previous next


In most plants the seed is round, in some oblong; it is broad and foliaceous in some, orage for instance, while in others it is narrow and grooved, as in cummin. There are differences, also, in the colour of seeds, which is either black or white; while some seeds are woody and hard, in radishes, mustard, and rape, the seeds are enclosed in pods. In parsley, coriander, anise, fennel, and cummin, the seed has no covering at all, while in blite, beet, orage, and ocimum, it has an outer coat, and in the lettuce it is covered with a fine down. There is no seed more prolific than that of ocimum1; it is generally recommended2 to sow it with the utterance of curses and imprecations, the result being that it grows all the better for it; the earth, too, is rammed down when it is sown, and prayers offered that the seed may never come up. The seeds which are enveloped in an outer coat, are dried with considerable difficulty, that of ocimum more particularly; hence it is that all these seeds are dried artificially, their fruitfulness being greatly promoted thereby.

Plants in general come up better when the seed is sown in heaps than when it is scattered broad-cast: leeks, in fact, and parsley are generally grown by sowing the seed in little bags3: in the case of parsley, too, a hole is made with the dibble, and a layer of manure inserted.

All garden plants grow either from seed or from slips, and some from both seed and suckers, such as rue, wild marjoram, and ocimum4, for example—this last being usually cut when it is a palm in height. Some kinds, again, are reproduced from both seed and root, as in the case of onions, garlic, and bulbs, and those other plants of which, though annuals themselves, the roots retain their vitality. In those plants which grow from the root, it lives for a considerable time, and throws out offsets, as in bulbs, scallions, and squills for example.— Others, again, throw out offsets, though not from a bulbous root, such as parsley and beet, for instance. When the stalk is cut, with the exception5 of those which have not a rough stem, nearly all these plants put forth fresh shoots, a thing that may be seen in ocimum6, the radish7, and the lettuce8, which are in daily use among us; indeed, it is generally thought that the lettuce which is grown from a fresh sprouting, is the sweetest. The radish, too, is more pleasant eating when the leaves have been removed before it has begun to run to stalk. The same is the case, too, with rape; for when the leaves are taken off, and the roots well covered up with earth, it grows all the larger for it, and keeps in good preservation till the en- suing summer.

1 Fée says that basil, the Ocimum basilicum of Linnæus, is not meant here, nor yet the leguminous plant that was known to the Romans by that name.

2 A singular superstition truly! Theophrastus says the same in relation to cummin seed.

3 This is not done at the present day.

4 This can hardly be our basil, the Ocimum basilicum, for that plant is an annual.

5 Fée suggests that Pliny may have intended here to except the Monocotyledons, for otherwise his assertion would be false.

6 This, Fée says, cannot be basil, for when cut it will not shoot again.

7 The radish is not mentioned in the parallel passage by Theophrastus.

8 The lettuce, as Fée remarks, will not shoot again when cut down.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (3):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: