There are a great many plants which have no flowers or only very primitive ones, and therefore do not exactly come within the scope of this work, still they deserve some slight record. ([The Pine family, unfortunately for us, does not form forests of timber trees, as it does in many parts of the globe, but we possess some most interesting species from a scientific point of view. Most of our Pines are vestiges of a bye-gone age. Huon Pine, which lives only in wet parts of our ever moist west, produces wood of a superlative character. King William, which yields one of the lightest woods in the world, belongs to a passing away genus. Its only relatives to be found to-day are one in the dismal swamp of America, one in Japan, and two, Mammoth Tree and Redwood, north of California.
The Club Mosses are unfortunately named, as they are not at all related to mosses. It is better to call them
Lycopods, and recognise that they are more related to the
Pines. They appear to be dwarfed descendants of the vegetation of the coal measures.
Two plants placed in this group chiefly because they will not fit in anywhere else are of exceptional interest. They are Quillwort and Tmesipteris. Quillwort is common in our lakes, and has leaves like a porcupine's quills. It is widely distributed throughout the world. Being a water-plant it is carried about by migratory birds. It is apparently a direct descendant of the Lepidodendrons of the very ancient earth. Tmesipteris, which has no common name, is found occasionally on the trunks of tree-ferns. It is confined to Australia and Southern Pacific, and probably is one of the only remaining relatives of the equally ancient Sphenophylls.
Tasmania is well off for ferns, possessing nearly eighty species) Good as this is, New Zealand has about twice as many. The typical fern is probably not a very old type; there are perhaps more species existing in the present day than at any other period. The fern-like leaves of the coal measures appear to have belonged to a group of plants, the precursors of the seed-bearing plants., Of the moss group there are in Tasmania about three hundred and fifty true mosses, and about three hundred Liver worts. Probably no part of the world of a like size is so rich in species of this latter section of the family.
King William Pine. (Arthrotaais selaginoides, Don.) [Seep. 135
Club Mosses. (Lycopodium scariosum, Forst, Lycopodium, selago, L.) [See p. 135
Lycopodium Fastigiatum. R. Br. [See p. 135
Tmesipteris Tannensis. Bern. [See p. 135
Quillwort. (Isoetes elatior, F. C. M.) [See p. 135
There is one class of plant which deserves far more attention than it gets, and that is the Fungi. The weird forms and often minute size render it unattractive to the young student, but its importance in the scheme of nature, and its clashing with man's interest makes it a difficult, but most important line of research. The objects we call fungi are only the fruits of the plants The real body consists of threads which permeate the wood, or soil, or living plant, and when it proceeds to propagate it produces on the surface one of the peculiar growths according to its kind. Unlike green plants, fungi do not form food for themselves, but procure what they require from plante, living or dead, even in some instances from man.
Fungi are often parasitic, such as rust in Wheat, Black Spot on Apples, Thrush, Ringworm, or Diphtheria in man.
Most Fungi live on dead plant remains, and as such does some harm, but an immense amount of good. Were it not for these plants, plant remains would not rot, but would lie an encumbrance upon the earth.
People as a rule call all umbrella-shaped Fungi which are not Mushrooms by the one name of Toadstools, and think they are poisonous. It is better to call them by their scientific name of Agaric. Very few of the thousands of Agarics which exist are poisonous. Many of them are used for food on the continent of Europe.