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But of all these plants, it is the nettle that is the best known to us, the calyces1 of the blossoms of which produce a purple down: it frequently exceeds two cubits even in height.2 There are numerous varieties of this plant; the wild nettle, known also as the female nettle, does not inflict so bad a sting as the others. Among the several varieties of the wild nettle, the one known as the dog3-nettle, stings the worst, the stem of it even possessing that property; the leaves of the nettle are indented at the edge. There is one kind also, which emits a smell, known as the Herculanean4 nettle. The seed of all the nettles is copious, and black. It is a singular fact that, though possessed of no spinous points, the down5 of the nettle is of a noxious nature, and that, though ever so lightly touched, it will immediately produce an itching sensation, and raise a blister on the flesh similar in appearance to a burn: the well-known remedy for it is olive oil.

The stinging property of the nettle does not belong to the plant at the earliest period of its growth, but only developes itself under the influence of the sun. The plant first begins to grow in the spring, at which period it is by no means a disagreeable food;6 indeed, it has become quite a religious observance to employ it as such, under the impression that it is a preventive from diseases the whole year through. The root, too, of the wild nettle, has the effect of rendering all meat more tender that is boiled with it.7 The kind that is innoxious and destitute of all stinging properties, is known as the "la- mium."8 Of the scorpio9 we shall have occasion to speak when treating of the medicinal plants.

1 "Acetabulis." Fée complains of the use of this term (meaning a "small cup") in relation to the calyces of the nettle; such not being in reality their form.

2 Probably in allusion to the Urtica dioica, which grows to a greater height than the Urtica urens. See B. xxii. c. 15.

3 "Canina." A variety, probably, of the Urtica urens, the nettle, with the exception of the Urtica pilifera, which has the most stinging properties of all those found in Europe, and the leaves of which are the most deeply indented.

4 This has not been identified. They are all of them either inodorous, or else possessed of a faint, disagreeable smell.

5 This "lanugo," or down, as he calls it, consists of a fine elongated tube of cellular tissue, seated upon a gland of similar tissue. In this gland a poisonous fluid is secreted, and when any pressure is made upon the gland, the fluid passes upwards in the tube. The nettle of the East, known as the Devil's Leaf, is of so poisonous a quality as to produce death.

6 In some parts of the north of England and of Scotland the young plant of the Urtica dioica is eaten as greens, and is far from a disagreeable dish, strongly resembling spinach. It is also reckoned a very wholesome diet, and is taken habitually in the spring, under the impression that it purifies the blood. This notion, we see from the context, is as old as the time of the Romans.

7 Dalechamps speaks of it as the custom in his time to wrap up fish and game in nettles, under the impression that they would keep the longer for it.

8 The dead nettle, or blind nettle. Sec B. xxii. c. 16.

9 See B. xxii. c. 17.

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