Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/71

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67
WOODEN FLOWERS

PSM V69 D071 Citrus medica and the parasitic lorenthus ladebeckii.png

Fig. 2. A Branch of Citrus medica, showing the parasitic Lorenthus Ladebeckii (Engl.) in situ, taken in front of a mirror so as to show both sides of the same specimen. The right-hand view also shows one of the cup-like 'flowers,' from which a plant of L. Ladebeckii has fallen. This photograph was kindly made for the writer by Dr. Voigt, of the Botanical Museum of Hamburg.

 

vindication and fulfilment of the natives' warning has fastened the tradition unalterably upon their beliefs, and no amount of enlightenment ever shakes their confidence in the direful results that will follow the too close inspection of these terrible 'roses of hell.'

This peculiar botanical formation, though strange in its gigantic size, is easily explained when the specimens are carefully examined. An examination of a number of them by the writer showed them to have a 'stem' of wood, upon the end of which was the enlargement or 'flower.' The outer or convex side of the enlargement is covered with a continuation of the bark of the 'stem,' the bark ending at the outer edge of the 'petals.' The concave or inside of the 'flower' is delicately creased like the veins of a petal, running from the center to the periphery, as shown by the photographs. Many of the flowers showed decided indentations in the periphery, as if divided roughly into four parted 'corollas,' and varying from eighteen to twenty inches in diameter down to minute growths. They might, therefore, easily be mistaken for flowers by those who can not reason from effect back to cause.

The real cause of these peculiar growths is found in the biological law that every organism will protect itself against outside intrusion if it can. Thus when any foreign substance, whether living or inert, enters the living organism, the intrusions are resented by the organism, which tries to protect itself by either assimilating the intruder, ejecting it, or by building up a barrier around it. Thus when the seeds of the parasitic order Lorentheaceæ adhere to the bark of a tree by the gelatinous coating which surrounds them and there germinate, sending