The Universal Herbal: Erica Vulgaris; Common Heath.

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.
Corollas bell-shaped, almost equal; calices double; the inner longer than the corolla; leaves sagittate, imbricate in four rows. Common heath is a foot or two in height, or more; the stems brown and woody, very much branched; the branches in opposite pairs, mostly upright, round, downy, and reddish; the branchlets square; flowers solitary, on peduncles the length of the leaves, from the sides of the branches, slightly nodding, opposite, but generally pointing one way, giving the branches the appearance of long bunches, but leafy shoots will be always found at the end. The inner or proper calix consists also of four oval-oblong concave leaflets, slightly adhering at the base, alternating with the segments of the corolla, of the same colour, and nearly of the same texture with them, five times as long as the outer calix, open, but after flowering approaching with the points bent in. We may here observe a curious instance of the gradual transition from the green herbaceous leaves of the stem, to the more delicate texture of the corolla, which is of a pale purplish rose-colour, whitish towards the base, divided two-thirds of the way down into four, sometimes five, ovate, blunt, equal, open segments; filamenta awl-shaped, double, to and fro towards the point, white, or tinged with purple, springing from small glands at the base of the germen. It varies with white flowers, and with hoary leaves, and is common on Bagshot Heath, Enville Common in Staffordshire, Birmingham Heath, and, as Ray says, not only about Windsor, where Clusius observed it, but all over England. This plant, which is little regarded in warmer cli mates, is made to serve a great variety of purposes in the bleak and barren Highlands of Scotland, and other northern countries. The poorer inhabitants cover their cabins with it instead of thatch, or else twist it into ropes, with which they bind down the thatch in a kind of lattice-work. They also form walls with alternate layers of heath, and a sort of cement made of black earth and straw, and these hardy people have even been known to make their beds of it. In most of the Western Isles they dye their yarn of a yellow colour, by boiling it in water with the green tops and flowers of this plant; and woollen cloth boiled in alum-water, and afterwards in a strong decoction of the tops, comes out a fine orange colour; and in some of those islands they tan their leather with a strong decoction of it. Formerly the young tops are said to have been used alone to brew a kind of ale; and Boethius relates that this liquor was much used by the Picts; and inseveral of the isles it is said that they still brew ale with one part malt, and two parts of the young tops of heath, some times adding hops. In many parts of Great Britain, besoms are made of it, and the turf, with heath growing upon it, is cut up, and dried for the fuel of the cottager, heating ovens, covering under-ground drains, &c. Sheep and goats will sometimes eat the tender shoots, but are not fond of them. Cattle not accustomed to browse on heath give bloody milk, but are soon cured by drinking plentifully of water. The branches of heath afford shelter, and the seeds a principal part of the food of many birds, especially those of the grouse kind; and for this purpose the seed-vessel is formed and protected in such a manner, that the seeds are preserved a whole year, or even longer. Bees collect largely from the flowers, and honey made from them was anciently supposed to be of a bad quality, but in fact it is only of a darker colour. The foliage affords nourishment to the phalaenaquercus, or great egger moth. Dodder frequently entwines itself about this plant, and gives it a singular appearance. Meyrick says, that a water distilled from the flowers is a good application to in flamed eyes; and an oil made from them is reported to be of great efficacy in curing the shingles, and other cutaneous eruptions. Almost every part of Europe abounds with heath, especially the northern countries, it is also common in all the temperate parts of the vast Russian dominions: it is called ling in some parts of England; grig, in Shropshire; and ha. ther in Scotland; though it is remarkable that Shakspeare enumerates heath and ling as quite different plants; the for mer of these names is derived from the German heide, and the latter from the German lyng. The Swedes call it liung; the Italians, erica; the Spaniards, brego; the Portuguese, urze, erice, torga, or estorga; and the Russians, weresk. Common heath, which overruns immense tracts, especially in the elevated parts of northern countries, can only be effec tually extirpated by paring and burning. In some lands deep and cross ploughings, getting up roots with heavy harrows, burning the whole, and spreading the ashes, may be sufficient. Dr. Anderson affirms, that wherever heath abounds, there is generated, by the rooting of the plant, a peculiar black earth, that is not only sterile of itself, but has a power ful tendency to make any other soil unproductive, so that in improving heathy grounds, the top soil should be buried by trenching or deep ploughing. Notwithstanding the common ness of our British heaths, they deserve a place in small quar ters of humble flowering shrubs, where, by the beauty and long continuance of their flowers, together with the diversity of their leaves, they make an agreeable variety. The first, twenty-third, thirty-sixth, and eightieth species, may be taken up with a ball of earth growing to their roots, from the natu ral places of their growth, in autumn; the soil should not be dunged, and the less the ground is dug, the better they will thrive, for they commonly shoot their roots near the surface. They may also be propagated by seeds, but this is a tedious method.

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