Page:The Oak.djvu/41

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23
THE ACORN AND ITS GERMINATION.

ward it is vertically above the first or oldest leaf from which we started, and has passed twice round the stem.

At the end of this first year, which we may term the period of germination, the young oak-plant or seedling has a primary root some twelve to eighteen inches long, and with numerous shorter, spreading side rootlets, and a shoot from six to eight inches high, bearing five or six leaves as described, and terminating in a small ovoid bud (Figs. 3 and 4). The whole shoot is clothed with numerous very fine soft hairs, and there are also numerous fine root-hairs on the roots, and clinging to the particles of soil. The tip of each root is protected by a thin colorless cap—the root-cap—the description of which we defer for the present.

About May, in the second year, each of the young roots is elongating in the soil and putting forth new root-hairs and rootlets, while the older roots are thickening and becoming harder and covered with cork; and each of the buds in the axils of the last year's leaves begins to shoot out into a branch, bearing new leaves in its turn, while the bud at the end of the shoot elongates and lengthens the primary stem, the older parts of which are also becoming thicker and clothed with cork. And so the seedling develops into an oak-plant, each year becoming larger and more complex, until it reaches the stage of the sapling, and eventually becomes a tree.