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Gerard's Herbal Vol. 1

Gerard's Herbal V1 - CHAP. 88. Of Bulbous Violets.

CHAP. 88. Of Bulbous Violets.

Fig. 247. Early bulbous Violet (1)

Fig. 248. Byzantine Early Bulbous Violet (2)


The Kinds.

            Theophrastus hath mentioned one kind of bulbous Leucoion, which Gaza translates Viola alba, or the white Violet. Of this Viola Theophrasti, or Theophrastus his Violet, we have observed three sorts, whereof some bring forth many flowers and leaves, others fewer; some flower very early, and others later, as shall be declared.

The Description.

            1. The first of these bulbous Violets riseth out of the ground, with two small leaves flat and crested, of an overworn green colour, between the which riseth up a small and slender stalk of two hands high; at the top whereof cometh forth of a skinny hood a small white flower of the bigness of a Violet, compact of six leaves, three bigger, and three lesser, tipped at the points with a light green: the smaller are fashioned into the vulgar form of a heart, and prettily edged about with green; the other three leaves are longer, and sharp pointed. The whole flower hangeth down his head, by reason of the weak foot stalk whereon it groweth. The root is small, white, and bulbous.

            2. There are two varieties of this kind which differ little in shape, but the first hath a flower as big again as the ordinary one, and Clusius calls it Leucomium bulbosum pręcox Byzantinum, The greater early Constantinopolitan bulbous Violet. The other is mentioned by Lobel, and differs only in colour of flowers; wherefore he calls it Leucomium triphyllum flore cęruleo, The blue flowered bulbous Violet.


Fig. 249. Late Bulbous Violet (3)

Fig. 250. Many-flowered Great Bulbous Violet (4)

            3. The third sort of bulbed Violets hath narrow leaves like those of the leek, but lesser and smoother, not unlike to the leaves of the bastard Daffodil. The stalks be slender and naked, two hands high, whereupon do grow fair white flowers, tipped with a yellowish green colour, with many small chives or threads in the midst of the flower. The seed is contained in small round buttons. The root is white and bulbous

            4. The great bulbed Violet is like unto the third in stalk and leaves, yet greater and higher. It bringeth forth on every stalk not one flower only, but five or six, blowing or flowering one after another, altogether like the other flowers in form and bigness.

Fig. 251. Least Autumn Bulbous Violet (5)

            5. This small bulbous plant may be annexed to the former, the root is small, compact of many coats: the leaves are also small, and the stalk an handful high, at the top whereof there hang down one or two small white flowers consisting of six leaves apiece, much resembling the last described, but far less. It flowers in autumn.

            6. Besides these, Clusius makes mention of a small one much like this, and it flowers in the Spring, and the flowers are somewhat reddish nigh the stalk, and smell sweet. Clusius calls this, Leucoium bulbosum vernum minimum, The smallest spring bulbous Violet.

The Place.

            These plants do grow wild in Italy and the places adjacent. Notwithstanding our London gardens have taken possession of most of them many years past.

The Time.

            The first flowereth in the beginning of January; the second in September; and the third in May; the rest at their seasons mentioned in their descriptions.

The Names

             The first is called of Theophrastus, Leukion; which Gaza renders Viola alba, and Viola bulbosa, or Bulbed Violet. Lobel hath from the colour and shape called it Leuconarcissolirion, and that very properly, considering how it doth as it were participate of two sundry plants, that is to say, the root of the Narcissus, the leaves of the small Lily, and the white colour; taking the first part Leuco, of his whiteness; Narcisso, of the likeness the roots have unto Narcissus; and Lirium, of the leaves of Lilies, as aforesaid. In English we may call it the bulbous Violet; or after the Dutch name, Somer sottekens that is, summer fools, and Druyfkens. Some call them also Snowdrops. This name Leucoium, without his epithet Bulbosum, is taken for the Wallflower, and Stock-Gillyflower, by all modern writers.

The Nature and Virtues.

            Touching the faculties of these bulbous Violets we have nothing to say, seeing that nothing is set down hereof by the ancient writers, nor anything observed by the modern, only they are maintained and cherished in gardens for the beauty and rareness of the flowers, and sweetness of their smell.

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