Welsh, Toddaidd melyn. - French, Grassette. - German, Fett-kraut. - Dutch, Smeerblade.- Italian, Pinguicola. - Spa-nish, Grassila. - Portuguese, Grassetta. - Danish, Vibefit. - Swedish, Tetort.
In stagnant marshes, as I have before remarked,* the pinguieula rears its fragile and beautiful blos-soms. In the winter the leaves die away, and only little hybernating buds appear, but with the earliest spring these unfold amongst the dark jungerman-nice and lichens with which they grow, and the smooth shining leaves, of the brightest yet most delicate yellow green, make their appearance, spark-ling with the minutest dew-drops resting upon the point of the delicate hair-like gland, or pore, from which each drop exudes; and which, but for the presence of these, would be scarcely visible. I am not aware that amongst the numerous experiments which have been tried in order to ascertain the amount of exhalation in different plants, any have been made with the pinguieula; but it is certainly very considerable, for, if the finger be passed over the leaves, or flower-stems (on which last the dewy points are even more conspicuous), it receives from them a considerable quantity of moisture; and yet in two or three seconds the mark of its touch is quite effaced, and the dew-drops glisten again as before.
The stalks are crowned with a beautiful blossom, which, in the large-flowered butter-wort (P. grandiflora), and in the common butter-wort (P. vulgaris), are of the deepest and richest ame-thyst purple; while in the pale butter-wort (P. lu-sitanica) they are of a delicate lilac; and in the alpine butter-wort (P. alpina), a yellowish white, a colour made more decided by a tuft of deep yellow crystalline hairs* "which appears on the lower tip of the corolla." These four are the only species admitted as indigenous to the British Islands by Sir W. J. Hooker and Professor Balfour; but the "Edinburgh Catalogue" also gives a Pinguicula longicornis (Gay).
* See above, "Sundew".
AT BUTTERWORT. Pinguicula grandiflora.
London: Published by John Van Voorst1858 .
The corolla of the pinguicula is monopetalous, but is cleft into five deep and irregular segments, and has a lengthened spur at the back, from the upper side of which the stem springs, so that the blossom hangs suspended.
The P. grandifolia, as a reference to the en-graving will shew, is a handsome flower, whose rich purple is relieved by a broad patch, on the lower segment, of white traversed by purple lines, and densely clothed with soft hairs, the rest of the blossom being smooth. In the British Isles it is peculiar to Ireland; as the only British habitat of the P. alpina is Scotland. Even in Ireland the P. grandifolia is only known to occur at Kenmare, Cork, and Dingle Bay. It is by no means a com-mon plant anywhere, though growing freely in the above-named places, in the Pyrenees, and in some other congenial spots.
* Hooker, "British Flora." Loudon says they are white, but this must be a mistake.
The alpine butter-wort (P. alpina), is extremely rare even in Scotland, the only recorded localities for it being the Isle of Skye, and the bogs of Augh-terilow and Shannon, in Ross-shire. The fourth re-maining species, the pale butter-wort (P. lusitanica), though abundant in Ireland, the Hebrides, and the extreme north of Scotland, gradually lessens in fre-quency as we retire from the western coasts, and is unknown in the eastern counties of England.*
The botanical name of the pinguicula takes its rise from the unctuous sensation imparted by the leaves, arising from the somewhat glutinous secre-tion already described as exuding from the pores; being derived from the Latin word pinguis, fat. The German, French, Italian, Spanish, and other names, have also a similar origin; and so, undoubtedly, has the English name of butter-wort, but not as learned botanists and other high authorities have supposed, because the plant is used to curdle milk instead of rennet; for I beg to take a woman's privilege, and to suggest that even though the greater portion of butter contained in any quantity of milk may pass into the cheese produced from its curd, it is not more usual to make butter by a curdling process than it is to make cheese in a churn!
* These localities are given from the "British Flora," of Sir W. J. Hooker.
In some parts of England the plant is known by the names of Sheeprot or Rotgrass, which have evi-dently been bestowed upon it from the circumstance of its abounding in lands which are prejudicial to that animal. Yet it would not appear that the pin-guicula itself is to blame, as it is stated, on good authority, that neither sheep nor any other herbivo-rous animal will eat it. Gerarde calls it "Yorkshire sanicle." The Welsh name Toddaidd melyn, signi-fying yellow sap, is given to it from the bright yel-low stain produced on paper or any other material by its juice. Old herbalists employed it, as the Welsh peasants still do, as a cathartic medicine: thus practically disproving the general opinion that plants of the order Lentibulariaceae have no percep-tible qualities; an idea which may be dispelled by biting a leaf of the butter-wort, which is very bitter and acid, and leaves a burning sensation in the throat for several hours. Its mucilaginous exuda-tion is, however, perfectly insipid. Gerarde recom-mends the plant for chapped or fractured skins; and an allusion has been already made to its use as rennet, but though it may perfectly answer the pur-pose with the milk of cows, it appears to act very differently on that of the rein-deer; for Linnseus tells us, that when the fresh warm milk is poured on the leaves, and permitted to remain for a day or two, it acquires a tenacious consistency, in which neither the whey nor cream separate; when treated in this way, it becomes slightly acid, and is much valued by the Norwegians and Swedes as an article of food.
The butter-wort, in common with many marsh plants, curiously exemplifies the interesting subject of vegetable irritability. If the flower-stalks be rudely touched or struck, the heads, which from their own weight have drooped forward, gradually and with a perceptible movement, erect themselves until at length they sometimes actually lean backwards. So sensitive under some conditions is the whole plant, that if a flower be gathered, all the remain-ing stalks bend backwards and form the "segment of a circle," and the leaves close down, forming almost a ball; yet this extreme irritability does not always exist, as I have frequently, and in vain, tried to produce the last phenomenon. It is, however, attributed to it by botanists.