Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/321

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

THE GENUINE RHUBARB.

293

Rhubarb in its native land, were Marco Polo and the Jesuits, who travelled through China and surveyed it, at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century, by order of the government. But as they neither brought to Europe a scientific description of the plant, nor the plant itself, nor even seed, the genuine Rhubarb ever remained unknown. At the beginning of the last century the Russian Government prepared at Kiakhta, on the Siberian-Chinese frontier, a Rhubarb-'Brack,' where all the Rhubarb imported from China was subjected to a compulsory and strict examination previous to being admitted to the European market, in consequence of which that received through Russia, and called the Muscovite Rhubarb, was universally considered the best. The officers stationed at this 'Brack,' endeavoured in the discharge of their office to obtain fresh seed of the genuine Rhubarb through the Chinese Rhubarb importers. The jealousy of the Chinese, who would not allow so valuable a plant to leave their land, rendered this attempt at first unsuccessful. A few seeds were certainly obtained in 1740, at a high price, propagated in European gardens, and the plants raised from them considered for some time to be genuine, and even described by Linnæus under the name, Rheum Rhabarbarum; but this soon proved to be nothing more than the Rhapontik R., which also grew' in Siberia, and Linnæus accordingly altered his hastily-given name to R. undulatum. But about the year 1750, fresh seed was obtained from which the genuine R. palmatum, never before seen, was propagated. In this way, thanks to the exertions of Russia, Europe acquired the genuine Rhubarb plant; its cultivation developed rapidly, and in the eightieth year of the last century it was widely diffused through Scotland, England, and Germany; indeed, in the two first-mentioned of these countries, where the Horticultural societies in every way encouraged its culture and preparation, the root had already become an article of trade, and was found by many doctors fully equal to the Chinese in operation, and was exclusively used in practice. It was found, however, after numerous experi-