Gardeners Dictionary: Rhamnus

Gardeners Dictionary:
containing The Best and Newest Methods of Cultivating and Improving The Kitchen, Fruit, Flower Garden, and Nursery; As also for Performing the Practical Parts of Agriculture: Including The Management of Vineyards, With the Methods of Making and Preserving Wine, According to the present Practice of The most skilful Vignerons in the several Wine Countries in Europe.

Together with Directions for propagating and improving, From real Practice and Experience, All sorts of Timber Trees.

The Eight Edition,
Revised and Altered according to the latest System of Botany; and Embellished with several Copper-Plates, which were not in some former Editions.

By Philip Miller, F. R. S.
Gardener tothe Worshipdul Company of Apothecaries, at their Botanic Garden in Chelsea, and Member of the Botanic Academy at Florence.

Printed for the Author;

(Lontoo 1768)

RHAMNUS. Tourn. Inst. R. H. 593. tab. 633. Lin. Gen. Plant. 235. the Buckthorn; in French, Nerprun.

It hath male and female flowers on different plants; these have no empalements according to some, nor petals according to others. The cover of the sexes is funnel-shaped, and cut into four parts at the top, which spread open. The male flowers have five stamina the length of the tube, terminated by small summits. The female flowers have a roundish germen, supporting a short style, crowned by a quadrisid stigma. The germen afterward becomes a roundish berry, inclosing four hard seeds.

This genus of plants is ranged in the first section of Linnæus's fifth class, which contains those plants whose flowers have five stamina and one style; but according to his system, it should be placed in the first section of his twenty-second class; but as he has joined to this enus the Frangula, Paliurus, Alaternus, and Ziziphus of Tournefort, so to comprehend them all he has placed them in his fifth class, which had much better be kept separate.

The SPECIES are,

1. RHAMNUS (Catharticus) floribus axillaribus, foliis ovato-lanceolatis serratis nervosis. Buckthorn with flowers proceeding from the sides of the branches, and oval, spear-shaped, sawed, veined leaves. Rhamnus catharticus. C. B. P. 478. Purging or common Blackthorn.

2. RHAMNUS (Minor) floribus axillaribus, foliis ovatis acuminatis nercosis integerrimis. Buckthorn with flowers proceeding from the sides of the branches, and oval, acute-pointed, entire leaves, having veins. Rhamnus catharticus minor. C. B. P. 478. Smaller purging or common Buckthorn, commonly called Dwarf Rhamnus.

3. RHAMNUS (Longifolia) foliis lanceolatis, floribus axillaribus. Buckthorn with spear-shaped leaves, and flowers growing from the sides of the stalks. Thamnus catharticus minor, folio longiori. Tourn. Inst. 593. Smaller purging Buckthorn with a longer leaf.

4. RHAMNUS (Africana) foliis cuneiformibus confertis perennantibus, floribus corymbosis alaribus. Buckthorn with wedge-shaped evergreen leaves growing in clusters, and flowers growing in roundish bunches from the sides of the branches. Rhamnus Afer, folio pruni longiore subrotundo, flore candicante, spinis longissimis. Boerh. Ind. alt. 212. African Buckthorn with a longer roundish Plum leaf, a very white flower, and long spines.

The first sort grows naturally in the hedges in many parts of England; it rises with a strong woody stalk to the height of twelve or fourteen feet, sending out many irregular branches; the young shoots have a smooth, grayish, brown bark, and are armed with a few short thorns. The leaves stand upon pretty long slender foot-stalks; they are of the oval spear-shape, about two inches and a half long, and one and a quarter broad, slightly sawed on their edges, of a dark green on their upper side, but of a pale or light green on their under, having a pretty strong midrib, and several veins proceeding from it, which diverge toward the sides, but meet again near the point of the leaf. The flowers come out in clusters from the side of the branches; those of the male have as many stamina as there are divisions in the petal; those of the female have a roundish germen, which afterward turns to a pulpy berry of a roundish form, inclosing four hard seeds. It flowers in June, and the berries ripen in autumn.

The berries of this are used in medicine; for with them there is a purging syrup made, called Syrupus è spina cervina, or syrup of Buckthorn; which is reckoned a good medicine to purge watery humours, and against the dropsy, jaundice, itch, and all manner of eruptions on the skin: of late years, the people who supply the market with these berries, have mixed several other sorts with them, so that when the syrup is made by persons who have not skill to distinguish the berries, it is often very bad; so that two ounces of the syrup of one shop will not purge so well as one from another, which has brought this medicine into disrepute with many persons. These berries may be easily known by examining their seeds, to see if there are four in each, and also by rubbing the juice upon white paper, which it will stain of a green colour.

From the juice of these berries is made a very fine green colour, called by the French Verd-de-vessie, which is much esteemed by the painters in miniature. The second sort grows naturally in the south of France; this is and humble shrub, seldom rising more than three feet high, sending out many irregular branches, covered with a dark brown bark, garnished with oval leaves ending in acute points; they are about three quarters of an inch long, and half an inch broad in the widest part, which is near the base; they are of a yellowish green, and a thin consistence, having several veins diverging from the midrib toward the sides, which converge again toward the point. The flowers come out upon small cursons or spurs on the side of the branches, each standing upon a separate short foot-stalk; they are of a yellowish herbaceous colour, having short swelling tubes, and are cut into five acute segments at the top, which spread open; they appear in June, but are not succeeded by berries here.

Mr. Dy Hamel de Monceaux, of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, says, that the fruit of this species gathered green is the Grain d'Avignon, or Avignon berries, which are used in dyeing of yellow; but I have been assured by a gentleman of skill, who resided long in the south of Grance, that the Avignon berries were the fruit of narrow-leaved Alaternus; and in order to be better satisfied of the truth, I gathered a quantity of the berries of the narrow-leaved Alaternus before they were full ripe, and carried them to two eminent dealers in this commodity, and asked them if they knew what these berries were; they both assured me, after making trial of them, that they were Avignon berries, and if I had a large quantity of them, they would purchase them all: therefore, as the Alarenus before-mentioned is one of the most common shrubs in the south of France, from whence the Avignon berries are brought, we may suppose Mr. du Hamel has been ill informed.

The third sort grows naturally in Spain and Italy; this grows to a larger size than the second, but not so high as the first. The branches are stronger, and are armed with a few long spines; the leaves are like those of the wild Plum, but are a little longer and narrower; the flowers are small, of a yellowish colour, and are produced from the side of the branches; these appear in June, but are not succeeded by berries in this country.

The first sort is so common in the hedges in many parts of England, that it is seldom cultivated in gardens; this rises easily from seeds, if they are sown in autumn soon after the berries are ripe; but, if they are kept out of the ground till spring, the plants will not come up till the year after; these will require no particular treatment, but may be managed in the same way as young Crabs, or any other hardy deciduous tree; it may also be propagated by cuttings or layers. If the young shoots are layed in autumn, when they may be taken off from the plants, and either planted in a nursery to remain there to get strength for a year or two, or they may be planted where they are designed to remain. This is not so proper for hedges as the Hawthorn or Crab, so those should be preferred to it. The second and third sorts are preserved in botanic gardens for the sake of variety; but as they are not beautiful, few persons cultivate them here, especially as these do not produce fruit in England. They may be propagated either by laying down the young branches in autumn, or by planting the cuttings in the spring, befode the buds begin to swell. These will put out roots in the same manner as the common sort, and may be treated in the same way, for they are both hardy plants, and will thrive in the open air. The fourth sort grows naturally at the Cape of Good Hope, so is too tender to thrive in the open air in England; but if it is placed in a common green-house with Myrtles, Olives, and the hardier kinds of exotic plants in winter, and removed to the open air in summer, it will thrive very well. This rises with a shrubby stalk to the height of four or five feet, sending out many side branches, which, when young, are covered with a green bark, but as they advance, the bark changes to a dark brown; they are armed with a few long slender thorns, and garnished with wedge-shaped leaves, which come out in clusters at each joint, four, five, or six rising from the same point, which differ in size, the largest being about an inch long, and three quarters broad, and the smallest about hald as large; they are of a deep green, and continue all the year; their points are broad and rounded, growing narrower to their base, sitting close to the branches. The flowers are produced on the side of the branches at each joint; they are collected into roundish bunches, standing upon foot-stalks an inch long; they are white, and have short tubes; their upper part is cut into five acute segments, which spread open in form of a star. These appear in June, at which time the whole shrub seems covered with flowers, so as to make a fine appearance; and as the leaves continue green all the year, it deserves a place where there is a conveniency to shelter them in winter.

This sort has not as yet produced seeds in England, but it may be easily propagated by cuttings, which sould b e planted in pots filled with loamy earth the beginning of April. The pots should be plunged into a moderate hot-bed, and the cuttings should be shaded from the sun in the heat of the day; they must also be sprinkled with water two or three times a week, according as the earth in the pot dries, but they must by no means have too much wet. These cuttings will put out roots in two month, and soon after will begin to make shoots at the top; then they must have a large share of air admitted to them, and gradually inured to bear the open air, into which they should be soon after removed; and when they are well hardened, they may be shaken out of the pots, and separated, being careful to preserve a ball of earth to each, and plant them into single pots filled with soft loamy earth, placing them in the shade till they have taken new root; then they may be removed into a sheltered situation, where they amy remain till the forst comes on in autumn, at which time they must be housed, and treated in the same way as the other hardier kinds of green-house plants.

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