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botanist displays the hardihood and pertinacity of his race. On the track of a rare and favourite plant, more than one excursionist of the London clubs,
Keen and eager as a fine-nosed hound,
has been known to wade neck-deep through a river, his clothes neatly packed on his head, and himself indifferent to the gaze of a conventional public, that he might gain the coveted specimen !
What route shall we take from St. Paul's to Kew ? Too well we remember what dismal bird's-eye views of human life in London one gets on the railway journey to Kew! What boundless smoky acres of house-tops, what squalid rear-gardens, what patches and remnants of the country lingering to death, amid all the suburban jumble that fringes London in its poorer districts, does the railway traveller from the City to Kew look down upon! These scenes we escape, whatever evils of another kind may confront us, if we make our journey by boat. We will start, then, for Kew this autumnal Saturday afternoon by taking to the Thames. The Thames is always interesting; and how few of us Londoners have seen the Thames in its latest and grandest aspects! We embark at St. Paul's Wharf, glide away with a favourable tide, and are soon admiring, for the twentieth time, that noble work of the London engineers of the nineteenth century, the Thames Embankment. This at least is among the works of the day that belong to the London of the future. How different the reflections which the Houses of Parliament suggest to us! But our boat soon emerges upon a wider horizon, and we are now
Where the Thames first rural grows.
Here, between green and willowy shores, the Thames is alive with Saturday afternoon oarsmen and canoeists of the period. Pleasant it is to see everywhere around us
The boat, light-skimming, stretch its oary wings. Emulous of Rob Roy, or University Eights, these gay young watermen have every nautical credential that costume can supply.
On the river between Fulham and Kew, if we have any eye for physical geography, we must be struck as we look at the shore
with a wonderful fact in the history of the Thames. Mile after mile we may see that the river is embanked with earthworks, more especially on the Surrey shore. Those green flats which stretch away towards the Surrey Hills are plainly below the level of high water. To those of us who have been accustomed to consider the Thames as a natural river, created at the first just as we see it to-day, and bestowed upon man ready made for his uses, the discovery is a startling one. We have only to ask ourselves, « Where was the Thames before these embankments were raised ?" and we open up a remarkable chapter in the river's history. We begin to get a vision of the original Thames-country in its natural and wild condition, as distinguished from the civilised landscape which now spreads around us. How obvious it is, as we look at these embankments between Fulham and Kew, that the natural Thames—the Thames of uncivilised England—must have failed to reach London as a river !-that it had no natural channel or bed between Richmond and London! Before these ancient embankments were raised, the Thames, on leaving Richmond, must have strayed in wide and shallow floods on the plains of Middlesex and Surrey. Over these now luxurious pastures there then
Stretched wide and wild the waste enormous marsh,
invaded by the sea with every tide. How vast, then, the workvaster by far than that of the granite embankment of to-day-by which the spreading flood was narrowed to its present bounds, and made a continuous and voluminous river, subservient to the needs of man ! And this old earthwork embankment of the Thames, the achievement of mysterious hands at an unknown date of English history, extends from these upper reaches at Kew to the very mouth of the river !
But here within sight is Kew Bridge—not a dull-looking iron structure, but built of a stone that radiates the light and shares all the transfiguration that our changeful skies confer on the landscape around. We land for Kew Gardens. Kew Green we find as pretty and quaint as ever, still wearing its pleasant historical look, and deserving the praises bestowed on it in Visits to Remarkable Places. And here on Kew Green is the principal entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens. The two photographers of our party, who have come to take the portraits of some favourite cedars and silver-firs, soon satisfy the gate-keepers that their cameras are not huge sandwich boxes in disguise, and we enter.
Shall we make the whole tour of Kew grounds this fine antumnal afternoon, or shall we surrender ourselves, without plan, to any of the vegetable curiosities or charms that everywhere invite us?
There are no less than 270 acres of pleasure-grounds, and eighty acres of botanic gardens at Kew. The botanic gardens and planthouses are, as we know, a museum of the vegetation of the globe. The Arboretum is as thickly wooded with our full-grown native forest trees, and as wild, extensive, and secluded as the most ruralising visitor could desire. If we would visit all the planthouses and make the entire circuit of the grounds, here is the programme :
Having entered by the gates on Kew Green, visit first the house No. 1 on the right; cross to Museum No. III., thence by the Temple of the Sun to the group of houses 2, 3, 4, and 6; thence to the rockwork, and house No. 6; to Museum II., and through the herbaceous ground, past the Cumberland Gate entrance to Museum No. I., overlooking the ornamental water; thence to the Water Lily House and the great Palm Stove. From the Palm Stove follow the Pagoda Vista into the pleasure Grounds (separated from the Botanic Gardens by a wire fence. To the left is the Flagstaff. Half-way along the Vista, and on the right, is the Temperate House or Winter Garden. Continuing along the Vista to the Pagoda, and turning to the left, the Lion Gate may be reached, in the Richmond Road; turning to the right, the path may be followed through the pleasure-grounds by the Thames, till we reach the Brentford Gate, and so regain the Botanic Gardens. Thus we may make the entire circuit of gardens and grounds.
But the Saturday afternoon mood of the visitor to Kew Gardensnotwithstanding Cowper's line
Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse toois hardly in favour of such serious work as an inspection of all the conservatories, followed by a tour round these wide-stretching though beautiful grounds. And why should we undertake such a labour when here, all around us, are trees and plants in which the simple and the learned alike can delight? Some of us, of course have come from London to Kew Gardens to see some particular specimens, and are bent upon finding them. The two photographers
of our party have already left us and gone to the Pinetum, to find that beautiful conifer, Picea pinsapo, from Spain, and to take its portrait. (They have already taken Burnham Beeches, the famous oak in Panshanger Park, and the beeches at Sevenoaks, during their Saturday afternoon excursions this year.) Others have gone to study the climbers in the dell of clematises. We, the remainder, will first examine the specimen plants that are nearest us, and while away our time in holiday mood.
Just inside the gates of the principal entrance to Kew Gardens, there is a plant which shall give us a lesson that by itself shall reward the learner for his Saturday afternoon's visit to Kew. On the lawn to the right, we stand amid various ornamental evergreens, beds of hybrid rhododendrons, and several Himalayan and Japanese hardy bamboos. The plant we speak of will put the visitor to Kew Gardens in intelligent possession of one of the latest and perhaps most important discoveries in biology. Its name is Phormium tenax, and it is also called New Zealand flax. It is a wellknown plant, and is commonly used for ornament in the parks and gardens of London, as visitors to Battersea, and Victoria, and Hyde Parks will remember. It is this Phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax, perhaps more than any other plant in these gardens, that will give us an illustration of Mr. Darwin's great and distinctive principle of the struggle for existence among animals and plants. We will get the Darwinian of our party to speak in exposition of this typical plant, in the light of his master's teaching.
But first, let us gain a less frequented spot in the gardens, for here come, among other Saturday afternoon visitors, troops of pupils of the Doctor Blimbers around Kew. They well sustain the traditions of their Dombey and Son prototypes.
Luckless youths! A Saturday afternoon in Kew Gardens is anything but a holiday to them. Under the eye of a master, they are copying on
a neatly-prepared strips of paper the botanical names of the trees and plants on the lawn : some lesson in etymology and nomenclature evidently looming in the future. They are storing up no pleasant reminiscences of a Saturday half-holiday at Kew.
But our Darwinian (a leading member of the Quekett Microscopical Club), is ready to begin.
An Attempt to Lecture in Kew Gardens, and what became of it.
“This flaggy plant, New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax), will serve to show us how truly Kew Gardens may be described as a great botanical menagerie of creatures that are naturally in a state of war with each other. New Zealand Flax is a notable illustration of the truth, that herbs, and plants, and trees are as actually at war among themselves as are any of the caged animals that are kept by iron bars from making the weaker animals their prey. The struggle for existence is by no means confined to the zoological world. Not only is
Nature red in tooth and claw
in the region of animal life; but even herbs and trees and plants are as persistent in attacking and overcoming one another as the carnivorous creatures that fly at the throat of their prey. Here, in Kew Gardens, are instances in which the extirpation of the weaker individuals and tribes of plants is prevented by attentions which is as necessary to preserve the endangered plants as are iron bars for endangered animals. And this New Zealand Flax plant before us is an astonishing illustration of internecine vegetable warfare.
“But is this tough-looking and formidable specimen-of which New Zealanders make string and cordage, and fishing-nets, stronger than any that can be made of hemp—is it the victor or the prey in the struggle? It is the victim, and the little white clover of our fields is its enemy, assailant, and conqueror !
“«In New Zealand,' says Dr. Hooker, the little white clover and other herbs are actually killing and strangling outright the New Zealand flax, a plant of the coarsest, hardest, and toughest description--a plant that forms huge matted patches of woody rhizomes which sends up tufts of sword. like leaves, six to ten feet high, inconceivably strong in texture and fibre. I know of no English plant to which the New Zealand flax can be likened, so robust is its constitution and habit. In some respects the great matted tussocks of Carex paniculata resemble New Zealand flax. It is difficult to imagine this little white clover invading our English bogs, and smothering the tussocks of Carex paniculata, but the resistance the Carex could offer to the attack would be child's play in comparison to that which the Phormium could apparently oppose.' ” *
See Dr. Hooker on “The Struggle for existence among Plants,” Pop.
Science Rev., vol. vi., p. 131. Dean