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AMARYLLIS UNDULATA.-WAVED-FLOWERED AMARYLLIS.
Class VI. HEXANDRIA.—ORDER I. MONOGYNIA. NATURAL ORDER, AMARYLLIDE Æ. -THE NARCISSUS TRIBE.
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The name of Amaryllis is supposed to be derived from a Greek word signifying splendour; “and is given," says Mr. Martyn, “ with great propriety, to this splendid genus." In the flowers of this species of Amaryllis, a native of the Cape, and introduced about 1767, by John Blackburne, Esq., there is a considerable degree of beauty, and still more of singularity; and the plant is rendered more desirable, from its producing those flowers towards the close of autumn, so late as October and November, and that too both readily and abundantly. Being a tender bulb, it is usually kept during the winter in the greenhouse, or a well-secured frame. Is propagated by offsets, which are plentifully produced.
The Yellow Amaryllis, or Autumnal Narcissus, is a native of the South of France, Spain, Italy, and Thrace. The flowers seldom rise above four inches high; and somewhat resemble the Yellow Crocus. Like that, too, its leaves grow all the winter, after the flowers are past. It flowers in September, is very hardy, and increases fast by offsets. They may be transplanted any time from May to the end of July, but not later.
This plant prefers a light dry soil, and an open situation. It must not be under the dripping of trees. In mild seasons, there will often be, from the same root, a succession of flowers from September to the middle of November. It should be kept moderately moist. The Turks frequently plant this flower about the graves of their deceased friends.
The Alamasco Lily is a native of Virginia and Carolina, where it grows plentifully in the fields and woods, and makes a beautiful show. At their first appearance the flowers are of a fine carnation colour outside, but they fade almost to white : they blow from May to July or August.
It may be increased by offsets : the bulbs should be removed every second year, and if they begin to shoot while out of the earth, should be planted immediately. It should be kept moderatelymoist.
The Jacobaea Lily-in French, le lys de St. Jaques [St. James's lily); la croix de St. Jaques [St. James's cross]; la belle amarillis: and in Italian, giglio narciso giacobeo-produces its flowers two or three times in the year, not at any regular season. It furnishes plenty of offsets, which should be taken off every year: the best time is in August, that they may take good root before winter. In reinoving the roots, great care should be taken not to break off their fibres. This flower may stand abroad in the summer, but in the winter should be lodged in an inhabited room. It must be kept moist.
This Lily is a native of South America: the flowers are large, of a deep red, and bend gracefully on one side of the stalk. Parkinson calls it the Indian Daffodil.
The Belladonna Lily—called by the French, lis de Mexique Mexico lily); la belle dame; and by the Italians, narciso bella donna (fine lady narcissus]—is a native of the West Indies, and grows on shady hills, and by the margins of streams. It is of a pale purple colour, inclining to white towards the centre. It was first brought to England from Portugal, and is very common in the Italian gardens, particularly in the neighbourhood of Florence, where it is sold in the markets under the name of Narcissus-belladonna. This Lily is very fragrant. It flowers about the end of September or the beginning of October, and, if the weather be favourable, will continue in bloom a month, or more. In June the leaves decay, and the root should be transplanted soon after : for, if it remains till July, it will send forth new fibres; and removal then would injure it. It should remain in the house in the winter, and be kept moderately moist.
The Superb, or riband Amaryllis, is supposed to be a native of the Cape: the flowers are very beautiful; a white ground striped with red. Unless hastened by artificial heat, they open in April or May. As this bulb rarely produces offsets, it should be procured in a pot, and treated as the last.
The long-leaved Lily, or Amaryllis, is a native of the Cape of Good Hope. The flower stem is seldom more than four inches high, but bears a profusion of purple flowers, opening in December. It may be treated as the Jacoboa Lily.
The Guernsey Lily, called in France le lis de Japon, is extremely handsome; it is a native of Japan, but has long been naturalized at Guernsey, from which place it is named. There are from eight to twelve flowers on one plant; the circumference of each flower about seven inches. When in full beauty it has the appearance of a fine gold tissue wrought on a rose-coloured ground; and when it begins to fade it is pink. If beheld in full sunshine, it seems studded with diamonds; but by candle-light looks rather as if it were spangled with fine gold-dust. When the flower begins to wither, the petals assume a deep crimson colour. The flowers begin to appear towards the end of August, and the head is usually three weeks gradually expanding.
The different species of Amaryllis are more or less poisonous, and Hemanthus toxicarius, the old A. toxicaria, is the plant with which it is said the Hottentots poison their arrows. Weapons wetted with the juice of the bulb convey certain death by the slightest wound; dissolution is preceded by violent struggles, and efforts to vomit. The flesh of animals thus slain is not deteriorated, but is eaten by the natives. Nerine sarniensis, the Guernsey lily, which became naturalized in the islands of Jersey and Guernsey many years ago, by the wreck of a vessel from the Cape, is also reputed to be poisonous. Amaryllis ornata is said to be astringent; Alstroemeria salsilla is considered useful as a diuretic and diaphoretic: and A. Ligtu is esteemed for its scent, it being as grateful as mignionette. A. salsilla is cultivated in the West Indies and in America,
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especially in Peru, for the sake of its roots, which are there eaten as the tubers of the potato are in Europe. It is worthy of note that the Amaryllidæ lose much of their fragrance when the flowers become double, which is precisely the reverse of the multiplication of the petals in Rosaceous plants.
Great care ought to be taken by those unacquainted with botany in eating any plant which is not known to them. In many cases the scent, or the dingy appearance of the foliage in flowers, is sufficient to show the dangerous nature of the plant; yet it is unwise to presume on the absence of any visible indications.
The botanist indeed possesses infallible means of distinction, by which, under any circumstance of country or climate, he can detect the presence of poison by an examination of the structure of the vegetable. This knowledge is of incalculable value to the traveller in strange countries.
There prevailed at one time a great mortality among the cattle in some parts of Lapland, for which their owners were quite unable to account. Linnæus discovered that it was caused by the cattle having eaten of the water-hemlock (Cicuta virosa).
Animals are, however, provided with an instinct which enables them in most cases to perceive what kinds of food are wholesome for their own species. If a horse be placed in a pasture where the most noxious plants are growing, he will reject them; as is the case when he meets with the Enánthe Phellándrium, which he will not touch.
The various objects of nature are not placed before us that we may extend our hand to gather them, and without any thought or pains to receive from them all their advantages; but to man are given intellectual powers to study, and bodily strength to labour for the extension of their value. All that is necessary to be known respecting our destiny for a future world, is revealed with great plainness by the Scriptures; but for our comfort in this world we are required to exert the capacities with which we are endowed in order to make the requisite discoveries. We may remark, in favour of cultivation, that even the soils most friendly to vegetation, commonly become by it more productive as the nature of the product is rendered nore valuable. In every important attainment each one of us should endeavour to leave the world better than we found it, that, even as regards others, we may not have lived in vain.
It is a singular fact respecting plants containing poison, that some of their parts are not only free from an unwholesome quality, but are very nutritious. The potato, which when boiled is so valuable a vegetable, bears poison upon its branches. The leaves and flowers of the peach-tree contain a bitter and poisonous juice; while its fruit is wholesome and delicious, and its gum is of a gentle and mucilaginous nature.
Poisonous plants very generally present, either in their blossoms or leaves, a dingy uninviting appearance. The hemlock has its stem spotted with brownish purple, and its foliage of a dull green. The flowers of plants whose nature is deleterious are very often of a dark purple colour; but, as a proof that this distinction is not invariable, we may mention the hellebore or Christmas-rose. Few who looked upon it would think that a flower whose appearance was so pure and lovely could contain a quality so pernicious; for if it is taken in large quantities it produces giddiness, and even death; yet the botanist upon a slight inspection would feel assured of its dangerous nature.
There are around the centre of this flower a number of stamens or small threads. When blossoms have these numerous stamens inserted on the receptacle, we may conclude the plant to be of an unsafe nature. A familiar instance of this is the common buttercup (Rununculus A cris). The blossom of the appletree, of the plum, the peach, and other fruit-trees, have also a number of stamens, but these are seated on the calyx. If the leaves of the flower-cup and the white petals of the Christmas-rose be carefully pulled off one by one, you will find that the stamens remain behind. If the petals of the apple-blossom be thus used, the stamens will almost all come off with them; and this circumstance determines whether or not flowers thus formed are poisonous.
Two species of hellebore (Helleborus viridis and Helleboru: fætidus) grow wild in woods. Their flowers, which are of a dull yellowish green, have a very unpleasant scent, and the latter species has its calyx edged with a dingy purple, its leaves remaining green through the winter. Altogether its appearance is such that you would probably guess it to be a poisonous plant.
The Greek hellebore (Helléborus officinalis) was thought by the ancients to invigorate the powers of the mind; and when they were about to engage in any undertaking which required a greater portion of mental energy than usual, they were accustomed to take a small dose of it. It derives its name from two Greek words which signify “to injure” and “food.”
The purple foxglove (Digitális Purpúrea), perhaps the most beautiful ornament of our summer woods and hedges, is extremely deleterious in its nature; and although when used in small quantities it is a valuable remedy for some diseases, yet in the hands of the unskilful it is replete with danger. Its purple bells are large, and their white and spotted interior very handsome, but its colour is rather of a suspicious character, and to those accustomed to notice plants would indicate probable danger.
The monkshood (Aconitum Napellus), found wild in some parts of England, but so common in gardens as that you can scarcely walk in one during summer without meeting it, is a very noxious plant. It is certainly the most gloomy, forbidding-looking flower in the whole parterre. You have perhaps often pulled off the purple hood or helmet of this flower to see the two long thread-like parts placed underneath, which children call the doves of Venus's chariot. This plant contains so much poison as that its scent alone is very injurious, and it ought upon no account to be smelled to, or rubbed over any part of the face. Indeed, were its properties more generally known, we should not have it so often in gardens to which the children of careful parents have access. This flower is called also wolfsbane, because the hunters who chase the wolves upon the Alps dip their arrows in an extract procured from the plant, which ensures the death of the wounded animal.