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The palm-tree grows in a light and sandy soil, and for the most part of a nitrous quality. It loves the vicinity of flowing water; and as it is its nature to imbibe the whole of the year, there are some who are of opinion that in a year of drought it will receive injury from being manured even, if the manure is not first mixed with running water: this, at least, is the idea entertained by some of the Assyrians.

The varieties of the palm are numerous. First of all, there are those which do not exceed the size of a shrub; they are mostly barren, though sometimes they are known to produce fruit; the branches are short, and the tree is well covered with leaves all round. In many places this tree is used as a kind of rough-cast,1 as it were, to protect the walls of houses against damp. The palms of greater height form whole forests, the trunk of the tree being protected all round by pointed leaves, which are arranged in the form of a comb; these, it must be understood, are wild palms, though sometimes, by some wayward fancy or other, they are known to make their appearance among the cultivated varieties. The other kinds are tall, round, and tapering; and being furnished with dense and projecting knobs or circles in the bark, arranged in regular gradation, they are found easy of ascent by the people in the East; in order to do which, the climber fastens a loop of osier round his body and the trunk, and by this contrivance ascends the tree with astonishing2 rapidity. All the foliage is at the summit, and the fruit as well; this last being situate, not among the leaves, as is the case with other trees, but hanging in clusters from shoots of its own among the branches, and partaking of the nature both of the grape and the apple. The leaves terminate in a sharp edge, like that of a knife, while the sides are deeply indented-a peculiarity which first gave the idea of a troop of soldiers presenting face on two sides at once; at the present day they are split asunder3 to form ropes and wythes for fastening, as well as light umbrellas4 for covering the head.

The more diligent5 enquirers into the operations of Nature state that all trees, or rather all plants, and other productions of the earth, belong to either one sex or the other; a fact which it may be sufficient to notice on the present occasion, and one which manifests itself in no tree more than in the palm. The male tree blossoms at the shoots; the female buds without blossoming, the bud being very similar to an ear of corn. In both trees the flesh of the fruit shows first, and after that the woody part inside of it, or, in other words, the seed: and that this is really the case, is proved by the fact, that we often find small fruit on the same shoot without any seed in it at all. This seed is of an oblong shape, and not rounded like the olive-stone. It is also divided down the back by a deep indentation, and in most specimens of this fruit there is exactly in the middle a sort of navel, as it were, from which the root of the tree first takes its growth.6 In planting this seed it is laid on its anterior surface, two being placed side by side, while as many more are placed above; for when planted singly, the tree that springs up is but weak and sickly, whereas the four seeds all unite and form one strong tree. The seed is divided from the flesh of the fruit by several coats of a whitish colour, some of which are attached to the body of it; it lies but loosely in the inside of the fruit, adhering only to the summit by a single thread.7

The flesh of this fruit takes a year to ripen, though in some places, Cyprus8 for instance, even if it should not reach maturity, it is very agreeable, for the sweetness of its flavour: the leaf of the tree too, in that island, is broader than elsewhere, and the fruit rounder than usual: the body of the fruit however, is never eaten, but is always spit9 out again, after the juice has been extracted. In Arabia, the palm fruit is said to have a sickly sweet taste, although Juba says that he prefers the date found among the Arabian Scenitæ,10 and to which they give the name of dablan," before those of any other country for flavour. In addition to the above particulars, it is asserted that in a forest of natural growth the female11 trees will become barren if they are deprived of the males, and that many female trees may be seen surrounding a single male with downcast heads and a foliage that seems to be bowing caressingly towards it; while the male tree, on the other hand, with leaves all bristling and erect, by its exhalations, and even the very sight of it and the dust12 from off it, fecundates the others: if the male tree, too, should happen to be cut down, the female trees, thus reduced to a state of widowhood, will at once become barren and unproductive. So well, indeed, is this sexual union between them understood, that it has been imagined even that fecundation may be ensured through the agency of man, by means of the blossoms and the down13 gathered from off the male trees, and, indeed, sometimes by only sprinkling the dust from off them on the female trees.

1 "Tectorii vicem." They were probably planted in rows, close to the wall.

2 This mode of ascending the date-palm is still practised in the East.

3 See B. xvi. c. 37.

4 "Umbracula." The fibres of the leaves were probably platted or woven, and the "umbracula" made in much the same manner as the straw and fibre hats of the present day.

5 Most of this is borrowed from Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. ii. 9.

6 Fée remarks, that this account is quite erroneous.

7 This he copies also from Theophrastus, B. ii. c. 8.

8 Theophrastus, B. ii. c. 8, mentions this as a kind of date peculiar to Cyprus.

9 This is said solely in relation to the date of Cyprus.

10 Or dwellers in tents;" similar to the modern Bedouins.

11 Feé remarks, that in these words we find the first germs of the sexual system that has been established by the modern botanists. He thinks that it is clearly shown by this account, that Pliny was acquainted with the fecundation of plants by the agency of the pollen.

12 In allusion to the pollen, possibly. See the last Note.

13 "Lanugine." It is possible that in the use of this word, also, he may allude to the pollen. Under the term "pulvis," "dust," he probably alludes in exaggerated terms to the same theory.

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