« PreviousContinue »
so some ten days, and see whether the seeds will sprout, and the earth become more moist, and the sponge more dry. The experiment formerly mentioned of the cucumber creeping to the pot of water, is far stranger than this. Experiments in consort touching the making herbs
and fruits medicinable. 499. The altering of the scent, colour, or taste of fruit, by infusing, mixing, or letting into the bark, or root of the tree, herb, or flower, any coloured, aromatical, or medicinal substance, are but fancies. The cause is, for that those things have passed their period, and nourish not. And all alteration of vegetables in those qualities must be by somewhat that is apt to go into the nourishment of the plant. But this is true, that where kine feed upon wild garlic, their milk tasteth plainly of the garlic: and the
flesh of muttons is better tasted where the sheep feed upon wild thyme, and other wholesome herbs. Galen also speaketh of the curing of the scirrus of the liver, by milk of a cow that feedeth but upon certain herbs; and honey in Spain smelleth apparently of the rosemary, or orange, from whence the bee gathereth it: and there is an old tradition of a maiden that was fed with napellus ; which is counted the strongest poison of all vegetables, which with use did not hurt the maid, but poisoned some that had carnal company with her. So it is observed by some, that there is a virtuous bezoar, and another without virtue, which appear to the shew alike: but the virtuous is taken from the beast that feedeth upon the mountains, where there are theriacal herbs; and that without virtue, from those that feed in the valleys where no such herbs are. Thus far I am of opinion; that as steeped wines and beers are very medicinal; and likewise bread tempered with divers powders; so of meat also, as flesh, fish, milk, and eggs, that they may be made of great use for medicine and diet, if the beasts, fowl, or fish, be fed with a special kind of food fit for the disease. It were a dangerous thing also for secret empoisonments. But whether it may be applied unto plants and herbs, I doubt more ; because the nourishment of them is a more common juice; which is hardly capable of any special quality, until the plant do assimilate it.
500. But lest our incredulity may prejudice any profitable operations in this kind, especially since many of the ancients have set them down, we think good briefly to propound the four means which they have devised of making plants medicinable. The first is by slitting of the root, and infusing into it the medicine; as hellebore, opium, scammony, treacle, etc. and then binding it up again. This seemeth to me the least probable; because the root draweth imme: diately from the earth; and so the nourishment is the more common and less qualified : and besides, it is a long time in going up ere it come to the fruit. The second way is to perforate the body of the tree, and there to infuse the medicine; which is somewhat better: for if any virtue be received from the medi- . cine, it hath the less way, and the less time to go up. The third is, the steeping of the seed or kernel in some liquor wherein the medicine is infused : which I have little opinion of, because the seed, I doubt, will not draw the parts of the matter which have the propriety: but it will be far the more likely, if you mingle the medicine with dung; for that the seed naturally drawing the moisture of the dung, may call in withal some of the propriety. The fourth is, the watering of the plant oft with an infusion of the medicine, This, in one respect, may have more force than the rest, because the medication is oft renewed; whereas the rest are applied but at one time; and therefore the virtue may the sooner vanish. But still I doubt, that the root is somewhat too stubborn to receive those fine impressions; and besides, as I said before, they have a great hill to go up. I judge therefore the likeliest way to be the perforation of the body of the tree in several places one above the other; and the filling of the holes with dung mingled with the medicine; and the watering of those lumps of dung with squirts of an infusion of the medicine in dunged water, once in three or four days.
Experiments in consort touching curiosities about
fruits and plants. Our experiments we take care to be, as we have often said, either experimenta fructifera, or lucifera ; either of use, or of discovery: for we hate impostures, and despise curiosities. Yet because we must apply ourselves somewhat to others, we will set down some curiosities touching plants.
501. It is a curiosity to have several fruits upon one tree; and the more, when some of them come early, and some come late ; so that you may
the same tree ripe fruits all summer. This is easily done by grafting of several cions upon several boughs, of a stock, in a good ground plentifully fed. So you may have all kinds of cherries, and all kinds of plums, and peaches, and apricots, upon one tree; but I conceive the diversity of fruits must be such as will graft upon the same stock. And therefore I doubt, whether you can have apples, or pears, or oranges, upon the same stock upon which you graft plums.
502. It is a curiosity to have fruits of divers shapes and figures. This is easily performed, by molding them when the fruit is young, with molds of earth or wood. So you may have cucumbers, etc. as long as a cane; or as round as a sphere; or formed like a
You may have also apples in the form of pears or lemons. You may have also fruit in more accurate figures, as we said, of men, beasts, or birds, according as you make the molds. Wherein you must understand, that you make the mold big enough to contain the whole fruit when it is grown to the greatest: for else you will choke the spreading of the fruit; which otherwise would spread itself, and fill the concave, and so be turned into the shape desired; as it is in mold works of liquid things. Some doubt may be conceived, that the keeping of the sun from the fruit may hurt it: but there is ordinary experience of fruit that groweth covered. Query, also, whether some small holes may not be made in the wood to let in the sun. And note, that it were best to make the molds partible, glued, or cemented together, that you may open them when you take out the fruit.
503. It is a curiosity to have inscriptions, or engravings, in fruit or trees. This is easily performed, by writing with a needle, or bodkin, or knife, or the like, when the fruit or trees are young; for as they grow, so the letters will grow more large and graphical.
- Tenerisque meos incidere amores Arboribus; crescent illa, crescetis amores. 504. You may have trees apparelled with flowers or herbs, by boring holes in the bodies of them, and putting into them earth holpen with muck, and setting seeds, or slips, of violets, strawberries, wild thyme, camomile, and such like, in the earth. Wherein they do but grow in the tree as they do in pots; though, perhaps, with some feeding from the trees. It would be tried also with shoots of vines, and roots of red roses; for it may be they being of a more ligneous nature, will incorporate with the tree itself.
505. It is an ordinary curiosity to form trees and shrubs, as rosemary, juniper, and the like, into sụndry shapes; which is done by molding them within, and cutting them without. But they are but lame things, being too small to keep figure; great castles made of trees upon frames of timber, with turrets and arches, were matters of magnificence.
506. AMONGST curiosities I shall place coloration, though it be somewhat better; for beauty in flowers is their pre-eminence.' It is observed by somę, that gilly-flowers, sweet-williams, violets, that are coloured, if they be neglected, and neither watered, nør
new molded, nor transplanted, will turn white. And it is probable that the white with much culture may turn coloured. For this is certain, that the white colour cometh of scarcity of nourishment; except in flowers that are only white, and admit no other colours.
507. It is good therefore to see what natures do accompany what colours ; for by that you shall have light how to induce colours, by producing those natures. Whites are more inodorate, for the most part, than flowers of the same kind coloured ; as is found in single white violets, white roses, white gillyflowers, white stock-gilly-flowers, etc. We find also that blossoms of trees, that are white, are commonly inodorate, as cherries, pears, plums; whereas those of apples, crabs, almonds, and peaches, are blushy, and smell sweet. The cause is, for that the substance that maketh the flower is of the thinnest and finest of the plant, which also maketh flowers to be of so dainty colours.
And if it be too sparing and thin, it attaineth no strength of odour, except it be in such plants as are very succulent; whereby they need rather to be scanted in their nourishment than replenished, to have them sweet. As we see in white satyrion, which is of a dainty smell; and in beanflowers, etc. And again, if the plant be of nature to put forth white flowers only, and those not thin or dry, they are commonly of rank and fulsome smell ; as may-flowers, and white lilies.
508. CONTRARIWISE, in berries the white is commonly more delicate and sweet in taste than the coloured, as we see in white grapes, in white rasps, in white strawberries, in white currants, &c. The cause is, for that the coloured are more juiced, and coarser juiced, and therefore not so well and equally concocted; but the white are better proportioned to the digestion of the plant.
509. But in fruits the white commonly is meaner: as in pear-plums, damascenes, etc. and the choicest plums are black; the mulberry, which though they call it a berry, is a fruit, is better the black than the