Saturday, 28 February 2009



Mr. Ward's interesting discovery of the means of growing plants in closed glazed cases, ought to be hailed with much satisfaction by the floriculturist, as it has opened an entirely new era to the cultivation of exotics, and gives him promise of possessing a large portion of those tropical plants in a living state, that at present he only knows by an obscure description, or at the best by an ill-preserved specimen.

It is almost needless to reiterate the laments of botanical collectors after their return from a long and painful pilgrimage, in search of floral varieties, at witnessing the vast gaps in the collections they have sent home, and to hear the almost constant observations of the parties to whom their plants or seeds were transmitted:— "Yes, sir; I am sorry to say, that from the great length of time the vessel was on her voyage, and the inattention the plant-cabins received while on board, hardly anything reached us alive." But better times have been brought about, both for the botanist and for the cultivator. The perseverance of Mr. Ward, in following out his system, has enabled him to receive from the most distant parts of the globe, plants that had never before been introduced alive into this country, and consequently leads us to hope, that the more rare vegetable productions of other countries may now be safely transmitted to our own.

The great recommendation of this system is the simplicity of it, and the little trouble that it gives to the seamen ; for when once the plant-cabins are placed ou a secure part of the deck, i.e., where they will not be exposed to danger by breakage, the seaman has nothing further to do with them, the only requisite being, that they should be placed in a situation where they are exposed to the greatest possible share of light ; the poop of the vessel, consequently, being the most eligible situation for them, and also where they are least likely to be—what is a great fault in a sailor's eyes—in the way.

The reader will find, in the " Companion to the Botanical Magazine," for May 1836, a letter from Mr. Ward to Sir William Jackson Hooker, Regius Professor of Botany at Glasgow, in which the original discovery and the results of it are fully detailed. In a letter, which the writer of this received from Mr. Allan Cunningham, the Australian botanist and traveller, dated Sydney, New South Wales, the 19th of February, 1887, he says :—" The two cabins of plants that Messrs. Loddige's kindness supplied me with, were landed yesterday in fine condition, and I am gradually adapting them to the high dry temperature of the colony at this season,*[see footnote] the thermometer (Fahrenheit) being 85° in the shade. The Primroses, Daphnes, Daisies, &c., &c., have all survived."

The eligibility of the plan, and the facility with which it can be put into execution, render it merely necessary for me to give a description of the best form of cabin, and the method of filling it with plants, to insure a healthy arrival at its place of destination. The form of the cabins cannot be better than that usually employed for the conveyance of plants from abroad, viz., in the shape of a span-house, which will be the best means of affording the plants the greatest possible light ; for, on that circumstance, and I am almost warranted in saying, on that alone, depends the chance of the safe arrival of the plants, always supposing that they have been properly planted in the cabins in the first instance. The size ought not to be too large, because a cabin that two men can lift stands a much better chance than one that requires a tackle to move ; therefore, the length had -better not exceed three feet six inches, the breadth twenty inches to two feet, and the height about two feet six inches ; but that must all depend, principally, on the kind of plants that are inclosed in it. The cabins should be strongly made of inch or inch-and-a-quarter board, and the lights accurately fitted to the sides and ends, so that when the plants are planted they may be securely screwed (not nailed) down. The glazed portions of the cabins will be much more secure if a wire-work is fastened over them. The bottom of the cases should be strewed with gravel or small stones, to allow of draining ; otherwise the tender fibres

The end of summer in the southern hemisphere. The plants were put in the cases early in October 1836, and left England the last day of the same month.
of the roots, the great source of nourishment to plants, will become damaged. At the lower part of the cases there should be a hole with a plug to draw off any superfluous moisture that may accumulate. The plants when first placed in the cases should be well watered, as much to settle the soil round their roots as to refresh them after transplanting; the water that will drain through the mould had better be drawn off at the plug hole ; they are then to he carefully closed up, and there is but little doubt that they will reach their final destination in perfect health. In all the instances that have come to my knowledge, where the cabins have been fully exposed to the light, the results have always heen most favourable ; but where, from over anxiety, the cabins have been placed below, in darkness, they have literally been killed with kindness, for the course pursued has invariably proved fatal to the vitality of the plants.

As a medium for the conveyance of seeds, these cases will also become extremely valuable, for it is well known there are many seeds whose vital principle is rapidly destroyed by exposure to the atmosphere; but in this manner an opportunity is afforded of preserving those seeds which travel badly, and by the time they reach England germination has so far advanced as to allow of their being transplanted with safety. By the above means the Messrs. Loddiges were enabled to procure a large stock of that very beautiful Australian palm Corypha australis, and many other equally rare and valuable plants, whose seeds rarely, if ever before, germinated in this country.
[In 1833 the Loddiges began using the newly developed Wardian Case to transport live plants from Australia. ]

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