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plan adopted in the present work has been, to unite to the technicalities of Botany a considerable share of interesting or entertaining information on many parts of the vegetable kingdom, in the hope that a work so constituted as to be of a popular, and, at the same time, of a strictly scientific description, may be found useful. form of publication has been adopted as being most convenient, and the author has preferred wood to copper-plate engravings, considering it an advantage that the figure referred to should be in the text, and immediately under the reader's eye. The figures have been derived from various sources: a considerable number of them were drawn by Mr. Sowerby, whose name is a sufficient passport; a few were drawn by the author himself; but the greater number by the very ingenious artist (Mr. G. W. Bonner), who engraved the whole of the cuts.
It has been recommended add to this edition
may be the merits of that natural arrangement, any account of it which could be introduced here would necessarily either be too short to afford sufficient information, or too long to be compatible with the general nature and object of the work. On these grounds the suggestion alluded to, of some kind and able friends, has not been acted on.
BELFAST, May 27. 1826.
FIRST STEPS TO BOTANY.
OF THE ROOT (RADIX).
1. Radix fusiformis, a fusiform, or spindle-shaped root. (Fusus, a spindle, Lat.) This root is thick above, and grows gradually smaller as it descends ; it is almost always perpendicular, and is generally simple, though sometimes branched. Good examples of it occur in some common culinary vegetables, as the carrot, parsnip, and radish ; and in order to fix your attention, I shall dwell a little on the history of these plants.
I have first, however, to observe, that whatever be the form of the root at large, the true roots, the parts which absorb nourishment, consist of the small hair-like fibres which shoot out from the larger part, or body; these branchlets are named radicles (radicula), fibres, or rootlets, and are annually renewed ; the old ones become exhausted and die, and new radicles are necessary to support the life of the plant. In the vegetables of this climate, each new set of these is produced in early spring; and hence the best time for transplanting is in winter, because then the radicles are either dead or torpid, and may be torn off with impunity to the plant. In hot countries they are formed during the rainy season, a period in which, as Willdenow observes, the vegetable world seems as in a kind of slumber.
Fusiform roots, a, b, body or caudex of the root.
c, radicles, or true roots. Some botanists would call (a) a conical, and (6) a fusiform root, the former resembling a cone, and the latter more exactly the spindle formerly used with the distaff; the distinction is perhaps of little use.
The changes effected by culture on many vegetables, are very surprising, and with some of them you are most probably well acquainted. Perhaps, however, you are not aware that the garden carrot is produced from the common wild carrot, (often called bird's-nest,) so frequent about ditches, and highways. Nothing, indeed, can differ more widely than the root of the two; that of the wild plant being small, tough, and woody, while that of the garden carrot is large, fleshy, and succulent.
CARROT, ITS USES.
The term carrot is thought to be derived from cara, a name given by the old Roman writers to a plant with large esculent roots, which the soldiers of Julius Cæsar, sometimes, when distressed for provisions, made into bread. The plant which they thus used, however, is stated by Dioscorides, and Paulus Ægineta, to have been a sort of parsnip.
The root of the wild carrot, can scarcely be considered as an article of food, though we learn from Lightfoot that it is frequently eaten by the Scotch Highlanders, who consider it wholesome and nutritious. t The roots of the garden carrot possess both these properties in a high degree. To all domestic cattle they are very grateful, and it is said, that for a time, they will support the strength of carriage-horses nearly as well as oats. At the Cape of Good Hope, indeed, the Dutch planters cultivate large fields of carrots for feeding their sheep and horses; and they consider a bunch or two of them, as equivalent to an ordinary feed of corn in England.“ In many places," says Percival, 6 their horses get nothing else during the day but a few bunches of this vegetable.")
The root of the parsnip has also been rendered esculent by culture, for in the wild state it is small and rigid. Pastinaca, its Latin name, is derived from pascor, to feed, because it was used as nutriment; and from the Latin term originates our word
pars* Vide Parr's London Med. Dict. + Flora Scotica, vol. ii.
# Vide Withering. Ś Percival's Account of the Cape of Good Hope, p. 145.