Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/699

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A NxlTURALIST'S EXCURSION IN DOMINICA. 681

young leaf, but soon become wholly separated and acquire an independ- ent existence, to become in turn parents of a new brood. Some other plants multiply by offsets from the leaves, but the exhibition of a dif- ferentiated propagation-leaf is peculiar to this one. Among the trees that attract our attention is the shore-grape ( Coccoloha xtvifera), with its curious knotted and bushy growth, and its thick, hard leaves, which is found nowhere but in the Antilles. It offers an odd combination of the creeping and upright growths : in the isolated specimens, the lower limbs bend down and run along the pebbly beach, but without taking root ; while the iipper limbs spread themselves out in the air, at this time hung with whitish flower-spikes, which are later to develop into the dark-blue "grapes of the shore." On the beach a few miles north of Roseau are some plants of the manchineel-tree {Ilippomane maticineUa), now becoming quite rare, which is fabled to be deadly to all who sleep under it. The thing that is true about this myth is, that the sap contains an acrid poison that causes painful sores on the skin. The botanist Jacquin, who visited the Antilles in the middle of the last century, says that no animal would touch the fruit of the man- chineel, though the ground under the trees was covered with it and inhabited by innumerable crabs. Jacquin denies that there is any danger in sleej^ing under the trees, because he and his companions rested under one of them for three hours without feeling any incon- venience from it. In his time, manchineel-wood was used for fine cabinet-work, and was obtained without risk from poisoning by build- ing a fire around the tree, by which the greater part of the sap was boiled out, and then cutting it down very carefully with the face veiled. The Capparis cynopJiallophora attracts notice by its curiously shaped flowers, conspicuous through their numerous long, cream-colored fila- ments which, drooping when they first come from the buds, gradually erect themselves into an umbel of elastic threads. They are visited by hosts of insects, which, striking against the stamens in their efforts to reach the nectaries, set them into rapid motion and become dusted with the pollen, and are thus constituted bearers of it to other flowers ; for the Capparis is proteranderous, and only the pistils 'of flowers that have already cast their pollen are capable of being fertilized. Con- spicuous objects are the papilionaceous flowers of the Erythrina co- rallodendron, which, the tree being leafless at this season, reveal themselves to a vessel aj^proaching the coast in bunches of gorgeous scarlet.

If we continue our excursion till sunset, we are overtaken in return- ing to the town by the sudden coming on of darkness, for the twilight is very short in this low latitude. But, hardly has the departed sun ceased to gild the crowns of the cocoa-palms, than the moon sheds her soft light through the delicately feathered foliage of the tamarind- trees under which we are walking. AYith every succeeding minute the crowns of these trees grow more transparent and open ; for the leaves

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