Page:The fairy tales of science.djvu/278

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238
WONDERFUL PLANTS.

ties penetrate into the muddy soil. "The larger arches," says Mr. Gosse, "send out secondary shoots from their sides, which take the same curved form, but in a direction at right angles to the former: and thus a complex array of vaulted lines is formed, which to the crabs that run beneath—if they were able to institute the comparison, must be like the roof-groins of some Gothic church, supposing the interspaces to be open to the sky."

But the wonder of wonders in this shore-loving plant, is the premature germination of its long club-shaped seeds. Each seed begins to grow while hanging from the twig, gradually lengthening until the tip reaches the soft soil, which it penetrates, and thus roots itself. The seeds which depend from the higher branches cannot stretch themselves out to a sufficient length to reach the mud; they therefore drop as soon as they feel themselves strong enough to commence an independent existence. In this manner a dense forest of mangroves is speedily produced from a single trunk. Dampier has described such a forest with his usual accuracy.

"The red mangrove," he says, "groweth commonly by the sea-side, or by rivers or creeks. It always grows out of many roots, about the bigness of a man’s leg, some bigger, some less, which at about six, eight, or ten feet above the ground, join into one trunk or body, that seems to be supported by so many artificial stakes. Where this sort of tree grows, it is impossible to march by reason of