585. It has been taught by many of the learned that the processes of plant growth, not only of trees but also of all shrubs, correspond to human prolification. I will, therefore, add something on this subject by way of appendix. In trees and in all other subjects of the vegetable kingdom there are not two sexes, a masculine and a feminine, but everything there is masculine; the earth alone or the soil is the common mother, and is thus as it were feminine; for it receives the seeds of all fruits, opens them, carries them as it were in a womb, and then nourishes them and brings them forth, that is, ushers them into the light of day, and afterward clothes and sustains them.
 When a seed is first opened by the earth it begins with the root, which is a kind of heart; from this it emits and transmits sap like blood, and so forms as it were a body provided with limbs; its body is the trunk itself, while the branches and their branchlets are its limbs. The leaves which it puts forth immediately after its birth serve as lungs; for as the heart without the lungs produces no motion or sensation, and it is by means of these that man is made alive, so the root without leaves does not cause a tree or shrub to vegetate. The blossoms which precede the fruit are means for purifying the sap, the tree's blood, for separating its grosser from its purer elements, for forming a new little trunk for the influx of these purer elements contained in the bosom of this sap, through which trunk the purified sap may flow in and thus initiate and gradually form the fruit (which may be compared to the testicles), in which the seed is perfected. The vegetative soul which inmostly governs in every particle of sap, or which is its prolific essence, is from no other source than the heat of the spiritual world; and as this heat is from the spiritual sun there, it aspires to nothing but generation, and a continuance of creation thereby; and because it essentially aspires to the generation of man, it induces upon whatever it generates a certain resemblance to man.
 That no one may be astonished at the statement, that the subjects of the vegetable kingdom are masculine only, and that the earth alone or the soil is like a common mother, or is like the feminine, let it be illustrated by something similar among bees. According to the observation of Swammerdam, reported in his Book of Nature, bees have only one common mother, from which the offspring of the entire hive is produced. As there is but one common mother for these little insects, why not the same for all plants?
 That the earth is a common mother may also be illustrated spiritually; and is so illustrated by the fact that in the Word "the earth" signifies the church, and the church is a common mother, and is so called in the Word. As to the earth's signifying the church, consult the Apocalypse Revealed (n. 285, 902), where it is shown. But the earth or the soil can enter into the inmost of a seed even to its prolific principle, calling this forth and giving it circulation, because every least particle of dust or powder exhales from its essence a kind of subtle penetrating effluvium, which is an effect of the active force of the heat from the spiritual world.