Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/205

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own (Tormentilla reptans of the hair-splitters), which sometimes creeps like the true cinque-foil, and frequently breaks out into five-petaled blossoms. Even Mr. Bentham, that minute and conservative botanist, admits that "intermediate forms" sometimes occur which can not probably be referred to either species.

And yet, though the tormentil and the cinque-foil are thus intimately connected with one another, by imperceptible gradations, so great is the love of petty distinctions in the human breast, that Linnæus actually erected this slight, four-petaled variety, not only into a distinct species, but even into a separate genus (Tormentilla).

Let us return, however, to our immediate subject, the American potentillas. The next species recognized by Asa Gray is the silvery cinque-foil (P. argentea), a pretty little plant, with small, bright-yellow flowers, confined, for the most part, to very dry, barren, or sandy spots, and with thin, wiry, almost woody stems. It is remarkable for the soft, white, silvery down, that clothes the under side of the five-leaved foliage. The use of this down I do not know, though I suspect it to be a protection from some caterpillar or other insect, which attacks leaves on their under surface. At any rate, it is an exaggeration of the usual downiness of dry-soil species. The silvery cinque-foil is common to Europe and America, and I do not notice any perceptible difference between my English and Canadian specimens. It seems, in fact, to be one of the very few plants which have not altered to any recognizable degree on either side of the Atlantic since the end of the great Glacial epoch. As a proof, however, of the narrow way in which this dry-soil species is restricted and limited to the very sandiest or most barren situations, I may mention that it grows on two spots, and two spots only, within reach of my own home here in Surrey, England. Both these spots are knolls of a peculiarly soft and friable sandstone, into which the rain sinks immediately; and they are the only two bits of that particular formation (a subdivision of the Folkestone sands) to be found anywhere in the neighborhood.

I was shown, at Kingston, Canada, a specimen of another more weedy potentilla (P. paradoxa), which has hardly, as yet, made good its place in the Eastern States, but which, nevertheless, possesses a certain interest for naturalists of the Atlantic shore, as a member of the flora by which before long they are almost sure to be overrun. The species belongs to the western half of the continent, but it is already well established as an immigrant along the banks of the Ohio and the Mississippi, and it has been observed near Oneida, and elsewhere on the shores of Lake Ontario. My own specimen was gathered on a common at Kingston, where it seemed to have established itself in full vigor. Now the interest of this species centers in the fact that until lately the weeds of the Eastern States and Canada were almost entirely of European origin; they were the cosmopolitan pests of civilization, which have followed agriculture from Western Asia along