Enquiry into Plants/Volume 1/Chapter 36

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Enquiry into Plants by Theophrastus, translated by Arthur Fenton Hort
Book III: VII. Of other things borne by trees besides their leaves flowers and fruit.

Of other things borne by trees besides their leaves flowers and fruit.

Now, while other trees bear merely their own[1] fruit and the obvious parts which form annually, to wit, leaf flower and bud, some bear also catkins or tendrils, and some produce other things as well, for instance the elm its 'cluster' and the familiar bag-like thing,[2] the fig both the immature figs which drop off and (in some kinds) the untimely figs[3]—though perhaps in a sense[4] these should be reckoned as fruit. Again filbert produces its catkin,[5] kermes-oak its scarlet 'berry,'[6] and bay its 'cluster.'[7] The fruit-bearing sort of bay also produces this, or at all events[8] one kind certainly does so; however the sterile kind, which some call the 'male,' produces it in greater quantity. The fir again bears its 'tuft,'[9] which drops off.

[10]The oak however bears more things besides[11] fruit than any other tree; as the small gall[12] and other black resinous gall. Again it has another growth, like a mulberry in shape, but hard and difficult to break; this however is not common. It has also another growth like the penis in shape, which, when it is further developed, makes a hard prominence and has a hole through it. This to a certain extent resembles also a bull's head, but, when split open, it contains inside a thing shaped like the stone of an olive.[13] The oak also produces what some call the 'ball'; this is a soft woolly spherical object enclosing a small stone which is harder,[14] and men use it for their lamps for it burns well, as does the black gall. The oak also produces another hairy ball, which is generally useless, but in the spring season it is covered with a juice which is like honey both to touch and taste.

[15]Further the oak produces right inside the axil[16] of the branches another ball with no stalk or else[17] a hollow one; this is peculiar and of various colours: for the knobs which arise on it are whitish or black and spotted,[18] while the part between these is brilliant scarlet; but, when it is opened, it is black and rotten.[19] It also occasionally produces a small stone which more or less resembles pumice-stone; also, less commonly, there is a leaf-like ball, which is oblong and of close texture. Further the oak produces on the rib of the leaf a white transparent ball, which is watery, when it is young; and this sometimes contains flies: but as it develops, it becomes hard, like a small smooth gall.

Such are the growths which the oak produces as well as its fruit. For as for the fungi[20] which grow from the roots or beside them, these occur also in other trees. So too with the oak-mistletoe for this grows on other trees also. However, apart from that, the oak, as was said, produces more things than any other tree; and all the more so if, as Hesiod[21] says, it produces honey and even bees; however, the truth appears to be that this honey-like juice comes from the air and settles on this more than on other trees. They say also that, when the oak is burnt, nitre is produced from it. Such are the things peculiar to the oak.

  1. ἑαυτῶν conj. Sch. from G; αὐτὸν Ald.
  2. The leaf-gall, cf. 2. 8. 3; 3. 14. 1. For τοῦτο cf. 3. 18. 11; 4. 7. 1.
  3. Lat. grossi.cf. C.P. 5. 1. 8.
  4. τινὰ καρπὸς conj. Sch.; τινὰ ἄκαρπος UAld.
  5. cf. 3. 3. 8; 3. 5. 5.
  6. cf. 3. 16. 1.i.e. the kermes gall (whence Eng. 'crimson').
  7. βότρυον UMVAld., supported by G. and Plin. 16. 120; but some editors read βρύον on the strength of 3. 11. 4. and C.P. 2. 11. 4.
  8. ἀλλά τοι conj. W.; ἀλλά καὶ Ald.
  9. cf. 3. 3. 8 n.
  10. Plin. 16. 28.
  11. παοὰ conj. W., cf. §6; φέρει Ald.
  12. cf. 3. 5. 2.
  13. πυρῆνος ἐλάας ἰσοφυὲς conj. W.; πυρῆνος ἐλαίᾳ εἰρονφυην UMV; πυρῆνα ἐλαία εἰρουφύην
  14. περὶ πυρήνιον σκληρότερον I conj.; περὶ πυρηνίου σκληρότητα U; περὶ πυρηνίου σκληρότερον M; περιπυρηνίου σκληρότερον VAld. W. prints the reading of U. For πῖλος see Index.
  15. Plin. 16. 29.
  16. ἐνδοτέρω … μασχαλίδος conj. R. Const.; ἐντεριώνης τῶν ῥοπῶν μασχαλίδας UAld. Plin., l.c., gignunt et alae ramorum eius pilulas.
  17. ins. St.
  18. Plin., l.c., nigra varietate dispersa.
  19. ἐπίσαπρον; Plin., l.c., has apertis amara inanitas est, whence ἐπίπικρον conj. Sch.
  20. Plin. 16. 31.
  21. Hes. Op. 233.