The British Cyclopaedia: Bignonoaceæ (the trumpet-flower family).

The British Cyclopaedia
of the arts, sciences, history, geography, literature, natural history and biography; copiously illustrated by engravings on wood and steel by eminent artists.
Edited by Charles F. Partington, professor of mechanical philosphy, author of various works on natural and experimental philosophy, &c., assisted by authors of eminence in the various departments of science.
Complete in ten volumes.
Volume VI.
Natural history.
London: WM. S. Orr and Co., Amen Corner, Paternoster Row.
A natural order of dicotyledonous plants, containing about a dozen genera, and nearly one hundred species. The order is very closely allied to the Pedalineae and Cyrtandraeae, and bears a considerable affinity to the Scrophularinae and Acanthaceae. Its essential characters are — calyx monophyllous, divided or entire, sometimes in the form of a sheath; corolla monopetalous, hypogynous, frequently irregular; stamens five; anthers two-celled; ovary surrounded with a glandular disk, generally two-celled, and many-seeded; one style; stigma formed of two plates; capsule superior, two-celled and two-valved; seeds compressed, often winged, not provided with albumen.

The plants included in this order are trees or shrubs, frequently twining or climbing, and inhabiting the tropical regions of both heumispheres. Virginia and Japan are said to be the farthest points to which they recede from the equator, and none of the species are found in Europe. They are much cultivated and prized on account of their beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers, and their broad pinnated leaves. They are propagated by cuttings or layers, sometimes by seeds. Their properties are scarcely known. The wood of some of the species is said to resist the attack of worms.

The chief genus, and that which gives name to the order, is Bignonia, or trumpet-flower. It contains numerous species, most of which are highly ornamental. The name Bignonia was given in honour of the Abbé John Paul Bignon, who was librarian to Louis XIV., and a particular friend of the celebrated botanist Tournefort. Bignonia grandifolia, gigantic-leaved trumpet-flower, is a rapid-growing climber, found in the province of Caraccas, in South America. Its flowers are of a deep, bright-yellow colour, and its leaves are occasionally a foot and a half long, and nine inches broad. Bignonia venusta, welted trumpet-flower, is a climbing shrub of Rio Janeiro, producing flowers of a vivid orange-vermilion colour.

The bitter juice and tender shoots of Bignonia leucozylon, or white-wood of Jamaica, are supposed to be an antidote against the poisonous juice of the manchineel. Bignonia telfairiae is cultivated in Madagascar for the sake of its fleshy fruit, which has an agreeable flavour, and is prized as an article of food. The leaves of Bignonia chica yield by decoction a red resinous-like matter, called chica, which is used by dyers, and is employed by the Indians of Rio Meta and Qrinoco to paint their bodies red. In commerce it is met with in the form of round cakes, five or six inches in diameter, and two or three inches thick. To cotton, it imparts an orange-red colour. The tough shoots of Bignonia heterophylla, or chirire, a native of Guiana, are woven as wicker-work. The leaves of Bignonia Indica are deemed emollient. Several species of bignonia found in Brazil, yield excellent timber, used in the construc tion of houses and ships, as well as in the manufac ture of bows.

Tecoma, formerly Bignonia radicans, is a hardy climbing plant of great beauty, which ascends the tallest trees and the highest rocks, and is capable of being reared in the open air in this country against a wall. Iacaranda, another genus of the order, furnishes species remarkable for the elegance of their foliage, and their beautiful blue or purple flowers.

Catalpa syringifolia, an American tree belonging to this order, furnishes a most useful and durable wood. This tree sometimes attains a height of fifty feet, with a diameter of a foot and a half or two feet. Its leaves are very large, while its flowers are showy and white with violet and yellow spots. Its bark, which is of a silver-grey colour, is said to be tonic and stimulant. Honey collected from the flowers is said to be poisonous. An old catalpa exists in Grays Inn Gardens, which is reported to have been planted by Lord Bacon. Catalpa longissima is a most important timber tree found in the West Indies. The French call it Chéne noir, or black oak.

The root of Spathodea longiflora has an agreeable taste, and, along with the fragrant flowers of the tree, is used in some parts of India, in the form of infusion, as a cooling drink in fevers. The purple sweet smelling flowers are considered by the Hindoos as acceptable to their gods, and are offered by them in their temples.

The genus Eccremocarpus differs from the other genera in this order, in having a single-celled ovary and capsule. The remaining genera are Amphilobium, Fieldia, Chilopsis, Calampelis, and Streptocarpus.

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