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The Battle Among the Twigs

leaves, buds, ones, tree and branch

THE BATTLE AMONG THE TWIGS The white oak I see from my window has a dozen main branches that spring out of the trunk at various levels. Each branch subdivides again and again. The outside of the dome of the tree is a maze of small twigs whose buds are practically countless.

In winter the tree is sound asleep. The wind whips the branches together and breaks off some buds and twigs. But among the tree's own light ing forces there is a truce until spring. .Then comes the battle of the buds that rages without ceasing till winter conies again.

Let us examine this oak branch with its win ter buds upon it. and see what signs there are of the coming conflict. Four twigs rise from a cola mon point. Each bears scattered side buds and a cluster of stronger ones at the tip. The side buds average less than an inch apart. Last summer a leaf was borne under each of them. They were not too close. White oak leaves are deeply lobed,—their stems very flexible. Light and air can therefore reach them even when they are set closely. But that was last year. What is this year's problem? Each bud set on these twigs is a branch in miniature. Each one is ambitious to produce a leafy shoot. There was room enough for the leaves. is there going to be room for branches ? Suppose eachi bud should ea rry out its plans _ .About forty shoots each bearing ten leaves, would be the result. Four hundred leaves on a two-year-old branch scarcely fifteen inches long! Follow it on for another year. Fanny these four hundred buds grown into leafy shoots each bearing ten leaves. There would aggregate four thousand leaves, all on a branch three years old and less than two feet long! The buds never realize their ambitious hopes. The mathematics of it reduces the problem to an absurdity. So does a look at the diagram. But a. small percentage of the 1)11(15 that, form can develop. Which ones shall they he? The weak ones may stay out, of the contest ; the strong ones contend in a silent, cunt humus strife for room, for food, and for sunshine. The first buds to (pen are the ones farthest. out and the first ones to show green leaves are the ones that. can first appropriate sap that rises in the stein. The green leaves take in carbon from the air, add it to the crude sap, elaborate these raw materials, and send the nutritious products to their own growing shoot. As the leaves attain their full size the outer and upper ones cut off the supply of sunshine from those below. More and more crowded do they become. More and moro sharp is the competition among them.

The biblical text finds no truer application than here in this struggle among the leaves—" 17nto every one that bath shall be given." Licking sunshine, the und(ur leaves could In it • elaborate the sap even if they had it ; so they fade and fall and the upper ones are prospered. Vigor and favor

able situation are the beginnitv•s of success in this long struggle. Weakness keeps many buds from starting at all.

Tlirwil +lint ri- cord v !v vq. 9)111 shaded to death by their more prosper ous brothers.

The growth our r twig W ill make in the next few years may be pro dieted with fair accuracy by looking down the branch and reading some thing of its past. The death of side shoots and the persistence of but one or two of the terminal ones is the rule. We may expect the twig in the picture to have its growth extended through its two longest shoots. the weaker two boiling after this year. Side shoots will probably start from a few of the strongest lank. Ihit they will fail in a year or two, as they must clash with others, and be east into shade.

The tree top rises ever higher from the around. year by year. Our twig will soon find itself smothered by those that extend beyond it, it it does not its terminal shoots and keep a of leaves out, in the sunlight. For this. the best leaves cluster at the ends of the twigs; the best buds form there; the energy of growth is concentrated there.

it is it most fascinating thing to notice the careers of those buds that are sacrificed to serve the best interests of the whole tree. For a year or two they remain dormant,—not (lead, but sleeping. If all goes well above them they die in a year or two. But if an accident cuts oft the life of the growing shoot above them, the dormant buds wake and grow. The tree kept them alive as a sort of life insurance plan. They are to be called upon in case of emergency. They grow as soon as they have a chance. Sunlight, sap and air are all they need ; they begin to grow as soon as these necessaries are supplied.

Every tree top tells the story of Nature's "divine wastefulness"— provision for thousands where only hundreds can find room. Leaf. dower, fruit, bud, and twig contest unceasingly for place and food and sun. Consult an apple tree in spring, and then in fall. Count the blossoms on a certain branch. Then count the fruit. Go to it in early summer when the tree casts off as if in despair the fruit it cannot ripen. The trunk of every tree is the burying ground of thousands of twigs and branches which succumbed in the struggle. The branches we see are a small num ber compared with those which tried to grow and gave it, up.

Nowhere better than in this battle in the tree tops can we read the full text of the great natural law of the "Survival of the also known as the doctrine of "Natural Selection great hotly of truth the enunciation of which has illumined the, human understanding and made immortal the name of Charles Darwin.