Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/423

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

NOVEMBER, 1912




A ROUND-THE-WORLD BOTANICAL EXCURSION
By Professor CHARLES J. CHAMBERLAIN

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

IN August, 1911, it was my good fortune to start on an extensive botanical expedition under the auspices of the University of Chicago. The principal places visited included the Sandwich Islands, Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Teneriffe, from which place the return to Chicago was by way of London and New York. The trip was unique in that I went entirely alone and for the purpose of making a strictly scientific investigation of the oriental cycads, a group which is not even suspected of having any economic importance.

The cycads are a gymmosperm family whose remote ancestors were abundant in the Paleozoic age, and whose less remote ancestors were abundant and had a world-wide distribution in the Mesozoic. Now, only nine genera remain, and these are confined to tropical and subtropical regions, and even there they are very local in their distribution. Four genera are western and five eastern. Of our four western genera, one ranges from Florida to Chili, two are found only in Mexico and one, only in Cuba. Of the eastern genera, one ranges from Japan to Australia, two are found only in Australia and two only in South Africa.

Having already made a ten years' study of the American forms, especially the Mexican genera, which I had collected during four visits to the Mexican tropics, it was necessary to make a similar study of the oriental forms before any safe conclusions could be drawn in regard to relationships and evolutionary tendencies. Now, with abundant material of all the genera and many of the species, a study of development and evolutionary tendencies should yield valuable results, especially since the Paleozoic ancestors are becoming well known through