This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Queen Victoria is botanically honored by having one of the grandest flowers named for her, the famous Water Lily of the Amazon River - Victoria regia. Here we have her name associated with one of the lowliest classes, a class which has no flowers at all. It was on account of the apparent want of flowers, that Linnaeus named this class of plants Cryptogamia, which may perhaps be explained as that class which perfects its seeds in secret, although, critically, the spore of a fern or Lycopodium by which reproduction is carried on, is different in its nature from a seed. A fern spore germinates, expands, and then the functions of fertilization is effected, and the new growth proceeds from the union; but in the ordinary seed fertilization precedes the formation. A seed is a sort of bud which follows pol-linization; a spore is a bud which precedes the act.
To the general observer there is in the appearance of some Lycopodiums and Selaginellas, much in common with pines or other members of the Coniferous class. But the laws of cell growth at once divides them. Wood is made from the gemmation of the cells. In the cells of coni-ferae, the last formed of this year will grow next in a lateral direction, and form a new layer of wood around the last year's layer, and so continue from year to year, making an annual layer of wood ; but these Cryptogamic plants have no such power of lateral growth. The cells at the end of the growing point live over to next year, as do the cells of the pine, but they only make the new cell growth in the longitudinal direction, and not in the lateral one. Otherwise, cell growth is very much the same in both cases. The underground stem of the fern, Rhizome the botanist calls it, goes on perhaps for an age, making new cells out of the old ones, and leaving the dead ones behind; and just so do the cells of a tree. The last year's cells die soon after the new circle of wood is formed, and all the circles of wood which form the trunk of a tree, with the exception of the few circles near the circumference, are as dead as are those behind the tip of a fern rhizome.
If there were a lateral as well as a longitudinal growth ; if the stem of a fern could go on thickening from year to year, there might not be so much difference between a Selaginella and a Pine; for with the identity of powers in this respect, there might come differences in the morphological laws which result in the other distinct characters.
There are for all many correspondences in character between Lycopodiums and Coniferae.
As the pine grows it often suppresses its needlelike leaves and has the young stem often to the length of several inches, with nothing on it but scales; and the fruit in Coniferae, known as a cone, is but a suppressed branch of such a character. These points often occur in Lycopodiaceae. It was indeed this character in the species here illustrated which led us to wander into these comparisons, hoping thereby to instruct the general reader in some usually abstruse botanical points. The ends of what Mr. Bull, the introducer, calls "pinnulets," have the leaves suddenly appressed, as we often see in the pine, and as if the plant had half determined to form a spike or "cone." Of the horticultural merits and history of the plant itself, we will here append what Mr. Wm. Bull says of it:
"An elegant sub-scandent species, introduced from the South Sea Islands. It has a creeping caudex, from which at intervals spring up an erect stem, which lengthens by forming new growths at the point; these stems produce alternate lateral branches of an ovate outline, flat and closely pinnate, like the frond of a fern. The color is a dark sap green, the spikelets and young growth being of a paler and lighter hue. It is allied to S. Wallichii, but is a still more elegant plant, and differs essentially in having a long terminal pinnulet to each branch, instead of diminishing gradually to the end".