This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The last meeting; of the Society may be called visitors' night, having been devoted entirely to the instruction and entertainment of the members and their friends.
Isaac C. Martindale gave an interesting talk upon "the germination and growth of Parasitic Plants." The gentleman spoke entirely extempore, and from the ease and fluency with which he presented the points of the subject, it was evident that he was master of this part of the science of Botany.
He first drew a distinction between parasitic and epiphytic plants, in that the former feeds upon and the latter lives or rests only, without feeding upon the pieces of the host. Parasitic plants may also be denned or divided into those which have green leaves and those devoid of them, those having them assimilate their own food, while the leafless feed on that prepared by the host plant. They are further distinguished by those which germinate in the earth, and afterwards become parasitic. Those which germinate as parasitic and afterwards pursue an independent existence, and those which germinate, live and die attached to another.
The Common Dodder, Cuscuta Americana, conspicuous in our swamps in the summer, appearing like a copper-colored wire, is an illustration of the first class. Its seeds germinate in the earth, the embryo of which typifies the future growth, being of the form of a spiral.
After the seedling has grown out, it finds some plant to which it attaches itself by little projections or papillae, which push out of the side of the slender stem and penetrate the woody tissues or fibres of the plant it is destined to feed upon; then the connection with the earth dies and thereafter all nourishment is drawn from the host through the little root-like suckers. The history of the growth of this plant was traced through the various stages, and an illustration given that while the Dodder was a parasite it might succor or sustain another parasite on itself, a fungus which the speaker had discovered a few years since near Mt. Ephraim, and which is now known as Protomyces Marlindalee, so named by Prof. C. H. Beck, of Albany, an au thority on this class of plants.
The Flax Dodder is another species of similar habit, formerly destructive in the flax fields of our forefathers, who grew that commodity for "homespun." Several other species were described, and about one-tenth of those known are said to be inhabitants of the United States. Of the class that germinate on the roots of other plants, and may perfect their growth afterwards independently, a large number of instances were given, admirably illustrated by dried specimens from the large herbarium of the lecturer, some natives of this country, others from Europe, Asia and Africa.
A very handsome specimen of the so-called snow plant of the Western Sierras was exhibited and its habits of growth, etc., described.
Schweinitzia adorata a rare plant (parasitic) was shown as perpetuating the name of Van Schweinitz who spent a large part of his life in the study of the lower forms of vegetable life.
The large order of Orobanche was illustrated by numerous species, and detailed descriptions of the life history of the curious plants were given, and many interesting facts related.
The closing of the lecture was a beautiful diagnosis of the intimate relation that the comprehensive mind of man may see existing in all things, of the mutual relations of one being to another in order to obtain the highest measure of life, the especial gift of God, and of how the Microscope can be made to serve a great purpose, and the study of Natural History open the way for an upright walking in the truth. Yet, so far as these investigations and studies have gone, by the aid of the highest Microscopic powers we are able to bring to bear upon the germs of existence, some progress and development has already preceded our sight, a gap there that can only be spanned by a faith in an over-seeing power, which fashions for the use of his creatures all things that he wills.
The wrapt attention paid to the lecture must have been gratifying to the speaker, as an assurance that the labor of many tedious hours, the fatigues and disappointments of many a weary search in collecting these facts and specimens, afforded so much instruction to those seekers after knowledge, whose eager faces showed their appreciation.
At its conclusion, remarks upon it were made by several members, and the attention of the audience called to those interesting parasitic plants or microfungi, Cluster Cups, of which large numbers and different species were shown and explained by the members under the microscope.
Their meetings increase in interest, and we predict a large attendance oa next visitors' night.