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THE SPIKENARD OF THE ANCIENTS,
INTENDED AS A SUPPLEMENT TO THE LATE
SIR WILLIAM JONES'S PAPERS ON THAT PLANT.
BY WILLIAM ROXBURGH, M.D.
GENERIC CHARACTER. ER. FLOWERS triandrous, leaves entire, fourfold, the inner radical pair petiol'd, and cordate; the rest smaller, sesfile, and fub-lanceolate; feeds crowned with a pappus.
See Afiatick Refearches,
V. Jatamani of Sir WILLIAM JONES. vol. 2, page 405, 417, and vol. 4, page 109.
NOVEMBER 6th, 1794. I received from the Honourable C. A. BRUCE, Commiffioner at Coos-Beyhar, two small baskets with plants of this valuable drug; he writes to me on the 27th September (fo long had the plants been on the road), that he had, the day before, received them
them from the Deb Rajah of Bootan, and further fays, that the
I need scarce attempt to give any further history of this famous odoriferous plant than what is merely botanical, and that with a view to help to illustrate the learned differtations thereon, by the late Sir WILLIAM JONES, in the 2d and 4th volumes of these Researches, and chiefly by pointing out, the part of the plant known by the name, Indian Nard or Spikenard; a question on which MATHEOLUS, the commentator of Diofcorides, beftows a good deal of argument; viz. Whether the roots, or stalks, were the parts esteemed for use, the testimony of the ancients themselves on this head being ambiguous. It is therefore neceffary for those who wish for a more particular account of it, to be acquainted with what that gentleman has published on the subject.
The plants now received, are growing in two small baskets of earth, in each basket there appears above the earth between thirty and forty hairy, fpike-like bodies, but more juftly compared to the tails of Ermines, or small Weafels *; from the apex of each, or at least of the greatest part of them, there is a smooth lanceolate, or lanceolate-oblong, three or five-nerved, short-petiol'd, acute, or obtufe, flightly ferrulate leaf or two shooting forth. Fig. 1. represents one of them in the above state, and on gently removing the fibres, or hairs which furround the short petiols of thefe leaves, I find it confifts of numerous fheaths, of which one, two or three of the upper or interior ones are entire, and have their fibres connected by a light-brown coloured membranous fub
* The term fpica, or spike, is not fo ill applied to this substance, as may be imagined; feveral of the Indian graffes, well known to me, have fpikes almoft exactly refembling a fingle straight piece of nardus, and when those hairs (or flexible arifta like briftles) are removed, PLINY's words, "frutex"radice pingui et craffa," are by no means inapplicable. See 2, from a to b.
ftance as at b. but in the lower exterior fheaths, where this connecting membrane is decayed, the more durable hair-like fibres remain distinct, giving to the whole the appearance of an Ermine's tail: this part, as well as the root itself, are evidently perennial *. The root itself (beginning at the surface of the earth where the fibrous envelope ends) is from three to twelve inches long, covered with a pretty thick, light-brown coloured bark: from the main root, which is fometimes divided, there iffues several smaller fibres. Fig. 2, is another plant with a long root, here the hair-like sheaths, beginning at a. are separated from this the perennial part of the ftem, and turned to the right fide; at the apex is seen the young fhoot, marked 6, which is not fo far advanced as at Fig. 1. ccc fhow the remains of last year's annual ftem. When the young shoot is a little further advanced than in Fig. 2, and not fo far as in Fig. 1. they resemble the young convolute shoots of monocotyledonus plants. June 1795. The whole of the abovementioned plants have perished, without producing flowers, notwithstanding every care that could poffibly be taken of them. The principal figure in the drawing marked Fig. 3, and the following defcription, as well as the above definition, are therefore chiefly extracted from the engraving and description in the second volume of these Researches, and from the in
* The above described perennial hairy portion of the plant, is clearly the Indian spike-nard of our shops; but whether the nardus of the ancients, or not, I leave to better judges to determine; however, I believe few will doubt it after having read Sir WILLIAM JONES'S Differtations thereon, and compared what he says with the accompanying drawings of the perennial hairy part of the ftem of this plant, which are taken from the living plants immediately under my own eyes: the drawing of the herbaceous, or upper part of the plant, is out of the question in determining this point, and only refers to the place the plant bears in our Botanical Books. While writing the above, I defired an Hindu fervant to go and buy me from their apothecaries fhops a little Jatamanfi, without faying more or less: he immediately went and brought me several pieces of the very identical drug, I have been defcribing; a drawing of one of the pieces is represented at Fig. 4, and agrees not only with those I have taken from the living plants, but also exceedingly well with GARCIAS AB ORTA's figure of the nardus indica which is to be found at page 129, of the fourth edition of CLUSIUS's Latin translations of his hiftory of Indian drugs published in 1693.
formation communicated to me by Mr. BURT, the gentleman who had
gave Sir WILLIAM
charge of the plants that flowered at Gaya, and who JONES the drawing and description thereof.
Defcription of the Plant.
Root, it is already described above.
Stem, lower part perennial, involved in fibrous fheaths, &c. as above described; the upper part herbaceous fuberect, fimple, from fix to twelve inches long.
Leaves four-fold, the lowermoft pair of the four radical are oppofite, feffile, oblong, forming, as it were a two-valved fpathe; the other pair are also oppofite petiol'd, cordate, margins waved, and pointed ; thofe of the ftem feffile, and lanceolate, all are smooth on both fides. Corymb terminal, first divifion trichotomous.
Calyx fcarce any.
Corol one petal'd, funnel-shaped, tube somewhat gibbous.
Stamens, filaments three, project above the tube of the corol; anthers incumbent.
Piftil, germ beneath. Style erect, length of the tube. Stigma simple. Pericarp, a single seed crowned with a pappus.