Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/249

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237
SKETCH OF DOCTOR J. D. HOOKER.

SKETCH OF J. D. HOOKER, F. R .S., LL. D.

AMONG the scenes of interest near London which earliest attract the foreign visitor, is the magnificent Botanical Garden at Kew. It occupies 300 acres, which are crowded with the wealth of the vegetable kingdom, and forms the most extensive and perfect horticultural establishment in the world. It has three museums, containing upward of 50,000 objects of rare scientific interest exquisitely arranged, the completest botanical library ever yet brought together, a series of ample and admirably-constructed hot-houses, a pinetum, a water-lily aquarium, an extensive and richly-stocked arboretum, fern-houses, both tropical and temperate, an orchid-house, a house for begonias and gesneracae, together with a variety of other greenhouses and extensive plots of ground covered with herbaceous plants, and beautified to perfection. Kew Garden is one of the most popular places of resort in England. Some 700,000 people visit it annually, and the least educated of all this multitude cannot pass through it without learning something. The exotic plants nurtured in the hot-houses; the indigenous and naturalized plants blooming in the gardens; the dried specimens preserved in the herbarium; the various objects of curiosity treasured up in the three museums of economic botany—vie with each other in claiming the attention of even the most indifferent observer.

Learned philosophers and young children can equally find there abundant objects replete with interest for each, and worthy of lengthened contemplation: one loiters to examine curiosities of vegetation, such as the inner bark of "traveler's joy" (Clematis vitalba), used by the Swiss as a vegetable sieve for straining milk; or the inside of the towel-gourd, used in the West Indies as a sponge or a scrubbing-brush. There is an orange-tree, such as in the island of St. Michael produces 20,000 oranges in a year. Here is the caricature-plant, with the whimsical variegation of its leaves; the telegraph-plant, with the jerking of its lateral leaflets like the signals of the old semaphore; the tuberose, exhaling the most delicious perfume, and the stinking carrion-flower of South Africa; the pitcher-plant, each blossom containing half a pint of water and a swarm of drowned insects; and the Venus's flytrap, which springs its toothed leaves together for the capture of gnats and flies. At every turn and nook there are curiosities to excite the observant, and gratify the seeker for systematic, economic, or descriptive botanical knowledge.

Kew has been a place of plants, a nursery or seed-plot for the study of floriculture and horticulture, for more than a hundred years. It was a royal property, being purchased in 1730 by Frederick Prince of Wales, the great-grandfather of the present queen. The original