Darwiniana; Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 379 pages of information about Darwiniana; Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism.
have spread as widely and made themselves as much at home on the plains of La Plata as on those of Tartary; and that the cardoon-thistle-seeds, and others they brought with them, have multiplied there into numbers probably much exceeding those extant in their native lands; indeed, when we contemplate our own race, and our particular stock, taking such recent but dominating possession of this New World; when we consider how the indigenous flora of islands generally succumbs to the foreigners which come in the train of man; and that most weeds (i.e., the prepotent plants in open soil) of all temperate climates are not “to the manner born,” but are self-invited intruders—­we must needs abandon the notion of any primordial and absolute adaptation of plants and animals to their habitats, which may stand in lieu of explanation, and so preclude our inquiring any further.  The harmony of Nature and its admirable perfection need not be regarded as inflexible and changeless.  Nor need Nature be likened to a statue, or a cast in rigid bronze, but rather to an organism, with play and adaptability of parts, and life and even soul informing the whole.  Under the former view Nature


would be “the faultless monster which the world ne’er saw,” but inscrutable as the Sphinx, whom it were vain, or worse, to question of the whence and whither.  Under the other, the perfection of Nature, if relative, is multifarious and ever renewed; and much that is enigmatical now may find explanation in some record of the past.

That the two species of redwood we are contemplating originated as they are and where they are, and for the part they are now playing, is, to say the least, not a scientific supposition, nor in any sense a probable one.  Nor is it more likely that they are destined to play a conspicuous part in the future, or that they would have done so, even if the Indian’s fires and the white man’s axe had spared them.  The redwood of the coast (Sequoia sempervirens) had the stronger hold upon existence, forming as it did large forests throughout a narrow belt about three hundred miles in length, and being so tenacious of life that every large stump sprouts into a copse.  But it does not pass the bay of Monterey, nor cross the line of Oregon, although so grandly developed not far below it.  The more remarkable Sequoia gigantea of the Sierra exists in numbers so limited that the separate groves may be reckoned upon the fingers, and the trees of most of them have been counted, except near their southern limit, where they are said to be more copious.  A species limited in individuals holds its existence by a precarious tenure; and this has a foothold only in a few sheltered spots, of a happy mean in temperature, and locally favored with moisture in summer.  Even there, for some reason or other, the pines with which they are associated (Pinus Lambertiana and P. ponderosa), the firs (Abies grandis and A. amabilis), and even the incense-cedar (Libocedrus decurrens), possess a great advantage, and, though they strive in vain to emulate their size, wholly overpower the Sequoias in numbers.  “To him that hath shall be given.”  The force of numbers eventually wins.  At least in the commonly-visited groves Sequoia gigantea is invested in its

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Darwiniana; Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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