Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

and the neglected field, are gay with the bright yellow rays of the coltsfoot, (Tussilago Farfara.) It is almost the only instance of a wild flower which appears long before its leaves are unfolded. This plant is a certain indication of a clayey soil, and its large angular leaves sometimes abound on the moist clay grounds in the middle of summer. Loudon says of this plant, that "it covers the clay soils on the pestilential Maremmas, in Tuscany, where scarcely any other plant will

grow;

and the traveller on these desolate scenes, must rejoice even at this sign of vegetation. We can, indeed, hardly find a spot of earth on which some plant peculiar to the soil will not take root."

The coltsfoot is, in some country places, called bull's-foot, or horse-foot. The cottony down, under the leaves, is often gathered in villages for tinder; and the feather of the seeds, which is of a more woolly texture than that of the dandelion, is used by the Highlanders for stufling mattresses. The coltsfoot leaves, previously dried in the sun, will, if dipped in a solution of salt petre, burn like linen rag. The flowers are infused as a remedy for coughs, and were smoked through a reed by the ancient Greeks, as a cure for asthma. The leaves are, in modern times, the chief ingredient of the British herb tobacco, and are often smoked by country people.

By the cold river-side may be found the flowers of the marsh marigold, (Caltha palustris ;) its sturdy stem unbroken by the winds, which make wild music, on the harp of reeds,

fringing the edge of the water. Unless the weather be unusually fine, we must not expect it to blow before the end of the month, but by that time it is very common on marshy grounds. It is often the flower which enlivens the mountain streams of Scotland in the early year, and is very common in France, where it is called souci d'eau. It is well known in villages as the water-blob and water-boot. In Lapland and Sweden, whole plains are yellow with it, and its opening is eagerly watched, as it is the first flower which blooms wild in the northern fields, from which the snows are scared by the spring; though it is not till May that it expands there. Few flowers are more abundant on the marshy lands of Holland, than this. It is not a good plant for the pasture, as the cattle reject this and the other species of ranunculus, except when herbage is so scarce that they have little choice. The blossoms of the marsh marigold, when boiled in alum, give a good dye to paper.

MARCH.
“What though the opening spring be chi!!,

Although the lark, check'd in his airy path.
Eke out his song, perch'd on the fallow clod
That still o'ertops the blade! Although 1!0 branch
Have spread its foliage save the willow wand
That dips its pale leaves in the swollen stream!
What though the clouds oft lower! :hese threats but end
In sunny showers, that scarcely fill the folds
of moss-couch'd violet, or interrupt
The merle's dulcet pipe, melodious bird!
He, hid behind the milk white sloe-thorn spray,
Whose early flowers anticipate the leaf,

Welcomes the time of buds, the infant year."-GPAHLAME.
The old proverb that “March comes in like

a lion, and goes out like a lamb,” though belonging particularly to the month under the old style, is yet generally true.

There is scarcely any

time of the year, in which a few weeks effect a greater change in the appearance of nature, and the state of the atmosphere, than at this time; when, both in morn and eve, or the still increasing day” grows on the darkness, at the command of Him who causeth “the day-spring to know his place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth."*

The vegetation of this month is not only rapidly assuming the brighter colours of spring, bụt daily becomes less thin and scattered. The winding sprays of the honeysuckle are pretty well covered; the spiry branches of the Lombardy poplar look quite green, and the flowers of the ash are coming out on its leafless boughs. The well-cased foliage which has been hid in the resinous buds of the horse-chestnut tree, bursts out from its winter shield, and the green flowers of the gooseberry invite the bee to their nectar. The blossoms of the apricot tree slowly unfold on the garden wall, and that beautiful plant, the almond tree, is putting forth its delicate blushing flowers so quickly, and so much in advance of all the other trees in the garden, as to remind us of the haste and vigilance of which it was an ancient symbol. “What seest thou?” said the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, and he said, I see a rod of an almond-tree. Then said the Lord, Thou

Job xxxviii. 12, 13.

[ocr errors]

hast well seen: for I will hasten my word and will perform it."*

The redbreast and the blackbird already sing their welcome to the spring; and foremost among the flowers are the bright blossoms of the mezereon, (Daphne mezereum.) Long before the rough winds have subsided, its odours greet our sense, and its beauty adorns our gardens. It is also a wild flower, and grows in many woods of Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, and other counties ; although it was introduced from Sweden, into the English garden, many years before a better acquaintance with our native botany had led to the knowledge that it belonged to England's Flora. Its purple clusters are out before the leaves appear,

which Cowper has noticed.

" Mezereon too,
Thouglı leafless, well attired, and thick beset

With blushing leaves investing every spray.” The mezereon grows in woods throughout Europe ; from the forests of the cold Lapland, where it looks gay among the dark firs and the stunted birch trees, to the richly-decked groves of the bright islands of the Mediterranean sea ; and in some islands of the Levant, it is so pientiful, that a silver-leaved variety is commonly used for brooms, and called broom plant, (Herbe aux balais.)

Almost every part of the mezereon is acrid. Its one-seeded berries are highly poisonous. Dr. Thornton records the case of his young

* Jer. i. 11, 12.

sister, who died in consequence of eating but a small number of these bright fruits. Yet, poisonous as they are to man and animals, in general, the Great Creator has adapted them to the use of some of his creatures, for to the birds they are palatable and nourishing; and the thrush and the blackbird search for them eagerly, and haunt the neighbouring trees and hedges where these bushes abound.

A small piece of the mezereon bark, bound down upon the skin with a plantain leaf above it, is used in villages to raise a blister. In France, the use of plants, in their simple forms, is much more common than with us; and the physician directs his patient to gather his remedy from the wood or field; and the herbalist collects a quantity of plants, which are hung, dried on strings, and sold in the shops of Paris. There we may

find the mezereon bark, for the blister; and the mullein, the melilot, the mallow, and fifty others, ready for medicinal or surgical purposes. Both in France and England, the mezereon-root is used for toothache, and a yellow dye has been obtained from its branches.

This plant, and the several kinds of Daphne, are often termed laurel, from the similarity of the leaves of some species to those of the shining laurel tree. Our old names for the mezereon, are olive spurge and mountain pepper, and the French call it laureole gentille. In Italy, it is a favourite flower, and called Biondella, (Little fair one.)

Our other wild Daphne is much more general

« VorigeDoorgaan »