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Jane Marcet

Watering Plants

T HE following morning Mamma called Willy to come and help her to water her plants. She had a large stand of flower-pots in the drawing-room; and as soon as Willy came in, she told him to fetch his little watering-pot; and then said,—"I will show you how the water gets inside the buds to make them grow, without going through the outside."

"That is very funny, Mamma," cried he; "how can that be?"

"You shall see presently."

Willy, who was very fond of watering plants, ran to fetch his watering-pot. His mother then showed him a small pot of geraniums, and bade him begin by watering that. Willy lifted up his watering-pot as high as his little arm could reach; and as the geranium stood on the lowest step of the stand, he was able to pour the water over it. "This is make believe rain, Mamma."

"It is make believe rain, but it is real water, and will make the plant grow just as well as rain does. Now, Willy, the water you have poured over the leaves does very well to wash them, and clean away the dust that Betty makes when she sweeps the drawing-room; but that does not make them grow. When you are washed, Willy, the water does not make you grow."

"Oh no, Mamma, it is eating pudding and meat that makes me grow; but trees and flowers have no mouths to eat and drink with—have they, Mamma?"

"No, my dear, it is animals only that have mouths; but plants have something that are a little like mouths." She then pulled up the geranium plant from the pot in which it was planted, and having shaken the mould from the roots, she showed Willy the little fibres hanging from them. "Now," said she, "at the end of each of these little roots, which look like strings, there is a small hole; and that hole is something like a mouth, because it sucks up water."

"I cannot see any little holes, Mamma."

"No, nor I neither," replied his Mother; "they are much too small for us to see."

"And are they not too small for the water to get in?"

"Oh, no; the water gets in in very small drops; do you not remember the tiny drops we caught in the tea-spoon from the steam that came out at the top of the urn?"

"Oh yes, Mamma; and where do the tiny drops of water go to when they get into these little holes?"

"The water goes up the inside of these brown dirty looking roots, which stuck in the mould in the pot; and then it goes up into the stalk of the geranium, and then into these branches, and then into the leaves and flowers; and it makes them all grow larger and larger."

"And don't the geranium eat besides, to make it grow?"

"No: animals eat and drink; but plants only drink."

"What! that great tree that you gathered the buds from, did it grow so big only by drinking water?"

"Indeed it did; and after it had rained this morning, the end of the roots of that tree sucked up some of the rain, and it went up all through the roots, and then got into the stem, and then into the branches, till, at last, it came into the little buds that were on the branches, and made them grow."

"But, Mamma, how could the roots that are under the ground get to the rain, to suck it up?"

"The rain gets to the roots," said his Mother; "it falls upon the ground, and then trickles down through all the little holes there are in the ground, till it gets to the little mouths at the end of the roots, and they drink up as much of it as they can."

"But I do not see any holes in the ground, Mamma, for the rain to trickle through."

"Look at this flowerpot, Willy; we have just been watering it; what is become of all the water you poured into it from the watering pot?"

"It is gone down into the ground—I mean the ground in the pot, Mamma; for, see, it is running out of the hole at the bottom, into the pan."

"It could not run out at that hole, if it had not run through all the ground in the pot," said his Mother.

"And it could not get to the roots of the geranium, Mamma, because you had pulled it up to show me the roots; so it was obliged to run out at the hole, as there was no plant to drink it up."

"If I had not pulled up the geranium, its roots would have sucked up some of the water, but not all; for their mouths are so very small, they can drink but a very little at a time."

His Mamma then bade him water another plant, whose leaves looked drooping. "That plant is very dry," said she; "and if you do not give it some water it will die."

"I will pour the water over the leaves, Mamma, because they want it so much."

"The leaves have no mouths that can drink water; you had better pour it into the earth in the pot, that it may get to the roots."

Willy did so; and no sooner had he left off pouring water, than the water disappeared, and he could see it no more. "It is all gone down, I know where," said Willy, archly; "but take care of yourself, water, for there is a plant in that pot, and its roots will drink you up, if you go near them. I do think, Mamma, if the water was an animal, and could feel, it would be sadly afraid of all those little mouths that drink it up." Willy then observed that the roots had not sucked up all the water, for that some of it was running from the bottom of the pot into the pan. "And the poor leaves hang down, Mamma, just as they did before; I am afraid the little mouths have not drunk enough to give them some."

"I dare say they have," said his Mother, "but the water has a long way to go from the ends of the roots into the stem, and then into the branches to reach the leaves; and it is all the way up, up, up; and you know, Willy, you cannot go so fast up hill as you can down; so you must wait patiently, and by and by we shall see whether the leaves will not look quite fresh and green." His Mother then sent him to Ann in the nursery; and some hours afterwards she called him down to look at the plants whose leaves had before hung down and seemed withered.

"Oh, how nice and fresh the leaves look now, Mamma; I am sure some of the water has got into them, and that has made them stand up again, and stretch themselves out. They look quite well now, Mamma. How I shall water my trees and flowers in my own little garden at Ash Grove, when we go into the country!—the little garden you promised me, Mamma; don't you remember?"

"Yes, my dear; but if you like it, I can give you a little garden of flower pots here, for you to keep in the nursery." She then chose three little plants; one was a geranium, another a myrtle, and the third a rose tree. Willy was quite delighted; he carried them up into the nursery one after the other, and placed them on a little stand which his Mamma gave him to hold them.

"Look, Ann," said he, "at my fine pots; Mamma has given them all to me."

"They are very pretty indeed," said Ann; "and that geranium will soon be in flower. See, here are some buds. Now you must mind and take care of them."

"Oh, that I shall," replied he; "I shall be watering them all day long, to make them grow. Do you know how the water makes them grow, Ann? Mamma has just shown me."

"No, indeed," said Ann, "I do not know."

"Well, then, I will show you the roots that suck up the water." So he laid hold of the geranium, and tried to pull it up in order to show Ann the roots. It was very lucky that he was not strong enough, for if he had pulled it up, he would have injured the plant so much, that most likely it would have died.

"But Mamma did so to show me the roots," said Willy.

"Yes," replied Ann, "and she gathered the buds to show you the little leaves inside of them: but those buds died, because they were gathered; and the geranium, I dare say, which she pulled up by the roots, died also. Now, I suppose you would not like your geranium to die, so you had better not show me the roots, but tell me about it instead."

This would not satisfy Willy, who ran to ask his Mamma for the geranium she had pulled up, in order that he might show the roots to Ann. He found this geranium with the leaves already hanging down, and looking as if it was going to die; so he took it into the nursery; and we shall now leave him to explain the whole matter to Ann.