Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/447

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



AUGUST, 1884.



HICKORY-NUTS AND BUTTERNUTS.
By GRANT ALLEN.

THE tall choke-cherry tree in the corner of the meadow, near the hickory clump, is a favorite resort of all the fruit-eating birds in the township for half a mile around in every direction. To the judicious human palate, indeed, the flavor of choke-cherries is not exactly alluring or attractive; they have a disagreeable astringent tinge about their pulp that rather reminds one of alum or borax, and they are not sweet enough or luscious enough to be worth eating by people who have grapes and plums and peaches and apples and a dozen other cultivated fruits at easy command. But to the unsophisticated native birds it is quite clear that choke-cherries are rather a dainty and tooth-some delicacy than otherwise; and one has only to look at the pretty berries in order to see that they deliberately lay themselves out to attract the favorable attention of these winged allies and visitors. The color of the choke-cherry shows at once that it wishes specially to challenge and allure the notice of the passer-by; its sweet pulp and nutritive qualities show that it means them to eat it, and so aid in dispersing its seed. For the actual, final end of the choke-cherry itself, of course, lies in the stone and its inclosed kernel; all the rest is merely the attractive covering which the plant gives in, as it were, to any friendly bird which will be kind enough to assist it in planting out its young seedlings under favorable circumstances for their future welfare. From time immemorial, those choke-cherries which best succeeded in enticing birds to swallow them, and ultimately to scatter their seeds, protected from injury by the hard and horny covering, have left the largest number of offspring to represent them, and so have survived most frequently, in the person of their descendants,