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ANACARDIUM OCCIDENTALE. CASHEW-NUT.
Class X. Decandria. Order I. Monooynia.
Gen. Char. Calyx, five leaved. Petals, five, reflex.' Anthers, ten, one only fertile.
Spec. Char. Nut, kidney-shaped, on the top of a fleshy receptacle.
This beautiful small tree rises from twelve to twenty feet in height; the fruit is about twice as large as a large sized orange; the calyx is divided into five parts, the divisions ovate and deciduous; the corolla consists of five reflected petals, which are about twice the length of the calyx; the stamens consist of ten capillary filaments, which are shorter than the calyx; the anthers are small and roundish; the pistil has a roundish germen; the style is subulate, reflexed, and about the length of the corolla; the stigma is oblique; pericarp none; the receptacle is large and fleshy; the seed is a large kidney-shaped nut, placed above the receptacle.
Of this only one species is as yet known to botanists. It is a native of the West Indies, and cannot be cultivated either here or in Europe without great care and difficulty. A gum exudes spontaneously from the bark of this tree, which bears some resemblance to gum Arabic. The fruit of this tree is full of an acrid j uice, and in appearance and taste resembles that of the common lemon; to the apex of this fruit grows a kidney-shaped nut, much larger at the end which is next the fruit, than at the other, consisting of two shells, with a black juice between them, and a sweet oily kernel within the inner shell. This plant is easily raised from the fresh nut , they should be planted each in a separate pot filled with a light sandy soil, and placed in a hot bed of tanners bark; they should be kept dryish until the plant comes up, otherwise the seed is apt to rot.
Medical Properties and Uses. In describing the medical properties of this rare plant we shall take the authority of both modern and ancient writers. Wood and Bache says, "the receptacle is a redish yellow, and of an agreeable sub-acid flavor with some astringency. It is edible, and affords a juice which has been recommended as a remedy in dropsy. This juice is converted by fermentation into a vinous liquor, from which a spirit is obtained by distillation, much used in making punch, and is said to be powerfully diuretic. The nuts are well known under the name of cashewnuts. The black juice contained between the inner and outer shell, is extremely acrid and corrosive, producing when applied to the skin, severe inflamation, followed by blisters or desquamation of the cuticle. It is used in the West Indies for the cure of corns, warts, ringworms, and obstinate ulcers, and is said to be sometimes applied to the face by females in order to remove the cuticle, and produce a fresher and more youthful aspect. The worst case of external poisoning which has ever come under our notice, was produced in a lady who was exposed to the fumes of the nut while roasting. The face was so much swollen that for some time not a feature was discernible. The kernel when fresh has a sweet, agreeable taste, and is eaten like chesnuts, either raw or roasted. It is also used as an ingredient in puddings, &c, and forms an excellent chocolate when ground with cocoa. By age it becomes rancid aud looses its agreeable flavor." The natives of the Island make use of the juice in obstinate cases of diarrhoea, and diabetes. The oil is used by painters to give their colors a lasting black, and to preserve wood from putrefaction.