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MAGNOLIA PURPUREA.-PURPLE MAGNOLIA.
Class XIII. POLYANDRIA.—Order VII. POLYGYNIA.
Magnolia, So named by Plumier in honour of Pierre Magnol, Professor of Medicine and Prefect of the Botanic Garden at Montpelier.
Generic Character.—Cal. Perianth three-leaved; leaflets ovate, concave, petal-shaped, deciduous. Cor. Petals nine, oblong, concave, blunt, narrower at the base. Stam. Filaments numerous, short, acuminate, compressed, inserted into the common receptacle of the pistils below the germs. Anthers linear, fastened on each side to the margin of the filaments. Pist. Germs numerous, ovate-oblong, two celled covering a club-shaped receptacle. Styles recurved, contorted, very short. Stigmas villose, perpendicular with the style. Per. strobile ovate, covered with capsules, which are compressed, roundish, scarcely imbricate, clustered, acute, one-celled, two-valved, sessile, opening outwards, permanent. Seeds two or one, roundish, berried, hanging by a thread from the sinus of each scale of the strobile.
Flowers six-petalled, the exterior of the petals purple.
Branches long and somewhat pliant; the bark of the young shoots smooth, shining, of a bright green, and with small white spots. The flowers at the extremity of the young shoots, solitary; petals six, ovate, concave, narrowing towards the base, the exterior of which are of a lively purple, the interior whitish. Calyx of two or three dark brown concave leaflets, which are deciduous. Leaves ovate, entire, of a bright green, and much veined. Stamens and pistils seated upon a conical receptacle, which afterwards supports the pericarp composed of numerous cells placed in an imbricated form, each of which contains one or two small ovate or roundish seeds.
The grandeur and magnificence of this tribe of shrubs mark them as truly conspicuous objects in the pleasure-ground. Amongst them are found all the qualifications for decorative shrubs;—a grand and ornamental style of growth, bold and conspicuous foliage, with flowers of corresponding magnificence, possessing a most delightful and fragrant odour. The M. Grandiflora, though it deservedly ranks as the most princely shrub in our gardens, yet surpasses by little only the present species. The hardihood of the M. purpurea makes it well adapted to this country, and its free disposition to flower renders it peculiarly ornamental. It is generally cultivated against a wall or trellis, but will flourish in the open ground, although its flowers in such a situation are not so luxuriant and numerous. It is found to flourish in a soil composed of peat and loam, and is increased by layers, which should be put down in a portion of sand towards the end of March. It is a native of China, and was introduced in 1792.
"Until of late," says a Naturalist, "it has been the universal opinion that indications of vegetable instinct must be denied to vegetables; but with progressive discovery, and of the several facts about to be related, this belief is giving way to what seems a perfectly allowable deduction from these facts—an opinion of precisely the opposite character, however startling it may appear to many who have hitherto regarded plants as only a grade above the inorganic kingdom. A short consideration of the subject, in the following manner, may prepare the way for the admission; and we believe few who will discuss the question, will leave it with a doubt upon the mind. If the evidence can scarcely be considered as conclusive, it is at all events of such a remarkable, plain-speaking character, as to call for a certain amount of credence and attention.
"It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader, that at what may be called the confines of the zoological kingdom, there exist certain simple forms of animalcules, in which no nerves are, by our present instruments, to be discerned; but we can hardly conceive these creatures to be destitute of them, when we find that they execute movements of a character bearing the most precise analogy to those of higher orders of created beings. Thus they chase their prey through the water; in turn they themselves flee from their enemies: they possess the liveliest powers of locomotion, at the complete control of the creature; are endowed with the power of digestion, and of the perception and discrimination of their appropriate nutriment; which are all functions in nobler creations, dependent upon the existence, if not of centres of sensation, at any rate of nervous fibres. It is easy, therefore, to believe that in their case nerves, and a stimulable tissue not necessarily identical with ordinary nerves and muscles, do exist, but are imperceptible, owing to our defective and limited powers of investigation. But when these analogical inferences are developed to a point yet further, when they are made to embrace confervae, the humblest of vegetable forms, a difficulty arises in the admission of the existence of nerves or muscles, for which no other cause can be adduced than that, in the more complex structures of the same kingdom, such an apparatus is not to be found; physiologists hesitating to admit the existence of other excitable tissues than animal muscle, and of other stimulus-conveying fibres