The coming of spring brings the beautiful green foliage With which all the landscape will soon be covered. If we search in the dry shrubs, or trees, grass mjots, for green col-ering matter, we shall not find it. It is not there, nor in the earth nor the air shall we be able to detect it. Prom whence, then, does it come, and what is it ? If we take some leaves of plants and digest them in alcohol, we shall, after a proper time, find that their green coloring matter is dissolved, and our alcohol has become a beautiful green solution. By careful evaporation we drive off the alcohol, and have left a splendid natural pigment,which chemists have called chlorophyll, from the Greek words chloros, green, and phyllon, a leaf. It contains four elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, the first of which is black except when crystallized or combined with other substances. The other substances are colorless gases. These combined produce the tints of green which make the earth so beautiful in its seasons of verduJe. Chlorophyll is, according to Miller, of a resinous nature. By some authors it is supposed to be composed of two compounds, one of which is blue and the other yellow, which colors, blended, produce green. Be this as it may, the ultimate elements are those above mentioned. It is not known whether this matter is generated during the cold of northern winters, in the evergreens which retain their leaves during the months of frost, or whether the color produced during the warmer season is merely retained unaltered within, the leaves. Whether this be the case or not, it is certain that without sunlight it never is formed. It is the sunbeam that mixes the color and, with exquisite pencil, adorns the delicate eafiet as it issues from the opening bud. Place a plant in te dark and it sports no beautiful colors. It dons white, the htie of death. Take it now and place in the light—not in the intense and con Centrated light and heat of the sun—-it is too weak to endure that—but in a shady place where the light can touch it gently and lovingly, aud see how delicately the tints will be laid on, deepening gradually until it is clotied with emeralds. A sunbeam is a painter which art cannot imitate or even approach. The coloring matters of flowers have been made the subject of elaborate study by Premy and Cloez. They consider the? , substances to be instrumental in producing all the tints to L Seen on the petals and internal organs of blossoms. These substances are respectively called Cyanin, Xanthin, and Xan-thein. Cyanin is a vegetable blue, or rose color, which reddens by the action of acids. Blue flowers are found to possess a neutral juice, while the juices of red flowers have an acid reaction, corresponding to the action upon blue litmus paper of acids and alkalies. Xanthin is a yellow substance, insolu-uble in water, and existing in great abundance in the leaves of the sunflower. Xanthein is a yellow substance, soluble in water, and obtainable from the leaves of the yellow dahlia. Acids turn xanthein brown. Miller says of these substances, however, that not one of them has ever been isolated in a pure condition, and there is i considerable doubt whether the colors of the flowers of differ- ent plants b e due uniformly to the same materials. The yel- I low coloring matters, however,are clearly of a nature different from that of the blues and reds. Many red flowers become blue and green as they wither, but they never become yellow, j Blue flowers are also sometimes observed to fade into red be- fore the color disappears, but they never become yellow; and, j on the other hand, a yellow flower as it withers never becomes blue. The yellow color acquired by leaves before their fall in autumn, is ascribed by Premy to the gradual destruction of a I blue constitutent of chlorophyll, which he calls Phyllocyanin, j the other constituent being a yellow substance which he calls j Phylloxanthin. These substances may be separated by the following method, which constitutes a very pretty experiment: Boil the alcoholic solution of chlorophyll, obtained as above, with an alcoholic solution of potash. Neutralize-this solution hydro-chloric acid, and the phylloxanthin will be precipitated; the phyllocyanin remaining in solution, to which it gives a j beautiful blue color
This article was originally published with the title "The Colors of Plants and Flowers"