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Gerard's Herbal Vol. 5

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 121. Of the Wayfaring Tree.

CHAP. 121. Of the Wayfaring Tree.



Fig. 2086. Wayfaring Tree

The Description.

The Wayfaring man's tree grows up to the height of an hedge tree, of a mean bigness: the trunk or body thereof is covered with a russet bark: the branches are long, tough, and easy to be bowed, and hard to be broken, as are those of the Willow, covered with a soft whitish bark, whereon are broad leaves thick and rough, slightly indented about the edges, of a white colour, and somewhat hairy whilst they be fresh and green; but when they begin to wither and fall away, they are reddish, and set together by couples one opposite to another. The flowers are white, and grow in clusters: after which come clusters of fruit of the bigness of a pea, somewhat flat on both sides, at the first green, after red, and black when they be ripe: the root disperseth itself far abroad under the upper crust of the earth.

The Place.

This tree groweth in most hedges in rough and stony places, upon hills and low woods, especially in the chalky grounds of Kent about Cobham, Southfleet, and Gravesend, and in all the tract to Canterbury.

The Time.

The flowers appear in summer: the berries are ripe in the end of autumn, and new leaves come forth in the spring.

This hedge tree is called Viurna of Ruellius: in French, Viorne, and Viorna: in Italian, Lantana: it is reputed for the tree Viburnum, of which Virgil maketh mention in the first Eclogue, where he commendeth the city Rome for the loftiness and stateliness thereof, above other cities, saying, that as the tall Cypress trees do show themselves above the low and shrubby Viorn, so doth Rome above other cities lift up her head very high; in these verses:

Verum hc tantum alias inter caput exulit urbes,
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.

But this all other cities so excels,
As Cypress, which 'mongst bending Viornes dwells.

[Virgil, Eclogues I. l. 24-25]

I judge Viburnum not to be a name to any particular plant, but a general name to all low and bending shrubs; amongst which this here described may take place as one. I enquired of a countryman in Essex, if he knew any name of this: he answered, it was called the Cotton tree, by reason of the softness of the leaves.

The Temperature.

The leaves and berries of Lantana are cold and dry, and of a binding quality.

The Virtues.

A. The decoction of the leaves of Lantana is very good to be gargled in the mouth against all swellings and inflammations thereof, against the scurvy and other diseases of the gums, and fasteneth loose teeth.

B. The same boiled in lye doth make the hairs black if they be bathed or washed therewith, and suffered to dry of itself.

C. The berries are of the like faculty, the powder whereof when they be dried stay the lask, all issues of blood, and also the whites.

D. It is reported, that the bark of the root of the tree buried a certain time in the earth, and afterwards boiled and stamped according to art, maketh good bird-lime for fowlers to catch birds with.

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