenium oppositifolium), in the dark and rocky hollow lanes.
Autumnal Gentian (Gentiana amarella), or Fellwort, on the Zig-zag and Hanger.
Tooth-wort (Lathræa squammaria), in the Church-littencoppice under some hazels near the foot-bridge, in Trimming's garden hedge, and on the dry wall opposite Grangeyard.
Small Teasel (Dipsacus pilosus), in the Short and Long Lith. Narrow-leaved, or Wild Lathyrus (Lathyrus sylvestris, in
ylvestris), in the bushes at the foot of the Short Lith, near the path.
Ladies Traces (Ophrys spiralis), in the Long Lith, and towards the south corner of the common.
Birds' Nest Ophrys (Ophrys nidus avis), in the Long Lith, under the shady beeches among the dead leaves; in Great Dorton among the bushes, and on the Hanger plentifully.
Helleborine (Serapias latifolia), in the High-wood under the shady beeches.
Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola), in Selborne Hanger and the High-wood.
The Mezereon (Daphne mezereum), in Selborne Hanger among the shrubs at the south-east end above the cottages.
Truffles (Lycoperdon tuber), in the Hanger and High-wood.
Dwarf Elder, Walwort or Danewort (Sambucus ebulus), among the rubbish and ruined foundations of the Priory.
Of all the propensities of plants none seem more strange than their different periods of blossoming. Some produce their flowers in the winter, or very first dawnings of spring; many when the spring is established; some at midsummer, and some not till autumn. When we see the helleborus fætidus and helleborus niger blowing at Christmas, the helleborus hyemalis in January, and the helleborus viridis as soon as ever it emerges out of the ground, we do not wonder, because they are kindred plants that we expect should keep pace the one with the other. But other congenerous vegetables differ so widely in their time of flowering, that we cannot but admire. I shall only instance at present in the crocus sativus, the vernal, and the autumnal crocus, which have such an affinity, that the best botanists only make them varieties of the same genus, of which there is only one species ;* not being able to discern any difference in the corolla, or in the internal structure. Yet the vernal crocus expands its flowers by the beginning of March at farthest, and often even in very rigorous weather; they cannot be retarded but by some violence offered :—while the autumnal (the Saffron) defies the influence of the spring and summer, and will not blow till most plants begin to fade and run to seed. This circumstance is one of the wonders of the creation, little noticed, because a common occurrence : yet it ought not to be over
* Botanists now find upwards of thirty species of this genus, of which four are indigenous to our island.-Ep.