Welsh, Mwg-yr-ddaear. - French, Fumeterre. - German, Erd-rauch. - Dutch, Duivekervel. - Italian, Fumosterno. - Spanish, Fuma-ria, Palomica, Palomilla. - Portuguese, Fuma-ria. - Russian, Semlanjaorech.
The zeal and learning of Mr. T. J. Pettigrew has presented to us an old English medical manuscript preserved in the royal library at Stockholm; which, being traced back to the fourteenth century, appears to be based, as he remarks, on the celebrated "Regi-men Sanitatis," or "Schola Salernitana," a poetical compendium of the "healing craft," which is be-lieved to have been composed in the eleventh cen-tury by the celebrated physician, John of Milan, as a "system of health" for Robert, Duke of Nor-mandy; and based on the far more ancient poem, "De virtutibus Herbarum," of Odo, or AEmilius, Macer. This manuscript gives the following ac-count of the manifold virtues of the fumitory.
"Fumiter is erbe, I say, Yt spryngyth i April et [and] in May,
In feld, in town, in yard, et gate,
Yer [where] lond is fat and good in state,
Dun red is his flour,
Ye erbe smek [smoke] lik in eolowur [colour];
Ageyn feuerys cotidian,
And ageyn feuerys tertyen,
And agey feuerys quartey,
It is medicy soueregn.
Ye fyrste ix dayis of May,
Zif it be dronkyn day be day,
Be it child, woman or man,
Yt zese ye feurys nozt meche schall han,
It drywyth awey foule nutrures,
And distroith ye morphe: [Morphew, sunburn?]
And disposing to ye lepre".
But these are, by no means, all the medicinal pro-perties with which it was formerly supposed to be endowed. Great was its value as an anti-scorbutic, for which purpose the expressed juice was sold in the shops, while it was no less beneficial, in the language of the period, "for all obstructions of the viscera;" so that Burton, in his "Anatomy of Me-lancholy," speaks of it as a plant "not to be omitted by those who are mis-affected with melancholy, be-cause it will much help and ease the spleen".
Sir John Hill, in his "Herbal," recommends the leaves of fumitory to be smoked as a remedy for "disorders of the head;" and in more modern days the late Dr. Cullen, who paid great atten-tion to the qualities of our native plants, recom-mended a decoction of fumitory in affections of the liver. His recommendation, which might almost be supposed to be based on the injunction of old Tusser, -
"Get water of fumitory, liver to cool, And others the like, or. else go like a fool!" brought the plant (which is well known to be bitter, diaphoretic, and slightly aperient), into rather gene-ral use; but it is now, I believe, forgotten again, though it yet lingers as one of the "simples" of the wonderful old woman who usually forms the medi-cal oracle of a retired country village.
Clare, too, in one of his pastoral poems writes a commentary on the lines of the manuscript which I have quoted:-
"It drywyth away fowle nutrures, And distroith ye morphe And disposing to ye lepre," when he speaks of,
* * " Fumitory, too, a name
Which superstition holds to fame; Whose red and purple mottled flowers Are cropped by maids in weeding hours, To boil in water, milk, or whey, For washes on a holiday, To make their beauty fair and sleek, And scare the tan from summer's cheek".
Well has he said that superstition holds the name to fame; for the appellation, the fume, or smoke of the earth (Fumus terrce), which, as will be per-ceived, is common to almost all the European languages, arises from the following extraordinary fable of the origin of the plant, recorded in the "Grete Herbale," a work which, bearing the date 1516, was the first book on plants ever printed in England. The plant is there affirmed to be "engendered of a coarse fumosity rising from the earth;" and the process by which this fume takes the form of the plant is thus in the most matter-of-fact manner described: "This gross, or coarse fumo-sity of the earth, windeth and wrieth about, and by working of the air and sun is turned into this herb." The idea almost excels the "plastic" theory of old geologists, and seems to have arisen from the very sudden appearance of the plant in rich and newly-ploughed lands where it has not before been seen, which - though only analogous to other instances of certain plants occurring suddenly in new localities, or under peculiar circumstances - joined with the smoke-like smell it emits when bruised, and with its exceedingly rapid growth, might readily incline minds (to which the dreams of the alchymist were as substantial realities), to re-gard it as a something not quite coming within the compass of the rules by which more ordinary plants are governed; and to represent it as rising from a vapour, much in the way that the famous Polish doctor, of Cracow, as we are informed by the French physician, Joseph du Chesne Le Sieur de la Vio-lette raised up plants from their ashes by means of his chemical expertness.
As, however, some of my readers may not be acquainted with the doings of these wonderful men, I cannot refrain from laying before them the whole account, as related by Bayle, who, in his dictionary, quotes from Gaffarel: be-lieving that such amongst them as are inclined to "poetise or moralise" will thank me for drawing their attention to a story so overflowing with the elements of both pursuits. This Polish physician, who was the friend of the Sieur de la Violette, kept, as he tells us, the ashes of almost every plant bottled up in phials; and when he wished to produce any particular flower, he simply held its ashes over a lighted taper. The warmth thus gently communicated soon caused a movement in the phial; shewing the applicability of the following line to vegetable structures;
"E'en in their ashes live their wonted fires;" for soon, in the quaint language of our author, "one could perceive a small, dark, cloud, which dividing itself into little parcels, came at last to represent a rose (or whatever plant might be under experi-ment), so fine, so fresh, so perfect, that one would have thought it could be handled, and must smell like one that is pluckt from the rose-tree." The Sieur de la Violette, as he himself tells us, became very desirous to perform similar prodigies; for some time, however, all his experiments failed, until, at length, in making some chance experiments on the salts drawn from the ashes of burnt nettles, he exposed them to the dew in winter. In the morn-ing he found them frozen, but "with this wonder-ful circumstance, that the species of the nettles, their form and figure, were so naturally and perfectly delineated upon the ice, that they seemed to be true nettles." Du Chesne, continues the account, was "overjoyed" at a success, "the excellency of which made him cry out in these words: 'Secret dont on comprend que, quoyque le corps meme manque, les formes sont pourtantaux cendres leur demeure.' " An exclamation which we cannot but acknowledge to have been moderate enough under the circum-stances.
This physician died in the year 1609, but the narrator informs us, that in his own time the expe-riment was far more common, being shewn "every day" by M. de Claves, "one of the most eminent chymists of the day."*
Though little resembling the poppy family in appear-ance, the Fumariaceae are nearly allied to them, and, as Sir J. E. Smith observes, this natural order appears to constitute an "interme-diate grade" between the Papaveraceae and Crucife-rce, † forming a very inte-resting link in the natural system, and one which proves the excellence of the grounds on which it takes its stand. We have in the British isles but four fuma-rias; as the corydali, which were so long confounded with them, have now been separated from the genus on account of the diffe-rences exhibited by the fruits. In corydalis they are dehiscent and polyspermous; while in fumaria they are indehiscent, and one-seeded; in other re-spects, however, no difference is discernible.
Ramping Fumitory (Fumaria capreolata).
* Bayle himself died in 1706. † "English Flora".
The largest of our fumitories is the F. capreolata, which is distinguished, as may be seen in the wood-cut, by its broadly bi-pinnated leaves, as well as by its more robust, and larger growth and habit, al-though, in its smaller state, when accidentally stunted, it is frequently passed over as a form of F. officinalis.* In general the flowers are paler than those of the species just mentioned, and are nearly twice its size; I must, however, remark, that in the woodcut here given this size is unduly increased, and is, therefore, calculated to convey a false impression.
The common fumitory (F. officinalis) has its pretty little blossoms of a bright rose-colour, with a deep red, almost maroon, tip to the petals, along which runs a bright, green keel; the stem is very much branched, and the foliage, which is deeply cut, has a peculiarly light and airy cha-racter, an effect which is heightened by the pale and glaucous green exhibited by the leaves of all the family.
Still more deeply cut are the leaves of the rare, least-flowered fumitory (F. parviflora), in which they are reduced almost to the thready dimensions of the fennel leaf. The blossoms of this plant, which occurs on dry chalky or sandy pastures, are rose-coloured, but a variety exists in which they are white, tipped with dark purple, and in which also the leaves are far more glaucous than in the more usual form.
* Sir J. E. Smith in "English Flora".
The remaining species, the small-flowered fumi-tory* (F. micrantha), was discovered by Mr. D. Stewart, in the vicinity of Edinburgh, since which time it has been met with in several districts in the east of Scotland. However, as yet it is only known to us as a strictly local plant; though it probably may exist in other places which have not, as yet, been sufficiently examined.
The fumitory is generally distributed throughout the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, and, as Mr. Bicheno remarks, is always found more or less where the corn cultivation is good. In fact, though a most persevering and troublesome weed, it is one, the appearance of which every farmer should hail, as it is an unfailing symptom of good, deep, and rich, land, such as is peculiarly adapted for the growth of corn, a circumstance not unnoticed by England's greatest poet, who says,
* * "Her fallow leas.
The darnel, hemlocks, and rank fumitory.
"Crowned with rank fumiterr, and furrow weeds, With hemlock, harlock,‡ nettles, cuckowe-flower, Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow In our sustaining corn."§
* Hooker's "British Flora." † "Henry the Fifth." ‡ Charlock. § "King Lear".