breathing-pores, principally on the under side: the apple-leaf, for instance, has twenty-four thousand to the square inch.
But here they are fewer; they are wholly on the upper side, and, whereas in other cases they open or shut according to the moisture of the atmosphere, here the greedy leaves, secure of moisture, scarcely deign to close them.
Nevertheless, even these give some recognition of hygrometric necessities, and, though living on the water, and not merely christened with dewdrops like other leaves, but baptized by immersion all the time, they are yet known to suffer in drought and to take pleasure in the rain.
After speaking of the various kindred of the water-lily, it would be wrong to leave our modest species without due mention of its rarest and most magnificent relative, at first claimed even as its twin sister, and classed as a Nymphaea.
I once lived near neighbor to a Victoria Regia.
Nothing in the world of vegetable existence has such a human interest.
The charm is not in the mere size of the plant, which disappoints everybody, as Niagara
does, when tried by that sole standard.
The leaves of the Victoria
, indeed, attain a diameter of six feet; the largest flowers, of twenty-three inches,—four times the size of the largest of our water-lilies.
But it is not the measurements of the Victoria
, it is its life which fascinates.
It is not a thing merely of dimensions, nor merely of beauty, but a creature of vitality and motion.
Those vast leaves expand and change almost visibly.
They have been known to grow half an inch an hour, eight inches a day. Rising one day from the water, a mere clenched mass of yellow prickles, a leaf is transformed the next day to a crimson salver, gorgeously tinted on its upturned rim. Then it spreads into a raft of green, armed with long thorns, and supported by a framework of ribs and crosspieces, an inch thick, and so substantial that the Brazil Indians
, while gathering the seed-vessels, place their young children on the leaves;—yrupe
, or waterplatter, they call the accommodating plant.
But even these expanding leaves are not the glory of the Victoria
; the glory is in the opening of the flower.
I have sometimes looked in, for a passing moment, at the greenhouse, its dwelling-place, during the period of flowering,— and then stayed for more than an hour, unable to leave the fascinating scene.
After the strange flower-bud has reared its dark head from the placid tank, moving it a little, uneasily, like some imprisoned water-creature, it pauses for a moment in a sort of dumb despair.
Then, trembling again, and collecting all its powers, it thrusts open, with an indignant jerk, the rough calyx-leaves; and the beautiful disrobing begins.
The firm, white, central cone, once so closely infolded, quivers a little, and swiftly, before your eyes, the first of the hundred petals detaches its delicate edges, and springs back, opening towards the water, while its white reflection opens to meet it from below.
Many moments of