Page:History of botany (Sachs; Garnsey).djvu/64

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44
[Book I.
Artificial Systems and Terminology of Organs

soul consists in producing something like itself, and this like has its origin in the food for maintaining the life of the individual, or in the seed for continuing the species, perfect plants have at most two parts, which are however of the highest necessity; one part called the root by which they procure food; the other by which they bear the fruit, a kind of foetus for the continuation of the species; and this part is named the stem ('caulis') in smaller plants, the trunk ('caudex') in trees.'

This in the main correct conception of the upright stem as the seed-bearer of the plant was also long maintained in botany. We should observe also that the production of the seed is spoken of as merely another kind of nutrition, a notion which afterwards prevented Malpighi from correctly explaining the flower and fruit, and in a modified form led Kaspar Friedrich Wolff in 1759 to a very wrong conception of the nature of the sexual function. The next sentence in Cesalpino takes us into the heart of the Aristotelian misinterpretation of the plant, according to which the root answers to the mouth or stomach, and must therefore be regarded in idea as the upper part although it is the lower in position, and the plant would have to be compared with an animal set on its head, and the upper and lower parts determined accordingly: 'this part (the root) is the nobler ('superior') because it is prior in origin and sunk in the ground; for many plants live by the roots only after the stem with the ripe seeds has disappeared; the stem is of less importance ('inferior') although it rises above the ground; for the excreta, if there are any, are given off by means of this part; it is, therefore, with plants as with animals as regards the expressions 'pars superior' and 'inferior.' When indeed we take into consideration the mode of nourishment, we must define the upper and the lower in another way; since in plants and animals the food mounts upward (for that which nourishes is light because it is carried upwards by the heat), it was necessary to place the roots below and to make the stem go straight upwards, for in animals also the veins are rooted in the lower part of the