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Gerard's Herbal Vol. 1

Gerard's Herbal V1 - CHAP. 102. Of White Lilies.

CHAP. 102. Of White Lilies.

Fig. 326 White Lily (1)

Fig. 327. Constantinople White Lily (2)


The Kinds.

            There be sundry sorts of Lilies, whereof some be wild, or of the field; others tame, or of the garden; some white, others red; some of our own country's growing, others from beyond the seas; and because of the variable sorts we will divide them into chapters, beginning with the two white Lilies, which differ little but in the native place of growing.

The Description

            1. The white Lily hath long, smooth, and full bodied leaves, of a grassy or light green colour. The stalks be two cubits high, and sometimes more, set or garnished with the like leaves, but growing smaller and smaller toward the top; and upon them do grow fair white flowers strong of smell, narrow toward the foot of the stalk whereon they do grow, wide or open in the mouth like a bell. In the middle part of them do grow small tender pointels tipped with a dusty yellow colour, ribbed or chamfered on the back side, consisting of six small leaves thick and fat. The root is a bulb made of scaly cloves, full of tough and clammy juice, wherewith the whole plant doth greatly abound.

            2. The white Lily of Constantinople hath very large and fat leaves like the former, but narrower and lesser. The stalk riseth up to the height of three cubits, set and garnished with leaves also like the precedent, but much less. Which stalk oftentimes doth alter and degenerate from his natural roundness to a flat form, as it were a lath of wood furrowed or chanelled alongst the same, as it were ribs or welts. The flowers grow at the top like the former, saving that the leaves do turn themselves more backward like the Turk's Cap, and beareth many more flowers than our English white Lily doth.

The Place.

            Our English white Lily groweth in most gardens of England. The other groweth naturally in Constantinople and the parts adjacent, from whence we had plants for our English gardens, where they flourish as in their own country.

The Time.

            The Lilies flower from May to the end of June.

The Names.

            The Lily is called in Latin, Lilium, and also Rosa Iunonis, or Juno's Rose, because as it is reported it came up of her milk that fell upon the ground. For the poets feign, That Hercules, who Jupiter had by Alcumena, was put to Juno's breath whilest she was asleep; and after the sucking there fell away abundance of milk; and that one part was spilt in the heavens, and the other on the earth; and that of this sprang the Lily and of the other the circle in the heavens called Lacteus Circulus, or the Milky Way, or otherwise in English Watling Street. Saint Basil in the explication of the 44th Psalm saith, That no flower so lively sets forth the frailty of man's life as the Lily. It is called in high Dutch, Weiz Gilgen: in low Dutch, Witte Lilien: in Italian, Giglio: in Spanish, Lirio blanco: in French, Lys blanc: in English, the white Lily.

            The other is called Lilium album Byzantinum, and also Martagon album Byzantinium: in English, the white Lily of Constantinople: of the Turks themselves, Sultan Zambach, with this addition, (that they might be the better known which kind of Lily they meant when they sent roots of them into these countries) Fa fioragrandi Bianchi; so that Sultan Zambach fa fioragrandi Bianchi, is as much to say as, Sultan's great Lily with white flowers.

The Nature.

            The white Lily is hot, and partly of a subtle substance. But if you regard the root, it is dry in the first degree, and hot in the second.

The Virtues.

            A. The root of the garden Lily stamped with honey glueth together sinews that be cut in sunder. It consumeth or scoureth away the ulcers of the head called Achores, and likewise all scurviness of the beard and face.

            B. The Root stamped with Vinegar, the leaves of Henbane, or the meal of Barley, cureth the tumours and apostumes of the privy members. It bringeth the hair again upon places which have been burned or scalded, if it be mingled with oil or grease, and the place anointed therewith.

            C. The same root roasted in the embers, and stamped with some leaven of rye bread and hog's grease, breaketh pestilential botches. It ripeneth apostumes in the flanks, coming of venery and such like.

            D. The flowers steeped in Oil of Olive, and shifted two or three times during summer, and set in the sun in a strong glass, is good to soften the hardness of sinews, and the hardness of the matrix.

            E. Florentinus a writer of husbandry saith, That if the root be curiously opened, and therein be put some red, blue, or yellow colour that hath no caustic or burning quality, it will cause the flower to be of the same colour.

            F. Julius Alexandrinus the Emperor's physician saith, That the water thereof distilled and drunk causeth easy and speedy deliverance, and expelleth the secondine or after-burthen in most speedy manner.

            G. He also saith, the leaves boiled in red wine, and applied to old wounds or ulcers, do much good, and forward the cure, according to the doctrine of Galen in his seventh book de simpl. Med. facultat.

            H. The root of a white Lily stamped and strained with wine, and given to drink for two or three days together, expelleth the poison of the pestilence, and causeth it to break forth in blisters in the outward part of the skin, according to the experience of a learned gentleman Mr. William Godorus, Sergeant Surgeon to the Queen's Majesty: who also hath cured many of the dropsy with the juice thereof, tempered with barley meal, and baked in cakes, and so eaten ordinarily for some month or six weeks together with meat, but no other bread during that time.

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