« PreviousContinue »
S'yámá, a new genus.
60 Tála, Borassus.
65 Támracúta, Nicotiana. Táraca, Amomum? Tarunì, Aloë.
80 Ulapa, Ariftida?
85 Valvaja, Andropogon? Vanacéli, Canna. Vanamudga.
Vandá, Epidendrum. 90 Vandá, Loranthus.
95 Varángaca, Laurus.
Váftuca, Amaranthus ?
SELECT INDIAN PLANTS*.
BY THE PRESIDENT.
'IF my names of plants displease you, fays the great Swedish botanist, ⚫ choose others more agreeable to your taste,' and, by this candour, he has disarmed all the criticism, to which as it must be allowed, even the critical part of his admirable works lie continually open: I avail myself of his indulgence, and am very solicitous to give Indian plants their true Indian appellations; because I am fully perfuaded, that LINNÆUS himself would have adopted them, had he known the learned and ancient language of this country; as he, like all other men, would have retained the native names of Afiatick regions and cities, rivers and mountains, leaving friends or perfons of eminence to preserve their own names by their own merit, and inventing new ones, from distinguishing marks and properties, for such objects only as, being recently discovered, could have had no previous denomination. Far am I from doubting the
* This paper was announced in the fpecimen of an Afiatick Common-place Book, which the Prefident added, in the third volume of thefe Tranfactions, to Mr. HARINGTON's propofal for an improvement of LOCKE's useful plan.
great importance of perfect botanical defcriptions; for languages expire as nations decay, and the true fenfe of many appellatives in every dead language must be lost in a course of ages: but, as long as those appellatives remain understood, a travelling physician, who should wish to procure an Arabian or Indian plant, and, without asking for it by its learned or vulgar name, fhould hunt for it in the woods by its botanical character, would refemble a geographer, who, defiring to find his way in a foreign city or province, fhould never inquire by name for a street or a town, but wait with his tables and inftruments, for a proper occasion to determine its longitude and latitude.
The plants, described in the following paper by their claffical appellations, with their synonyma or epithets, and their names in the vulgar dialects, have been felected for their novelty, beauty, poetical fame, reputed use in medicine, or fuppofed holiness; and frequent allufions to them all will be found, if the Sanscrit language fhould ever be generally studied, in the popular and facred poems of the ancient Hindus, in their medical books and lawtracts, and even in the Védas themselves: though unhappily I cannot profess, with the fortunate Swede, to have seen without glaffes all the parts of the flowers, which I have described, yet you may be affured, that I have mentioned no part of them, which I have not again and again examined with my own eyes; and though the weaknefs of my fight will for ever prevent my becoming a botanist, yet I have in some little degree atoned for that fatal defect by extreme attention, and by an ardent zeal for the most lovely and fascinating branch of natural knowledge.
Before I was acquainted with the method pursued by VAN RHEEDE, neceffity had obliged me to follow a fimilar plan on a smaller scale ; and, as his mode of studying botany, in a country and climate by no means favourable to botanical excurfions, may be adopted more fuc
cessfully by those who have more leisure than I shall ever enjoy, I prefent with an interesting paffage from one of his prefaces, to which I should barely have referred you, if his great work were not unfortunately confined, from its rarity, to very few hands. He informs us, in an introduction to his third volume, "that several Indian phyficians "and Brábmens had compofed by his order, a catalogue of the most ce"lebrated plants, which they diftributed according to their times of bloffoming and feeding, to the configuration of their leaves, and to "the forms of their flowers and fruit; that, at the proper feasons he gave copies of the lift to several intelligent men, of whom he sent parties into different forests, with instructions to bring him, from all "quarters, fuch plants as they faw named, with their fruit, flowers, and "leaves, even though they should be obliged to climb the most lofty "trees for them; that three or four painters, who lived in his family, constantly and accurately delineated the fresh plants, of which, in his
prefence, a full defcription was added; that, in the meanwhile, he “had earnestly requested all the princes and chiefs on the Malabar "coast to send him fuch vegetables, as were most distinguished for use "or for elegance, and that not one of them failed to fupply his garden "with flowers, which he fometimes received from the distance of fifty or fixty leagues; that when his herbarifts had collected a fuf"ficient number of plants, when his draughtsmen had sketched their
figures, and his native botanists had fubjoined their description, he "fubmitted the drawings to a little academy of Pandits, whom he used "to convene for that purpose from different parts of the country; "that his affembly often confifted of fifteen or fixteen learned natives, "who vied with each other in giving correct anfwers to all his quef"tions concerning the names and virtues of the principal vegetables, "and that he wrote all their anfwers in his note-book; that he was "infinitely delighted with the candid, modeft, amicable, and respect"ful debates of those pagan philofophers, each of whom adduced pasfages