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Page:Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1.djvu/68

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ILLUSTRATIONS OF INDIAN BOTANY.

edge of each of (he carpels, of which the fruit is made up ; so that in Nigella, in which the carpels co-here in the centre, the seeds are attached to the axis, while in Nymphceaceae, the placentae occupy the whole surface of each side of the individual carpels, of which the fruit is composed. But if such are the undoubted immediate affinities of Nymphceaceae, it is certain that some strong analogies exist between them and HydrocJiaraceae, to the vicinity of which they are referred by those who believe them to be Monocotyledonous. Taking Nelumbiaceae for a transition order, I hey have some relation to Alismac&ie , the only Monocotyledonous order, in which there is an indefinite number of carpels in each flower, and to Hydrocharaceae , with which they agree in the structure, though not the vernation, of their leaves, and their habit. An analogy of a similar nature with this last may be also traced between them, and the monopetalous sub-order, Menyantheae."

Geographical Distribution. It is commonly remarked respecting aquatic plants generally, that the same species are found in the most distant regions. The Nymphoeaceae form an exception to this law, each species being confined to a comparatively limited range of territory. Four, according to De Candolle, (System Veget.) are natives of Europe; 2 of Egypt; 2 of Siberia; 9 of the warmer parts of Asia and Japan: 9 of North America; and 1 of the Cape, with the exception of which, they are almost unknown in the southern hemisphere. Mr. Royle well remarks, that India may be considered their head quarters, as species of all the genera, except Nuphar, (the English yellow water lily) are found in it; namely, Nymphcea, Euryale, and Bare lay a-, and of Nymphcea a greater number than in any other country. Of this last genus the same species, with the exception of the red varieties of N. rubra, are found in every part of India, from the extreme south to the most northern confines.

Properties and Uses. These beautiful aquatics have justly been the admiration of mankind in all countries where they grow, from the earliest ages ; while their habitation in the midst of cool and placid waters, combined with the chaste whiteness of their flowers, have tended to clothe them, in their estimation, with imaginary properties : for from what other source could have sprung the belief, that plants, whose sensible properties are essentially tonic, should be endowed with sedative, cooling, and anti-aphrodisiac powers of such intensity, as to cause total indifference to sexual intercourse, or even absolute sterility. That such an opinion is purely imaginary, may I think be safely inferred, from the estimation in which both the roots and seeds of nearly all the species, natives of this and the adjoining countries, are held, as affording a wholesome and nourishing food. In this country the capsules and seed together are prepared in various ways, sometimes pickled, sometimes stewed or made into curry, and sometimes, the seed are ground and mixed with meal to make cakes. The underground stems, or roots, as they are commonly called, are composed in great part of fecula, better known, perhaps, under the names of Starch, and Arrow root, and are used both as aliment and medicine. In Africa we learn from the Flora Senegambiae that the fruit is equally sought after by the inhabitants, and by the wild animals of the jungles. The Authors remark, it is surprising to see, at the season of their maturity, the numbers of women and children returning towards evening, to the village, laden with these fruits, which they lay in the sun until they dry and open naturally.' The seed are prepared for use by simply boiling, and then quickly torrifying them, by which they acquire a very agreeable taste. The farinacious roots are equally used for food, being first roasted among the cinders, when they acquire a taste resembling potatoes.

Dr. Ainslie, in his Materia Indica (Vol. 2, page 234) suggests, in opposition to the opinion of the late Dr. Rottler, that the Nedel Kalung, meaning, nedel root, is not a species of Nymphcea, but of Menyanthes, M. indica, a conjecture, to which he is led " by the name of the last mentioned plant being according to Rheede, Nedel-ambel" I have endeavoured to ascertain how far this conjecture is correct, and find reason to believe that he is partly right, as nedel is a name by which the Menyanthes is known here: ambel, on the other hand, is applied to a very different plant, namely, the Damasonit/m indicum, equally an aquatic, but differing in every other respect, and having no one point of affinity beyond growing in water : a striking instance of the little faith to be reposed in native names, since Dr. Rottler's proverbial accuracy, and extensive knowledge of Indian plants, scarcely leaves room to doubt, that the plant shown to him as the Nedel was truly a Nymphcea,