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The first of the flowers that announce the approach of spring is the white1 violet; indeed, in warm localities, it is seen peeping out in the winter even. Next to it comes the violet known as the ion, and the purple violet; then the flame-coloured flower, the name of which is phlox,2 but only the wild one. The cyclaminum3 blossoms twice a year, in spring and autumn, standing equally in awe as it does of summer and of winter. The narcissus and the lily, in the parts beyond sea, are a little later than the preceding plants: but in Italy, as we have already4 stated, they are in blossom with the rose. In Greece, too, the anemone5 blooms even later; it is the flower of a wild bulb, and is altogether different from the one6 which we shall have occasion to mention among the medicinal plants.

Next, after these, come the œnanthe,7 the melanion,8 and, among the wild plants, the helichrysos;9 then, another kind of anemone, known as the "limonia,"10 and after that the gladiolus,11 accompanied by the hyacinth. Last of all, among the spring flowers, is the rose, which, with the exception indeed of the cultivated kinds, is also the first to fade. Among the others, the flowers which last the longest, are the hyacinth, the white violet, and the œnanthe; but to make this last keep any time in flower, it is necessary to gather it repeatedly, to prevent it from running to seed. The œnanthe grows in warm localities, and has exactly the smell of the vine when in blossom, to which circumstance it is indebted for its name.

There are two fabulous stories attached to the hyacinth;12 according to one of them, it bears the impress of the grief13 which Apollo felt for the youth14 whom he had so tenderly loved; and we learn from the other, that it derives its name from the blood15 of Ajax, the veins being so arranged in the flower as to form the Greek letters αι inscribed upon it.

The helichrysos has a flower resembling gold in appearance, a small leaf, and a fine, slender, but hard, stem. According to the Magi, the person who crowns himself with a chaplet composed of this flower, and takes his unguents from a box of gold, of the kind generally known as "apyron,"16 will be sure to secure esteem and glory among his fellowmen. Such are the flowers of spring.

1 This has been thought to be the Cheiranthus incanus, Cheiranthus annus, and Leucoium vernum of modern botany; but Fée is of opinion that it is next to impossible to identify it. See c. 14 of this Book.

2 See c. 33 of this Book.

3 See B. xxv. c. 67.

4 In c. 11 of this Book. There is no late variety of the lily known at the present day.

5 Or "wind flower:" the Anemone coronaria of Linnæus.

6 A ranunculus. See c. 91 of this Book.

7 Or "vine-blossom." See c. 90 of this Book.

8 Or "black violet," mentioned by Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. B. vi. c. 7. Pliny may probably mean the purple violet, mentioned by him in c. 14 of this Book. "Melanthium" is another reading.

9 Not improbably the same as the "holochrysos," mentioned in c. 24 of this Book.

10 "Meadow" anemone.

11 "The little sword." See c. 67 of this Book.

12 There have been conflicting opinions as to the identification of the hyacinth of the ancients. Linnæus identifies it with the Delphinium Ajacis: Sprengel and Salmasius with the Gladiolus communis: Sibthorp with the Gladiolus communis triphyllos: Dodonæus and Porta the Lilium hulbiferum: and Martyn and Fée the Lilium Martagon of Linnæus, the Turk's-cap lily. From what Pliny says in cc. 39 and 97 of this Book, and in B. xxv. c. 80, it is pretty clear that under the name of hyacinth he has confused the characteristics of two different plants. The hyacinth, too, of Dioscorides, B. iii. c. 5, is a different plant, Fée remarks, being the Hyacinthus comosus of modern botanists.

13 The Greek αι, "Alas!" which the ancients fancied they saw impressed on the leaves.

14 See Ovid's Met. B. x. 1. 162–220.

15 See Ovid's Met. B. xiii. 1. 397, et seq.

16 "Unsullied by fire."

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