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The Plant Hunters Adventures Among the Himalaya Mountains   By: (1818-1883)

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The Plant Hunters, by Captain Mayne Reid.

The Plant Hunters by Captain Mayne Reid



"A Plant Hunter! what is that?

"We have heard of fox hunters, of deer hunters, of bear and buffalo hunters, of lion hunters, and of `boy hunters;' of a plant hunter never.

"Stay! Truffles are plants. Dogs are used in finding them; and the collector of these is termed a truffle hunter. Perhaps this is what the Captain means?"

No, my boy reader. Something very different from that. My plant hunter is no fungus digger. His occupation is of a nobler kind than contributing merely to the capricious palate of the gourmand. To his labours the whole civilised world is indebted yourself among the rest. Yes, you owe him gratitude for many a bright joy. For the varied sheen of your garden you are indebted to him. The gorgeous dahlia that nods over the flower bed the brilliant peony that sparkles on the parterre the lovely camelia that greets you in the greenhouse, the kalmias, the azaleas, the rhododendrons, the starry jessamines, the gerania, and a thousand other floral beauties, are, one and all of them, the gifts of the plant hunter. By his agency England cold cloudy England has become a garden of flowers, more varied in species and brighter in bloom than those that blossomed in the famed valley of Cashmere. Many of the noble trees that lend grace to our English landscape, most of the beautiful shrubs that adorn our villas, and gladden the prospect from our cottage windows, are the produce of his industry. But for him, many fruits, and vegetables, and roots, and berries, that garnish your table at dinner and dessert, you might never have tasted. But for him these delicacies might never have reached your lips. A good word, then, for the plant hunter!

And now, boy reader, in all seriousness I shall tell you what I mean by a "plant hunter." I mean a person who devotes all his time and labour to the collection of rare plants and flowers in short, one who makes this occupation his profession . These are not simply "botanists" though botanical knowledge they must needs possess but, rather, what has hitherto been termed "botanical collectors."

Though these men may not stand high in the eyes of the scientific world though the closet systematist may affect to underrate their calling, I dare boldly affirm that the humblest of their class has done more service to the human race than even the great Linnaeus himself. They are, indeed, the botanists of true value, who have not only imparted to us a knowledge of the world's vegetation, but have brought its rarest forms before our very eyes have placed its brightest flowers under our very noses, as it were flowers, that but for them had been still "blushing unseen," and "wasting their sweetness on the desert air."

My young reader, do not imagine that I have any desire to underrate the merits of the scientific botanist. No, nothing of the sort. I am only desirous of bringing into the foreground a class of men whose services in my opinion the world has not yet sufficiently acknowledged I mean the botanical collectors the plant hunters .

It is just possible that you never dreamt of the existence of such a profession or calling, and yet from the earliest historic times there have been men who followed it. There were plant collectors in the days of Pliny, who furnished the gardens of Herculaneum and Pompeii; there were plant collectors employed by the wealthy mandarins of China, by the royal sybarites of Delhi and Cashmere, at a time when our semi barbarous ancestors were contented with the wild flowers of their native woods. But even in England the calling of the plant hunter is far from being one of recent origin. It dates as early as the discovery and colonisation of America; and the names of the Tradescants, the Bartrams, and the Catesbys true plant hunters are among the most respected in the botanical world. To them we are indebted for our tulip trees, our magnolias, our maples, our robinias, our western platanus , and a host of other noble trees, that already share the forest, and contest with our native species, the right to our soil... Continue reading book >>

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