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Thornton, Robert John, 1768?-1837 / Temple of Flora, or, Garden of the botanist, poet, painter, and philosopher.

Rhododendron ponticum; or, Pontic rhododendron

IN the dreary season of winter, Nature has partially indulged the eye with
ever-greens, the
presage of the resurrection of animated beings, and of the returning zephyr;
and none of this
class claims our attention, for the beauty of its flowers, and wisdom  of
its contrivance, more
than the PONTIC RHODODENDIION, which was introduced into our gardens from
the Levant
in 1763.  The flower is funnel-shaped beneath, and then expands into the
resemblance of five
Petals, which, in fact, are only five Lacinae, or segments, of a monopetalous
Corolla.     The upper
Segment performs the office of Nectary, is grooved in the middle, and so
fertile is this part in
the formation of honey, that you may observe a sweet globule in almost every
flower.   There are in this part spots of a dingy purple, as also in the
KALMIA, indications of
poison; and, in fact, the honey formed from this bog-plant, as well as from
the other, is found to
be poisonous. From the cup of the corolla issue ten Stamina, the Filaments
of each are beset with
fine hairs, and are curvilinear, in order better to perform the useful office
of dispersing the
Farina on the Pistillum, which is contained in two Cells, each of which open
at top.          The
Pistillum takes the same elegant curve as the Stamina; but when impregnation
has been accom-
plished, what appeared before a cluster of flowers, the stamina and corollas
having withered,
now is seen entirely to consist of pistilla, each one displaying its pentagonal
germen, the style,
and stigma, and assuming its distinguished rank; and Nature now delights
us with the art shewn
in adjusting their respective places around the stem.  Nor was the kind intention
of provident
Nature less conspicuous in the infant state of the flower, when each bud
was protected by
a corresponding Stipule, which, as it ceased its utility, fell from off the
stem, gradually unfolding
to the admiring eye of the spectator, a superb group of purple crowning flowers,
which, as
being hardy natives of wild situations, cast an air of dignity over such
solitary scenes.  It comes
                   O'er pine-clad hills, and dusky plains,
                   In silent state RHODONIA reigns,
                   And spreads, in beauty's softest bloom,
                   Her purple glories through time gloom.
                   There, by the solemn scene enchanted,
                     The melancholy maiden strays;
                   And by dark streams and fountains haunted,
                     Well pleas'd each rocky wild surveys:
                   To her more fair those shadowy bowers
                   Than glittering halls and castled towers.
                   Nor, happy less, who thus unknown,
                   Can call the woods and shades his own!
                   And wand'ring o'er the moss-clad plain,
                   At will indulge the pensive strain!
                   Array'd in smiles, array'd in terrors,
                     Great Nature's awful form admire,
                   And from the world, and all its errors,
                     In silent dignity retire!

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