when the world was a golden Lotus;’ and the sacred incantation which goes murmuring through Thibet is ‘Om mani padme houm.’
It would be singular, if upon these delicate floating leaves a fragment of our earliest vernacular has been borne down to us, so that here the school-boy is more learned than the philologists.
This lets us down easily to the more familiar uses of this plant divine.
By the Nile
, in early days, the waterlily was good not merely for devotion, but for diet.
‘From the seeds of the Lotus,’ said Pliny, ‘the Egyptians make bread.’
still eat the seeds, roasted in sand; also the stalks and roots.
In South America
, from the seeds of the Victoria
, now Vicloria Regia
) a farina is made, preferred to that of the finest wheat,— Bonpland
even suggesting to our reluctant imagination Victoria-pies.
But the European
species are used, so far as is reported, only in dyeing, and as food (if the truth be told) of swine.
Our own water-lily is rather more powerful in its uses; the root contains tannin and gallic acid, and a decoction of it ‘gives a black precipitate, with sulphate of iron.’
It graciously consents to become an astringent and a styptic, and a poultice, and, banished from all other temples, still lingers in those of Aesculapius
The botanist also finds his special satisfactions in the flower.
It has some strange peculiarities of structure.
So loose is the internal distribution of its tissues, that it was for some time held doubtful to which of the two great vegetable divisions, exogenous or endogenous, it belonged.
Its petals, moreover, furnish the best example of the gradual transition of petals into stamens,—illustrating that wonderful law of identity which is the great discovery of modern science.
Every child knows this peculiarity of the water-lily, but the extent of it seems to vary with season and locality, and sometimes one finds a succession of flowers almost entirely free from this confusion of organs.
The reader may not care to learn that the order of Nymphaeaceae ‘differs from Ranunculaceae in the consolidation of its carpels, from Papaveraceae in the placentation not being parietal, and from Nelumbiaceae in the want of a large truncated disc containing monospermous achenia;’ but they may like to know that the water-lily has relations on land, in all gradations of society, from poppy to magnolia, and yet does not conform its habits precisely to those of any of them.
Its great black roots, sometimes as large as a man's arm, form a network at the bottom of the water.
Its stem floats, an airy four-celled tube, adapting itself to the depth, and stiff in shallows, like the stalk of the yellow lily; and it contracts and curves downward when seed-time approaches.
The leaves show beneath the magnifier beautiful adaptations of structure.
They are not, like those of land-plants, constructed with deep veins to receive the rain and conduct it to the stem, but are smooth and glossy, and of even surface.
The leaves of land-vegetation have also thousands of little