The Universal Herbal: Cactus Cochinillifer; Cochineal Indian Fig.

The Universal Herbal;
or botanical, medical and agricultural dictonary.
Containing an account of All the known Plants in the World, arranged according to the Linnean system. Specifying the uses to which they are or may be applied, whether as food, as medicine, or in the arts and manufactures.
With the best methods of propagation, and the most recent agricultural improvements.
collected from indisputable Authorities.
Adapted to the use of the farmer - the gardener - the husbandman - the botanist - the florist - and country housekeepers in general.
By Thomas Green.
Vol. I
Printed at the Caxton Press by Henri Fisher.
Printer in Ordinary to His Majesty.
Prolierous-jointed; joints ovate, oblong, almost unarmed. — This, which is supposed to be the plant upon which the cochineal insect feeds, has oblong, smooth, upright branches, rising to the height of eight or ten feet, having scarcely any spines on them, and the few which there are, so soft as not to be troublesome when handled. The flowers are small, and of a purple colour; they do not spread open, appear late in autumn with us, and the fruit drops off in winter without coming to perfection. The cochineal insect feeds on many succulent plants, but most commonly on the Cactus genus. For this reason the Indians propagate large quantities of the most harmless species, to breed the insects upon; Dampier's account of which is as follows, “The plant on which the cochineal insect feeds is like the prickly pear, about five feet high, and as prickly, only the leaves are not quite so large, although the fruit is larger: on the top of the fruit there grows a red flower; this, when the fruit is ripe, falls down on the top of it, and covers it so that no rain or dew can wet the inside. A day or two after, the flowers being scorched up by the heat of the sun, the fruit opens wide, and the inside appears full of small red insects. The Indians, when they perceive the fruit open, spread a large linen cloth, and then with sticks shake the plant, to disturb the insects, so that they take wing to begone, but keep hovering over the plant, till by the heat they fall down dead on the cloth, where they let them remain two or three days to dry. The cochineal plants are called toona by the Spaniards. They are planted in the country about Guatimala, Cheapo, and Guaxaca, in the kingdom of Mexico. The difference in point of goodness, observable in the cochineal, is entirely owing to the plant it feeds upon. The prickly pear, or cactus tuna, so abundant in Jamaica, is covered with the insects, but not having their proper food, they are in general diminutive, and have very little red tincture in their bodies; these plants bear a succulent fruit at their extremities, filled with a delicate red-coloured juice; this is the natural food of the insect; the exuviae and animal salts of the insect are, from the minuteness of its parts, inseparable from the essential principles of the dye, and must diminish the brilliancy of the colour: and this has put some persons upon inspissating the juice of the fruit itself. The fruit, when ripe, is said to check fluxes by its mild restringency; it is also a powerful diuretic, and sometimes imparts a tinge to the urine.

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