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CHAP. 45.—RUE.

Rue,1 too, is generally sown while the west winds prevail, as well as just after the autumnal equinox. This plant has an extreme aversion to cold, moisture, and dung; it loves dry, sunny localities, and a soil more particularly that is rich in brick clay; it requires to be nourished, too, with ashes, which should be mixed with the seed as well, as a preservative against the attacks of caterpillars. The ancients held rue in peculiar esteem; for I find that honied wine flavoured with rue was distributed to the people, in his consulship,2 by Cornelius Cethegus, the colleague of Quintus Flamininus, after the closing of the Comitia. This plant has a great liking3 for the fig-tree, and for that tree only; indeed, it never thrives better than when grown beneath that tree. It is generally grown from slips, the lower end of which is inserted in a perforated4 bean, which holds it fast, and so nurtures the young plant with its juices. It also reproduces itself;5 for the ends of the branches bending downwards, the moment they reach the ground, they take root again. Ocimum6 is of a very similar nature to rue, except that it dries with greater difficulty. When rue has once gained strength, there is considerable difficulty in stubbing it, as it causes itching ulcerations on the hands, if they are not covered or previously protected by being rubbed with oil. Its leaves, too, are preserved, being packed in bundles for keeping.

1 The Ruta graveolens of Linnæus. See B. xx. c. 51. This offensive herb, though looked upon by the Romans as a vegetable, is now only regarded as an active medicament of almost poisonous qualities.

2 A.U.C. 421.

3 It so happens that it thrives best on the same soil as the fig-tree.

4 This practice has no beneficial effect whatever.

5 This is not the fact; for its branches never come in contact with the ground.

6 Pliny has derived the greater part of this Chapter from Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. B vii. c. 5, and Columella, B. xi. c. 3.

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