“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
The grass of the field is clothed by the Almighty God. What a beautiful array is theirs and what a selection of colored garments is distributed among the various species. Only a Master Artist could design this infinite number of varieties among the “grasses of the field”. Petals differ in size, shape, hue, number, arrangement, fragrance, and in many other ways. Who of us has not been impressed by the gorgeous panorama in nature? No adornment is more elegant than that of a flower.
The study of an individual flower makes us more fully aware of the perfect design, the intricate pattern, the marvelous arrangement in the most common types.
Along railroad tracks, in vacant lots, in isolated fields, or on farms is a familiar bouquet. Seldom does one find a whole bouquet—hundreds of flowers, carefully arranged on a single stem. Generally each plant produces only one cluster at the apex of the plant in contrast to most plants which have several flowers distributed over their foliage. Hundreds of miniature tiger-like flowers, only 14 of an inch in diameter, are arranged into a convex head which is surrounded by a golden crown of specialized ray flowers accented with long yellow petals. Sometimes this “floral head” becomes a foot in diameter and are borne at the tip of stout stalks which not infrequently reach the height from six to fifteen feet. This plant is called the sunflower because of its radiating yellow petals.
The entire bouquet not only turns toward the sun but it actually follows this heavenly luminary through its course during the day. Before sunrise one will find it still facing the west—its stopping point the previous evening, but within a half an hour it will begin rotating to the east and gradually turn its yellow head as day advances to ever be inclined to the sun’s path. This is repeated day after day until the sunflower is heavy with seed.
The large coarse heart shaped leaves become progressively smaller as they near the top. Just as the large shaggy head chrysanthemums are produced by the floriculturist by pinching off all the lateral buds to produce one large flower at the apex, so, too, this flower accomplishes the same, but by its own internal process without human assistance.
Nearly the whole genus of Helianthus is found in the United States. Many species and varieties are found in different parts of the country. Seeds have been uncovered in many ancient Indian burial grounds. Pictures of sunflower are also found on Indian murals. Peculiar varieties were grown by the Hopi Indians for food as well as for the purple body paint.
The sun flower is grown in large quantities in western Canada because it produces an excellent table oil. People in southwestern Europe, Hungary and the Ukraine grow it as a crop plant much as we do corn. The seeds are used as food for poultry and cage birds, among other uses. Although this plant is a native of the United States, it cannot be grown very successfully here, due to the fact that it has so many natural insect enemies and is subject to many fungal diseases. Generally, the first planting is a success, but succeeding crops show marked diminishing returns due to the rapid increase of insects which harbor in the pith of the stalk and in the seed.
Why is this plant found so frequently along railroads, in sandy lots, or bordering dumping areas? Is it because it is such a hardy plant which can withstand adverse conditions? In part, this is true, but it is found in these deserted places because it is allergic to members of the grass family; thus, it will thrive in areas in which grass is sparse or fails to grow. Grains which are closely related to grass have a depressing effect on the sunflower. Experiments with varying amounts of rye growing next to them have demonstrated this. In fact, only a single stalk of rye showed a retarding effect upon four sunflowers when grown in the same container.
Let us be ever more conscious of the magnitude of God’s wisdom in creation and appreciate the study of His revelation. A common sunflower—a mere grass of the field—yet God in His providence has deemed it wise to create this plant allergic to others for a definite purpose, a plant whose flowers rotate with the sun, a flower which in reality is a bouquet of miniature flowers!
“Dust to dust, the mortal dies, both the foolish and the wise.” Psalter 136.
“Where is the dust that has not been alive? From human mold we reap our daily bread.” Young.
Again the eager farmer turns to plow the apparently lifeless soil. Possibly he observes a few worms and small bugs but aside from this the ground appears dead. If he would but examine a small portion of it under a microscope he would readily see that it is literally teeming with microscopic animal and plant life which is busily engaged in decomposing organic matter.
What happens to the stubble of the grain, the weeds, the fallen fruit, and the waste products of animals? All of this organic material must again be converted into its elements so that it can be used by new plants. This process of decomposition requires a variety of organisms as well as a variety of appetites.
Have you ever smelled the “rotten egg” like odor given off by decaying plants and animals? This is hydrogen sulfide gas which serves as food for a certain family of bacteria. Another group of bacteria lives on wet paper, cotton and rope for it digests the cellulose. Even from the depths of the ground bacteria have been discovered which live in crude petroleum. Possibly some of you have heard of bacteria, found in certain wells, which live on iron and produce a reddish corrosion on the lavatory fixtures. One of the strangest diets of all is that of a unique group of microbes which live on carbolic acid.
Molds are universally present in the air and soil, and they need very little food to carry on their destructive life. Moisture seems to be their chief concern for their appetite is very adaptable. Because of the rapid growth and preference of molds for darkness and moisture the tiller of the soil greatly fears a damp season.
A little known but very important group of micro-organisms are the actinomycetes which occupy a place between the bacteria and the molds. Research in the last decade has revealed their important position in nature. They also are universally found and occupy a place in the upper strata of the soil where they are engaged in breaking down and consuming dead plant and animal material. Many secrete substances which destroy other harmful bacteria.
Most of these micro-organisms have amazing appetites. They have no fixed mealtime as humans do but they eat continuously. In fact some consume twice their weight in sugar every hour. The amount that these small creatures consume can be tested by delicate instruments and fairly accurate computations can be made as to their food consumption. When one stops to consider that the average cubic inch of crop and pasture land contains from 50 to 160 million bacteria alone one realizes the significance of the title—“Living Dust”—for the earth teems with hidden life. When the useful bacteria which are found in the soil, water and intestines of animals and humans are compared numerically with the disease producers they out number them 30,000 to 1. In this season of Spring and new life it is indeed wonderful to behold the unfolding leaves and the growing plants but let us not be unmindful of the “Living Dust.”
“On the next day much people that were come to the feast when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
John 12:12, 13
Palm branches have become a symbol throughout Christendom of Christ’s “Royal Entry” into Jerusalem How erroneous was the Jewish conception of Christ’s mission up on the earth—to establish a kingdom here below! However, the death and resurrection of the King soon altered their view, and palm branches as the token of peace and victory no longer had significance for many.
The Greeks and Romans considered the palm tree to be peculiar to the region of Palestine; in fact, when Jerusalem was conquered by the Romans, the conquerors issued a new coin to celebrate this event. They symbolized Jerusalem as a disconsolate woman resting under a date palm.
Many references are there in Scripture to the palm tree; but this generally has reference to the date palm. It is characterized by a central trunk, which terminates in a whorl of large feathery leaves. They are an unusually sturdy tree, attaining a height of 60-80 feet, and it is not uncommon for them to live for two centuries.
Extremely important was this tree to the Israelites. It provided them with food, and was used for shelter and clothing. The large leaves furnished material for roofs and walls, for baskets and mats. Its ornamental value is evident from the fact that Solomon incorporated it into various carvings of the temple.
There are approximately a thousand species of palm trees, of which only a few are branched or creeping. They produce either of two types of leaves—fan shaped or feather shaped. These are produced in a rosette formation at the apex of the trunk. Can you visualize a fifteen foot fan-shaped leaf or a feather leaf forty feet long? The flowers are shaped like a spathe similar to a “Jack-in-the-pulpit” or a “Calla lily.” The fruit consists of a cluster of berries or nuts which range in size from a pea to that of a melon (double coconut).
The trunks of the royal palm resemble ornate columns of concrete, while the trunks of the old fan palms similate the base of a vase shaped lamp.
We can scarcely conceive of the existence of certain peoples without the presence of the palm; for example: the Arabs and the date palm, the natives of southern India and the palmyra palm, also the Pacific islanders and the coconut palm.
The value of the palm tree to mankind should never be underestimated. It ranks next to grasses (including grains) in economic importance and is considered to have a thousand or more uses. The timber and leaves are used for building materials. The long durable fibers are woven into cloth, mats, wicker furniture, baskets, and rugs.
The oil of the palm is useful for food (margarine, salad oil, cooking fats), for illumination (candles), lubrication, wine, and fuels. The seeds may be made into buttons, or be ground into camel’s food, and some, as in the case of the date and the coconut, are edible. Some species produce spines which serve the natives as needles, fishhooks, and arrow tips.
A few other articles could be mentioned which are derived from this majestic plant: rope, twine, ship sails, rugs, screens, bedding, honey, hammocks, resin, brushes, brooms. Wax obtained from leaves of the carnauba palm found in Brazil is used in shoe polish, floor polish, and phonograph records.
Sago is a food starch similar to tapioca and is obtained from the pith of the sago palm. Thus, perhaps, more than is realized, we use, palm tree products also in our lives.
Once again our attention is called to the wonderful interrelation between man and the plant kingdom, as God had providentially ordained since time began.
Centuries ago Aristotle described the anatomy and physiology of the seal. (Some species inhabit the neighboring Caspian Sea). The Greeks named a city, Phoceae, in honor of the seal. Possibly, the badger skins used in the tabernacle were actually seal skins found in the Red Sea.
The seventeenth century mariners described the small whale-like creatures which they found in great herds on the islands bordering the southern tip of South Africa and South America. However, these unattractive oily animals were ignored until the latter part of the eighteenth century when Captain Cook (1775) discovered the silky texture of the fur. His cargo of seal fleece was exchanged in Canton, China for spices and tea, the treasures of the Orient.
James Fennimore Cooper described the vicissitudes of sealing in his novel, “The Sea Lions.”
Seals differ from most sea creatures in that they are true mammals. They breathe by means of lungs rather than with gills; they are warm blooded which means that they maintain a constant body temperature as the higher animals do regardless of the temperature of their surroundings; and lastly, they (nurse their young. Seals have an unusual capacity for air, for sometimes they remain submerged from 10 to 30 minutes. Water absorbs more heat than air, increasing the problem of maintaining a constant body temperature especially in the colder waters inhabited by the seal. However, the omniscient Creator has provided this creature with a thick layer of spongy tissue which is filled with oily fat, an excellent insulation.
There are two distinct classes of seals. The true or hair seal is a quiet animal without external ears (only holes) and has only short flippers while the other class which includes the fur seal and the sea lion has distinct outer ears, long flippers and is extremely noisy.
The most intelligent species is the sea lion, a graceful swimmer and a natural juggler, which is often found to h the center of attraction in zoos. From the commercial standpoint it is valuable for its oil; its skin is used for boots, tents and clothing; it’s meat is edible In contrast to most seal flesh and the outer covering of its intestine is used to make waterproof raincoats.
Largest among the seals is the elephant seal which reaches the length of sixteen feet and weighs up to 5,000 pounds. Not only its lumbering size reminds one of an elephant but it has a peculiar enlarged probascis which resembles an abbreviated trunk. This species inhabits the deeper waters of the South Atlantic and South Pacific.
The most valuable species from the commercial standpoint is the fur seal. The male or bull generally weighs approximately 500 pounds, while the adult female or cow weighs only 90 to 100 pounds. Only one pup is produced annually and it is born during the summer in the polar regions. The average life span is 15 years. The chief source of food is squid and herring. The flesh of the fur seal is rank and inedible and is consequently used for fertilizer while the oil is used in the tanning industry.
Long hair-like bristles are interspersed in the short plush-like fur. The inside of the skin is scraped which loosens the long hair so that they can be easily removed leaving a uniform soft plush fur.
As the birds make their seasonal migrations so also the fur seals migrate going south in October to the California coast and returning in spring to the Bering Sea. Their breeding grounds are called rookeries. Each bull cares for a harem which may contain from 10 to 100 cows. He provides protection for both the cows and the new born pups which are generally born 2 or 3 days after the mother’s arrival at the rookery. The immature males, which includes all males under 7 years of age, are not permitted near the harem and are forced to live in their own bachelor quarters known as pods. Under present conservation laws the animals living in the pods are killed and harvested for fur.
Just a few examples will suffice to illustrate how avaricious the early seal hunters were. They ignored all laws of conservation and thought only in terms of immediate gains. In 1820 one vessel harvested 57,000 furs in the South Shetland Islands in a single season which brought in a revenue ranging from $1 to $5 per skin. One account relates how 71 men killed 75,000 seals in 50 working days while another story tells of actually killing and skinning 90,000 animals in a period of 39 days. The rich Prililof hunting grounds which is located off the coast of Alaska was reduced from 5,000,000 to 125,000 animals before the neighboring countries (Russia, Japan, United States and Canada) decided in 1911 to make a treaty which prohibited methods of ruthless slaughter. In this treaty pelagic sealing was forbidden—a disastrous practice of pursuing and shooting the seals in water during migrations which resulted in tremendous waste for only one out of 8 seals shot was actually harvested, the rest sank. Since the treaty has been in effect the number of seals has increased from 125,000 to 3,000,000. In addition, a yearly harvest of approximately 100,000 animals is now provided.
“And God created great whales and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind. . . .” Genesis 1:21.
For centuries small tribes or clans of dark-skinned, black haired people, gaudily dressed, have traversed the European and American continents. Although they have no basic religion or social structure which binds them together, their habits and shiftless manner of living identifies them. According to historians they originated in India and are more commonly known as “gypsies.”
In the realm of insects there is a moth which bears that same name—the gypsy moth. It, too, is a traveler and universal thief in that it feasts upon foliage of trees and shrubs with little discrimination and destroys the beauty and greeness of the plant. The destructive stage is that of the caterpillar.
The female moth is approximately twice the size of the mate and although it possesses wings it is unable to fly due to its heavy body. The body and wings are colored white with black markings. Very productive is this moth, laying her clusters of four to five hundred eggs in a variety of places as tree trunks, rock crevices, beneath stones or bark, in leaves or walls. A rather interesting fact is that this moths instinct seems more maternal than many others in that it takes the hairs from its own body to form a blanket and protection over the delicate eggs. Instinctively, the mother has cared for the new little caterpillars which hatch in the warm spring just as the available young leaves begin to unfold. Now the caterpillar in its state of development must recloth itself several times as garment after garment is shed by the enlarging insect in its larval stage. Although the caterpillar has no wings it is able to fly, but in a very peculiar manner. Soft, fluffy hair covers the body during this larval period. Gusts of winds blow these tiny larval into the air as they are dropping from trees by delicate silken strands which they spin while they descend (similar to the spider). It is not uncommon to be wafted away more than twenty miles. Thus, each generation is spread further and further resulting in havoc in the plant kingdom. When leaves of trees and shrubs are scarce, the relentless insect attacks grass, crops, or anything that it can strip. Beauty is turned into waste and barrenness.
How did this devastating insect reach our shore? It was in 1869 that Trowvelot, a French scientist, who was concerned about a plague detrimental to silkworms, introduced the gypsy moth from the Old World. He was attempting to cross various moths with the silkworm to produce a strain of caterpillars able to spin a silk which would not be effected by the destructive disease then prevalent. The eggs of these different species of moths were kept in boxes, and carefully guarded.
However, on an eventful day, it took but one gust of-wind to carry the light box with its destructive contents from the window sill of his lab to the ground. A tragedy, indeed! In vain he searched with his magnifying glass for these wee eggs on the ground below and surrounding territory. Nor did he conceal his accident, but immediately informed authorities, realizing that they must be on guard at once.
For the next fifteen years nothing serious happened, but in 1889 in Medford, a band of gypsy moths invaded the town. A plague it was, and gardens were infested with the swarming creatures, parks were stripped, trees were bared, houses entered by the hoards of caterpillars on their “hunger march.” Housewives found them in beds, in cupboards and every conceivable place. Evidence it was of the productive life cycle.
How could man fight the small but numerous invaders? A question, indeed, for the scientist. Millions of dollars were, spent and hundreds of men employed to fight this foe. In the autumn diligent search was made to destroy the clusters of eggs of the gypsy moth, while in the spring of the year a poisonous spray was used on trees. These methods could by no means control the rapid spread of this undesirable insect. It was essential to find a natural enemy which preyed upon these moths. To the shores of Japan and Europe (the native habitat of the gypsy insect) sailed scientists bent upon this goal. Results were gratifying and they returned with a collection of a certain kind of beetle called the Calosoma beetle. It is a beautiful colorful insect with various shades of green, violet, copper, blue, and gold. What an ally this has proved to be, as it ascends the highest trees to capture and devour its prey and our enemy—the caterpillar of the gypsy moth. It has been estimated that during its lifetime one Calosoma beetle destroys the equivalent of three hundred grown worms.
By no means is this “insect war” over, it goes on without the sound of weapon and gun, but continues to cost our government at least two million dollars a year. The damage already done can never be estimated, and at present thirty-five thousand square miles of our eastern U. S., especially in New England is invaded by a tiny enemy—The Gypsy Moth!
Marvels of Spring will never cease to awe and thrill mankind. The seeming “death” of plant and animal life is but a mere dormancy, for the potential being remains and that “breath of life” will never completely cease until time itself will end.
The warmth of the sunshine, the refreshment of the rain, the balm of the air all play a tremendous part in renewing the latent activity of the created world. How the underground seethes with action! Quietly, but persistently the lacework of roots and root system are responding to the call of Spring. Do they not feel the softening of the crusty earth and hardened soil? Do they not sense the urge to supply the plant with essentials for growth and adornment? Yes, indeed, and the “little miners” begin their ceaseless toil, unseen by man, or beast, or bird. Fresh minerals must be supplied to the sprouts and stems. Digging, ever digging, these roots continue their mining to absorb moisture and food.
Man waits eagerly for those first wee tips of green to appear through the surface of the soil. One can almost hear the crackling of the upper layer of earth as the plants begin forcing themselves upward. A tiny shoot peeps bravely thru. Daily nurture from roots below and sunshine from above give it the confidence and strength it needs to make its appearance. Ah, spring is here! The lovely early flowers carpet the woodlands.
The intricate network of the underground movement continues. Trees and shrubs show evidence of life. Tiny sealed buds break thru their shackles of wintry water-proofed scales and miniature green leaflets gently unfold, responding to the coaxing spring air which envelops them. The wee blossoms bloom into fragrant mature flowers. Man exclaims about their beauty, but rarely considers the invisible subterranean motion which makes it possible. The nutrients as lime, phosphorous, nitrogen, potassium, and other minerals in minute quantities are constantly being taken in by energetic roots which must dig deeper, ever deeper to obtain this nourishment. By a very delicate process called “osmosis” the minerals enter the rootlets in a water suspension and are carried upward until they reach every branch and bud. The circulation gradually loses its sluggishness and it becomes a vital, life-giving stream having its origin in the roots. The lethargy of winter is over! Yes, Spring is here! Each plant is renewed by Him who made it, and each herb receives its food from the root by God “who gave it”.
Frequently we admire the stalwart posture of the oak, the graceful sway of the tender flower, the dainty poise of the delicate herb; and again, we must admit that so often we forget the anchorage below. Is it not the “underground life” which not only sustains but upholds the plant? Thus, God has providentially planned the plant kingdom. How significant to the beauty and welfare of the plant is its underground movement!
In the animal kingdom the three largest animals are the elephant, the hippopotamus, and the rhinoceros. Huge animals, yes, but what a vast difference in brain capacity! The brilliant-minded elephant is admired for his cleverness and learning ability. How well they perform and how adept they become at tricks. They can be taught how to work efficiently and effectively.
In contrast to the elephant, we find the “numbskull of the jungle”—the rhinoceros. A jumbo-beast with a jumbled brain. The largest animals are about 6 feet high, 14 feet long, and weigh from 2 to 3 tons.
There are five species, which are found in Southern Asia and Southern Africa. The Indian species differs from the African species in appearance. First of all the skin of the former hangs in loose folds and is a dark brownish-grey color; while in the case of the latter the skin is hairy and without folds. Although, the Indian species is larger it is less ferocious.
Protruding from the upper part of the nose is a centrally located horn which varies from 1 to 2 feet in length and curves backward. The Indian rhinoceros usually has only a single horn, while the African species is always characterized by two horns (the one growing behind the other).
As this animal is herbivorous it lives exclusively on vegetation. The horn is advantageous in this connection since it is used to uproot small trees in order to gain access to the foliage. However, it is not too selective about its diet and at times on its nocturnal jaunts in search for food, it must content itself on mere thorns and hitter herbs. Because of the darkness of night and its poor vision, it is at times handicapped in obtaining the more choice foliage.
Because of its horn or hook, the rhinoceros has been nicknamed “Old Hooklip”. To the Chinese this hook was considered very valuable because it was thought to be useful as a powerful medicine; and as a result, the Chinese were eager to purchase Hooklip’s hook for half its weight in gold. Not only was the hook important, but the dried blood of this animal sold for a dollar a pound because of its supposed medicinal value.
Not only is the creature stupid, but it is irritable and ferocious when attacked. Although it is repugnant and vicious in appearance, it is extremely clumsy and is seldom on the offensive. In fact, it is difficult to hunt, for it remains well hidden in the swampy areas and marches. To track down the rhinoceros, the hunter uses a number of elephants, which stamp through the jungles and drive the victim into the clearing. When thus brought to bay, the prey displays a vicious temper and is a dangerous adversary. In spite of its bulky frame and short legs it can run for a short distance as fast as a horse. However, Carl Akeley, a naturalist hunter, claims if the rhinoceros misses in his first lunge, the greatest danger is over, and it is not considered on a par with hunting lions, elephants, or water buffalo.
Frequently, the rhinoceros is in great discomfort, due to the multitude of bloodsucking parasites which get under the folds of its skin. These insects not only torment the animal, but seep much of its vitality by sucking as much as a gallon of blood a day from their host. The only source of comfort, in this case, is a friendly little bird about the size of a thrush who manages to get free transportation and food. It works for its “room and board” by eating a great number of these pestiferous insects, which re such a nuisance to the host. It perches contentedly on the head or back of old Hooklip, enjoying the feast until it is aroused by danger. Then it circles around in the air and shrilly cries out a warning which the animal heeds,
Have you ever considered what an extremely important part minute particles play in the lives of individuals? Are we disdainful, perhaps, of mere dust?
On August 27, 1883, Krakatoa erupted throwing tons of fine volcanic ash into the sky. Winds dispersed these light dust particles to a height of fifteen miles into the atmosphere surrounding the earth. For more than two years lurid red sunsets, produced by the presence of this volcanic ash, resembled distant fires. Scientists claim that the temperature of the Northern Hemisphere was lowered a few degrees for nearly a decade due to the absorption of part of the sun’s heat by this layer of dust particles.
Possibly some of you recall the dust storm in 1934 at which time an estimated 10 million tons of tiny particles were carried across the eastern half of the United States. The threatening dark clouds from the Dust Bowl shadowed many extended areas, while individuals watched with awe at this ominous phenomenon.
Several decades ago students of the soil discovered that the size and shape of the soil particles determined its ability to hold water, air, and heat. In recent years the electron microscope has proved to be a very valuable aid in determining the character of the individual soil particles. Granules can be seen and measured which are less than 1/100,000 of an inch in diameter. A new branch of science which specifically deals with the study of fine particles is called micro-meritics. Already three universities have established laboratories for this study, and the practical significance of this work is of great importance.
Many relatively incombustible substances when divided into fine particles display amazing energy. Powdered aluminum flares into brilliance and produces great heat while burning. Likewise, magnesium has the same qualities and is used in fire bombs. Caution must be taken when handling finely divided coal, wheat, and sugar. Charges of static electricity accumulated by the friction of moving air and particles has resulted in the explosion of a flour mill or grain elevator.
During the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam a leak developed which was extremely hazardous. It was stopped by forcing a fine volcanic clay called bentonite, into the porous sand. The absorbent clay expanded and plugged the pores thus reducing a sizable loss of 30,000 gallons per minute to a mere trickle.
Another example in which the absorbent power of fine particles is used advantageously is in the case of the gasmask. The finely powdered activated charcoal- absorbs deadly gases in less than 3/10 of a second and allows the oxygen to pass through.
More common-place still is the deposit of chalk on a blackboard or lead on a paper when writing. Can you explain why this happens? Briefly, we can answer this by stating that the absorption of particles is chiefly due to the electrical charges between surfaces when there is friction.
From the standpoint of health the presence of minute particles in the air in large numbers due to smoke and metallic dusts is very detrimental. A survey in New York City revealed as many as 80,000 particles present in 1/2 cubic inch of air. When this figure is multiplied by 5 million—the amount of air an average person breathes per day—one realizes with what a tremendous amount of foreign matter a respiratory system must contend! Country air, however, is comparatively free from these contaminating particles. Undoubtedly this explains why the lungs of the average individual living in the country are more pink and free of foreign particles, while the lungs of the average person living in the city show much solid matter and appear more black in color. The proportion of colds and sinus difficulties is much greater in the city.
Already in the days of ancient Greece, Droscarides observed that kaolin clay particles could heal certain skin diseases. Today pulverized kaolin is used internally to relieve diarrhea, dysentery, and colitis, while peptic ulcers are frequently treated with aluminum hydroxide in a powdered form. Recent experiments have proved that talcum powder may be effective in stimulating weakened muscles of the heart, when the fine particles of powder are injected into the pericardial sac which surrounds the heart.
One doctor very cleverly decided a difficult court case. The physician was called upon to help identify the heir of a man who died while his son was in infancy. The deceased’s seemingly valueless property later became valuable. Two young men claimed to be the rightful heirs. Now the consulting physician had treated the real son while an infant for a severe case of smallpox. He sent the two youths into the basement to move a pile of stoker coal. Later in the day they returned, both covered with coal dust. However, one had white spots on his skin and he was proclaimed the rightful heir. He knew that coal dust seldom adheres to the scars of smallpox.
Dust, yes, mere dust!
Was it not from this very substance that Adam himself was formed? Yet how marvelous was God’s creative power —forming a human being from tiny particles of earth. Into this body with all its intricate and related functioning God breathed the breath of life!
What a comfort for us to know that God is also Ruler of these minute particles and that he directs the very dust on the balance.
A class of shrubs which depends upon trees for their food has been given the scientific name—Phoradendron. How applicable this appellation is, for it literally means “thief of trees”. These shrubs average from two to six feet in diameter and are generally quite dense producing a willow broom-like effect. They are particularly common on the continents of Australia, Europe, and North America. In all there are some 600 different species of this parasitic shrub. The most common hosts are the apple, the poplar, pine, eucalyptus, and willow trees.
The foliage consists of small smooth thick leaves, which have an olive drab color and occur in pairs on opposite sides of the twig. In the crotch where the twigs join the main stem are clusters of pearl-like white berries. When these berries are ripe they contain a viscous jelly. Hungry birds are readily attracted by the ripened fruit. However they experience difficulty similar to a child eating honey, in that the viscous pulp oozing out of the berries causes them to adhere to the side of the beak. The most attractive berries are also the most sticky. This situation irritates the eater so that he flies away to another tree to wipe off his beak, incidentally depositing a berry containing the seed of a new shrub. The jelly-like pulp hardens and thus forms a protective armor for the
winter. The species parasitic upon the mesquit (shrubs in southwestern United States.) produces an abundance of small bright red berries on short side spurs. Even the stems turn red. This brilliant coloration makes them attractive decorations at Yuletide.
During the moist spring season the berry softens and swells. The seed sends forth a root which penetrates the bark of the tree and invades the vascular tissues, where it absorbs the sap and mineral salts of the host. Thus, the very life “blood” of the tree is endangered for the essential elements used in the process of manufacturing food are stolen by this parasitic plant. Phorandendron is considered to be the largest plant parasite known.
The priests of the ancient Celts, called Druids, considered the parasitic shrubs to be symbolic of the spirit because they grew in the air on branches of their sacred oaks. On the sixth days of the first new moon of the new year a Druid priest would cut the parasitic shrubs with a golden sickle. A white cloth was spread underneath the tree to prevent the cutting from touching the earth. Small sprigs of it were distributed to the priests to the people, who made rings and bracelets out of it to ward off the evil spirits.
In medieval times a substance called bird lime was made from the berries which was supposed to have medicinal value.
Today foresters look upon the members of the Phoradendron family as serious pests which are threatening our Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab National Forest. In Australia it is threatening the Eucalyptus, which is one of their most important trees. Recent experiments have shown that these parasitic shrubs can be controlled by spraying 2,4-D.
“There is a strangular loose in the nation’s forests that is choking trees to death. The fatal grip is a toe-hold—a mostletoe-hold.”
Yes, friends, this parasitic plant is none other than the popular mistletoe, to which many attach sentiment and romance.
“The very act of planting a seed in the earth has in it to me something beautiful. I always do it with a joy that is largely mixed with awe. I watch my garden beds after they are sown, and think how one of God’s exquisite miracles is going on beneath the dark earth out of sight.” . Thaxter.
Again seedtime has arrived! An instinctive urge arises within the city dweller as well as the tiller of the soil to plant those small granules which contain the embryos of the prospective crops and flowers. How difficult it is to realize that amazing transformation which takes place from a little seed to a lovely fragrant flower; from a handful of miniature plants encased in hardened shells to an entire harvest of grain! Never will we cease to wonder at this marvelous development in the plant kingdom.
Perhaps, your curiosity has been aroused when you plant your seeds as to their structure and latent possibilities. Externally the seed is covered with a protective coat called the testa, which is generally very thick and tough. The testa protects the delicate embryo within from adverse weather conditions and drying out. Upon closer examination with a hand lens you will notice a scar which indicates the place where the seed was formerly attached to the stalks. At one end of the scar you will find a minute opening through which the inner plant breathes and drinks. This little pore is called the micropyle.
Within every seed is a miniature plant consisting of a root, a stem, and a bud. A supply of food consisting of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates occupies most of the space within the seed and thus enables the small plant to get a start. Approximately 50 percent of the moisture is removed from the seed during the process of ripening. This dehydration preserves the seed and retards the growth processes until Spring.
When the temperature rises and the spring rains descend the seed awakens. The moisture penetrates the small opening and causes the embryonic plant to swell. The rapidly distending cells of the embryo use the food stored within the seed and obtain oxygen through the breathing pore. As the embryo enlarges it ruptures the water soaked seed coat— its winter garb—and sends its little roots into the earth.
Greater than the marvel that each small seed contains a wee plant is the fact that each seed consistently reproduces its kind. A zinnia never produces a sweet pea. Why not? Because in the beginning God established a definite law that everything should bring forth after its kind. Surely, all of plant life testifies of the Creator’s design in reproduction. Microscopic examination would reveal that the individual cells of the minute seed plants contain a definite number of small bodies called chromosomes which determine the characteristics of the new plan. These chromosomes are inherited from the parent and cause it to resemble the plant which produced it—therefore, it would be impossible for the zinnia to produce a sweet pea.
Protected through the wintry blast
By providential plan divine;
Lies hidden in this tiny nest
’Til rains descend and sun rays shine,
A tiny plant so frail, so fair
E’re to us a wondrous sign!
The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]
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