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The Flight of Seeds

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THE FLIGHT OF SEEDS When we want. a symbol of independence we are wont to point to a great tree—a sturdy oak, perhaps. Yet how helpless trees are, after all ! Like Prometheus chained to the rock. they cannot move. while creatures smaller than eagles but fully as ravenous, come to prey upon them. Their sacred mission in life is the propagation of their kind. Yet in performing it how dependent are they upon blind chance! There are great epochs in the lives of trees. and great days in each year's calendar. Critical indeed is the time N•hen the flowers open and the pollen is given to the wind and to the insects. Upon these unconscious and irresponsible agents largely depends the of seed. The maturing of the seed may soon be accomplished, or it may be a long, slow process, which fills a whole summer. or even two. With its completion another critical epoch is at hand. The tree yields its precious seeds to the heedless wind or drops them upon the groin ill. The fate of each tree-child trembles in the balance while the parent tree is powerless to take any further part in the great work of seed distribution.

As a matter of fact this point (If view is altogether human and somewhat sentimental. There is not so much chance. after all. The bee is wonderfully efficient in the pollination of flowers. She attends strictly to business. and for her the (lay is long. Between dawn and dusk she visits countless flowers. The wind may be a reckless fellow, but he often works while we sleep or play. Then, too, many species of trees will survive without cross-fertilization or wide dissemination. Trees have ways of propagating their kind that do not involve the seed at all. But. what subject is so interesting. as the flight of seeds ? No wonder it appeals to the imagination and holds the attention of ns all ! 'file seed of ash trees is like a dart. A flat pointed case contains the embryo. and out behind it extends a thin, light two-edged wing. The. seeds hang in clusters securely fastened on wiry stems. They break loose a few at a time in high winds, and flutter and hesitate as they turn over, to point their heavy ends downward. They

may go like an arrow straight into the snow or the leaf mould under the tree ; or. if the wind is blowing a gale, the seed may be caught by the current and borne far away before a. lull lets the little dart point downward again and the seed find its way to the earth.

The willow is one of the earliest trees to ripen its seeds. The long terminal catkin hangs for days with little green pods along its sides. Then suddenly the pods burst., the two halves curl back out of the way, and the tiniest specks of seeds float out. Each one is hid in a misty tuft of silk which is sc.) light it seems as if it would never reach the earth. and iu truth much of it In, rICL+ 1 +1 ,a ; 1._ nee L.7.1 11 LLC,I1,/ IL/ cot,, 1./1 11,1) ewe to the willows. So feeble is the embryo in the seed that it dies in a day if it is not lodged in a place favorable for its germination. Willows do not depend upon their seeds. and .seed-growing is Nvith them a matter of form--of loyalty to the traditions of their family. Multiplication is much more surely and vigorously accomplished by casting off twigs and branches which strike root in moist soil near the tree. or float clown stream, lodging and growing on sand-Lars or river banks. Thus do willows spread. while the wind is busy scattering their ineffectual seeds.

In April the elm trees, leafless yet. show the green tips of opening leaf buds, but lunch more noticeable are the green seeds that hang like i danty pendants in clusters from the sides of ------ pendants twigs. Because they are many. the ground is thickly sprinkled with seeds which the tree can not ripen. _By the time the leaves are full-sized the seeds are ripe and scattered. Each is a thin flat disk with the embryo in the center of a surrounding wing. The American elm Has a fringed seed, with two incurring books that meet at the apex. These seeds float far on the wind, for they are as light as feathers.

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