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As we have here made a beginning of treating of the marvels of Nature, we shall proceed to examine them in detail; and among them the very greatest of all, beyond a doubt, is the fact that any plant should spring up and grow without a root. Such, for instance, is the vegetable production known as the truffle;1 surrounded on every side by earth, it is connected with it by no fibres, not so much as a single thread even, while the spot in which it grows, presents neither protuberance nor cleft to the view. It is found, in fact, in no way adhering to the earth, but enclosed within an outer coat; so much so, indeed, that though we cannot exactly pronounce it to be composed of earth, we must conclude that it is nothing else but a callous2 concretion of the earth.

Truffles generally grow in dry, sandy soils, and spots that are thickly covered with shrubs; in size they are often larger than a quince, and are found to weigh as much3 as a pound. There are two kinds of them, the one full of sand, and consequently injurious to the teeth, the other free from sand and all impurities. They are distinguished also by their colour, which is red or black, and white within; those of Africa4 are the most esteemed. Whether the truffle grows gradually, or whether this blemish of the earth—for it can be looked upon as nothing else—at once assumes the globular form and magnitude which it presents when found; whether, too, it is possessed of vitality or not, are all of them questions, which, in my opinion, are not easy to be solved. It decays and rots in a manner precisely similar to wood.

It is known to me as a fact, that the following circumstance happened to Lartius Licinius, a person of prætorian rank, while minister of justice,5 a few years ago, at Carthage in Spain; upon biting a truffle, he found a denarius inside, which all but broke his fore teeth—an evident proof that the truffle is nothing else but an agglomeration of elementary earth. At all events, it is quite certain that the truffle belongs to those vegetable productions which spring up spontaneously, and are incapable of being reproduced from seed.6

1 "Tuber." The Tuber cibarium of Linnæus, the black truffle; and probably the grey truffle, the Tuber griseum.

2 This callous secretion of the earth, or corticle, is, as Fée says, a sort of hymenium, formed of vesicles, which, as they develope themselves, are found to contain diminutive truffles. Pliny is wrong in saying that the truffle forms neither cleft nor protuberance, as the exact contrary is the fact.

3 Haller speaks of truffles weighing as much as fourteen pounds. Valmont de Bomare speaks of a truffle commonly found in Savoy, which attains the weight of a pound.

4 Those of Africa are in general similar to those found in Europe, but there is one peculiar to that country, possibly the same that is mentioned in the following Chapter under the name of "misy."

5 "Jura reddenti."

6 It is really propagated by spores, included in sinuous chambers in the interior; but, notwithstanding the attempts that have been made, it has never yet been cultivated with any degree of success. In c. 13, Pliny seems to recognize the possibility of its multiplication by germs, where he says that its formation is attributed by some to water.

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