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A few evenings ago we published, under the heading “Rather Tall,” an extract from the London ‘Telegraph’ giving an account ot an underground caterpillar and fungus described by the Department of Agriculture, Washington, as growing in New Zealand. We have to thank a gentleman resident in Dunedin for a sight of a preserved specimen ot this singular creature (a product of the North Island), as well as for the following description of

THE BULRUSH CATERPILLAR. The fallowing is a description of the bulrush caterpillar (sphteria Robertsia) Native name OI XhU singular plant, which is a native of New Zealand, may be classed amongst the moat remarkable productions of the vegetable kingdom. There are birds which dispossess others of their nests, and marine animals which take up their abode in deserted shells; but this plant surpasses them all, in killing, and taking posse sion, making the body of an mseot-and that, too, very probably a living one-the foundation from whence it rears its stem, and the source from which it derives its support. It certainly forms one of the most surprising links between the animal and vegetable kingdoms yet noticed, and as such merits as circumstantial a description as our present imperfect acquaintance wltn The awoto is chiefly found at the root of the rata (metrodderes robustaj. The plant in every instance exactly fills the body of the caterpillar, la the finest specimens it attains the length of 3Mn, and the stem which germinates from this metamorphosed body is from 6m to lOm hish • its apex, when in a state of fructification, resembles the club-headed bulrush in miniature. There are no leaves; a solitary stem comprises the entire plant, and it any accident breaks it off, a second arises from the same spot. The body is found buried, and the greater portion of the stalk as well. When the plant has attained maturity it soon dies away. These curious plants, when fresh, have the flavor of ai nut. The Natives eat them, and likewise use them, when burnt, ai coloring matter for their tattooiog, rubbing the powder into the wounds. m which stale it has a strong animal smell. When newlv duz up, the substance of the caterpillar Toftrand; ™ being divided longitudinally, the intestine channel is distinctly seen. Most specimens possess the legs entire, with the horny part of the head, the mandibles, and claws. The vegetating process invariably proceeds from the nape of the neck, from which it may be inferred that the insect, ;n crawling to the place where it inhumes itself prior to its metamorphosis, whilst burrowing in the vege- 1 table soil, gets some of the minute seeds of the fungus between the scales of its nook, from ■which in its -sickening state it is unable to free itself, and consequently, being nourished by the waimth and moisture of the insect s body, then lying in a motionless state, they vegetate, and not only impede the progress of change mto the chrysalis, but likewise occasion the death of the insect. That this vegetating process thus commences during the lifetime of the insect appears certam from the fact of the caterpillar, when c inverted into a plant, always preserving its paifeet form. In no one instance has decomposition appeared to have commenced, or the akin to have contraoted or expanded beyond its natural size.

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Bibliographic details

THE BULRUSH CATERPILLAR., Issue 8050, 29 October 1889

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THE BULRUSH CATERPILLAR. Issue 8050, 29 October 1889

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