An introduction to botany/Preface
|←Dedication||An introduction to botany by , translated by James Lee
|Part I, Chap. 1: Of the seven Parts of Fructification→|
Though the Study of Botany is of late Years become a very general Amasement in this Country, there has yet appeared no Work, in our own Language, that professedly treats of the Elements of that Science; it is therefore hoped, that what is now offered to the Public, if it shall appear to have been carefully executed, will be considered as a Performance of some Utility. The Matter it contains, or at least the far greater Part of it, will probably be new to the English Reader; for though some few Explanations of the same Kind may be found interspersed in larger Works, there are for the most Part too costly to fall into many hands; nor could the Reader expect to find therein the Whole of what he seeks, the explaining the Theory of the Science not having been the immediate Object of those Publications.
The Matter of the following Sheets has been collected from the Works of the celebrated Dr. Linnæus; whose Labours for the Reformation of this Science in general, and whose Invention of the Sexual System in particular, are well known. As the Writings of this learned Professor are interspersed with philosophical and critical Remarks, that are of less general Use, it was thought that a direct Translation of any of his Works would not be so well received, as what is now given; which contains an Extract of his most material Doctrines. The Method in which these have been distributed in the following Chapters, we propose to explain; but to render this more intelligible, it will be expedient to lay before the Reader a short Account of those Discoveries that have given Occasion to the Moulding of this Science into a Form so different from that in which it appeared in the last Century.
The Sexual System of Botany, as its Title imports, is founded on a Discovery that there is in Vegetables, as well as in Animals, a Distinction of the Sexes. This was not wholly unknown to the Ancients; but their Knowledge of it was very imperfect. In order to shew in what Respect this Discovery has been investigated farther by the Moderns, it will be necessary to anticipate Part of the Subject-Matter of the following Chapters.
It will be seen in the Course of this Work, that the Flowers of the Generality of Vegetables are Hermaphrodite, containing within them the Characters of both Sexes; but that in the Classes Monoecia and Dioecia, the Sexes are parted, and allotted to different Flowers; and that in the Class Dioecia in particular, the Sexes are even on different Plants, the Male Flowers growing all upon one Plant, and the Female upon another. Now this last Circumstance the Ancients had observed: indeed it could hardly escape their Notice; for the Palm-Tree, whose Fruit was in Esteem, being of the Class Dioecia, a very little Observation was requisite to teach them, that in these Trees the Flowers of the Male were necessary to ripen the fruits of the Female. Accordingly we find, in the Account given by Herodotus of the Country about Babylon, where these Trees are in plenty, that it was a Custom with the Natives, in their Culture of this Plant, to assist the Operations of Nature, by gathering the Flowers of the Male Trees, and carrying them to the Female. By this Means they secured the Ripening of the Fruit; which might else, from unfavourable Seasons, or the Want of a proper Intermixture of the Trees of each Sex, have been precarious, or at least not to have been expected in equal Quantities.
It seems pretty extraordinary, that this Discovery should not have led the Ancients to detect the whole Process of Nature in the Propagation of the various Species of Vegetables; and yet it does not appear, by any of their Writings, that are come down to us, that they went farther than this obvious Remark upon the Palm-Tree, and some similar Notions concerning the Fig. They had indeed, from what they saw in these Plants, formed a Notion that all others were Male and Female likewise; but this notion was false, the far greater Part having Hermaphrodite Flowers, and serves to convince us, that what they discovered of the Palm and Fig, was only a right Guess, and not founded on any Knowledge of the Anatomy of Flowers, either in those Trees, or any others.
In this dark State the Doctrine of the Sexes of Vegetables remained, not only through all the Ages of Antiquity, but most to the End of the last Century, the Moderns seeing no more of this Doctrine than the Ancients had done before them; and hence we have to this very Hour in Use, the false Distinctions of Male and Female species of Cornus', Pæony, Cistus, and many others, which have all Hermaphrodite Flowers, the Distinction in these Cases being grounded on nothing more than some Difference in the Habit of the two Species with which the Sexes are no Ways concerned.
The Honour of having first suggested the true sexual Distinctions in Plants appears to be due to our own Countryman, Sir Thomas Millington; from whose Hints Dr. Grew, as the Doctor himself acknowledges, was led to the Observations he has given on this Subject, in his Anatomy of Plants</ref>Published in the Year 1682. The Doctor expresses himself thus:—
“In Discourse hereof with our learned Savilian Professor, Sir Thomas Millington, he told me, he conceived that the Attire doth serve as the Male, for the Generation of the Seed. I immediately replied, that I was of the same Opinion, and gave him some Reasons for it, and answered some Objections which might oppose them, &c.”
. After this, Camerarius, Moreland, Geoffroy, Vaillant, Blair, Jussieu, and Bradley, pursued their Enquiries and Experiments so far as to remove all Doubt concerning these Discoveries; and lastly, Doctor Linnæus founded thereon the System of Botany, which we are going to explain in this Work.
The Sexual Hypothesis, on its first Appearance, was received with all that Caution that becomes an enlightened Age; and Nature was traced experimentally through all her Variations, before it was universally assented to. Tournefort refused to give it any Place in his System; and Pontedera, though he had examined it, treated it as chimerical; but the Proofs which Dr. Linnæus has stated amongst the Aphorisms of his Fundamenta Botanica, and farther explained and illustrated in his Philosophica Botanica, are so clear, that the Birth of Animals is not more evidently the Consequence of an Intercourse between the Sexes, than that of Vegetables; and it would be now as ridiculous for any one, who has looked at the Arguments, to doubt of the one as of the other.
We shall not attempt to lay all these Proofs before the Reader; our Business is to explain, not demonstrate; but as it may be satisfactory to see some one Fact established, that carries conviction with it, we shall here give an Extract of a Letter from Berlin, inserted in the Philosophical Transactions, concerning a remarkable Experiment made on the Palm-Tree.
Extract of Mr. Mylius’s Letter to Mr. Watson, dated at Berlin, Feb. 20, 1750-51.
“The Sex of Plants is very well confirmed, by an Experiment that has been made here on the Palma major foliis flabelliformibus. There is a great Tree of this Kind in the Garden of the Royal Academy. It has flowered and bore Fruit these thirty Years, but the Fruit never ripened, and when planted, it did not vegetate. The Palm-Tree, as you know, is a Planta Dioecia, that is, one of those in which the male and female Parts of Generation are upon different Plants. We having therefore no male Plants, the Flowers of our female were never impregnated by the Farina of the Male. There is a male Plant of this Kind in a Garden as Lepisic, twenty German Miles from Berlin. We procured from thence, in April, 1749, a Branch of male Flowers, and suspended it over our female ones, and our Experiment succeeded so well, that our Palm-Tree produced more than an Hundred perfectly ripe Fruit; from which we have already eleven young Palm Trees. This Experiment was repeated last Year, and our Palm-Tree bore above two Thousand ripe Fruit. As I do not remember a like Experiment, I thought it convenient to mention it to you; and if you think proper, be pleased to communicate it to the Royal Society.”
This Letter, which was read to the Society the 2d of May, 1751, with some ingenious Observations on the same Subject, by Dr. Watson, F. R. S. to whom it was addressed, has established the Fact, attested by the Ancients, concerning the Palm-Tree, which some may perhaps have looked upon as fabulous; and, as the Fructification in other Vegetables, though it may differ in particular Circumstances, has yet in general a manifest Conformity with that of the Palm-Tree, in respect to the Parts supposed to be the Organs of Generation, which are discoverable either on the same, or on a separate Flower, in all but the Class Cryptogamia, where they are too minute for Observation; so form this single Experiment we may fairly draw an Argument by Analogy, for the Confirmation of the whole sexual Hypothesis: But there we are, as has been said, other, and better Proofs. We have already directed the Reader to those stated by Linnæus; whoever desires farther Satisfaction concerning this Point, may see the several Demonstrations collected, and methodically connected in the Sponsalia Plantarum of J. Gustavus Walkbloom, published in the Amoenitates Academica at Leyden, in 1749.
Having thus explained, as far as seems necessary, the new Principles upon which the Reformation of the former vicious Systems of Botany has been undertaken by the later Botanists, we come to shew, as we proposed, the Method that has been followed in this Introduction to the Science.
The Work is divided into three Parts, and each Part into sundry Chapters. The Subject of each Chapter may be seen in the Table of Contents prefixed to the Work; but with Respect to the three Parts, as no Title or Head explanatory of the Matter each contains, it will be proper to explain here the Scope of this Division.
Vegetables, according to Linnæus, are primarily divisible into three Parts.
- The Root.
- The Herb or Plant itself.
- The Fructification.
And in this Order these Parts might have been treated, were it not on Account of the Sexual System; but as the Explanation of the latter was the principal Object of this Work, it became necessary to give up the Order of the Parts of the Vegetable, and follow that of the System.
The System is divided,
- into Classes.
Now as the Classes, Orders, and Genera, which come first in the System, are established on the Fructification alone, it became necessary to give this Part of the Vegetable the Preference in Point of Order; and we have accordingly made the Fructification the Subject of the several Chapters of the first Part of this Work.
In the second Part, we have given a full Explanation of the Classes, Orders and Genera of the System; which indeed contain the whole Theoretic Part of it, the Doctrines of Species and Varieties having, as Linnæus observes, a nearer Relation to the Practice. The Reason for proceeding to the System immediately after the Fructification is manifest; as the Theory of the System is established on the Fructification alone, an Account of the latter was all that was necessary to prepare the Reader for understanding the Explanation of the former, which, as has been said, was the principal Object of the Work.
In the third and last Part, the two remaining Parts of the Vegetable, viz. the Root and Herb, are treated of: And as these chiefly furnish the Doctrines that respect the two last Divisions of the System, viz. Species and Varieties, so these Distinctions are also included in this third Part, and make the Conclusion of the Work.
The Two Tables subjoined to the Work, have their Explanation prefixed; and we shall only speak here of their Utility. It is presumed that no exact Table of the Linnæan Genera with their English Names, and a Reference to their Classes and Orders, as given in the first Table, has yet appeared in Print, our Writers not having adopted all the Linnæan Names, nor followed that Author exactly in his Distribution of Vegetables; our first Table therefore cannot but be of great Use to those who are desirous of becoming acquainted with the Method of Linnæus, and of framing the Lists of their private Collections upon the Plan of his System.
The Utility of the second Table, which contains the Names of the Genera rejected by Linnæus, is obvious; it might have been augmented to ten Times it's Bulk, had all the Names been inserted that have been given to Vegetables by the numerous Writers on this Science; but such a Collection would be a Work of itself; and it has been therefore thought adviseable, to confine it to those only that are cited in the Genera Plantarum of Linnæus, which contains the principal.
The Table of English Specific and Generic Names referred to in their Linnæan Titles, which is given in the Appendix, was not originally intended to have been added to the Work; but its utility to the English Botanist having been warmly insisted on by some of Author’s friends, it was prepared whilst the rest of the Work was under the Press, and subjoined to it as an Appendix. It has been executed with Care: If nevertheless any Mistakes or material Omissions should appear, those who are versed in Botany will be the most ready to excuse them, as they must know the Difficulty of such an Undertaking, on Account of the great Number of Removes, made by Dr. Linnæus, of particular Species, as well as of Genera, from their old Stations; this Difficulty was the greater, because the Method of Linnæus has hitherto been but partially adopted by our Writers, and therefore no Table given in any Work already published, could be depended on.
The Designs for the Figures of the Plates are for the most Part taken from those given by Linnæus in his Works. Some of them, might, perhaps, have been mended by fresh Designs from Nature; but as the Work here given to the Public is professedly an Extract of the Linnæan Doctrines, it was thought that the Figures he had himself selected, would, upon the whole, come the nearest to his own Meaning, and be of the greatest Help in explaining it.
The Reader will find placed before the Glossary, a Collection of all the Terms of Art, explained and numbered; the Use of these Terms, so collected, will appear evident, from the Manner of their Arrangement, beginning with the Root, and continued through the Trunk, Branches, Leaves, and Fructification.
This will be necessary on all Occasions to the Learner in Botany, either in describing Plants, or in finding out the true Meaning of the Descriptions of Authors, every Term respecting the different Parts of the Plant, may be seen at one View, belonging to the Article wanted, whether it is the Root, Stem, Leaf, or Flower.
The Use of the Glossary is to assist young Beginners who are unacquainted with scientific Method; and can with greater Ease turn to an Alphabet for the Explanation of a Term, than to classical Arrangement.
The whole Work is corrected and enlarged by an Addition of all the new Genera, collected from the last Edition of the Systema Natura.
- Book the First.
- Thus Theopovasius
“In Trees, considered universally, and taking in each several Kind, as has been said, many Differences. One of these is common to them all, namely, that by which they are distinguished into Female and Male, of which the one bears Fruit, the other not, in some Kinds; in those in which both bear Fruit, that of the Female is the best, unless there are to be called Males, for so they are called by some.”
Hist. Pl. Book iii. Chap. 9.
- Anat. of Plants, 171.
- Aphorism 132 to 150.
- Page 86 to 96.
- Vol. xlvii. Page 169.
- Printed also in the Philosophical Transactions with the Letter.