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CHAP. 60. (33.)—THE CYPRESS.

The cypress1 is an exotic, and has been reckoned one of the trees that are naturalized with the greatest difficulty; so much so, indeed, that Cato2 has expatiated upon it at greater length and more frequently than any of the others. This tree is naturally of a stubborn3 disposition, bears a fruit that is utterly useless, a berry that causes a wry4 face when tasted, and a leaf that is bitter: it also gives out a disagreeable pungent smell,5 and its shade is far from agreeable. The wood that it furnishes is but scanty, so much so indeed, that it may be almost regarded as little more than a shrub. This tree is sacred to Pluto, and hence it is used as a sign of mourning6 placed at the entrance of a house: the female7 tree is for a long time barren. The pyramidal appearance that it presents has caused it not to be rejected, but for a long time it was only used for marking the intervals between rows of pines: at the present day, however, it is clipped and trained to form hedge-rows, or else is thinned and lengthened out in the various designs8 employed in ornamental gardening, and which represent scenes of hunting, fleets, and various other objects: these it covers with a thin small leaf, which is always green.

There are two varieties of the cypress; the one9 tapering and pyramidal, and which is known as the female; while the male tree10 throws its branches straight out from the body, and is often pruned and employed as a rest for the vine. Both the male and the female are permitted to throw out their branches, which are cut and employed for poles and props, being worth, after thirteen years' growth, a denarius a-piece. In respect of income, a plantation of cypress is remarkably profitable, so much so, indeed, that it was a saying in old times that a cypress-wood is a dowry for a daughter.11 The native country of this tree is the island of Crete, although Cato12 calls it Tarentine, Tarentum being the first place, I suppose, in which it was naturalized: in the island of Ænaria,13 also, if the cypress is cut down, it will grow again14 from the root. But, in the Isle of Crete, in whatever place the earth is moved, this tree will shoot up15 of its own natural vigour, and immediately appear above the soil; indeed, in that island there is no occasion even to solicit the soil, for it grows spontaneously there, on the mountains of Ida more particularly, and those known as the White Mountains. On the very summit of these elevations, from which the snows never depart, we find the cypress growing in great abundance; a thing that is truly marvellous-seeing that, in other countries, it will only grow in warm localities; from which it would appear to have a great dislike to its native climate.

1 The Cupressus sempervirens of Linnæus, the Cupressus fastigiata of Decandolle.

2 De Re Rust. cc. 48,151.

3 Morosa;" meaning that it reaches maturity but very slowly.

4 Tristis tentantum sensu torquebit amaror.—Virg. Georg. ii. 247.

5 This statement is exaggerated.

6 It is still to be seen very frequently in the cemeteries of Greece and Constantinople.

7 The cypress is in reality monœcious, the structure of the same plant being both male and female.

8 This was formerly done with the cypress, in England, to a considerable extent. Such absurdities are now but rare.

9 The Cupressus fastigiata of Decandolle; and a variety of the Cupressus sempervirens of Linnæus.

10 The Cupressus horizontalis of Miller; the variety B of the C. sempervirens of Linnæus.

11 The present name given to this tree in the island of Crete, is the "daughter's dowry."

12 De Re Rust. cc. 151.

13 B. iii. c. 12.

14 This, Fée says, is the case with none of the coniferous trees.

15 Of course this spontaneous creation of the cypress is fabulous; and, indeed, the whole account, which is borrowed from Theophrastus, is greatly exaggerated.

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