Samphire, of the true sort, is a herb difficult to be gathered, because it grows only out of the crevices of lofty perpendicular rocks which cannot be easily scaled. This genuine Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) is a small plant, bearing yellow flowers in circular umbels on the tops of the stalks, which flowers are followed by seeds like those of the Fennel, but larger.
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The fabled origin of the Saffron plant ran thus. A certain young man named Crocus went to play at quoits in a field with Mercurie, when the quoit of his companion happened by misfortune to hit him on the head, whereby, before long, he died, to the great sorrow of his friends. Finally, in the place where he had bled, Saffron was found to be growing: whereupon, the people, seeing the colour of the chine as it stood, adjusted it to come of the blood of Crocus, and therefore they gave it his name.
The true Rushes (Juncaceoe) include the Soft Rush (effusus); the Hard Rush (glaucus); and the Common Rush (conglomeratus). The Bulrush (Pool Rush) is a Sedge; the Club Rush is a Typha; and the flowering Rush, a Butomus.
This herb was further termed of old "Herb of Grace" as well as "Serving men's joy," because of the multiplicity of common ailments which it was warranted to cure. Rue constituted a chief ingredient of the famous antidote of Mithridates to poisons, the formula of which was found by Pompey in the satchel of the conquered King.
It was usual to burn Rosemary in the chambers of the sick, just as was formerly done with frankincense, which gave the Greeks occasion to call the Rosemary Libanotis. In the French language of flowers this herb represents the power of rekindling lost energy. "The flowers of Rosemary," says an old author, "made up into plates (lozenges), with sugar, and eaten, comfort the heart, and make it merry, quicken the spirits, and make them more lively."
Certain curative properties are possessed both by the Briar Rose, or wild Dog Rose of our country hedges, and by the cultivated varieties of this queen of flowers in our Roseries. The word Rose means red, from the Greek rodon, connected also with rota, a wheel, which resembles the outline of a Rose.
The custom of throwing a shower of Rice after and over a newly married couple is very old, though wheat was at first the chosen grain as an augury of plenty. The bride wore a garland of ears of corn in the time of Henry the Eighth.
Our Garden Rhubarb is a true Dock, and belongs to the "many-kneed," buckwheat order of plants. Its brilliant colouring is due to varying states of its natural pigment (chlorophyll), in combination with oxygen. For culinary purposes the stalk, or petiole of the broad leaf, is used.
Raspberry is a cool magical ingredient, giving two important components - the sexy fruit, and the plant itself, which is a tough survivor. Raspberry lends itself to a huge variety of love spells, healing spells and all manner of energy magic potions.
The term Ragwort, or Ragweed, is a corruption of Ragewort, as expressing its supposed stimulating effects on the sexual organs. For the same reason the pommes d'amour (Love Apples, or Tomatoes) are sometimes called Rage apples.
Radishes were celebrated by Dioscorides and Pliny as above all roots whatsoever, insomuch, that in the Delphic temple there was a Radish of solid gold, raphanus ex auro dicatus: and Moschinus wrote a whole volume in their praise; but Hippocrates condemned them as vitiosas, innatantes, acoegre concoctiles.
The Quince may well be included among remedial Herbal Simples because of the virtues possessed by the seeds within the fruit. The tree is a native of Persia and Crete; bearing a pear-shaped fruit, golden yellow when gathered, and with five cells in it, each containing twelve closely packed seeds. These are mucilaginous when unbroken, and afford the taste of bitter almonds.
When immersed in water they swell up considerably, and the mucilage will yield salts of lime with albumen.
Medicinally the primrose possesses similar curative attributes, though in a lesser degree, to those of the Cowslip. Both the root and the flowers contain a volatile oil, and "primulin" which is identical with mannite: whilst the acrid principle is "saponin." Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate, teaches to "make healing salve with early Primroses."
Our invaluable Potato, which enters so largely into the dietary of all classes, belongs to the Nightshade tribe of dangerous plants, though termed "solanaceous" as a natural order because of the sedative properties which its several genera exercise to lull pain.
The Scarlet Poppy of our cornfields (Papaver Rhoeas) is one of the most brilliant and familiar of English wild flowers, being strikingly conspicuous as a weed by its blossoms rich in scarlet petals, which are black at the base. The title Papaver has been derived from pap, a soft food given to young infants, in which it was at one time customary to boil Poppy seeds for the purpose of inducing sleep.
The Plantains (Plantaginacecoe), from planta, the sole of the foot, are humble plants, well known as weeds in fields and by roadsides, having ribbed leaves and spikes of flowers conspicuous by their long stamens. As Herbal Simples, the Greater Plantain, the Ribwort Plantain, and the Water Plantain, are to be specially considered.
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The Clove Pink, or Carnation of our gardens, though found apparently wild on old castle walls in England, is a naturalised flower in this country. It is, botanically, the Dianthus Caryophyllus, being so named as anthos, the flower, dios, of Jupiter: whilst redolent of Caryophylli, Cloves.
The Pimpernel - "Poor Man's Weather Glass" or "Shepherd's Dial," is a very well-known and favourite little flower, of brilliant scarlet hue, expanding only in bright weather, and closing its petals at two o'clock in the day.
All-Spice (Pimento) is another common occupant of the domestic spice box. It is popular as a warming cordial, of a sweet odour, and a grateful aromatic taste; but being a native of South America, grows with us only as a stove plant.