Exotic Botany (1759)
Sir John Hill
WE receiv'd first from SOUTH AMERICA this pride and glory of the bulbous Class. Mine, though of ASIATIC origin, differ'd in nothing from the usual Plant, except that the Leaves were somewhat narrower, and of a less firm substance. I need not recommend it to the world: The Hexandrian Class comprizes most of the bulbous Plants; and they are generally crown'd with specious Flowers: This has enjoy'd the first praise hitherto; and fancy is the only judge, whether or not the next excels it.
The Leaves are fleshy, but not firm: The Stalk is thick; and what is very singular, 'tis often white, or transparent toward the ground, though it gives nourishment to this high-colour'd Flower. The change which gives that glowing colour is made higher.
The Flower bursts from a filmy Scabbard; and with its weight often bends the Stalk. The disposition of the Petals, one upright, two sideways, and three downward, is regular and essential in the plant: and the bending of the lower Petals, by which they embrace the Filaments towards the bottom, is yet more singular.
The six Filaments discover the Plant to be of this hexandrous Class; the sixth in order in the Sexual System: and the character of that Class cannot be more strongly mark'd in any Flower. The ANTHERAE, or Buttons, which crown the Filaments, are at first long and white; afterwards shorter and yellow. It is a change frequent in the Anthera of other Flowers; but here they are so large that 'tis easy to see how it is brought about. The plant will flower upon a shelf; and it may therefore be familiarly observ'd.
The Antherae at their first appearance are furrow'd lengthwise, and are white. Each is compos'd of two Tubes join'd on their inner part; and each has a groove outward along the middle. If an Anthera be cut transversely, these two Tubes are plainly seen; and they are fill'd with a yellow powder, the Farina. After a Time they burst: the Opening begins at one end of each Tube, and in the Groove. As they split farther up, the two Sides turn back, and the Tubes contract themselves, and become shorter. This makes their change of shape: the yellow colour is owing to the Farina covering them.
The other parts of impregnation are as conspicuous in this vast Flower. The Stigma, or Top of the Style is cover'd with crystalline Clubs, and open Tubes, and is always wet with a glutinous clear humour, serving to detain and burst the grains of Farina.
There are also six nectaria in the Base of the Flower, of a very curious and peculiar structure, solid at their Bottom, and branch'd upwards in the manner of white coral.
These parts I first observ'd in that Species Amaryllis, figur'd in a small work, entitled OUTLINES OF VEGETABLE GENERATION, publish'd a few months since. LINNAEUS had overlook'd them. I am happy to find them also in this Plant, which is a Species of the same Genus. Different Observations thus confirm each other.
THE former Species, obtain'd from Linnaeus, by its uncommon lustre, the epithet of FORMOSISSIMA; MOST BEAUTIFUL: perhaps this will make the title doubtful. Its profusion in the entire clutter is a great glory; and the more elegant, though fainter colour, entitles it well to the addition DELICATE. At times it has flower'd in the EUROPEAN Stoves: but this has been so seldom, and with so much variation, from the more or less advantageous management, that they who possess'd the several Plants doubted whether or not they were the same Species ; and the good HEISTER lately thought it so glorious and so wonderful a sight, that when it burst for Flower, he wrote upon the garden gates an invitation to superior beings, to come down and look upon it. He thought his Plant that flower'd with him different from what had been describ'd by others, but 'twas only that it blow'd less perfectly. This is the aspect of the cluster in perfection, as it flower'd in CHINA, though 'tis otherwise the same with his ; as his own Root and Leaves here figur'd also shew.
The Stalk is robust, upright, and crown'd at first with a vast single bud, consisting of many Flowers in a kind of Scabbard. When this bursts they throw themselves naturally into a rounded form, and play in various elevations; their colour, which is pale at first, grows stronger as they stand; and the whole cluster remains a long time in perfection. The Flower has nothing of that singularity which is so conspicuous in the preceding Species; but it is not altogether regular, the Petals not being of equal length.
The characters of the sixth Class, the Hexandria, are as conspicuous and evident in this as in the last named Species; and these bulbous Plants very happily shew that distinction, which, though as certain in all others, is often obscur'd by the smallness of the parts, or by their situation in the depth of the Flower.
There is something that deserves notice in the scabbard of this Plant; the filmy substance, which performs the office of a Cup, and holds the young Flowers, till they are ripe for bursting: tho' the materials of this, and the form, properly speaking, are the same as in the other kind, yet the bigness here makes a striking difference; and it is more durable, and is not wholly destitute of colour. It is perhaps the most elegant of its kind; and is the next thing in degree to the Cup of the Haemanthus, which the incurious suppose a Flower. The term Scabbard, Spatha, is given to this kind of filmy substance, supplying the place and office of a Cup; but there is also another apparent peculiarity in this Plant, those crimson threads which lie among the Footstalks of the Flowers rising from the same base. All who saw them wonder'd: but 'tis their colour only which is particular. They are of the nature of those Films called Stipulae in other plants, and there are the same substances exactly, only white, in every common many-flower'd Narcissus.