The Society and its offshoots, the gardens, have also dealt most effectively with the unthinking habits of the peasant, who sought to enrich himself by selling rudely uprooted rarities on the markets or among the hotels - by, in fact, killing the goose which laid the golden eggs. He has been brought to see that it is better all-round policy to cultivate the plants from seeds; and this he has begun to do in, for example, the district around the Saleve, near Geneva. His customers, also, have learnt some wisdom, now recognizing more or less that plants so raised are far better worth buying than the poor, withered, mutilated specimens carelessly uprooted from the mountains. Indeed, under the old conditions, these customers foolishly paid four or five times the catalogue price of sound, acclimatized roots and bulbs for maimed and half-dead plants roughly snatched, often forty-eight hours or more previously, from their wild home. Then, again, local authorities in many parts of the country have been induced to take steps for the strict preservation of whatever flowers are menaced with extinction. In this way Cyclamen europoeum, for instance, is receiving special and timely protection in Savoy; Gentiana lutea in the Swiss Tyrol; Iris virescens around Sion; Cypripedium Calceolus in the Rhone Valley and other districts; Androsace Vitelliana at Zermatt; Campanula excisa at Saas-Fee; Androsace Charpentieri in the Canton of Ticino; Pyrola umbellata in the Commune of Andelfingen, Canton of Zurich; Cerinthe alpina in the Jura; Adonis vernalis in the Rhone Valley; Tulipa silvestris at Bex and around Geneva; Erythronium Dens-canis around Geneva; and Eryngium alpinum and Atra-gene alpina wherever they are to be found.
The movement, then, is not of mushroom growth. It has meant many years of ceaseless endeavour, often anxious, often dispiriting, and often prosecuted with an imperative degree of patient diplomacy. Unaided at first by the Government, it lacked authority to impose its principles. Its appeal was to the public conscience; and this latter is notoriously apt to be a little hard of hearing. But M. Henry Correvon (President of the Society until, in 1908, it was absorbed by the Heimathschutz or Ligue Suisse pour la Protection des Beautes Naturelles), with untiring effort and unquenchable enthusiasm, has gained its ear and aroused its proper pride. To this gentleman, indeed, all lovers of the Alpine flora owe an inestimable debt, one which must only increase as time rolls on. He has devoted himself heart and soul to attain his object. Visiting England, Belgium, France, and Italy in order to win over nurserymen, importers, and the gardening world in general to the idea that it is better to raise from seed than to root up, he has lectured to this end in these countries. He has lectured, also, in the mountain towns and villages of Switzerland and Savoy to the local authorities, guides, and peasantry, trying to instil respect for the lovely denizens of their Alps. Director of the successful gardens on the Rochers de Naye and at Bourg St. Pierre, he has a wonderfully efficient garden of his own at Geneva ('Floraire,' originally the Geneva Acclimatization Gardens, but acquired by M. Correvon in 1893), the main object of which is to furnish plants, but especially seeds, to botanical gardens, and to gardeners and plant-lovers generally.
Arnica And Campanula Barbata On The Col De La Forclaz, At The End Of July.
M. Correvon once insisted (it was in 1896, at the General Meeting of the Society) that the aim of the Society was not to prevent lovers of flowers from bringing back from their Alpine excursions living souvenirs for the adornment of their rockeries, but to arrest the professional collector's wholesale depredations; and, of course, this must be accepted as exact. Nevertheless, the more modest pilferings of the excursionist and tourist have been affected by the movement quite as markedly, by comparison, as have the wholesale plunderings of the professional collector. The cause of the persecuted Alpines has been won; and it has been won not merely amongst a particular section of the public, but also amongst the mountain peasantry. A popular spirit of patriotic pride in the country's flora has been aroused, and, so to speak, polices the mountains; consequently, every class of collector is affected. Nor, really, is this the least happy of the Society's achievements. For the total amount of destruction wrought by the whole vast army of tourists and excursionists must have been great, although each individual sum may have been small. And most often it was idle destruction - purely and simply idle and unthinking. Lovers have still much to learn of how to be loving; and the lover of plants can be as enthusiastically inconsiderate as any other lover. Flower-loving tourists are more frequently to be dreaded than they who are 'dead to love' in this regard. More often than not the flowers are far better cared for by the tourist who is utterly indifferent to their charms: for he leaves them alone! Oh that all flowers had the traditional gift of Atropa Mandragora (the Mandrake) - to shriek out aloud when pulled up by the roots! The cry might affect to good purpose the 'disorderly' flower-lover! Seemingly, like the proverbial boy who must fling a murderous stone at any beautiful bird, the tourist, as soon as he sees a lovely flower - some particularly well-grown specimen or some rare white form - is apt to feel that it must be uprooted and taken home. The same idle impulse - the impulse to possess, and the impulse to kill in order to possess - seizes boy and tourist alike, and usually with a like result: the bird is soon thrown aside to moulder, whilst the plant is left to rot in water or to lie waterless in the sun on the window-sill of some hotel bedroom. The reckless and destructive element in this impulse to possess 'root and branch' was strikingly illustrated in the early summer of 1908. During a ten-days absence of the gardener, a number of lovely Alpines were uprooted from the garden on the summit of the Rochers de Naye, above Montreux, many of the plants being left lying scattered here and there, spurned, probably, as redundant by the impulsive lover!