Page:The Oak.djvu/19

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3
INTRODUCTION.

supply material for a large volume—but it may be remarked that giant or veteran oaks are still to be found (or were until quite recently) in Gloucestershire, Yorkshire, and on Dartmoor and other places, and a very fair idea of what an old oak forest must have been like may be gathered from a visit to the New Forest in Hampshire, or even to some parts of Windsor Forest.

As so often happens in the study of science, we have in the oak a subject for investigation which presents features of intense interest at every turn; and however much the new mode of looking at the tree may at first sight appear to be opposed to the older one, it will be found that the story of the oak as an object of biological study is at least not less fascinating than its folk-lore. With this idea in view, I propose to set before the reader in the following chapters a short account of what is most worth attention in the anatomy and physiology of the oak, as a forest tree which has been so thoroughly investigated that we may confidently accept it as a type.

In carrying out this idea there are several possible modes of procedure, but perhaps the following will recommend itself as that best adapted to the requirements of a popular book, and as a natural way of tracing the various events in the life-history of a plant so complex as is the tree.

First, the acorn will be described as an object with a certain structure and composition, and capable of behaving in a definite manner when placed in the