Obrazy na stronie

degree ignorant of the actual powers of the Hydra. Many years elapsed, before any fresh discoveries were made; till, in the year 1730, a naturalist of the name of Trembly, while searching in the neighbourhood of Geneva for some aquatic plants, discovered, and brought to light, these singular productions. Surprised at the extraordinary formation of a creature which presented the aspect of a plant, while it possessed the motion of an animal, he determined to ascertain its doubtful' nature, and was equally delighted and astonished to find, that, on being divided into two parts, each, apparently, remained uninjured by the separation ; and that, in the course of a few days, the several portions reproduced the deficient organs, and eat, and moved as before !

The discovery was made known, and at first considered merely as a fable; it was even contended that it was impossible, on the principles of sound philosophy, and common sense. But the fact was undeniable; and the attention of every European naturalist was consequently excited by the singularity of the circumstance. Ditches and stagnant waters were ransacked for their inhabitants, and one experiment succeeded another, till their real nature was completely ascertained. It was also found that the animals of most of the Coral tribes, both hard and soft, were closely connected with Polypes in

their construction and reproductive powers ; whilst others, though endued with the same extraordinary qualities, seemed more allied to the Actinæ, and Medusæ.

This interesting genus is very generally diffused ; and while some are scarcely distinguishable among the sea-weeds to which they adhere, others stand forth in all their native beauty, and gaily decorate the rocks to which they cling.

Such, especially, are the Sea Anemones ; an elegant genus, closely resembling the flower from which it derives a name. I have often gathered specimens on the shore at Sidmouth, when the receding of the tide has left uncovered that beautiful range of small broken rocks, which are so dear to the lovers of marine botany. These specimens would continue in great beauty for a considerable time, when kept in basins filled with salt water, and fed with small pieces of fish. Their colours in different lights were changeable as those of the Camelion.

Different species belong to this family, and are equally distinguished for their varied tints, and elegant construction. The Sea Carnation presents the appearance of a long white fig, delicately wrinkled and curvated at the top, like the petals of a garden carnation; the Sunflower Anemone, grows on rocks, and expands its saffron-coloured petals, in imitation of the stately flower to which it owes a

name ; and the common Sea Anemone (such as we gathered from off the rocks at Sidmouth), is distinguished by a red colour, and rough internal surface, while the centre is often of the purest white, elegantly marked with numerous carmine streaks. But the most extraordinary of the species is the Cluster Animal Flower, consisting of many tube-like bodies, surmounted by a mouth, which gently swells towards the upper part, and is surrounded by one or two rows of tentaculæ. These, on contracting, look like a circle of beads; while the lower extremity resembles that of a bulbous root, which closely adheres to the rock, and sends forth other tubes, that creep like roots in various directions.

Figure to yourself a wild solitary cave, and within it a natural hollow filled with clear water, beneath which appears a fixed stone, or rather a small rock. Look down into the clear mirror, and you may observe around the sides of this natural basin, certain substances which resemble fine radiated flowers, of a pale yellow, or bright straw colour, slightly tinged with green, and elegantly bordered with thick-set petals, like those of the single garden Marigold, excepting that the petals are narrower towards the base. These mimic flowers grow out of small hollows in the rocks. dart down your hand to pluck one of them, the creature, warned by the undulations of the water, imme

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diately contracts its yellow borders, and shrinks back into the hole. But if left undisturbed for a few minutes, it gradually reappears, expanding, though at first very cautiously, its seeming leaves, till at length it resumes all its former beauty.

The author* to whom we owe the knowledge of this curious Zoophyte, once contrived to cut off two of the leaves; but being composed of a membranaceous substance, they soon shrivelled up, and died away.

The singular character of the extraordinary cavern in which these beautiful productions grew, as well as the variety of their forms and colours, having excited considerable interest, and consequent inconvenience to the individual through whose grounds the persons who came to see them were obliged to pass, he resolved to destroy the objects of their curiosity. Orders were accordingly given for this purpose; and the more effectually to remove the slightest trace, the holes from which they appeared were carefully bored through with an iron instrument, by means of which they were supposed to be entirely destroyed. Vain, however, were all his efforts; in the course of a few weeks, they appeared again.

Polypi are very irritable, and acted on by external influences. This will account for the susceptibility of the animal flowers in the cavern of which I have

* Hughes' Natural History of Barbadoes.

just spoken, when warned of approaching danger by the undulations of the water. Light also attracts them towards the quarter whence it comes, in a manner similar to leaves and flowers. But the only relationship between them and vegetables, consists in the simplicity of their structure, the compound manner of their growth, their being increased by offsets, and their resemblance to different kinds of flowers; as well as the external form of the gaily tinted masses which the united Polypi compose.

We recognise in these extraordinary productions a beautiful adaptation to their peculiar circumstances. Blossom-shaped tentaculæ enclose the unsuspecting shell-fish, or small marine insects, that venture within their reach; and these tentaculæ are each provided with a mouth, which is concealed by long hairs, that appear like a circle of small beads.

A wrinkled, fleshy tube, serves as an anchor to fix each of these mimic flowers to a rock, or stone, and thus are they enabled to resist the fury of the

They answer the same purpose as the fine, silky filainents which moor the little Muscle in a sheltering haven ; or rather, the shelly basis of the Serpula or Worm-shell, the Tree Oyster, and Slipper Barnacle. Lastly, on dissecting the stomach of this curious creature, many longitudinal fibres are discovered, lying parallel to each other, and all in, serted in the tentaculæ which surround its mouth :


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