Page images

of salt or dirt, and immediately to repair any damage done to the glass, either with fresh glass, if on board, or with tin or wood.

Although I have stated, and truly, that plants in these cases will bear great variations of temperature with impunity, it does not follow that all plants will bear long continued severe cold. Care should therefore be taken that all tropical plants should be despatched so as to arrive in this country in warm weather. It has not unfrequently happened that cases full of precious plants, which have reached the Land's End (Cornwall) in a vigorous condition, after a voyage of several months, have perished from the length of time occupied in beating up Channel in the depth of winter.

With respect to the conveyance of seeds. All those which from their oily nature, peculiarity of constitution, or from any other cause, do not long retain their vegetative properties, are best sown in the mould as soon as they are ripe, and will travel in this way with perfect safety, either among other plants or in cases by themselves. Thus a great number of plants of Seaforthia nobilis were introduced into England, by seeds sown in the cases in New Holland; and I am certain that all the fine timber trees and Coniferæ of the Himalaya mountains might thus easily be imported into this country.

As to other seeds, the plan which is now found to be the most successful having been published more than seventy years ago by the celebrated John Ellis, I cannot do better than detail it in the words of the author, and I am induced to do so for two reasons, to render my subject more complete, and to do justice to the memory of a great man,


whose clear account has been so strangely overlooked by modern writers.

"Our seedsmen are much distressed for a proper method to keep their seeds sound and in a state of vegetation, through long voyages. Complaints are made, that when the seeds arrive in the East Indies, and often in the West Indies, few of them grow, but that most of them are full of insects, or what they term weevilly.

"This seems to proceed from the damp and putrid heat of the hold, or too long confinement in close warm air, which brings these animals to life, which soon begin to prey on the inside of these seeds; and those seeds which are oily turn rancid. The putrid penetrating steam that strikes every one upon opening the hatches of a full loaded ship's hold, after a long voyage, it is this that does the mischief to seeds. This vapour, as the excellent Dr. Hales observes, will soon become fatal to vegetable substances, as well as animals.

"When the cavalry of our army in Germany was under the necessity of being supplied with hay from England, the difference was but too manifest between the hay which had been but a month on board and fresh hay that had never been confined in the hold of a ship.

"Experiments have been made on the best hemp from Russia, and hemp of English growth, by persons belonging to the navy of great credit and honour, and the difference in the strength is amazing; the length of the voyage from Russia, with the very close package that is necessary to stow that article on board, raises such a heat as to show evident signs of putrefaction begun, which must weaken the strongest vegetable fibre.

"To illustrate this further, in an instance of the different

manner of packing and stowing seeds for a long voyage, which has lately come to my knowledge, and may be of use, as it not only points out the error, but, in some measure, how to avoid it.

came up.

"A gentleman going to Bencoulen, in the island of Sumatra, had a mind to furnish himself with an assortment of seeds for a kitchen-garden; these were accordingly packed up in boxes and casks, and stowed with other goods in the hold of the ship. When he arrived at Bencoulen he sowed his seeds, but soon found, to his great mortification, that they were all spoiled, for none of them Convinced that it must be owing to the heat of the ship's hold, and their long confinement in putrid air, and having occasion to return to England, he determined in his next voyage thither to pack them up in such a manner, and to place them so, as to give them as much air as he could, without the danger of exposing them to salt-water; and therefore put the smaller seeds into separate papers, and placed them among some clean straw in a small close net, and hung it up in his cabin; and the larger ones he put into boxes, stowing them where the free air could come at them and blow through them; the effect was, that, as soon as he arrived at Bencoulen, he sowed them, and in a little time found, to his great satisfaction, that they all grew extremely well. It is well known to our seedsmen that, even here at home, seeds kept in close warehouses and laid up in heaps frequently spoil, unless they are often sifted and exposed to the air. Seeds saved in moist cold summers, as their juices are too watery, and the substance of their kernels not sufficiently hardened to due ripeness, are by no means fit for exportation to warmer climates.

"Our acorns, unless ripened by a warm summer, will not keep long in England: those acorns which are brought from America, and arrive early in the year, generally come in good order, owing to their juices being better concocted by the heat of their summer; and are not apt to shrivel, when exposed to the sun, as ours are.

"These hints are given to show how necessary it is to take care that the seeds we send should be perfectly ripe and dry."*

* ' Directions for Captains of Ships, Sea-Surgeons, and other curious persons who collect Seeds and Plants in distant countries, in what manner to preserve them fit for vegetation.'-John Ellis, London, 1770.




« PreviousContinue »