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Of fern there are two varieties, equally destitute of blossom and of seed.1 The Greeks give the name of "pteris," and sometimes "blachnon," to the kind2 in which numerous shoots take their rise from a single root, exceeding two cubits even in length, and with a not unpleasant smell:3 this plant is thought to be the male fern.

The other kind is known to the Greeks as "thelypteris,"4 and sometimes, "nymphæa pteris:" it has a single stem only, with comparatively few branches, is shorter, softer, and more tufted than the other, and has channelled leaves growing near the root. Swine are fattened upon the roots of either kind. The leaves of both kinds are arranged on either side in the form of wings, whence the Greek name "pteris." The roots are long, run obliquely, and are of a swarthy colour, more par- ticularly when dried: when wanted for use,. they should be dried in the sun. These plants are found growing everywhere, but in cold soils more particularly; they should be taken up, too, at the setting of the Vergiliæ.5 The root is only used at the end of three years, neither before that period nor after. They act as an expellent of intestinal worms; for tapeworm6 honey is taken with them, but in other cases sweet wine, for three days.

They are, both of them, extremely detrimental to the stomach, but are laxative to the bowels, carrying off first the bile and then the aqueous humours of the body. When used for tapeworm, it is the best plan to take scammony with them, in equal proportions. For rheumatic defluxions, the root is taken in doses of two oboli, in water, after a day's abstinence from food, a little honey being taken first. Neither kind must ever be given to females; for in pregnancy they are productive of abortion, and in other cases entail sterility. Powdered fern is sprinkled upon sordid ulcers, as also upon the necks of beasts of burden, when chafed. Fern-leaves kill bugs, and serpents will never harbour among them: hence it is a good plan to strew them in places where the presence of those reptiles is suspected. The very smell, too, of burnt fern will put serpents to flight. Medical men have made this distinction as to ferns; that of Macedonia, they say, is the best, and that of Cassiope the next.

1 From this remark, Fée is of opinion that he had in view more particularly the Pteris aquilina and the Blechnum spicatum of Linnæus, plants in which the seed is not easily detected.

2 Identified by Fée with the Polypodium filix mas of Linnæus, the Male fern.

3 Dioscorides says it has a somewhat unpleasant smell, and this is nearer the truth.

4 "Female fern." Identified by Fée with the Polypodium filix fæmina of Linnæus, Female fern or Pteris aquilina.

5 See B. xviii. c. 59.

6 Fée remarks that root of fern is an undoubted remedy for tapeworm, and that it is worthy of remark that we owe to the ancients the two most efficient anthelmintics known, fern-root, namely, and pomegranate rind.

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