This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
See also Sponges.
Put some sand into a fish-globe or other suitable glass vessel to the depth of 2 or 3 inches; in this place a few pieces of sulphate of copper, aluminum, and iron; pour over the whole a solution of sodium silicate (water glass), 1 part, and water, 3 parts, care being taken not to disarrange the chemicals. Let this stand a week or so, when a dense growth of the silicates of the various bases used will be seen in various colors. Now displace the solution of the sodium silicate with clear water, by conveying a stream of water through a very small rubber tube into the vessel. The water will gradually displace the sodium silicate solution. Care must be taken not to disarrange or break down the growth with the stream of water. A little experimenting, experience and expertness will enable the operator to produce a very pretty garden.
This is a permanent chemical garden, which may be suspended by brass chains with a lamp behind.
Prepare a small beaker or jar full of cold saturated solution of Glauber's salt, and into the solution suspend by means of threads a kidney bean and a non-porous body, such as a marble, stone, glass, etc. Cover the jar, and in a short time there will be seen radiating from the bean small crystals of sulphate of sodium which will increase and give the bean the aspect of a sea urchin, while the non-porous body remains untouched. The bean appears to have a special partiality for the crystals, which is due to the absorption of water by the bean, but not of the salt. In this way a supersaturated solution is formed in the immediate neighborhood of the bean, and the crystals, in forming, attach themselves to its surface.
A popular form of ornamental crystallization is that obtained by immersing a zinc rod in a solution of a lead salt, thus obtaining the "lead tree." To prepare this, dissolve lead acetate in water, add a few drops of nitric acid, and then suspend the zinc rod in the solution. The lead is precipitated in large and beautiful plates until the solution is exhausted or the zinc dissolved. In this case the action is electro-chemical, the first portions of the lead precipitated forming with the zinc a voltaic arrangement of sufficient power to decompose the salt.
It is said that by substituting chloride of tin for the lead salt a"tin tree" may be produced, while nitrate of silver under the same conditions would produce a "silver tree." In the latter case distilled water should be used to prevent precipitation of the silver by possible impurities contained in ordinary water.