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All the odoriferous1 substances, and consequently the plants, differ from one another in their colour, smell, and juices. It is but rarely2 that the taste of an odoriferous substance is not bitter; while sweet substances, on the other hand, are but rarely odoriferous. Thus it is, too, that wine is more odoriferous than must, and all the wild plants more so than the cultivated ones.3 Some flowers have a sweet smell at a distance, the edge of which is taken off when they come nearer; such is the case with the violet, for instance. The rose, when fresh gathered, has a more powerful smell at a distance, and dried,4 when brought nearer. All plants have a more penetrating odour, also, in spring5 and in the morning; as the hour of midday approaches, the scent becomes gradually weakened.6 The flowers, too, of young plants are less odoriferous than those of old ones; but it is at mid-age7 that the odour is most penetrating in them all.

The rose and the crocus8 have a more powerful smell when gathered in fine weather, and all plants are more powerfully scented in hot climates than in cold ones. In Egypt, however, the flowers are far from odoriferous, owing to the dews and exhalations with which the air is charged, in consequence of the extended surface of the river. Some plants have an agreeable, though at the same time extremely powerful smell; some, again, while green, have no9 smell at all, owing to the excess of moisture, the buceros for example, which is the same as fenugreek.10 Not all flowers which have a penetrating odour are destitute of juices, the violet, the rose, and the crocus, for example; those, on the other hand, which have a penetrating odour, but are destitute of juices, have all of them a very powerful smell, as we find the case with the two varieties11 of the lily. The abrotonum12 and the amaracus13 have a pungent smell. In some plants, it is the flower only that is sweet, the other parts being inodorous, the violet and the rose, for example.

Among the garden plants, the most odoriferous are the dry ones, such as rue, mint, and parsley, as also those which grow on dry soils. Some fruits become more odoriferous the older they are, the quince, for example, which has also a stronger smell when gathered than while upon the tree. Some plants, again, have no smell but when broken asunder, or when bruised, and others only when they are stripped of their bark. Certain vegetable substances, too, only give out a smell when subjected to the action of fire, such as frankincense and myrrh, for example. All flowers are more bitter to the taste when bruised than when left untouched.14 Some plants preserve their smell a longer time when dried, the melilote, for example; others, again, make the place itself more odoriferous where they grow, the iris15 for instance, which will even render the whole of a tree odoriferous, the roots of which it may happen to have touched. The hesperis16 has a more powerful odour at night, a property to which it owes its name.

Among the animals, we find none that are odoriferous, unnless, indeed, we are inclined to put faith in what has been said about the panther.17

1 All these statements as to the odours of various substances, are from Theophrastus, De Causis, B. vi. c. 22.

2 He does not say, however, that it is but rarely that a bitter substance is not odoriferous; a sense in which Fée seems to have understood him, as he says, "This assertion is not true in general, and there are numerous exceptions; for instance, quassia wood, which is inodorous and yet intensely bitter." The essential oil, he remarks, elaborated in the tissue of the corolla, is the ordinary source of the emanations of the flower.

3 Fée remarks that cultivation gives to plants a softer and more aqueous consistency, which is consequently injurious to the developement of the essential oil.

4 Theophrastus, from whom this is borrowed, might have said with more justice, Fée remarks, that certain roses have more odour when dried than when fresh gathered. Such is the case, he says, with the Provence rose. Fresh roses, however, have a more pronounced smell, the nearer they are to the olfactory organs.

5 This is by no means invariably the case: in fact, the smell of most odoriferous plants is most powerful in summer.

6 Because the essential oils evaporate more rapidly.

7 With Littré, we adopt the reading "ætate," "mid-age," and not "æstate," "midsummer," for although the assertion would be in general correct, Pliny would contradict the statement just made, that all plants have a more penetrating odour in spring. This reading is supported also by the text of Theophrastus.

8 Or saffron.

9 This is a just observation, but the instances might be greatly extended, as Fée says.

10 See B. xviii. c. 39.

11 The white lily and the red lily. See c. 11 of this Book.

12 As to the Abrotonum, see B. xiii. c. 2, and c. 34 of this Book.

13 See c. 35 of this Book.

14 Or in other words, the interior of the petals has a more bitter flavour than that of the exterior surface.

15 Pliny makes a mistake here, in copying from Theophrastus. De Causis, B. vi. c. 25. That author is speaking not of the flower, but of the rainbow, under the name of "iris." Pliny has himself made a similar statement as to the rainbow, in B. xii. c. 52, which he would appear here to have forgotten.

16 The Cheiranthus tristis of Linnæus, or sad gilliflower, Fée thinks.

17 See B. viii. c. 23. Pliny did not know of the existence of the muskdeer, the Muschus moschiferus of Eastern Asia: and lie seems not to have thought of the civet, (if, indeed, it was known to him) the fox, the weasel, and the polecat, the exhalations from which have a peculiar smell. The same, too, with the urine of the panther and other animals of the genus Felis.

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