Page images

enjoyed by the contact of a middle body. But this may be feigned, or at least amplified. Nevertheless I am apt enough to think, that this same binarium of a stronger and a weaker, like unto masculine and feminine, doth hold in all living bodies. It is confounded sometimes; as in some creatures of putrefaction, wherein no marks of distinction appear: and it is doubled sometimes, as in hermaphrodites: but generally there is a degree of strength in most species.

609. THE participles or confiners between plants and living creatures, are such chiefly as are fixed, and have no local motion of remove, though they have a motion in their parts; such as are oysters, cockles, and such like. There is a fabulous narration, that in the northern countries there should be an herb that groweth in the likeness of a lamb, and feedeth upon the grass, in such sort as it will bare the grass round about. But I suppose that the figure maketh the fable; for so, we see, there be bee-flowers, etc. And as for the grass, it seemeth the plant having a great stalk and top doth prey upon the grass a good way about, by drawing the juice of the earth from it.

Experiments promiscuous touching plants.

610. THE Indian fig boweth its roots down so low in one year, as of itself it taketh root again; and so multiplieth from root to root, making of one tree a kind of wood. The cause is the plenty of the sap, and the softness of the stalk, which maketh the bough, being overloaden, and not stiffly upheld, weigh down. It hath leaves as broad as a little target, but the fruit no bigger than beans. The cause is, for that the continual shade increaseth the leaves, and abateth the fruit, which nevertheless is of a pleasant taste. And that no doubt is caused by the suppleness and gentleness of the juice of that plant, being that which maketh the boughs also so flexible.

611. It is reported by one of the ancients, that there is a certain Indian tree, having few but very great leaves, three cubits long and two broad; and that the fruit, being of good taste, groweth out of the bark.

It may be, there be plants that pour out the sap so fast, as they have no leisure either to divide into many leaves, or to put forth stalks to the fruit. With us, trees, generally, have small leaves in comparison. The fig hath the greatest; and next it the vine, mulberry, and sycamore; and the least are those of the willow, birch, and thorn. But there be found herbs with far greater leaves than any tree; as the bur, gourd, cucumber, and colewort. The cause is, like to that of the Indian fig, the hasty and plentiful putting forth of the sap.

612. THERE be three things in use for sweetness; sugar, honey, manna. For sugar, to the ancients it was scarce known, and little used. It is found in canes: Query, whether to the first knuckle, or further up? And whether the very bark of the cane itself do yield sugar, or no? For honey, the bee maketh it, or gathereth it; but I have heard from one that was industrious in husbandry, that the labour of the bee is about the wax; and that he hath known in the beginning of May honeycombs empty of honey; and within a fortnight, when the sweet dews fall, filled like a cellar. It is reported also by some of the ancients, that there is a tree called Occhus, in the valley of Hyrcania, that distilleth honey in the mornings. It is not unlike that the sap and tears of some trees may be sweet. It may be also, that some sweet juices, fit for many uses, may be concocted out of fruits, to the thickness of honey, or perhaps of sugar; the likeliest are raisins of the sun, figs, and currants; the means may be inquired.

613. THE ancients report of a tree by the Persian sea, upon the shore sands, which is nourished with the salt water; and when the tide ebbeth, you shall see the roots as it were bare without bark, being as it seemeth corroded by the salt, and grasping the sands like a crab; which nevertheless beareth a fruit. It were good to try some hard trees, as a service-tree, or fir-tree, by setting them within the

614. THERE be of plants which they use for garments, these that follow: hemp, flax, cotton, nettles,

2 G


whereof they make nettle-cloth, sericum, which is a growing silk; they make also cables of the bark of lime trees. It is the stalk that maketh the filaceous matter commonly; and sometimes the down that groweth above.

615. THEY have in some countries, a plant of a rosy colour, which shutteth in the night, openeth in the morning, and openeth wide at noon; which the inhabitants of those countries say is a plant that sleepeth. There be sleepers enough then; for almost all flowers do the like.

616. SOME plants there are, but rare, that have a mossy or downy root; and likewise that have a number of threads, like beards; as mandrakes; whereof witches and impostors make an ugly image, giving it the form of a face at the top of the root, and leaving those strings to make a broad beard down to the foot. Also there is a kind of nard in Crete, being a kind of phu, that hath a root hairy, like a roughfooted dove's foot. So as you may see, there are of roots, bulbous roots, fibrous roots, and hirsute roots. And, I take it, in the bulbous, the sap hasteneth most to the air and sun; in the fibrous, the sap delighteth more in the earth, and therefore putteth downward; and the hirsute is a middle between both, that besides the putting forth upwards and downwards, putteth forth in round.

617. THERE are some tears of trees, which are combed from the beards of goats: for when the goats bite and crop them, especially in the mornings, the dew being on, the tear cometh forth, and hangeth upon their beards: of this sort is some kind of ladanum.

618. THE irrigation of the plane-tree by wine, is reported by the ancients to make it fruitful. It would be tried likewise with roots; for upon seeds it worketh no great effects.

619. THE way to carry foreign roots a long way, is to vessel them close in earthen vessels. But if the vessels be not very great, you must make some holes in the bottom, to give some refreshment to the roots;

which otherwise, as it seemeth, will decay and suffocate.

620. THE ancient cinnamon was, of all other plants, while it grew, the driest; and those things which are known to comfort other plants, did make that more sterile; for in showers it prospered worst; it grew also amongst bushes of other kinds, where commonly plants do not thrive; neither did it love the sun. There might be one cause of all those effects; namely, the sparing nourishment which that plant required. Query, how far cassia, which is now the substitute of cinnamon, doth participate of these things?

621. Ir is reported by one of the ancients, that cassia, when it is gathered, is put into the skins of beasts newly flayed; and that the skins corrupting and breeding worms, the worms do devour the pith and marrow of it, and so make it hollow; but meddle not with the bark, because to them it is bitter.

622. THERE were in ancient time vines of far greater bodies than we know any; for there have been cups made of them, and an image of Jupiter. But it is like they were wild vines; for the vines that they use for wine, are so often cut, and so much digged and dressed, that their sap spendeth into the grapes, and so the stalk cannot increase much in bulk. The wood of vines is very durable, without rotting. And that which is strange, though no tree hath the twigs, while they are green, so brittle, yet the wood dried is extreme tough; and was used by the captains of armies amongst the Romans for their cudgels.

623. It is reported, that in some places vines are suffered to grow like herbs, spreading upon the ground; and that the grapes of those vines are very great. It were good to make trial, whether plants that use to be borne up by props, will not put forth greater leaves and greater fruits if they be laid along the ground; as hops, ivy, woodbine, etc.

624. QUINCES, or apples, etc. if you will keep them long, drown them in honey; but because honey, perhaps, will give them a taste over-luscious, it were good to make trial in powder of sugar, or in syrup

of wine, only boiled to height. Both these would likewise be tried in oranges, lemons, and pomegranates; for the powder of sugar, and syrup of wine, will serve for more times than once.

625. THE Conservation of fruit would be also tried in vessels filled with fine sand, or with powder of chalk; or in meal and flour; or in dust of oak wood; or in mill.

626. SUCH fruits as you appoint for long keeping, you must gather before they be full ripe; and in a fair and dry day towards noon; and when the wind bloweth not south; and when the moon is under the earth, and in decrease.

. 627. TAKE grapes, and hang them in an empty vessel well stopped; and set the vessel not in a cellar, but in some dry place; and it is said they will last long. But it is reported by some, they will keep better in a vessel half full of wine, so that the grapes 'touch not the wine.

628. It is reported, that the preserving of the stalk helpeth to preserve the grape; especially if the stalk be put into the pith of elder, the elder not touching the fruit.

629. It is reported by some of the ancients, that fruit put in bottles, and the bottles let down into wells under water, will keep long.

630. Or herbs and plants, some are good to eat raw; as lettuce, endive, purslane, tarragon, cresses, cucumbers, musk-melons, radish, etc. others only after they are boiled, or have passed the fire; as parsley, clary, sage, parsnips, turnips, asparagus, artichokes, though they also being young are eaten raw: but a number of herbs are not esculent at all; as wormwood, grass, green corn, centaury, hyssop, lavender, balm, etc. The causes are, for that the herbs that are not esculent, do want the two tastes in which nourishment resteth; which are fat and sweet; and have, contrariwise, bitter and over-strong tastes, or a juice, so crude as cannot be ripened to the degree of nourishment. Herbs and plants that are esculent raw, have fatness, or sweetness, as all esculent fruits; such


« PreviousContinue »