« AnteriorContinuar »
forms thickets exclusively occupying several acres. In Kentucky and the western part of Tennessee, it is sometimes seen also, in the forests, where the soil is luxuriantly fertile; of which its presence is an infallible proof. In these forests it attains the height of thirty feet, with a trunk six or eight inches in diameter, though it usually stops short of half of this height. According to Dr. William Baldwin, the pawpaw grows spontaneously in the island of Bermuda; and in Smith's “History of Virginia,” it is stated to have been introduced on that island prior to 1623.
This species was introduced into England by Peter Collinson in 1736; and it has since become known in the principal botanic gardens throughout Europe. Miller states that the largest plant he had seen was in the Duke of Argyll's garden, at Whitton, which flowered every year. Another plant is mentioned as growing at Purser's Cross, which ripened fruit.
Soil, Situation, &c. This, as well as most of the other species of annona, generally grows in shady places, and in a sandy soil. All the species, when cultivated, require peat soil
, and are propagated from seeds. The pawpaw seldom produces shoots exceeding five or six inches in length; hence a plant, in ten years, does not reach above three or four feet in height, and will not flower till of fifteen or twenty years' growth. It may be considered as a curious, slowgrowing, deciduous shrub, well deserving a place in gardens, but which ought always to be isolated, and at some distance from rapid-growing plants.
Properties and Uses. The wood of the Annona triloba is spongy, extremely soft, destitute of strength, and applicable to no use in the mechanic arts. All parts of the tree have a rank, if not a fetid, smell; and the fruit is relished by few persons, except negroes. A spirituous liquor has been made from it, but it is of little worth.
Deritations. The word Berberis is of very doubtful origin. Some derive it from the Arabic, berberys, a word used for this plant by Averrhoes and other writers on medicine; others from the Greek word, berberi, signifying a shell, from the leaves of ihe common kind having a hollow surface. Bocharı derives it from the Phænician word, burar, which signifies shiny like a shell. Gerard says, that it is corrupted from the word amyrberis, the name given to this plant by Avicenna. Du Hamel derives it from an Indian word signifying Mother-of-pearl. The French name, Epine vinelte, signifies Acid, or Sorrel Thorn, from the taste of the fruit and leaves. The Spanish name signifies Prickly-hawthorn Berberry; an the German and Italian names are derived from the botanic one. Generic Characters. Sepals 6, guarded on the outside by 3 scales. Petals 6, with 2 glands on the inside
of each. Siamens toothless. Berries 2–3-seeded. Seeds 2, rarely 3, laterally inserted at the base of the berries, erect, oblong, with a crustaceous coat and fleshy albumen. Cotvledons leafy, elliptical. Radicle long, capitellate at the tip.—Don, Miller's Dict.
LL the species of Berberis are shrubs from two to twenty feet in height, in a wild state, and sometimes attain an elevation of thirty feet, when cultivated. They all throw up numerous side-suckers, and
the stronger-growing species, if these were carefully removed, might be formed into very handsome small trees. In all the species, the flowers are yellow. The fruit is generally red, always acid, and more or less astringent. The irritability of the stamens, more particularly those of the Berberis vulgaris, canadensis, and sinensis, the flowers of which expand, is a very remarkable property in vegetable economy. When the filament is touched on the inside with the point of a pin, or any other hard instrument, the stamens bend forward towards the pistil, touch the stigma with the anther, remain curved for a short time, and then partially recover their erect position. This is best seen in warm, dry weather. The cause of this curious action, like that of all other vital phenomena, is unknown. All that has been ascertained concerning it is, that the irritability of the filament is affected differently by different noxious substances. It has been found by Messrs. Macaire and Marcett, that, if a berberry is poisoned with any corrosive agent, such as arsenic, or bicloride of mercury, the filaments become rigid and brittle, and lose their irritability; while, on the other hand, if the poisoning be effected by any narcotic, such as prussic acid, opium, or belladonna, the irritability is destroyed by the filaments becoming so relaxed and flaccid, that they can be easily
bent in any direction. In the original position of the stamens, the anthers are sheltered from rain by the concavity of the petals. Thus, probably, they remain till some insect comes to extract honey from the base of the flowers, and, thrusting itself between the filaments, unavoidably touches them in the most irritable part, and in this manner, the impregnation of the germs takes place.*
Geographical Distribution. Few genera of plants are more generally disseminated over the globe than the berberis. At least twenty species have been discovered, either in Europe, northern and central Asia, or in North and South America, most of which have been introduced into Britain, and treated as shrubs, or small ornamental trees.
* See Penny Cyclopædia, iv., p. 260.
THE COMMON BERBERRY.
(LINNÆUS, Species Plantarum.
DE CANDOLLE, Prodromus.
Don, Miller's Dictionary.
TORREY AND Gray, Flora of North America.
state, is seldom found higher than
tivated it may be grown to nearly thirty feet in height. The stems are upright, and much branched towards the top; smooth, slightly grooved, and covered with a whitish, or ash-coloured bark, which is of a bright yellow within. The main stem soon becomes so surrounded by side-suckers, as to be concealed by them; so that, even when the height of the plant is that of a tree, its character is still that of a bush. The blossoms are yellow, and, in general, are abundant, and produce a fine appearance in April, May, and June; their odour is offensive when near, but not disagreeable at a short distance. The fruit is oblong-oval, which at first is green, and, when ripe, is red, white, yellow, purple, or black, according to the variety; and it is so acid that birds seldom touch it.
Varieties. These are numerous. Those recognized by Messrs. De Candolle and Don, are as follows:
1. B. V. ALBA. Fruit white. 2. B. V. VIOLACEA. Fruit violet-coloured. 3. B. V. PURPUREA. Fruit purple. 4. B. V. NIGRA. Fruit black; leaves oblong; ciliately serrated; serratures few.
5. B. V. DULCIS. Fruit red, less acid than the common variety; leaves of a bright, shining green. Native of Austria.
6. B. V. ASPERMA. Fruit destitute of seeds, in old plants. It is said by Du Hamel, that this variety produces the best fruit for preserving; and it is from it that the delicious confitures d' epine vinette, for which Rouen is so celebrated, are made.
Geography and History. The berberry is found wild in most parts of Europe, and in many parts of Asia and America. In the warmer parts of the two last
named countries, it grows on mountains, and in the colder parts of Europe and America, in plains, as in Norway, near Christiania, and in Massachusetts, north of Boston. It also grows on Mount Lebanon, and on Mount Ætna; in which last situation it becomes a low shrub, in the upper zone of vegetation. In England it is found indigenous in woods and hedges, more especially on calcareous soils. It is also indigenous in Scotland and Ireland, but not very common. It was doubtless introduced into the United States from Europe, and has naturalized itself in waste places, and about cultivated grounds in the northern states, and in the British American provinces. The plant is mentioned by Pliny; and, among moderns, it appears first to have been recorded by Bauhin, in his " Pinax," and subsequently by all the writers on plants, under different names, till the time of Ray, in 1686 and 1688, who first called it berberis ; which name was afterwards adopted by Linnæus, and by all botanists since his time.
Propagation and Culture. The original species of the Berberis vulgaris is propagated in the nurseries by seeds, and the varieties by suckers. For ordinary purposes, no plant requires less culture; but, to produce large fruit, it should be planted in a deep, well-manured, somewhat calcareous soil, and be constantly freed from side-suckers. The racemes of the blossoms should be thinned out, in order to reduce the number of bunches of fruit, and to increase its size. When the berberry is intended to become an ornamental tree, it should be trimmed, with a straight stem, to a height of eight or ten feet, and all suckers from the roots, and all side-buds from the stem, should be removed the moment they appear, and then suffered to branch out into a fine, orbicular, or drooping head. So treated, it forms a singularly beautiful tree, or shrub, and will sometimes endure for two or three centuries, without increasing much in size, after thirty years. It may also be employed for hedges, and as it patiently bears the shears, it may be shorn to any desirable form. The rate of growth, when the plant is young, is rapid; for the first five or six years, it will nearly attain its maximum height, unless the side-branches be removed.
Diseases, 8-c. The Berberis vulgaris is subject to a disease called mildew, Æcidium berberidis, which, when magnified, is found to consist of a number of small orange-cups, with a fine film over each, as shown in the adjoining figure. When ripe, these films burst, and the tops of the cups assume a ragged, uneven appearance, in which state they look like white fungi. The cups are filled with innumerable little cases, containing seeds, or spherules, and these constitute the bright-orange powder, that is seen on the leaves and flowers of the berberry, and was long supposed to be the blight on corn both in Europe and America. This opinion, though totally unfounded, is of unknown antiquity. This error has been ably, and scientifically refuted by Messrs. Du Hamel, Broussonet, and Drs. Grenville and Lindley. The blight on corn is generally a species of uredo, and does not correspond in botanical characters with the Æcidium. One of the principal reasons why corn will not thrive in the immediate vicinity of the berberry, is, on account of the meagreness of the soil in which it often grows, it being impoverished by its creeping root.
Properties and Uses. The wood of the berberry is hard and brittle, of a yellow colour, and contains a large white pith. It is of but little use in the arts except for dying. The inner bark, both of the stems and roots, affords a yellow dye. The leaves are agreeably acid, and, according to Gerard, were used, in his time, to season meat with, instead of a salad, like sorrel. The berries are not eaten raw, but are excellent, when preserved with their own weight of sugar or syrup, or candied. They are also made into jelly and rob, both of which are not only delicious to the taste, but extremely wholesome; and they are pickled in vinegar, when green, and substituted for capers. In some countries in the north of Europe, the berries are used instead of lemon, for flavouring punch; and, when fermented, it produces an acid wine, from which tartar is procured by evaporation. They are also in general use for garnished dishes. "Medicinally, the berries, leaves, and roots, are powerfully acid and astringent; the bark is purgative and tonic; and the berries, when bruised and steeped in water, make a refreshing drink, in fevers. The astringent principle is also so abundant in the bark, that it is used in Poland in tanning leather, which it dyes a fine yellow. A decoction of the bark is said to make a good gargle to strengthen the throat and gums. When the berberry is cultivated in a garden for its fruit, it is preferable to select the variety, or rather variation, called Berberis vulgaris asperma, in which the seeds are said to be wanting, and in which the fruit is sweeter than the common kinds. This shrub makes excellent hedges; but there exists a prejudice against it among agriculturists both in Europe and in America, from its supposed influence in producing blight, or mildew, on the corn or grain growing near it.