Instructions for collecting and preserving various subjects of natural history; as animals, birds, reptiles, shells, corals, plants, &c. Together with A treatise on the management of insects in their several states; selected from the best authorities. By E. Donovan,:
Donovan, E. (Edward), 1768-1837.
Page  74


PLANTS are sometimes transmitted from one country to another, by slips or cuttings, but as those require the skilful management of the gardener during the passage, roots or seeds should always be preferred. It is, however, very difficult to lay down any precise mode of treat∣ment that will answer for all seeds indiscriminately: some kinds keep best exposed to the air; while others are preserved by a total exclusion of it*. The seeds of parsley, lettuce, onions, &c. kept in vials hermetically sealed a twelve month, did not vegetate, while those of the same age and sort hung up in bags in a dry room, vege∣tated freely.

In Ellis's directions for bringing over seeds and plants, the necessity of giving fresh air to some seeds is clearly proved, though it is Page  75certain that the vegetative power of many other kinds can only be preserved by a total exclusion of air, as coating them with wax or enclosing them in tin cannisters, &c.

Page  76Some seeds will retain their vegetative property for a considerable time if buried in a bed of earth, a foot or more below the surface§; others may be enclosed in vials, corked and sealed with a composi∣tion of melted resin and bees-wax, and placed in casks or boxes of salt; and the seeds of most aquatic plants should be transmitted in water.

Seeds which contain much oil, and are of a warm nature, may be generally kept for a considerable length of time without any injury; those of parsley, carrots and parsnip, it is said, will not grow if more than a year old.

Colonel Davies has given the following useful instructions for the transmission of plants from one country to another.

Page  77"With respect to shrubs and plants, I would recommend (as I have from considerable experience found) their being dug up care∣fully, so as to break the roots as little as possible; when about eighteen inches, or two feet high, wash all stones and earthy parti∣cles away from the roots as clean as possible with fresh water, pro∣cure boxes of any kind of wood inch thick, thirty or thirty-six inches long, fourteen or sixteen wide, and as many deep; bore a consider∣able number of holes with a large gimblet in the bottom and lid. Cover the bottom with soft long wet most, about an inch or two thick, and lay the plants with their tops towards the ends of the box as close as possible, about two inches deep: cover them with a layer of wet moss, inch deep, and proceed with another layer of plants, and so on until the whole of the box is filled, covering the upper layer of all with wet moss in like manner. If some moss is also added to the ends of the box the better, as their being pressed close down in the box does not damage or injure them; many by so doing may be packed in a small space. Nail on the top of the box and immerse it under water in a pond, river, or tub, for a few minutes to admit it into the moss; it may then be kept in any damp cellar or out-house free from harm, until sent on board ship, and requires no further trouble, but once in five or six weeks to pour some fresh water on the top or bottom, through the holes, to moisten the moss within. In this manner vast quantities of scarce and va∣luable plants may be easily transported from one part of the globe to another. Although I have never yet made the experiment myself, I am confident that all kinds of nuts, and hard seeds, may be sent in this manner from place to place with great probability of security and success; as the vegetative part of the seed, by being nourished by the moisture of the moss, will be surer preserved, than by any other mode I have heard of. Small seeds will do very well in dry papers, or in small bottles, mixt with dry sand that has not been Page  78near salt water; bulbs keep admirably well also in fresh dry sand or moss, packed in small boxes or kegs."

From countries which we are not permitted to explore, as China, Japan, &c. the curious traveller may obtain many rare plants, if he will examine the fodder that is brought down from the country, by the natives; the indefatigable Thunberg*, who was commissioned to collect seeds and specimens of plants in Japan for the medicinal garden at Amsterdam, was prevented by the jealousy of the Japanese from herbarizing in that country for a considerable time after his arrival, but from the fodder which he examined very carefully every time it was brought down from the country for the cattle, he for∣tunately selected many rare and curious plants.


We cannot dismiss those instructions for the preservation or trans∣portation of seeds, without taking notice of a very interesting disco∣very which Mr. John Lindsay, a surgeon in Jamaica, communicated to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. in the year 1789, relative to the germi∣nation Page  79and raising of Ferns from the seed. We shall not presume to follow this gentleman through the whole of his very pleasing discourse, but refer our readers, if they desire a farther account, to the thirteenth article of the Linnaean Transactions, Vol. II.

Mr. Lindsay, as being an assistant to Dr. Clarke, botanist for that island, could not be ignorant of the various opinions which were entertained by botanists respecting the fructification of this tribe of plants, and of the difficulty of raising them from the seeds; having some spare time when he arrived at Jamaica which he could with propriety dedicate to a minute observance of those plants, he en∣deavoured to ascertain their seed; their minuteness rendered every at∣tempt to discover them, by searching at the roots of even the smallest visible plants fruitless, he then thought of sowing the powder or dust which falls from the leaves when drying in a flower-pot, and ob∣serving their progress; to do this with care and certainty he mixed some of the powder with some of the mould it was to be sown in, and by the assistance of the microscope was soon able to distin∣guish the different parts of the powder, or fructification from the mould in which it was sown. He next proceeds to relate the altera∣tions which he observed in the seeds of several species, from the first symptoms of vegetation to the expansion of the leaves, and illustrates the progress by several figures and suitable references. Engaging in the practice of medicine soon after, he thought no more of the subject, till he had the honour of a very polite letter from Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. by which he was induced to re∣sume his observations, and transmit his valuable discovery to England.

Page  80He says "the seeds of Ferns may be procured with readiness and ease by taking those frondes or leaves on which the fructification is copious, fair and conspicuous; which are of full growth, have a healthy appearance, and are more exposed to the free air than con∣fined in the shade. These leaves, laid on clean paper in a dry place, soon shed their seed in the form of dust or fine powder, of colour varying from black or brown to yellow; the grosser part of this powder is the empty capsules, and that very fine part which adheres close to the paper is the seed. The seeds thus procured may be sown immediately, or kept in paper in a dry place."

He next determines, that like other vegetables, many species of Ferns requires a soil and situation peculiar to themselves; he took equal parts of brick mould and good pit marle, at some depth below the surface, to avoid the seeds of other plants, mixed them well together, and with this filled the flower-pot, moistened it pro∣perly, and made the surface very smooth; he then divided it into small spaces, according to the number of the different kinds in∣tended to be sown in it; and lastly strewed the seeds lightly on the surface. The seeds which are sown in this manner should be placed in a heat corresponding to that of their native climate, in a place rather moist than too dry, freely open to the light and fresh air, but so shaded that the direct rays of the sun cannot reach them.