FERNS AS A HOBBY
tribe, patent to the most careless observer, this lack of fern literature is surprising. It is possible that Thoreau is right in claiming that "we all feel the ferns to be farther from us essentially and sympathetically than the phenogamous plants, the roses and weeds for instance." This may be true in spite of the fact that to some of us the charm of ferns is as great, their beauty more subtle, than that of the flowering plants, and to learn to know them by name, to trace them to their homes, and to observe their habits is attended with an interest as keen, perhaps keener, than that which attends the study of the names, haunts, and habits of the flowers.
That ferns possess a peculiar power of blinding their votaries to the actual position they occupy in the minds of people in general seems to me evidenced by the following quotations, taken respectively from Mr. Underwood's and Mr. Williamson's introductions.
So competent and coldly scientific an authority as Mr. Underwood opens his book with these words:
"In the entire vegetable world there are probably no forms of growth that attract more general notice than the Ferns."
The lack of fern literature, it seems to me, proves the fallacy of this statement. If ferns had been more generally noticed than other "forms of growth" in the vegetable world, surely more would have been written on the subject, and occasionally someone besides a botanist would be found who could