Plants, Man and Life

Plants, Man and Life

Plants, Man and Life

Plants, Man and Life

Excerpt

THIS HAS BEEN A WET SEASON; in the edge of our clover field in the flood plain there is more rib grass than red clover. Its narrow leaves, strongly creased at the heavy veins, stand up in stiff rosettes of dull green. Its slender-stalked flower heads, about the size and shape of the end joint on your little finger, are held daintily above the meadow. While they are in flower a circle of pale yellow stamens stands out from the flower head like the ornamental tuft at the back of a peacock's head. Aside from the functional grace of its general aspect, rib grass is a very plain little weed. Although you must have seen it in many lawns, although it has been intimately associated with man for a very long time, you may never have heard a name for it. Botanically it is a plantain, Plantago lanceolata to be precise, and it is now common in the pastures and meadows (and too frequently the parks and lawns as well) of Europe and America. Humble though it may be, it is a good plant for us to begin with because it has recently been found to be one of the most significant indicators of the long interrelationship of plants and man.

Iversen, a Danish botanist, is just now beginning to present his exact evidence for the first appearance of such meadow and field plants in northern Europe. These new facts come from a strange and laborious backhanded method of studying prehistoric climates, by examining pollen grain deposits under the microscope.

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