Enquiry into Plants/Volume 1/Chapter 37

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Enquiry into Plants by Theophrastus, translated by Arthur Fenton Hort
Book III: VIII. Of 'male' and 'female' in trees: the oak as an example of this and other differences.

Of 'male' and 'female' in trees: the oak as an example of this and other differences.

VIII. [1]Taking, as was said, all trees according to their kinds, we find a number of differences. Common to them all is that by which men distinguish the 'male' and the 'female,' the latter being fruit-bearing, the former barren in some kinds. In those kinds in which both forms are fruit-bearing the 'female' has fairer and more abundant fruit; however some call these the 'male' trees—for there are those who actually thus invert the names. This difference is of the same character as that which distinguishes the cultivated from the wild tree, while other differences distinguish different forms of the same kind; and these we must discuss,[2] at the same time indicating the peculiar forms, where these are not[3] obvious and easy to recognise.

[4]Take then the various kinds of oak; for in this tree men recognise more differences than in any other. Some simply speak of a cultivated and a wild kind, not recognising any distinction made by the sweetness of the fruit; (for sweetest is that of the kind called Valonia oak, and this they make the wild kind), but distinguishing the cultivated kind by its growing more commonly on tilled land and having smoother timber, while the Valonia oak has rough wood and grows in mountain districts. Thus some make four kinds, others five. They also in some cases vary as to the names assigned; thus the kind which bears sweet fruit is called by some hemeris, by others 'true oak.' So too with other kinds. However, to take the classification given by the people of Mount Ida, these[5] are the kinds: hemeris (gall-oal), aigilops (Turkey-oak), 'broad-leaved' oak (scrub oak), Valonia oak, sea-bark oak, which some call 'straight-barked' oak. [6]All these bear fruit; but the fruits of Valonia oak are the sweetest, as has been said; second to these those of hemeris (gall-oak), third those of the 'broad-leaved' oak (scrub oak), fourth sea-bark oak, and last aigilops (Turkey-oak), whose fruits are very bitter. [7]However the fruit is not always sweet in the kinds specified as such[8]; sometimes it is bitter, that of the Valonia oak for instance. There are also differences in the size shape and colour of the acorns. Those of Valonia oak and sea-bark oak are peculiar; in both of these kinds on what are called the 'male' trees the acorns become stony at one end or the other; in one kind this hardening takes place in the end which is attached to the cup, in the other in the flesh itself.[9] Wherefore, when the cups are taken off, we find a cavity like the visceral cavities in animals.[10]

[11]There are also differences in leaves trunk timber and general appearance. Hemeris (gall-oak) is not straight-growing nor smooth nor tall, for its growth is very leafy[12] and twisted, with many side-branches, so that it makes a low much-branched tree: its timber is strong, but not so strong as that of the Valonia oak, for that is the strongest and the least liable to rot. This[13] kind too is not straight-growing, even less so than the hemeris (gall-oak), but the trunk is very thick, so that the whole appearance is stunted; for in growth this kind too is very leafy[12] and not erect. The aigilops (Turkey oak) is the straightest growing and also the tallest and smoothest, and its wood, cut lengthways, is the strongest. It does not grow on tilled land, or very rarely.

The 'broad-leaved' oak (scrub oak)[14] comes second as to straightness of growth and length of timber to be got from it, but for use in building it is the worst next after the sea-bark oak, and it is even poor wood for burning and making charcoal, as is also that of the sea-bark oak, and next after this kind it is the most worm-eaten. For the sea-bark oak has a thick trunk, but it is generally spongy and hollow when it is thick; wherefore it is useless for building. Moreover it rots very quickly, for the tree contains much moisture and that is why it also becomes; and that is why it also becomes hollow; and some say that it is the only[15] oak which has no heart. And some of the Aeolians say that these are the only oaks which are struck by lightning, although they are not lofty; nor do they use the wood for their sacrifices.Such then are the differences as to timber and general appearance.

[16]All the kinds produce galls, but only hemeris (gall-oak) produces one which is of use for tanning hides. That of aigilops (Turkey-oak) and that of the 'broad-leaved' oak (scrub oak) are in appearance like that of hemeris (gall-oak), but smoother and useless. This also produces the other gall, the black kind, with which they dye wool. The substance which some call tree-moss and which resembles rags[17] is borne only by the aigilops (Turkey-oak); it is grey and rough[18] and hangs down for a cubit's length, like a long shred of linen. This grows from the bark and not from the knob[19] whence the acorn starts; nor does it grow from an eye, but from the side of the upper boughs. The sea-bark oak also produces this, but it is blackish[20] and short.

Thus the people of Mount Ida distinguish. But the people of Macedonia make four kinds, 'true-oak,' or the oak which bears the sweet acorns, 'broad-leaved' oak (scrub oak), or that which bears the bitter ones, Valonia oak, or that which bears the round ones, and aspris[21] (Turkey-oak); [22]the last-named some say is altogether without fruit, some say it bears poor fruit, so that no animal eats it except the pig, and only he when he can get no others, and that after eating it the pig mostly gets an affection of the head.[23] The wood is also wretched; when hewn with the axe it is altogether useless, for it breaks in pieces and falls asunder; if it is not hewn with the axe it is better, wherefore they so use it. [24]It is even wretched for burning and for making charcoal; for the charcoal is entirely useless except to the smith, because it springs about and emits sparks. But for use in the smithy it is more serviceable than the other kinds, since, as it goes out when it ceases to be blown, little of it is consumed. [25]The wood of the sea-bark oak is only useful for wheel-axles and the like purposes.Such are the varieties of the oak[26] which men make out.

  1. Plin. 16. 16.
  2. λεκτέον add. Sch.
  3. μὴ conj. St.; μήτε Ald.H.
  4. Plin. 16. 16 and 17.
  5. See Index, δρῶς and ἡμερίς.ἡμερίς, lit. 'cultivated oak.'
  6. Plin. 16. 20.
  7. Plin. 16. 19—21.
  8. οὐχ … ἐνίοτε conj. W.; text defective in Ald. H.
  9. i.e. at the 'top' end; πρὸς: ? ἐν, πρὸς being repeated by mistake.
  10. ζώων MSS.; ὠῶν conj. Palm.
  11. Plin. 16. 22.
  12. 12.0 12.1 i.e. of bushy habit.
  13. Plin. 16. 23 and 24.
  14. αὕτη conj. Sch.; αὐτὴ UAld.
  15. μόνῃ conj. St.; μόνῃν Ald. H.
  16. Plin. 16. 26.
  17. φάσκον … ῥακίοις conj. Sch.(ῥακίοις Salm.): φάσκος ὅμοιος τοῖς βραχείοις UP2; φάσκον ὁμοίως τοῖς βραγχίοις Ald.H. Plin. 16. 33, cf. 12. 108; Diosc. 1. 20; Hesych. s.v. φάσκος
  18. τραχὺ conj. W.; βραχὺ UP.
  19. κορύνης.cf. 3. 5. 1.
  20. ἐπίμελαν τοῦτο φύει conj. Scal.; ἐπιμ. τοῦτο φύσει U; ἐπὶ μελίαν τοῦτο φύει MVAld.
  21. See Index.
  22. Plin. 16. 24.
  23. περικεφαλαίᾳ: apparently the name of a disease.
  24. Plin. 16. 23.
  25. τὸ δὲ … τοιαῦτα: this sentence seems out of place, as ἁλίφλοιος was not one of the 'Macedonian' oaks mentioned above (Sch.).
  26. T. describes πρῖνος σμῖλαξ, and φελλόδρυς in 3. 16, φελλός in 3. 17. 1.