Open main menu

Page:Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1.djvu/44

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


arrangement of the parts of the flower when few, and hy their number when the quinary occurs, also by their spicate, not verticelled ovaries : from anonaceee, to which they perhaps even more nearly approach, by their stipules, and solid, not ruminated, albumen.

Essential Character. Polypetalous ; polyandrous ; ovary wholly superior ; carpels more or less distinct, leaves furnished with stipules: without transparent dots.*[1]

Geographical Distribution. The species of this order are nearly confined to America and Asia, two or three only having as yet been found in Australia ; and none in Africa or Europe. In North America they are most abundant, the woods, swamps, and sides of hills of that country, abounding in species. In India they have a very wide range ; extending from the southern provinces of Ceylon and the Peninsula, up to the Himalayas, some of the largest species of the order being natives of the valley of Nepal and neighbouring mountains, while others extending eastward towards China and Japan, ascend as high as the 40° of N. latitude. The species and genera however met with at the extremities of this range differ, Michelia being almost the only genus found to the southward, while Sphenocarpus and Manglietia are conspicuous in the north. There however, several fine species of Michelia are also found, four of which have been figured by Dr. Wallich in his Tentanum Flor. Nepalensis, and one in his Plant, Asiat. rariores. Of the known species of the order 14 are enumerated in Wallich's list of Indian plants. Blume has given characters of 11 in his Bijdragen, to these may now be added one from Malabar, one from the Neelgherries, figured by Zenker, the accompanying from the Pulney range of mountains, and three others, of which I possess specimens from the more elevated regions of Ceylon, making up the total number of Asiatic species yet known to about 30, four of which are either indigenous or naturalized in the Peninsula : two of these, are only met with on the highest hills ; the third, M. Rheedii equally on hills, and on the plains of Malabar : while Michelia Champaca, a doubtful native, is cultivated on the plains on account of its fragrant flowers. This predilection of the species for the hills is equally observed in most of the other Indian ones ; nearly the whole of those mentioned by Wallich being from Nepal and Silhet. This order therefore in its geographical characteristics though nearly confined to the tropics, or, with one or two exceptions, extending but slightly beyond them, can scarcely be viewed as a tropical order, certainly not to the extent that the Dilleniaceae are, since the finest and largest of them are natives of hills enjoying a very moderate range of temperature, so moderate indeed, as undoubtedly to bring them within the temperate range, and such as to induce Mr. Royle (Illustrations of the Botany of the Himalayas) to suggest the expediency of introducing several of them into Europe, on account of their great size and value as timber trees — a suggestion, well deserving of attention, and which, it is hoped, will be tried both in Britain and on the continent, as it is one easily made, and considering the unrivalled skill and facilities possessed in Europe for conducting such experiments, very likely to succeed.

Properties and Uses. Bitter and aromatic properties are common to the order, and have led Blume to remark, that by these properties they are known from Dilleniaceae : their flowers are usually fragrant. The fragrance, according to DeCandolle, is such as to produce a decided action on the nerves, that from Magnolia tripetala inducing sickness and head-ache ; while Barton states, that that from Magnolia glauca is so stimulating as to produce paroxysms of fever. The bark of some, though intensely bitter, is devoid of tannin and gallic acid ; that of the root of M. glauca according to Barton is an important tonic. In this country they seem too little known, to have found their way into the Materia medica of India, at least none of the order are mentioned by either Roxburgh or Ainsley as being employed in medicine, though Rheede (Hort. Mai.) in his account of Michelia Champaca, (I tab. 69) does mention the bark of the

  1. * The order Winteriaceae is only distinguished, essentially, from this by the transparent dots of its leaves, and being so closely related, was formerly combined with Magnoliaceae. It is now said, that what all writers have stated about the aromatic stimulant properties of Magnoliaceae, should be applied to Winteriacew. No species of the order has yet been found in India proper, but Illicium Anisatum is a native of China, whence the Indian Bazars are largely supplied with its star-like capsules, possessing, as the name imports, both the fragrance and aromatic carminative properties of the true anise seed; and like it, furnishing to distillation, an essential oil, scarcely, if at all distinguishable from that procured from the European herb. The Canella alba or Winters bark is procured from a plant of this order, (Drymis Winteri) a native of South America. It does not seem probable that if transferred to India the Drymis would succeed, but there is every reason to suppose that the star Anise {Illicium), might with care be introduced, and prove a valuable acquisition to this country.