The plant-lore & garden-craft of Shakespeare
by Henry Nicholson Ellacombe
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Transcriber's Notes: Some typographical and punctuation errors have been corrected. A complete list follows the text. Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been left as in the original. Words in Greek in the original are transliterated and placed between plus signs. Words italicized in the original are surrounded by underscores. Words in bold in the original are surrounded by equal signs. Characters superscripted in the original are inclosed in {} brackets.

There are diacritic accents in the original. In this text, they are represented as follows:

ā = "a" with a macron ē = "e" with a macron ī = "i" with a macron ō = "o" with a macron ū = "u" with a macron w = "w" with a macron



"It would be hard to name a better commonplace book for summer lawns. . . . The lover of poetry, the lover of gardening, and the lover of quaint, out-of-the-way knowledge will each find something to please him. . . . It is a delightful example of gardening literature."—Pall Mall Gazette.

"Mr. Ellacombe, with a double enthusiasm for Shakespeare and for his garden, has produced a very readable and graceful volume on the Plant-Lore of Shakespeare."—Saturday Review.

"Mr. Ellacombe brings to his task an enthusiastic love of horticulture, wedded to no inconsiderable practical and theoretical knowledge of it; a mind cultivated by considerable acquaintance with the Greek and Latin classics, and trained for this special subject by a course of extensive reading among the contemporaries of his author: and a capacity for patient and unwearied research, which he has shown by the stores of learning he has drawn from a class of books rarely dipped into by the student—Saxon and Early English herbals and books of leechcraft; the result is a work which is entitled from its worth to a place in every Shakesperian library."—Spectator.

"The work has fallen into the hands of one who knows not only the plants themselves, but also their literary history; and it may be said that Shakespeare's flowers now for the first time find an historian."—Field.

"A delightful book has been compiled, and it is as accurate as it is delightful."—Gardener's Chronicle.

"Mr. Ellacombe's book well deserves a place on the shelves of both the student of Shakespeare and the lover of plant lore."—Journal of Botany.

"By patient industry, systematically bestowed, Mr. Ellacombe has produced a book of considerable interest; . . . full of facts, grouped on principles of common sense about quotations from our great poet."—Guardian.

"Mr. Ellacombe is an old and faithful labourer in this field of criticism. His 'Plant-lore and Garden-craft of Shakespeare' . . . is the fullest and best book on the subject."—The Literary World (American).











"My Herbale booke in Folio I unfold. I pipe of plants, I sing of somer flowers."

CUTWODE, Caltha Poetarum, st. 1.


"Faultes escaped in the Printing, correcte with your pennes; omitted by my neglygence, overslippe with patience; committed by ignorance, remit with favour."

LILY, Euphues and his England, Address to the gentlemen Readers.












Since the publication of the First Edition I have received many kind criticisms both from the public critics and from private friends. For these criticisms I am very thankful, and they have enabled me to correct some errors and to make some additions, which I hope will make the book more acceptable and useful.

For convenience of reference I have added the line numbers to the passages quoted, taking both the quotations and the line numbers from the Globe Shakespeare. In a few instances I have not kept exactly to the text of the Globe Edition, but these are noted; and I have added the "Two Noble Kinsmen," which is not in that Edition.

In other respects this Second Edition is substantially the same as the First.

H. N. E.



The following Notes on the "Plant-lore and Garden-craft of Shakespeare" were published in "The Garden" from March to September, 1877.

They are now republished with additions and with such corrections as the altered form of publication required or allowed.

As the Papers appeared from week to week, I had to thank many correspondents (mostly complete strangers to myself) for useful suggestions and inquiries; and I would again invite any further suggestions or remarks, especially in the way of correction of any mistakes or omissions that I may have made, and I should feel thankful to any one that would kindly do me this favour.

In republishing the Papers, I have been very doubtful whether I ought not to have rejected the cultural remarks on several of the plants, which I had added with a special reference to the horticultural character of "The Garden" newspaper. But I decided to retain them, on finding that they interested some readers, by whom the literary and Shakespearean notices were less valued.

The weekly preparation of the Papers was a very pleasant study to myself, and introduced me to much literary and horticultural information of which I was previously ignorant. In republishing them I hope that some of my readers may meet with equal pleasure, and with some little information that may be new to them.

H. N. E.



All the commentators on Shakespeare are agreed upon one point, that he was the most wonderfully many-sided writer that the world has yet seen. Every art and science are more or less noticed by him, so far as they were known in his day; every business and profession are more or less accurately described; and so it has come to pass that, though the main circumstances of his life are pretty well known, yet the students of every art and science, and the members of every business and profession, have delighted to claim him as their fellow-labourer. Books have been written at various times by various writers, which have proved (to the complete satisfaction of the writers) that he was a soldier,[1:1] a sailor, a lawyer,[1:2] an astronomer, a physician,[1:3] a divine,[1:4] a printer,[1:5] an actor, a courtier, a sportsman, an angler,[2:1] and I know not what else besides.

I also propose to claim him as a fellow-labourer. A lover of flowers and gardening myself, I claim Shakespeare as equally a lover of flowers and gardening; and this I propose to prove by showing how, in all his writings, he exhibits his strong love for flowers, and a very fair, though not perhaps a very deep, knowledge of plants; but I do not intend to go further. That he was a lover of plants I shall have no difficulty in showing; but I do not, therefore, believe that he was a professed gardener, and I am quite sure he can in no sense be claimed as a botanist, in the scientific sense of the term. His knowledge of plants was simply the knowledge that every man may have who goes through the world with his eyes open to the many beauties of Nature that surround him, and who does not content himself with simply looking, and then passing on, but tries to find out something of the inner meaning of the beauties he sees, and to carry away with him some of the lessons which they were doubtless meant to teach. But Shakespeare was able to go further than this. He had the great gift of being able to describe what he saw in a way that few others have arrived at; he could communicate to others the pleasure that he felt himself, not by long descriptions, but by a few simple words, a few natural touches, and a few well-chosen epithets, which bring the plants and flowers before us in the freshest, and often in a most touching way.

For this reason the study of the Plant-lore of Shakespeare is a very pleasant study, and there are other things which add to this pleasure. One especial pleasure arises from the thoroughly English character of his descriptions. It has often been observed that wherever the scenes of his plays are laid, and whatever foreign characters he introduces, yet they really are all Englishmen of the time of Elizabeth, and the scenes are all drawn from the England of his day. This is certainly true of the plants and flowers we meet with in the plays; they are thoroughly English plants that (with very few exceptions) he saw in the hedgerows and woods of Warwickshire,[2:2] or in his own or his friends' gardens. The descriptions are thus thoroughly fresh and real; they tell of the country and of the outdoor life he loved, and they never smell of the study lamp. In this respect he differs largely from Milton, whose descriptions (with very few exceptions) recall the classic and Italian writers. He differs, too, from his contemporary Spenser, who has certainly some very sweet descriptions of flowers, which show that he knew and loved them, but are chiefly allusions to classical flowers, which he names in such a way as to show that he often did not fully know what they were, but named them because it was the right thing for a classical poet so to do. Shakespeare never names a flower or plant unnecessarily; they all come before us, when they do come, in the most natural way, as if the particular flower named was the only one that could be named on that occasion. We have nothing in his writings, for instance, like the long list of trees described (and in the most interesting way) in the first canto of the First Book of the "Faerie Queene," and indeed he is curiously distinct from all his contemporaries. Chaucer, before him, spoke much of flowers and plants, and drew them as from the life. In the century after him Herrick may be named as another who sung of flowers as he saw them; but the real contemporaries of Shakespeare are, with few exceptions,[3:1] very silent on the subject. One instance will suffice. Sir Thomas Wyatt's poems are all professedly about the country—they abound in woods and vales, shepherds and swains—yet in all his poems there is scarcely a single allusion to a flower in a really natural way. And because Shakespeare only introduces flowers in their right place, and in the most purely natural way, there is one necessary result. I shall show that the number of flowers he introduces is large, but the number he omits, and which he must have known, is also very large, and well worth noting.[4:1] He has no notice, under any name, of such common flowers as the Snowdrop, the Forget-me-Not, the Foxglove, the Lily of the Valley,[4:2] and many others which he must have known, but which he has not named; because when he names a plant or flower, he does so not to show his own knowledge, but because the particular flower or plant is wanted in the particular place in which he uses it.

Another point of interest in the Plant-lore of Shakespeare is the wide range of his observation. He gathers flowers for us from all sorts of places—from the "turfy mountains" and the "flat meads;" from the "bosky acres" and the "unshrubbed down;" from "rose-banks" and "hedges even-pleached." But he is equally at home in the gardens of the country gentlemen with their "pleached bowers" and "leafy orchards." Nor is he a stranger to gardens of a much higher pretension, for he will pick us famous Strawberries from the garden of my Lord of Ely in Holborn; he will pick us White and Red Roses from the garden of the Temple; and he will pick us "Apricocks" from the royal garden of Richard the Second's sad queen. I propose to follow Shakespeare into these many pleasant spots, and to pick each flower and note each plant which he has thought worthy of notice. I do not propose to make a selection of his plants, for that would not give a proper idea of the extent of his knowledge, but to note every tree, and plant, and flower that he has noted. And as I pick each flower, I shall let Shakespeare first tell us all he has to say about it; in other words, I shall quote every passage in which he names the plant or flower; for here, again, it would not do to make a selection from the passages, my object not being to give "floral extracts," but to let him say all he can in his own choice words. There is not much difficulty in this, but there is difficulty in determining how much or how little to quote. On the one hand, it often seems cruel to cut short a noble passage in the midst of which some favourite flower is placed; but, on the other hand, to quote at too great a length would extend the book beyond reasonable limits. The rule, therefore, must be to confine the quotations within as small a space as possible, only taking care that the space is not so small as entirely to spoil the beauty of the description. Then, having listened to all that Shakespeare has to say on each flower, I shall follow with illustrations (few and short) from contemporary writers; then with any observations that may present themselves in the identification of Shakespeare's plant with their modern representatives, finishing each with anything in the history or modern uses or cultivation of the plant that I think will interest readers.

For the identification of the plants, we have an excellent and trustworthy guide in John Gerard, who was almost an exact contemporary of Shakespeare. Gerard's life ranged from 1545 to 1612, and Shakespeare's from 1564 to 1616. Whether they were acquainted or not we do not know, but it is certainly not improbable that they were; I should think it almost certain that they must have known each other's published works.[5:1]

My subject naturally divides itself into two parts—

First, The actual plants and flowers named by Shakespeare; Second, His knowledge of gardens and gardening.

I now go at once to the first division, naming each plant in its alphabetical order.


[1:1] "Was Shakespeare ever a Soldier?" by W. J. Thoms, F.S.A., 1865, 8vo.

[1:2] "Shakespeare's legal acquirements considered in a letter to J. P. Collier," by John, Lord Campbell, 1859, 12mo. "Shakespeare a Lawyer," by W. L. Rushton, 1858, 12mo.

[1:3] "Remarks on the Medical Knowledge of Shakespeare," by J. C. Bucknill, 1860, 8vo.

[1:4] Eaton's "Shakespeare and the Bible," 1858, 8vo.

[1:5] "Shakespere and Typography; being an attempt to show Shakespere's personal connection with, and technical knowledge of, the Art of Printing," by William Blades, 1872, 8vo.

[2:1] "Was Shakespeare an Angler," by H. N. Ellacombe, 1883, 12mo.

[2:2] "The country around Stratford presents the perfection of quiet English scenery; it is remarkable for its wealth of lovely wild flowers, for its deep meadows on each side of the tranquil Avon, and for its rich, sweet woodlands."—E. DOWDEN'S Shakespeare in Literature Primers, 1877.

[3:1] The two chief exceptions are Ben Jonson (1574-1637) and William Browne (1590-1645). Jonson, though born in London, and living there the greatest part of his life, was evidently a real lover of flowers, and frequently shows a practical knowledge of them. Browne was also a keen observer of nature, and I have made several quotations from his "Britannia's Pastorals."

[4:1] Perhaps the most noteworthy plant omitted is Tobacco—Shakespeare must have been well acquainted with it, not only as every one in his day knew of it, but as a friend and companion of Ben Jonson, he must often have been in the company of smokers. Ben Jonson has frequent allusions to it, and almost all the sixteenth-century writers have something to say about it; but Shakespeare never names the herb, or alludes to it in any way whatever.

[4:2] It seems probable that the Lily of the Valley was not recognized as a British plant in Shakespeare's time, and was very little grown even in gardens. Turner says, "Ephemerū is called in duch meyblumle, in french Muguet. It groweth plentuously in Germany, but not in England that ever I coulde see, savinge in my Lordes gardine at Syon. The Poticaries in Germany do name it Lilium Cōvallium, it may be called in englishe May Lilies."—Names of Herbes, 1548. Coghan in 1596 says much the same: "I say nothing of them because they are not usuall in gardens."—Haven of Health.

[5:1] I may mention the following works as more or less illustrating the Plant-lore of Shakespeare:—

1.—"Shakspere's Garden," by Sidney Beisly, 1864. I have to thank this author for information on a few points, but on the whole it is not a satisfactory account of the plants of Shakespeare, and I have not found it of much use.

2.—"Flowers from Stratford-on-Avon," and

3.—"Girard's Flowers of Shakespeare and of Milton," 2 vols. These two works are pretty drawing-room books, and do not profess to be more.

4.—"Natural History of Shakespeare, being Selections of Flowers, Fruits, and Animals," arranged by Bessie Mayou, 1877. This gives the greater number of the passages in which flowers are named, without any note or comment.

5.—"Shakespeare's Bouquet—the Flowers and Plants of Shakespeare," Paisley, 1872. This is only a small pamphlet.

6.—"The Rural Life of Shakespeare, as illustrated by his Works," by J. C. Roach Smith, 8vo, London, 1870. A pleasant but short pamphlet.

7.—"A Brief Guide to the Gardens of Shakespeare," 1863, 12mo, 12 pages, and

8.—"Shakespeare's Home and Rural Life," by James Walter, with Illustrations. 1874, folio. These two works are rather topographical guides than accounts of the flowers of Shakespeare.

9.—"The Flowers of Shakespeare," depicted by Viola, coloured plates, 4to, 1882. A drawing-room book of little merit.

10.—"The Shakspere Flora," by Leo H. Grindon, 12mo, 1883. A collection of very pleasant essays on the poetry of Shakespeare, and his knowledge of flowers.



Perdita. Here's flowers for you.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 4.

Duke. Away before me to sweet beds of flowers.

Twelfth Night, act i, sc. 1.


K. Henry.

The united vessel of their blood, Mingled with venom of suggestion— As, force perforce, the age will pour it in— Shall never leak, though it do work as strong As Aconitum or rash gunpowder.

2nd King Henry IV, act iv, sc. 4 (44).

There is another place in which it is probable that Shakespeare alludes to the Aconite; he does not name it, but he compares the effects of the poison to gunpowder, as in the passage above.


Let me have A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear As will disperse itself through all the veins, That the life-weary taker may fall dead And that the trunk may be discharged of breath As violently as hasty powder fired Doth hurry from the fatal cannon's womb.

Romeo and Juliet, act v, sc. 1 (59).

The plant here named as being as powerful in its action as gunpowder is the Aconitum Napellus (the Wolf's bane or Monk's-hood). It is a member of a large family, all of which are more or less poisonous, and the common Monk's-hood as much so as any. Two species are found in America, but, for the most part, the family is confined to the northern portion of the Eastern Hemisphere, ranging from the Himalaya through Europe to Great Britain. It is now found wild in a few parts of England, but it is certainly not indigenous; it was, however, very early introduced into England, being found in all the English vocabularies of plants from the tenth century downwards, and frequently mentioned in the early English medical recipes.

Its names are all interesting. In the Anglo-Saxon Vocabularies it is called thung, which, however, seems to have been a general name for any very poisonous plant;[10:1] it was then called Aconite, as the English form of its Greek and Latin name, but this name is now seldom used, being, by a curious perversion, solely given to the pretty little early-flowering Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), which is not a true Aconite, though closely allied; it then got the name of Wolf's-bane, as the direct translation of the Greek lycoctonum, a name which it had from the idea that arrows tipped with the juice, or baits anointed with it, would kill wolves and other vermin; and, lastly, it got the expressive names of Monk's-hood[10:2] and the Helmet-flower, from the curious shape of the upper sepal overtopping the rest of the flower.

As to its poisonous qualities, all authors agree that every species of the family is very poisonous, the A. ferox of the Himalaya being probably the most so. Every part of the plant, from the root to the pollen dust, seems to be equally powerful, and it has the special bad quality of being, to inexperienced eyes, so like some harmless plant, that the poison has been often taken by mistake with deadly results. This charge against the plant is of long standing, dating certainly from the time of Virgil—miseros fallunt aconita legentes—and, no doubt, from much before his time. As it was a common belief that poisons were antidotes against other poisons, the Aconite was supposed to be an antidote against the most deadly one—

"I have heard that Aconite Being timely taken hath a healing might Against the scorpion's stroke."

BEN JONSON, Sejanus, act iii, sc. 3.

Yet, in spite of its poisonous qualities, the plant has always held, and deservedly, a place among the ornamental plants of our gardens; its stately habit and its handsome leaves and flowers make it a favourite. Nearly all the species are worth growing, the best, perhaps, being A. Napellus, both white and blue, A. paniculatum, A. japonicum, and A. autumnale. All the species grow well in shade and under trees. In Shakespeare's time Gerard grew in his London garden four species—A. lycoctonum, A. variegatum, A. Napellus, and A. Pyrenaicum.


[10:1] "Aconita, thung." AElfric's "Vocabulary," 10th century.

"Aconitum, thung." Anglo-Saxon Vocabulary, 11th century.

"Aconita, thung." "Durham Glossary of the names of Worts," 11th century.

The ancient Vocabularies and Glossaries, to which I shall frequently refer, are printed in

I. Wright's "Volume of Vocabularies," 1857.

II. "Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England," by Rev. O. Cockayne, published under the direction of the Master of the Rolls, 3 vols., 1866.

III. "Promptorium Parvulorum," edited by Albert Way, and published by the Camden Society, 3 vols., 1843-65.

IV. "Catholicon Anglicum," edited by S. J. Hertage, and published by the Early English Text Society, 1881, and by the Camden Society, 1882.

[10:2] This was certainly its name in Shakespeare's time—

"And with the Flower Monk's-hood makes a coole."

CUTWODE, Caltha Poetarum, 1599 (st. 117).




The parrot will not do more for an Almond.

Troilus and Cressida, act v, sc. 2 (193).

"An Almond for a parrot" seems to have been a proverb for the greatest temptation that could be put before a man. The Almond tree is a native of Asia and North Africa, but it was very early introduced into England, probably by the Romans. It occurs in the Anglo-Saxon lists of plants, and in the "Durham Glossary" (11th century) it has the name of the "Easterne nutte-beam." The tree was always a favourite both for the beauty of its flowers, which come very early in the year, and for its Biblical associations, so that in Shakespeare's time the trees were "in our London gardens and orchards in great plenty" (Gerard). Before Shakespeare's time, Spenser had sung its praises thus—

"Like to an Almond tree ymounted hye On top of greene Selinis all alone With blossoms brave bedecked daintily; Whose tender locks do tremble every one At everie little breath that under Heaven is blowne."

F. Q., i. 7, 32.

The older English name seems to have been Almande—

"And Almandres gret plente,"

Romaunt of the Rose;

"Noyz de l'almande, nux Phyllidis,"


and both this old name and its more modern form of Almond came to us through the French amande (Provencal, amondala), from the Greek and Latin amygdalus. What this word meant is not very clear, but the native Hebrew name of the plant (shaked) is most expressive. The word signifies "awakening," and so is a most fitting name for a tree whose beautiful flowers, appearing in Palestine in January, show the wakening up of Creation. The fruit also has always been a special favourite, and though it is strongly imbued with prussic acid, it is considered a wholesome fruit. By the old writers many wonderful virtues were attributed to the fruit, but I am afraid it was chiefly valued for its supposed virtue, that "five or six being taken fasting do keepe a man from being drunke" (Gerard).[12:1] This popular error is not yet extinct.

As an ornamental tree the Almond should be in every shrubbery, and, as in Gerard's time, it may still be planted in town gardens with advantage. There are several varieties of the common Almond, differing slightly in the colour and size of the flowers; and there is one little shrub (Amygdalus nana) of the family that is very pretty in the front row of a shrubbery. All the species are deciduous.


[12:1] "Plutarch mentions a great drinker of wine who, by the use of bitter almonds, used to escape being intoxicated."—Flora Domestica, p. 6.


And sweetens, in the suffering pangs it bears, The Aloes of all forces, shocks, and fears.

A Lover's Complaint, st. 39.

Aloes have the peculiarity that they are the emblems of the most intense bitterness and of the richest and most costly fragrance. In the Bible Aloes are mentioned five times, and always with reference to their excellence and costliness.[13:1] Juvenal speaks of it only as a bitter—

"Animo corrupta superbo Plus Aloes quam mellis habet" (vi. 180).

Pliny describes it very minutely, and says, "Strong it is to smell unto, and bitter to taste" (xxvii. 4, Holland's translation). Our old English writers spoke of it under both aspects. It occurs in several recipes of the Anglo-Saxon Leechdoms, as a strong and bitter purgative. Chaucer notices its bitterness only—

"The woful teres that they leten falle As bittre weren, out of teres kynde, For peyne, as is ligne Aloes or galle."

Troilus and Cryseide, st. 159.

But the author of the "Remedie of Love," formerly attributed to Chaucer, says—

"My chambre is strowed with myrrhe and incense With sote savouring Aloes and sinnamone, Breathing an aromaticke redolence."

Shakespeare only mentions the bitter quality.

The two qualities are derived from two very different plants. The fragrant ointment is the product of an Indian shrub, Aquilaria agallochum; and the bitter purgative is from the true Aloes, A. Socotrina, A. vulgaris, and others. These plants were well known in Shakespeare's time, and were grown in England. Turner and Gerard describe them as the Sea Houseleek; and Gerard tells us that they were grown as vegetable curiosities, for "the herbe is alwaies greene, and likewise sendeth forth branches, though it remaine out of the earth, especially if the root be covered with lome, and now and then watered; for so being hanged on the seelings and upper posts of dining-roomes, it will not onely continue a long time greene, but it also groweth and bringeth forth new leaves."[14:1]


[13:1] Numbers xxiv. 6; Psalms xlv. 8; Proverbs vii. 17; Canticles iv. 14; John xix. 39.

[14:1] In the emblems of Camerarius (No. 92) is a picture of a room with an Aloe suspended.


By this, the boy that by her side lay kill'd Was melted like a vapour from her sight, And in his blood that on the ground lay spill'd, A purple flower sprung up chequer'd with white. Resembling well his pale cheeks, and the blood Which in round drops upon their whiteness stood.

Venus and Adonis (1165).

Shakespeare does not actually name the Anemone, and I place this passage under that name with some doubt, but I do not know any other flower to which he could be referring.

The original legend of the Anemone as given by Bion was that it sprung from the tears of Venus, while the Rose sprung from Adonis' blood—

aima rodon tiktei, ta de dakrya tan anemonan.

Bion Idyll, i, 66.

"Wide as her lover's torrent blood appears So copious flowed the fountain of her tears; The Rose starts blushing from the sanguine dyes, And from her tears Anemones arise."

POLWHELE'S Translation, 1786.

But this legend was not followed by the other classical writers, who made the Anemone to be the flower of Adonis. Theocritus compares the Dog-rose (so called also in his day, kynosbatos) and the Anemone with the Rose, and the Scholia comment on the passage thus—"Anemone, a scentless flower, which they report to have sprung from the blood of Adonis; and again Nicander says that the Anemone sprung from the blood of Adonis."

The storehouse of our ancestors' pagan mythology was in Ovid, and his well-known lines are—

"Cum flos e sanguine concolor ortus Qualem, quae; lento celant sub cortice granum Punica ferre solent; brevis est tamen usus in illis, Namque male haerentem, et nimia brevitate caducum Excutiunt idem qui praestant nomina, venti,"—

Thus translated by Golding in 1567, from whom it is very probable that Shakespeare obtained his information—

"Of all one colour with the bloud, a flower she there did find, Even like the flower of that same tree, whose fruit in tender rind Have pleasant graines enclosede—howbeit the use of them is short, For why, the leaves do hang so loose through lightnesse in such sort, As that the windes that all things pierce[15:1] with everie little blast Do shake them off and shed them so as long they cannot last."[15:2]

I feel sure that Shakespeare had some particular flower in view. Spenser only speaks of it as a flower, and gives no description—

"In which with cunning hand was pourtrahed The love of Venus and her Paramoure, The fayre Adonis, turned to a flowre."

F. Q., iii, 1, 34.

"When she saw no help might him restore Him to a dainty flowre she did transmew."

F. Q., iii, 1, 38.

Ben Jonson similarly speaks of it as "Adonis' flower" (Pan's Anniversary), but with Shakespeare it is different; he describes the flower minutely, and as if it were a well-known flower, "purple chequered with white," and considering that in his day Anemone was supposed to be Adonis' flower (as it was described in 1647 by Alexander Ross in his "Mystagogus Poeticus," who says that Adonis "was by Venus turned into a red flower called Anemone"), and as I wish, if possible, to link the description to some special flower, I conclude that the evidence is in favour of the Anemone. Gerard's Anemone was certainly the same as ours, and the "purple" colour is no objection, for "purple" in Shakespeare's time had a very wide signification, meaning almost any bright colour, just as purpureus had in Latin,[16:1] which had so wide a range that it was used on the one hand as the epithet of the blood and the poppy, and on the other as the epithet of the swan ("purpureis ales oloribus," Horace) and of a woman's white arms ("brachia purpurea candidiora nive," Albinovanus). Nor was "chequered" confined to square divisions, as it usually is now, but included spots of any size or shape.

We have transferred the Greek name of Anemone to the English language, and we have further kept the Greek idea in the English form of "wind-flower." The name is explained by Pliny: "The flower hath the propertie to open but when the wind doth blow, wherefore it took the name Anemone in Greeke" ("Nat. Hist." xxi. 11, Holland's translation). This, however, is not the character of the Anemone as grown in English gardens; and so it is probable that the name has been transferred to a different plant than the classical one, and I think no suggestion more probable than Dr. Prior's that the classical Anemone was the Cistus, a shrub that is very abundant in the South of Europe; that certainly opens its flowers at other times than when the wind blows, and so will not well answer to Pliny's description, but of which the flowers are bright-coloured and most fugacious, and so will answer to Ovid's description. This fugacious character of the Anemone is perpetuated in Sir William Jones' lines ("Poet. Works," i, 254, ed. 1810)—

"Youth, like a thin Anemone, displays His silken leaf, and in a morn decays;"

but the lines, though classical, are not true of the Anemone, though they would well apply to the Cistus.[17:1]

Our English Anemones belong to a large family inhabiting cold and temperate regions, and numbering seventy species, of which three are British.[17:2] These are A. Nemorosa, the common wood Anemone, the brightest spring ornament of our woods; A. Apennina, abundant in the South of Europe, and a doubtful British plant; and A. pulsatilla, the Passe, or Pasque flower, i.e., the flower of Easter, one of the most beautiful of our British flowers, but only to be found on the chalk formation.


[15:1] Golding evidently adopted the reading "qui perflant omnia," instead of the reading now generally received, "qui praestant nomina."

[15:2] Gerard thought that Ovid's Anemone was the Venice Mallow—Hibiscus trionum—a handsome annual from the South of Europe.

[16:1] In the "Nineteenth Century" for October, 1877, is an interesting article by Mr. Gladstone on the "colour-sense" in Homer, proving that Homer, and all nations in the earlier stages of their existence, have a very limited perception of colour, and a very limited and loosely applied nomenclature of colours. The same remark would certainly apply to the early English writers, not excluding Shakespeare.

[17:1] Mr. Leo Grindon also identifies the classical Anemone with the Cistus. See a good account of it in "Gardener's Chronicle," June 3, 1876.

[17:2] The small yellow A. ranunculoides has been sometimes included among the British Anemones, but is now excluded. It is a rare plant, and an alien.


(1) Sebastian.

I think he will carry this island home and give it his son for an Apple.

Tempest, act ii, sc. 1 (91).

(2) Malvolio.

Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for a boy; as a Squash is before 'tis a Peascod, or a Codling when 'tis almost an Apple.

Twelfth Night, act i, sc. 5 (165).

(3) Antonio.

An Apple, cleft in two, is not more twin Than these two creatures.

Ibid., act 5, sc. 1 (230).

(4) Antonio.

An evil soul producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly Apple rotten at the heart.

Merchant of Venice, act i, sc. 3 (100).

(5) Tranio.

He in countenance somewhat doth resemble you.


As much as an Apple doth an oyster, and all one.

Taming of the Shrew, act iv, sc. 2 (100).

(6) Orleans.

Foolish curs, that run winking into the mouth of a Russian bear, and have their heads crushed like rotten Apples.

Henry V, act iii, sc. 7 (153).

(7) Hortensio.

Faith, as you say, there's small choice in rotten Apples.

Taming of the Shrew, act i, sc. 1 (138).

(8) Porter.

These are the youths that thunder at a playhouse, and fight for bitten Apples.

Henry VIII, act v, sc. 4 (63).

(9) Song of Winter.

When roasted Crabs hiss in the bowl, Then nightly sings the staring owl.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (935).

(10) Puck.

And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl In very likeness of a roasted Crab; And when she drinks, against her lips I bob, And on her wither'd dewlap pour the ale.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (47).

(11) Fool.

Shal't see thy other daughter will use thee kindly; for though she's as like this as a Crab's like an Apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.


Why, what can'st thou tell, my boy?


She will taste as like this as a Crab does to a Crab.

King Lear, act i, sc. 5 (14).

(12) Caliban.

I prithee, let me bring thee where Crabs grow.

Tempest, act ii, sc. 2 (171).

(13) Petruchio.

Nay, come, Kate, come, you must not look so sour.


It is my fashion, when I see a Crab.


Why, here's no Crab, and therefore look not sour.

Taming of the Shrew, act ii, sc. 1 (229).

(14) Menonius.

We have some old Crab-trees here at home that will not Be grafted to your relish.

Coriolanus, act ii, sc. 1 (205).

(15) Suffolk.

Noble stock Was graft with Crab-tree slip.

2nd Henry VI, act iii, sc. 2 (213).

(16) Porter.

Fetch me a dozen Crab-tree staves, and strong ones.

Henry VIII, act v, sc. 4 (7).

(17) Falstaff.

My skin hangs about me like an old lady's loose gown; I am withered like an old Apple-john.

1st Henry IV, act iii, sc. 3 (3).

(18) 1st Drawer.

What the devil hast thou brought there? Apple-johns? Thou knowest Sir John cannot endure an Apple-john.

2nd Drawer.

Mass! thou sayest true; the prince once set a dish of Apple-johns before him, and told him there were five more Sir Johns; and putting off his hat, said, I will now take my leave of these six dry, round, old, withered knights.

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (1).

(19) Shallow.

Nay, you shall see my orchard, where, in an arbour, we will eat a last year's Pippin of my own graffing, with a dish of Caraways, and so forth.

* * * * *


There's a dish of Leather-coats for you.

Ibid., act v, sc. 3 (1, 44).

(20) Evans.

I pray you be gone; I will make an end of my dinner. There's Pippins and cheese to come.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act i, sc. 2 (11).

(21) Holofernes.

The deer was, as you know, sanguis, in blood; ripe as the Pomewater, who now hangeth like a jewel in the ear of coelo—the sky, the welkin, the heaven; and anon falleth like a Crab on the face of terra—the soil, the land, the earth.

Love's Labour's Lost, act iv, sc. 2 (3).

(22) Mercutio.

Thy wit is a very Bitter Sweeting; it is a most sharp sauce.


And is it not well served in to a sweet goose?

Romeo and Juliet, act ii, sc. 4 (83).

(23) Petruchio.

What's this? A sleeve? 'Tis like a demi-cannon. What! up and down, carved like an Apple-tart?

Taming of the Shrew, act iv, sc. 3 (88).


How like Eve's Apple doth thy beauty grow, If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show!

Sonnet xciii.

Here Shakespeare names the Apple, the Crab, the Pippin, the Pomewater, the Apple-john, the Codling, the Caraway, the Leathercoat, and the Bitter-Sweeting. Of the Apple generally I need say nothing, except to notice that the name was not originally confined to the fruit now so called, but was a generic name applied to any fruit, as we still speak of the Love-apple, the Pine-apple,[20:1] &c. The Anglo-Saxon name for the Blackberry was the Bramble-apple; and Sir John Mandeville, in describing the Cedars of Lebanon, says: "And upon the hills growen Trees of Cedre, that ben fulle hye, and they beren longe Apples, and als grete as a man's heved"[20:2] (cap. ix.). In the English Bible it is the same. The Apple is mentioned in a few places, but it is almost certain that it never means the Pyrus malus, but is either the Orange, Citron, or Quince, or is a general name for a tree fruit. So that when Shakespeare (24) and the other old writers speak of Eve's Apple, they do not necessarily assert that the fruit of the temptation was our Apple, but simply that it was some fruit that grew in Eden. The Apple (pomum) has left its mark in the language in the word "pomatum," which, originally an ointment made of Apples, is now an ointment in which Apples have no part.

The Crab was held in far more esteem in the sixteenth century than it is with us. The roasted fruit served with hot ale (9 and 10) was a favourite Christmas dish, and even without ale the roasted Crab was a favourite, and this not for want of better fruit, for Gerard tells us that in his time "the stocke or kindred of Apples was infinite," but because they were considered pleasant food.[20:3] Another curious use of Crabs is told in the description of Crab-wake, or "Crabbing the Parson," at Halesowen, Salop, on St. Kenelm's Day (July 17), in Brand's "Popular Antiquities" (vol. i. p. 342, Bohn's edition). Nor may we now despise the Crab tree, though we do not eat its fruit. Among our native trees there is none more beautiful than the Crab tree, both in flower and in fruit. An old Crab tree in full flower is a sight that will delight any artist, nor is it altogether useless; its wood is very hard and very lasting, and from its fruit verjuice is made, not, however, much in England, as I believe nearly all the verjuice now used is made in France.

The Pippin, from being originally a general name for any Apple raised from pips and not from grafts, is now, and probably was in Shakespeare's time, confined to the bright-coloured, long-keeping Apples (Justice Shallow's was "last year's Pippin"), of which the Golden Pippin ("the Pippin burnished o'er with gold," Phillips) is the type.

The Bitter-Sweeting (22) was an old and apparently a favourite Apple. It is frequently mentioned in the old writers, as by Gower, "Conf. Aman." viii. 174—

"For all such time of love is lore, And like unto the Bitter-swete,[21:1] For though it think a man fyrst swete He shall well felen at laste That it is sower."

By Chaucer—

"Yet of that art they conne nought wexe sadde, For unto hem it is a Bitter Swete."

Prologue of the Chanoune's Yeman.

And by Ben Jonson—

"That love's a Bitter-sweet I ne'er conceive Till the sour minute comes of taking leave, And then I taste it."[21:2]


Parkinson names it in his list of Apples, but soon dismisses it—"Twenty sorts of Sweetings, and none good." The name is now given to an Apple of no great value as a table fruit, but good as a cider apple, and for use in silk dyeing.

It is not easy to identify the Pomewater (21). It was highly esteemed both by Shakespeare ("it hangeth like a jewel in the ear of coelo") and many other writers. In Gerard's figure it looks like a Codling, and its Latin name is Malus carbonaria, which probably refers to its good qualities as a roasting Apple. The name Pomewater (or Water Apple) makes us expect a juicy but not a rich Apple, and with this agrees Parkinson's description: "The Pomewater is an excellent, good, and great whitish Apple, full of sap or moisture, somewhat pleasant sharp, but a little bitter withall; it will not last long, the winter frosts soon causing it to rot and perish." It must have been very like the modern Lord Suffield Apple, and though Parkinson says it will not last long, yet it is mentioned as lasting till the New Year in a tract entitled "Vox Graculi," 1623. Speaking of New Year's Day, the author says: "This day shall be given many more gifts than shall be asked for; and apples, egges, and oranges shall be lifted to a lofty rate; when a Pomewater bestuck with a few rotten cloves shall be worth more than the honesty of a hypocrite" (quoted by Brand, vol. i. 17, Bohn's edition).

We have no such difficulty with the "dish of Apple-johns" (17 and 18). Hakluyt recommends "the Apple John that dureth two years to make show of our fruit" to be carried by voyagers.[22:1] "The Deusan (deux ans) or Apple-john," says Parkinson, "is a delicate fine fruit, well rellished when it beginneth to be fit to be eaten, and endureth good longer than any other Apple." With this description there is no difficulty in identifying the Apple-john with an Apple that goes under many names, and is figured by Maund as the Easter Pippin. When first picked it is of a deep green colour, and very hard. In this state it remains all the winter, and in April or May it becomes yellow and highly perfumed, and remains good either for cooking or dessert for many months.

The Codling (2) is not the Apple now so called, but is the general name of a young unripe Apple.

The "Leathercoats" (19) are the Brown Russets; and though the "dish of Caraways" in the same passage may refer to the Caraway or Caraway-russet Apple, an excellent little apple, that seems to be a variety of the Nonpareil, and has long been cultivated in England, yet it is almost certain that it means a dish of Caraway Seeds. (See CARRAWAYS.)


[20:1] See PINE, p. 208.

[20:2] "A peche appulle." "The appulys of a peche tre."—Porkington MSS. in Early English Miscellany. (Published by Warton Club.)

[20:3] "As for Wildings and Crabs . . . their tast is well enough liked, and they carrie with them a quicke and a sharp smell; howbeit this gift they have for their harsh sournesse, that they have many a foule word and shrewd curse given them."—PHILEMON HOLLAND'S Pliny, book xv. c. 14.

[21:1] "Amor et melle et felle est fecundissimus."—PLAUTUS.

[21:2] Juliet describes leave-taking in almost the same words—"Parting is such sweet sorrow."

[22:1] "Voyages," 1580, p. 466.


(1) Titania.

Be kind and courteous to this gentleman; Hop in his walks, and gambol in his eyes; Feed him with Apricocks and Dewberries, With purple Grapes, green Figs, and Mulberries.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iii, sc. 1 (167).

(2) Gardener.

Go, bind thou up yon dangling Apricocks, Which, like unruly children, make their sire Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight.

Richard II, act iii, sc. 4 (29).

(3) Palamon.

Would I were, For all the fortunes of my life hereafter, Yon little tree, yon blooming Apricocke; How I would spread and fling my wanton armes In at her window! I would bring her fruit Fit for the gods to feed on.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act ii, sc. 2 (291).

Shakespeare's spelling of the word "Apricocks" takes us at once to its derivation. It is derived undoubtedly from the Latin praecox or praecoquus, under which name it is referred to by Pliny and Martial; but, before it became the English Apricot it was much changed by Italians, Spaniards, French, and Arabians. The history of the name is very curious and interesting, but too long to give fully here; a very good account of it may be found in Miller and in "Notes and Queries," vol. ii. p. 420 (1850). It will be sufficient to say here that it acquired its name of "the precocious tree," because it flowered and fruited earlier than the Peach, as explained in Lyte's "Herbal," 1578: "There be two kinds of Peaches, whereof the one kinde is late ripe, . . . the other kinds are soner ripe, wherefore they be called Abrecox or Aprecox." Of its introduction into England we have no very certain account. It was certainly grown in England before Turner's time (1548), though he says, "We have very few of these trees as yet;"[23:1] but the only account of its introduction is by Hakluyt, who states that it was brought from Italy by one Wolf, gardener to King Henry the Eighth. If that be its true history, Shakespeare was in error in putting it into the garden of the queen of Richard the Second, nearly a hundred years before its introduction.[24:1]

In Shakespeare's time the Apricot seems to have been grown as a standard; I gather this from the description in Nos. 2 (see the entire passage s.v. "Pruning" in Part II.) and 3, and from the following in Browne's "Britannia's Pastorals"—

"Or if from where he is[24:2] he do espy Some Apricot upon a bough thereby Which overhangs the tree on which he stands, Climbs up, and strives to take them with his hands."

Book ii. Song 4.


[23:1] "Names of Herbes," s.v. Malus Armeniaca.

[24:1] The Apricot has usually been supposed to have come from Armenia, but there is now little doubt that its original country is the Himalaya (M. Lavaillee).

[24:2] On a Cherry tree in an orchard.



Let me twine Mine arms about that body, where against My grained Ash an hundred times hath broke, And starr'd the moon with splinters.

Coriolanus, act iv, sc. 5 (112).

Warwickshire is more celebrated for its Oaks and Elms than for its Ash trees. Yet considering how common a tree the Ash is, and in what high estimation it was held by our ancestors, it is strange that it is only mentioned in this one passage. Spenser spoke of it as "the Ash for nothing ill;" it was "the husbandman's tree," from which he got the wood for his agricultural implements; and there was connected with it a great amount of mystic folk-lore, which was carried to its extreme limit in the Yggdrasil, or legendary Ash of Scandinavia, which was almost looked upon as the parent of Creation: a full account of this may be found in Mallet's "Northern Antiquities" and other works on Scandinavia. It is an English native tree,[24:3] and it adds much to the beauty of any English landscape in which it is allowed to grow. It gives its name to many places, especially in the South, as Ashdown, Ashstead, Ashford, &c.; but to see it in its full beauty it must be seen in our northern counties, though the finest in England is said to be at Woburn.

"The Oak, the Ash, and the Ivy tree, O, they flourished best at hame, in the north countrie."

Old Ballad.

In the dales of Yorkshire it is especially beautiful, and any one who sees the fine old trees in Wharfdale and Wensleydale will confess that, though it may not have the rich luxuriance of the Oaks and Elms of the southern and midland counties, yet it has a grace and beauty that are all its own, so that we scarcely wonder that Gilpin called it "the Venus of the woods."


[24:3] It is called in the "Promptorium Parvulorum" "Esche," and the seed vessels "Esche key."


(1) Marcus.

O, had the monster seen those lily hands Tremble, like Aspen leaves, upon a lute.

Titus Andronicus, act 2, sc. 4 (44).

(2) Hostess.

Feel, masters, how I shake. . . . . Yea, in very truth do I an 'twere an Aspen leaf.

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (114).

The Aspen or Aspe[25:1] (Populus tremula) is one of our three native Poplars, and has ever been the emblem of enforced restlessness, on account of which it had in Anglo-Saxon times the expressive name of quick-beam. How this perpetual motion in the "light quivering Aspen" is produced has not been quite satisfactorily explained; and the mediaeval legend that it supplied the wood of the Cross, and has never since ceased to tremble, is still told as a sufficient reason both in Scotland and England.

"Oh! a cause more deep, More solemn far the rustic doth assign, To the strange restlessness of those wan leaves; The cross, he deems, the blessed cross, whereon The meek Redeemer bowed His head to death, Was formed of Aspen wood; and since that hour Through all its race the pale tree hath sent down A thrilling consciousness, a secret awe, Making them tremulous, when not a breeze Disturbs the airy thistle-down, or shakes The light lines of the shining gossamer."


The Aspen has an interesting botanical history, as being undoubtedly, like the Scotch fir, one of the primaeval trees of Europe; while its grey bark and leaves and its pleasant rustling sound make the tree acceptable in our hedgerows, but otherwise it is not a tree of much use. In Spenser's time it was considered "good for staves;" and before his time the tree must have been more valued than it is now, for in the reign of Henry V. an Act of Parliament was passed (4 Henry V. c. 3) to prevent the consumption of Aspe, otherwise than for the making of arrows, with a penalty of an Hundred Shillings if used for making pattens or clogs. This Act remained in force till the reign of James I., when it was repealed. In our own time the wood is valued for internal panelling of rooms, and is used in the manufacture of gunpowder.

By the older writers the Aspen was the favourite simile for female loquacity. The rude libel is given at full length in "The Schoole-house of Women" (511-545), concluding thus—

"The Aspin lefe hanging where it be, With little winde or none it shaketh; A woman's tung in like wise taketh Little ease and little rest; For if it should the hart would brest."

HAZLITT'S Popular English Poetry, vol. iv, p. 126.

And to the same effect Gerard concludes his account of the tree thus: "In English Aspe and Aspen tree, and may also be called Tremble, after the French name, considering it is the matter whereof women's tongues were made (as the poets and some others report), which seldom cease wagging."


[25:1] "Espe" in "Promptorium Parvulorum." "Aspen" is the case-ending of "Aspe."



What say you to young Master Fenton? he capers, he dances, he has eyes of youth, he writes verses, he speaks holiday, he smells April and May; he will carry't, he will carry't; 'tis in his Buttons; he will carry't.

Merry Wives, act iii, sc. 2 (67).

"Though the Bachelor's Button is not exactly named by Shakespeare, it is believed to be alluded to in this passage; and the supposed allusion is to a rustic divination by means of the flowers, carried in the pocket by men and under the apron by women, as it was supposed to retain or lose its freshness according to the good or bad success of the bearer's amatory prospects."[27:1]

The true Bachelor's Button of the present day is the double Ranunculus acris, but the name is applied very loosely to almost any small double globular flowers. In Shakespeare's time it was probably applied still more loosely to any flowers in bud (according to the derivation from the French bouton). Button is frequently so applied by the old writers—

"The more desire had I to goo Unto the roser where that grewe The freshe Bothum so bright of hewe.

* * * * *

But o thing lyked me right welle; I was so nygh, I myght fele Of the Bothom the swote odour And also see the fresshe colour; And that right gretly liked me."

Romaunt of the Rose.

And by Shakespeare—

The canker galls the infants of the Spring Too oft before their Buttons be disclosed.

Hamlet, act i, sc. 3 (54).


[27:1] Mr. J. Fitchett Marsh, of Hardwicke House, Chepstow, in "The Garden." I have to thank Mr. Marsh for much information kindly given both in "The Garden" and by letter.


(1) K. Richard.

Not all the water in the rough rude sea Can wash the Balm from an anointed king.

Richard II, act iii, sc. 2 (54).

(2) K. Richard.

With mine own tears I wash away my Balm.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 1 (207).

(3) K. Henry.

'Tis not the Balm, the sceptre, and the ball.

Henry V, act iv, sc. 1 (277).

(4) K. Henry.

Thy place is fill'd, thy sceptre wrung from thee, Thy Balm wash'd off, wherewith thou wast anointed.

3rd Henry VI, act iii, sc. 1 (16).

(5) K. Henry.

My pity hath been Balm to heal their wounds.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 8 (41).

(6) Lady Anne.

I pour the helpless Balm of my poor eyes.

Richard III, act i, sc. 2 (13).

(7) Troilus.

But, saying thus, instead of oil and Balm, Thou lay'st in every gash that love hath given me The knife that made it.

Troilus and Cressida, act i, sc. 1 (61).

(8) 1st Senator.

We sent to thee, to give thy rages Balm.

Timon of Athens, act v, sc. 4 (16).

(9) France.

Balm of your age, Most best, most dearest.

King Lear, act i, sc. 1 (218).

(10) K. Henry.

Let all the tears that should bedew my hearse Be drops of Balm to sanctify thy head.

2nd Henry IV, act iv, sc. 5 (114).

(11) Mowbray.

I am disgraced, impeach'd, and baffled here: Pierced to the soul with slander's venom'd spear; The which no Balm can cure, but his heart-blood Which breathed this poison.

Richard II, act i, sc. 1 (170).

(12) Dromio of Syracuse.

Our fraughtage, Sir, I have conveyed aboard, and I have bought The oil, the Balsamum, and aqua vitae.

Comedy of Errors, act iv, sc. 1 (187).

(13) Alcibiades.

Is this the Balsam that the usuring Senate Pours into captains' wounds?

Timon of Athens, act iii, sc. 5 (110).

(14) Macbeth.

Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care, The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath, Balm of hurt minds, great Nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast.

Macbeth, act ii, sc. 2 (37).

(15) Quickly.

The several chairs of order look you scour With juice of Balm and every precious flower.

Merry Wives, act v, sc. 5 (65).

(16) Cleopatra.

As sweet as Balm, as soft as air, as gentle.

Antony and Cleopatra, act v, sc. 2 (314).


And trembling in her passion, calls it Balm, Earth's sovereign salve to do a goddess good.

Venus and Adonis (27).


And drop sweet Balm in Priam's painted wound.

Lucrece (1466).


With the drops of this most balmy time My love looks fresh.

Sonnet cvii.

In all these passages, except the two last, the reference is to the Balm or Balsam which was imported from the East, from very early times, and was highly valued for its curative properties. The origin of Balsam was for a long time a secret, but it is now known to have been the produce of several gum-bearing trees, especially the Pistacia lentiscus and the Balsamodendron Gileadense; and now, as then, the name is not strictly confined to the produce of any one plant. But in Nos. 15 and 16 the reference is no doubt to the Sweet Balm of the English gardens (Melissa officinalis), a plant highly prized by our ancestors for its medicinal qualities (now known to be of little value), and still valued for its pleasant scent and its high value as a bee plant, which is shown by its old Greek and Latin names, Melissa, Mellissophyllum, and Apiastrum. The Bastard Balm (Melittis melissophyllum) is a handsome native plant, found sparingly in Devonshire, Hampshire, and a few other places, and is well worth growing wherever it can be induced to grow; but it is a very capricious plant, and is apparently not fond of garden cultivation. "Tres jolie plante, mais d'une culture difficile" (Vilmorin). It probably would thrive best in the shade, as it is found in copses.


(1) Iris.

Ceres, most bounteous lady, thy rich leas Of Wheat, Rye, Barley, Vetches, Oats, and Pease.

Tempest, act iv, sc. 1 (60).

(2) Constable.

Can sodden water, A drench for surrein'd jades, their Barley broth, Decoct their cold blood to such valiant heat?

Henry V, act iii, sc. 5 (18).[30:1]

These two passages require little note. The Barley (Hordeum vulgare) of Shakespeare's time and our own is the same. We may note, however, that the Barley broth (2) of which the French Constable spoke so contemptuously as the food of English soldiers was probably beer, which long before the time of Henry V. was so celebrated that it gave its name to the plant (Barley being simply the Beer-plant), and in Shakespeare's time, "though strangers never heard of such a word or such a thing, by reason it is not everyewhere made," yet "our London Beere-Brewers would scorne to learne to make beere of either French or Dutch" (Gerard).


[30:1] "Vires ordea prestant."—Modus Cenandi, 176. ("Babee's Book.")



We shall lose our time And all be turn'd to Barnacles.

Tempest, act iv, sc. 1 (248).

It may seem absurd to include Barnacles among plants; but in the time of Shakespeare the Barnacle tree was firmly believed in, and Gerard gives a plate of "the Goose tree, Barnacle tree, or the tree bearing Geese," and says that he declares "what our eies have seene, and our hands have touched."

A full account of the fable will be found in Harting's "Ornithology of Shakespeare," p. 247, and an excellent account in Lee's "Sea Fables Explained" (Fisheries Exhibition handbooks), p. 98. But neither of these writers have quoted the testimony of Sir John Mandeville, which is, however, well worth notice. When he was told in "Caldilhe" of a tree that bore "a lytylle Best in Flessche in Bon and Blode as though it were a lytylle Lomb, withouten Wolle," he did not refuse to believe them, for he says, "I tolde hem of als gret a marveylle to hem that is amonges us; and that was of the Bernakes. For I tolde hem, that in our Contree weren Trees, that beren a Fruyt, that becomen Briddes fleeynge; and tho that fallen in the Water lyven, and thei that fallen on the Erthe dyen anon; and thei ben right gode to mannes mete. And here of had thei als gret marvaylle that sume of hem trowed, it were an impossible thing to be" ("Voiage and Travaille," c. xxvi.).


(1) Captain.

'Tis thought the King is dead; we will not stay. The Bay-trees in our country are all wither'd.

Richard II, act ii, sc. 4 (7).

(2) Bawd.

Marry come up, my dish of chastity with Rosemary and Bays!

Pericles, act iv, sc. 6 (159).


The Vision—Enter, solemnly tripping one after another, six personages, clad in white robes, wearing on their heads garlands of Bays, and golden vizards on their faces, branches of Bays or Palms in their hands.

Henry VIII, act iv, sc. 2

It is not easy to determine what tree is meant in these passages. In the first there is little doubt that Shakespeare copied from some Italian source the superstition that the Bay trees in a country withered and died when any great calamity was approaching. We have no proof that such an idea ever prevailed in England. In the second passage reference is made to the decking of the chief dish at high feasts with garlands of flowers and evergreens. But the Bay tree had been too recently introduced from the South of Europe in Shakespeare's time to be so used to any great extent, though the tree was known long before, for it is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Vocabularies by the name of Beay-beam, that is, the Coronet tree;[32:1] but whether the Beay-beam meant our Bay tree is very uncertain. We are not much helped in the inquiry by the notice of the "flourishing green Bay tree" in the Psalms, for it seems very certain that the Bay tree there mentioned is either the Oleander or the Cedar, certainly not the Laurus nobilis.

The true Bay is probably mentioned by Spenser in the following lines—

"The Bay, quoth she, is of the victours born, Yielded them by the vanquisht as theyr meeds, And they therewith doe Poetes heads adorne To sing the glory of their famous deeds."

Amoretti—Sonnet xxix.

And in the following passage (written in the lifetime of Shakespeare) the Laurel and the Bay are both named as the same tree—

"And when from Daphne's tree he plucks more Baies His shepherd's pipe may chant more heavenly lays."

Christopher BrookeIntrod. verses to BROWNE'S Pastorals.

In the present day no garden of shrubs can be considered complete without the Bay tree, both the common one and especially the Californian Bay (Oreodaphne Californica), which, with its bright green lanceolate foliage and powerful aromatic scent (to some too pungent), deserves a place everywhere, and it is not so liable to be cut by the spring winds as the European Bay.[32:2] Parkinson's high praise of the Bay tree (forty years after Shakespeare's death) is too long for insertion, but two short sentences may be quoted: "The Bay leaves are of as necessary use as any other in the garden or orchard, for they serve both for pleasure and profit, both for ornament and for use, both for honest civil uses and for physic, yea, both for the sick and for the sound, both for the living and for the dead; . . . so that from the cradle to the grave we have still use of it, we have still need of it."

The Bay tree gives us a curious instance of the capriciousness of English plant names. Though a true Laurel it does not bear the name, which yet is given to two trees, the common (and Portugal) Laurel, and the Laurestinus, neither of which are Laurels—the one being a Cherry or Plum (Prunus or Cerasus), the other a Guelder Rose (Viburnum).[33:1]


[32:1] "The Anglo-Saxon Beay was not a ring only, or an armlet: it was also a coronet or diadem. . . . The Bays, then, of our Poets and the Bay tree were in reality the Coronet and the Coronet tree."—COCKAYNE, Spoon and Sparrow, p. 21.

[32:2] The Californian Bay has not been established in England long enough to form a timber tree, but in America it is highly prized as one of the very best trees for cabinet work, especially for the ornamental parts of pianos.

[33:1] For an interesting account of the Bay and the Laurels, giving the history of the names, &c., see two papers by Mr. H. Evershed in "Gardener's Chronicle," September, 1876.


(1) Puck.

When I a fat and Bean-fed horse beguile.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (45).

(2) Carrier.

Peas and Beans are as dank here as a dog; and that is the next way to give poor jades the bots.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 1 (9).

The Bean (Faba vulgaris), though an Eastern plant, was very early introduced into England as an article of food both for men and horses. As an article of human food opinions were divided, as now. By some it was highly esteemed—

"Corpus alit Faba; stringit cum cortice ventrem, Desiccat fleuma, stomacum lumenque relidit"—

is the description of the Bean in the "Modus Cenandi," l. 182 ("Babee's Book," ii, 48). While H. Vaughan describes it as—

"The Bean By curious pallats never sought;"

and it was very generally used as a proverb of contempt—

"None other lif, sayd he, is worth a Bene."[34:1]

"But natheles I reche not a Bene."[34:2]

It is not apparently a romantic plant, and yet there is no plant round which so much curious folk lore has gathered. This may be seen at full length in Phillips' "History of Cultivated Vegetables." It will be enough here to say that the Bean was considered as a sacred plant both by the Greeks and Romans, while by the Egyptian priests it was considered too unclean to be even looked upon; that it was used both for its convenient shape and for its sacred associations in all elections by ballot; that this custom lasted in England and in most Europeans countries to a very recent date in the election of the kings and queens at Twelfth Night and other feasts; and that it was of great repute in all popular divinations and love charms. I find in Miller another use of Beans, which we are thankful to note among the obsolete uses: "They are bought up in great quantities at Bristol for Guinea ships, as food for the negroes on their passage from Africa to the West Indies."

As an ornamental garden plant the Bean has never received the attention it seems to deserve. A plant of Broad Beans grown singly is quite a stately plant, and the rich scent is an additional attraction to many, though to many others it is too strong, and it has a bad character—"Sleep in a Bean-field all night if you want to have awful dreams or go crazy," is a Leicestershire proverb:[34:3] and the Scarlet Runner (which is also a Bean) is one of the most beautiful climbers we have. In England we seldom grow it for ornament, but in France I have seen it used with excellent effect to cover a trellis-screen, mixed with the large blue Convolvulus major.


[34:1] Chaucer, "The Marchandes Tale," 19.

[34:2] Ibid., "The Man of Lawes Tale," prologue.

[34:3] Copied from the mediaeval proverb: "Cum faba florescit, stultorum copia crescit."



Where fires thou find'st unraked and hearths unswept, There pinch the maids as blue as Bilberry— Our radiant Queen hates sluts and sluttery.

Merry Wives, act v, sc. 5 (48).

The Bilberry is a common British shrub found on all mossy heaths, and very pretty both in flower and in fruit. Its older English name was Heathberry, and its botanical name is Vaccinium myrtillus. We have in Britain four species of Vaccinium: the Whortleberry or Bilberry (V. myrtillus), the Large Bilberry (V. uliginosum), the Crowberry (V. vitis idaea), and the Cranberry (V. oxycoccos). These British species, as well as the North American species (of which there are several), are all beautiful little shrubs in cultivation, but they are very difficult to grow; they require a heathy soil, moisture, and partial shade.



Fond fathers, Having bound up the threatening twigs of Birch, Only to stick it in their children's sight For terror, not to use, in time the rod Becomes more mock'd than fear'd.

Measure for Measure, act i, sc. 3 (23).

Shakespeare only mentions this one unpleasant use of the Birch tree, the manufacture of Birch rods; and for such it seems to have been chiefly valued in his day. "I have not red of any vertue it hath in physick," says Turner; "howbeit, it serveth for many good uses, and for none better than for betynge of stubborn boys, that either lye or will not learn." Yet the Birch is not without interest. The word "Birch" is the same as "bark," meaning first the rind of a tree and then a barque or boat (from which we also get our word "barge"), and so the very name carries us to those early times when the Birch was considered one of the most useful of trees, as it still is in most northern countries, where it grows at a higher degree of latitude than any other tree. Its bark was especially useful, being useful for cordage, and matting, and roofing, while the tree itself formed the early British canoes, as it still forms the canoes of the North American Indians, for which it is well suited, from its lightness and ease in working.

In Northern Europe it is the most universal and the most useful of trees. It is "the superlative tree in respect of the ground it covers, and in the variety of purposes to which it is converted in Lapland, where the natives sit in birchen huts on birchen chairs, wearing birchen boots and breeches, with caps and capes of the same material, warming themselves by fires of birchwood charcoal, reading books bound in birch, and eating herrings from a birchen platter, pickled in a birchen cask. Their baskets, boats, harness, and utensils are all of Birch; in short, from cradle to coffin, the Birch forms the peculiar environment of the Laplander."[36:1] In England we still admire its graceful beauty, whether it grows in our woods or our gardens, and we welcome its pleasant odour on our Russia leather bound books; but we have ceased to make beer from its young shoots,[36:2] and we hold it in almost as low repute (from the utilitarian point of view) as Turner and Shakespeare seem to have held it.


[36:1] "Gardener's Chronicle."

[36:2] "Although beer is now seldom made from birchen twigs, yet it is by no means an uncommon practice in some country districts to tap the white trunks of Birches, and collect the sweet sap which exudes from them for wine-making purposes. In some parts of Leicestershire this sap is collected in large quantities every spring, and birch wine, when well made, is a wholesome and by no means an unpleasant beverage."—B. in The Garden, April, 1877. "The Finlanders substitute the leaves of Birch for those of the tea-plant; the Swedes extract a syrup from the sap, from which they make a spirituous liquor. In London they make champagne of it. The most virtuous uses to which it is applied are brooms and wooden shoes."—A Tour Round My Garden, Letter xix.



(1) Falstaff.

Give you a reason on compulsion!—if reasons were as plentiful as Blackberries, I would give no man a reason upon compulsion, I.[37:1]

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (263).

(2) Falstaff.

Shall the blessed sun of heaven prove a micher and eat Blackberries?

Ibid. (450).

(3) Thersites.

That same dog-fox Ulysses is not proved worth a Blackberry.

Troilus and Cressida, act v, sc. 4 (12).

(4) Rosalind.

There is a man . . . . hangs odes upon Hawthorns and elegies on Brambles.

As You Like it, act iii, sc. 2 (379).


The thorny Brambles and embracing bushes, As fearful of him, part, through whom he rushes.

Venus and Adonis (629).

I here join together the tree and the fruit, the Bramble (Rubus fruticosus) and the Blackberry. There is not much to be said for a plant that is the proverbial type of a barren country or untidy cultivation, yet the Bramble and the Blackberry have their charms, and we could ill afford to lose them from our hedgerows. The name Bramble originally meant anything thorny, and Chaucer applied it to the Dog Rose—

"He was chaste and no lechour, And sweet as is the Bramble flower That bereth the red hepe."

But in Shakespeare's time it was evidently confined to the Blackberry-bearing Bramble.

There is a quaint legend of the origin of the plant which is worth repeating. It is thus pleasantly told by Waterton: "The cormorant was once a wool merchant. He entered into partnership with the Bramble and the bat, and they freighted a large ship with wool; she was wrecked, and the firm became bankrupt. Since that disaster the bat skulks about till midnight to avoid his creditors, the cormorant is for ever diving into the deep to discover its foundered vessel, while the Bramble seizes hold of every passing sheep to make up his loss by stealing the wool."

As a garden plant, the common Bramble had better be kept out of the garden, but there are double pink and white-blossomed varieties, and others with variegated leaves, that are handsome plants on rough rockwork. The little Rubus saxatilis is a small British Bramble that is pretty on rockwork, and among the foreign Brambles there are some that should on no account be omitted where ornamental shrubs are grown. Such are the R. leucodermis from Nepaul, with its bright silvery bark and amber-coloured fruit; R. Nootkanus, with very handsome foliage, and pure white rose-like flowers; R. Arcticus, an excellent rockwork plant from Northern Europe, with very pleasant fruit, but difficult to establish; R. Australis (from New Zealand), a most quaint plant, with leaves so depauperated that it is apparently leafless, and hardy in the South of England; and R. deliciosus, a very handsome plant from the Rocky Mountains. There are several others well worth growing, but I mention these few to show that the Bramble is not altogether such a villainous and useless weed as it is proverbially supposed to be.


[37:1] See RAISINS, p. 238.


Maria. Get ye all three into the Box tree.

Twelfth Night, act ii, sc. 5 (18).

The Box is a native British tree, and in the sixteenth century was probably much more abundant as a wild tree than it is now. Chaucer notes it as a dismal tree. He describes Palamon in his misery as—

"Like was he to byholde, The Boxe tree or the Asschen deed and colde."

The Knightes Tale.

Spenser noted it as "The Box yet mindful of his olde offence," and in Shakespeare's time there were probably more woods of Box in England than the two which still remain at Box Hill, in Surrey, and Boxwell, in Gloucestershire. The name remains, though the trees are gone, in Box in Wilts, Boxgrove, Boxley, Boxmoor, Boxted, and Boxworth.[39:1] From its wild quarters the Box tree was very early brought into gardens, and was especially valued, not only for its rich evergreen colour, but because, with the Yew, it could be cut and tortured into all the ungainly shapes which so delighted our ancestors in Shakespeare's time, though one of the most illustrious of them, Lord Bacon, entered his protest against such barbarisms: "I, for my part, do not like images cut out in Juniper or other garden stuff; they be for children" ("Essay of Gardens").

The chief use of the Box now is for blocks for wood-carving, for which its close grain makes it the most suitable of all woods.[39:2]


[39:1] In Boxford, and perhaps in some of the other names, the word has no connection with the tree, but marks the presence of water or a stream.

[39:2] In some parts of Europe almost a sacred character is given to the Box. For a curious record of blessing the Box, and of a sermon on the lessons taught by the Box, see "Gardener's Chronicle," April 19, 1873.



(1) Ariel.

So I charm'd their ears, That calf-like they my lowing follow'd through Tooth'd Briers, sharp Furzes, pricking Goss, and Thorns.

Tempest, act iv, sc. 1 (178).

(2) Fairy.

Over hill, over dale, Thorough Bush, thorough Brier.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (2).

(3) Thisbe.

Of colour like the red Rose on triumphant Brier.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 1 (90).

(4) Puck.

I'll lead you about a round, Through bog, through bush, through Brake, through Brier.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iii, sc. 1 (10).

(5) Puck.

For Briers and Thorns at their apparel snatch.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 2 (29).

(6) Hermia.

Never so weary, never so in woe, Bedabbled with the dew and torn with Briers.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 2 (443).

(7) Oberon.

Every elf and fairy sprite Hop as light as bird from Brier.

Ibid., act v, sc. 1 (400).

(8) Adriana.

If aught possess thee from me, it is dross, Usurping Ivy, Brier, or idle Moss.

Comedy of Errors, act ii, sc. 2 (179).

(9) Plantagenet.

From off this Brier pluck a white Rose with me.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (30).

(10) Rosalind.

O! how full of Briers is this working-day world!

As You Like It, act i, sc. 3 (12).

(11) Helena.

The time will bring on summer, When Briers shall have leaves as well as Thorns, And be as sweet as sharp.

All's Well, act iv, sc. 4 (32).

(12) Polyxenes.

I'll have thy beauty scratched with Briers.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 4 (436).

(13) Timon.

The Oaks bear mast, the Briers scarlet hips.

Timon of Athens, act iv, sc. 3 (422).

(14) Coriolanus.

Scratches with Briers, Scars to move laughter only.

Coriolanus, act iii, sc. 3 (51).

(15) Quintus.

What subtle hole is this, Whose mouth is cover'd with rude-growing Briers?

Titus Andronicus, act iii, sc. 3 (198).

In Shakespeare's time the "Brier" was not restricted to the Sweet Briar, as it usually is now; but it meant any sort of wild Rose, and even it would seem from No. 9 that it was applied to the cultivated Rose, for there the scene is laid in the Temple Gardens. In some of the passages it probably does not allude to any Rose, but simply to any wild thorny plant. That this was its common use then, we know from many examples. In "Le Morte Arthur," the Earl of Ascolot's daughter is described—

"Hyr Rode was rede as blossom or Brere Or floure that springith in the felde" (179).

And in "A Pleasant New Court Song," in the Roxburghe Ballads—

"I stept me close aside Under a Hawthorn Bryer."

It bears the same meaning in our Bibles, where "Thorns," "Brambles," and "Briers," stand for any thorny and useless plant, the soil of Palestine being especially productive of thorny plants of many kinds. Wickliffe's translation of Matthew vii. 16, is—"Whether men gaderen grapis of thornes; or figis of Breris?" and Tyndale's translation is much the same—"Do men gaddre grapes of thornes, or figges of Bryeres?"[41:1]


[41:1] "Brere—Carduus, tribulus, vepres, veprecula."—Catholicon Anglicum.


(1) Iris.

And thy Broom groves, Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves, Being lass-lorn.

Tempest, act iv, sc. 1 (66).

(2) Puck.

I am sent with Broom before To sweep the dust behind the door.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act v, sc. 1 (396).

(3) Man.

I made good my place; at length they came to the Broomstaff with me.

Henry VIII, act v, sc. 4 (56).

The Broom was one of the most popular plants of the Middle Ages. Its modern Latin name is Cytisus scoparius, but under its then Latin name of Planta genista it gave its name to the Plantagenet family, either in the time of Henry II., as generally reported, or probably still earlier. As the favourite badge of the family it appears on their monuments and portraits, and was embroidered on their clothes and imitated in their jewels. Nor was it only in England that the plant was held in such high favour; it was the special flower of the Scotch, and it was highly esteemed in many countries on the Continent, especially in Brittany. Yet, in spite of all this, there are only these three notices of the plant in Shakespeare, and of those three, two (2 and 3) refer to its uses when dead; and the third (1), though it speaks of it as living, yet has nothing to say of the remarkable beauties of this favourite British flower. Yet it has great beauties which cannot easily be overlooked. Its large, yellow flowers, its graceful habit of growth, and its fragrance—

"Sweet is the Broome-flowre, but yet sowre enough"—

SPENSER, Sonnet xxvi.

at once arrest the attention of the most careless observer of Nature. We are almost driven to the conclusion that Shakespeare could not have had much real acquaintance with the Broom, or he would not have sent his "dismissed bachelor" to "Broom-groves."[42:1] I should very much doubt that the Broom could ever attain to the dimensions of a grove, though Steevens has a note on the passage that "near Gamlingay, in Cambridgeshire, it grows high enough to conceal the tallest cattle as they pass through it; and in places where it is cultivated still higher." Chaucer speaks of the Broom, but does not make it so much of a tree—

"Amid the Broom he basked in the sun."

And other poets have spoken of the Broom in the same way—thus Collins—

"When Dan Sol to slope his wheels began Amid the Broom he basked him on the ground."

Castle of Indolence, canto i.

And a Russian poet speaks of the Broom as a tree—

"See there upon the Broom tree's bough The young grey eagle flapping now."

Flora Domestica, p. 68.

As a garden plant it is perhaps seen to best advantage when mixed with other shrubs, as when grown quite by itself it often has an untidy look. There is a pure white variety which is very beautiful, but it is very liable to flower so abundantly as to flower itself to death. There are a few other sorts, but none more beautiful than the British.


[42:1] Yet Bromsgrove must be a corruption of Broom-grove, and there are other places in England named from the Broom.



Her careless tresses A wreake of Bulrush rounded.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act iv, sc. 1 (104).

See RUSH, p. 262.


(1) Celia.

They are but Burs, cousin, thrown upon thee in holiday foolery; if we walk not in the trodden paths our very petticoats will catch them.


I could shake them off my coat; these Burs are in my heart.

As You Like It, act i, sc. 3 (13).

(2) Lucio.

Nay, friar, I am a kind of Bur; I shall stick.

Measure for Measure, act iv, sc. 3 (149).

(3) Lysander.

Hang oft, thou cat, thou Burr.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iii, sc. 2 (260).

(4) Pandarus.

They are Burs, I can tell you; they'll stick where they are thrown.

Troilus and Cressida, act iii, sc. 2 (118).

(5) Burgundy.

And nothing teems But hateful Docks, rough Thistles, Kecksies, Burs.

Henry V, act v, sc. 2 (51).

(6) Cordelia.

Crown'd with rank Fumiter and Furrow-weeds, With Burdocks, Hemlock, Nettles, Cuckoo-flowers.

King Lear, act iv, sc. 4 (3).

The Burs are the unopened flowers of the Burdock (Arctium lappa), and their clinging quality very early obtained for them expressive names, such as amor folia, love leaves, and philantropium. This clinging quality arises from the bracts of the involucrum being long and stiff, and with hooked tips which attach themselves to every passing object. The Burdock is a very handsome plant when seen in its native habitat by the side of a brook, its broad leaves being most picturesque, but it is not a plant to introduce into a garden.[44:1] There is another tribe of plants, however, which are sufficiently ornamental to merit a place in the garden, and whose Burs are even more clinging than those of the Burdock. These are the Acaenas; they are mostly natives of America and New Zealand, and some of them (especially A. sarmentosa and A. microphylla) form excellent carpet plants, but their points being furnished with double hooks, like a double-barbed arrow, they have double powers of clinging.



The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth The freckled Cowslip, Burnet, and green Clover.

Henry V. act v, sc. 2 (48).

The Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba) is a native plant of no great beauty or horticultural interest, but it was valued as a good salad plant, the leaves tasting of Cucumber, and Lord Bacon (contemporary with Shakespeare) seems to have been especially fond of it. He says ("Essay of Gardens"):

"Those flowers which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three—that is, Burnet, Wild Thyme, and Water Mints; therefore you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread." Drayton had the same affection for it—

"The Burnet shall bear up with this, Whose leaf I greatly fancy."

Nymphal V.

It also was, and still is, valued as a forage plant that will grow and keep fresh all the winter in dry barren pastures, thus often giving food for sheep when other food was scarce. It has occasionally been cultivated, but the result has not been very satisfactory, except on very poor land, though, according to the Woburn experiments, as reported by Sinclair, it contains a larger amount of nutritive matter in the spring than most of the Grasses. It has brown flowers, from which it is supposed to derive its name (Brunetto).[45:1]



"A Clote-leef he had under his hood For swoot, and to keep his heed from hete."

CHAUCER, Prologue of the Chanounes Yeman (25).

This Clote leaf is by many considered to be the Burdock leaf, but it was more probably the name of the Water-lily.

[45:1] "Burnet colowre, Burnetum, burnetus."—Promptorium Parvulorum.



Pauca verba, Sir John; good worts.


Good worts! good Cabbage.

Merry Wives, act i, sc. 1 (123).

The history of the name is rather curious. It comes to us from the French Chou cabus, which is the French corruption of Caulis capitatus, the name by which Pliny described it.

The Cabbage of Shakespeare's time was essentially the same as ours, and from the contemporary accounts it seems that the sorts cultivated were as good and as numerous as they are now. The cultivated Cabbage is the same specifically as the wild Cabbage of our sea-shores (Brassica oleracea) improved by cultivation. Within the last few years the Cabbage has been brought from the kitchen garden into the flower garden on account of the beautiful variegation of its leaves. This, however, is no novelty, for Parkinson said of the many sorts of Cabbage in his day: "There is greater diversity in the form and colour of the leaves of this plant than there is in any other that I know groweth on the ground. . . . Many of them being of no use with us for the table, but for delight to behold the wonderful variety of the works of God herein."



Though the Camomile, the more it is trodden on the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted the sooner it wears.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (443).

The low-growing Camomile, the emblem of the sweetness of humility, has the lofty names of Camomile (Chamaemelum, i.e., Apple of the Earth) and Anthemis nobilis. Its fine aromatic scent and bitter flavour suggested that it must be possessed of much medicinal virtue, while its low growth made it suitable for planting on the edges of flower-beds and paths, its scent being brought out as it was walked upon. For this purpose it was much used in Elizabethan gardens; "large walks, broad and long, close and open, like the Tempe groves in Thessaly, raised with gravel and sand, having seats and banks of Camomile; all this delights the mind, and brings health to the body."[46:1] As a garden flower it is now little used, though its bright starry flower and fine scent might recommend it; but it is still to be found in herb gardens, and is still, though not so much as formerly, used as a medicine.

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