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The Life History of a Maple

seed, tree, little, pollen and red

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THE LIFE HISTORY OF A MAPLE To an intelligent and sympathetic questioner an aged tree speaks freely of its later life, but of its youth it tells little. We must begin at the beginning if we would read the story of a tree's a seed ? No, for what is a seed but a little plant which lies within the inclosing seed coats waiting for release? The next question is, When was the seed formed ? Let us go with our last question into the woods in March, when the red maple begins to glow against the grim darkness of the leafless trees. It is the red buds set opposite upon the twigs that warm the gray old tree. They have felt the stir of the sap. All the tree can ever express of life and beauty and energy must come through these buds. A few of them lead the rest. The outer scales are shed, the inner ones lengthen as if they would be leaves, and then a rosy veil encom passes the tree—the red maple is in bloom ! The tree has two kinds of blossoms. Both have cups set round with crimson petals. One bears within on slender filaments a number of yellow anthers, which give the opening flowers a yellow cast. Out of these anthers shakes the pollen like golden dust. The other flowers are ruddy of hue. They hear no anthers at but instead, thrust out of each cup a red stigma like a forked toneue The inner faces of this stieana, are sticky. At the base of each half is :L closed chamber in which lies a tiny soft body called an ovule. It may become a seed. But that depends upon chance.

The air is full of pollen grains—of poplar, birch, and alder ; of elm, willow, and maple. The grains are so small and so light they drift on the Nv nd . Some are borne on the hairy bodies of insects that go from flower to flower. Pollen of all of them (or of none) may happen to lodge on the sticky surface of a red maple stigma. This is po//iimiion. But all strange pollen lies there inert. A grain of maple pollen is the only kiwi that makes any impression. It absorbs the sweet juices present in the stigma. A tube grows downward like a little root among the loose tissues. Still feeding and growing the

tube reaches the ovule and enters it by a little doorway. An egg-cell is within, and a sperm-cell is in the end of the pollon tube. The two unite, and thus the ft/Ill...zit/iv.. of the ovule is .iccomplished. This is the beginning of the life of the tree.

The fertilized ovule ripens into a seed.

Look at the maple tree just after blossoming- time. The staminate 'lowers strew the ground. Their work was done when they cast their pollen. Bit the pistillate flowers do nut fall.

although stigmas and petals have withered. In the place of stigmas pert little horns are rising. They are to be the wings of the maple seeds. The ,stems lengthen, and on each one of them two crimson winged samaras, or key fruits, swing gracefully in the breeze. Late in May the tree, now clothed in its unfolding leaves, loosens its seeds and gives them to the winds. Each little key must shift for itself. Where shall it alight' I know a maple tree which stands in the edge of the NVOOdS Nvhere the ground is stony and broken. An oozy bank above it waters the thirsty routs of many plants. In front is the broad, hard highway in which no seed can grow. Behind is the deep leaf mould on the forest floor. All kinds 1)1 ;sun are spread 'Hitter mutt. 11 JIWII ;;Ce11;', \V Ill me fortunate, ones'."I'hey veer and sail and pitch to earth, Yellow anthers borne on slen ing their puhited bodies before the lighter In most der filaments: of these winged seeds there is a sleeping plautlet. Warmth and moisture are required to wake it into life. If these are not plied, the plantlet waits. If it waits too long. it loses its own moisture and dies. in a favorable situation the seed will germinate without delay. There are two long seed leaves folded palms together and then coiled in the seed pocket of the key. There is a little stem that joins the two. This is all we see. The waking seed absorbs the water. The seed cunt cracks along its edges. The two leaves uncoil and lift into the light. The stem elongates and turns toward the soil.

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