Page:The fairy tales of science.djvu/280

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send down shoots which take root, till, in course of time, a single tree becomes a vast umbrageous tent, supported by numerous columns. The poet has thus described this marvel of the vegetable kingdom:—

"Branching so broad along, that in the ground
 The bending twigs take root; and daughters grow
 About the mother tree; a pillared shade
 High over-arched, with echoing walks between.
 There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,
 Shelters in cool; and tends his pasturing herds
 At loop-holes cut through thickest shade."

Turn we now to plants much smaller but not less wonderful than those we have mentioned. The mean-looking little plant called the Fly-trap of Venus, is gifted with sensation which compensates for its want of beauty. Each leaf is formed into two halves, which move on a central hinge, and fold up and contract on the slightest contact. The edges are beset with spines, and the whole surface is covered with a sticky mucilage. No sooner does an unfortunate fly alight on one of these ticklish leaves than the two halves spring together, and the insect is made a prisoner. There are other irritable plants, which ought to be mentioned here. The leaves of the sensitive mimosa shrink from the slightest touch, while those of the Hedysarum gyrans have a spontaneous motion, and appear to dance about from pure buoyancy of spirits.

The pitcher-plant, with its marvellous lidded