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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/76

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72
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

tion of the original 'puccoon,' as suggested by Bartlett. 'Hickory' is the Anglicized ending of the Algonquin word powcohicora which meant a dish compounded of the kernel of the hickory nut, without reference to the tree itself. Persimmon, sassafras, papaw, catalpa, pipsissewa, pecan, chinquapin, cohosh, maracock (passion flower), kinnikinnik, and others are all more or less garbled forms of aboriginal names. Certain species became known by names suggested from their early association with certain uses or from various peculiarities and properties. Rattlesnake-root and rattlesnake-plantain were greatly esteemed by the native peoples as antidotes for the poison of the reptile. A number of different plants bear the name of 'snake-root' all of them with supposed virtues in curing the bites of serpents. One of them, the Virginia snake-root (Aristolochia Serpentaria), figures in Gerarde's 'Herbal.' "There's the Snake-Root," says Beverley, "so much admired in England for a Cordial, and for being a great Antidote in all Pestilential Distempers." A 'swamp-root' was very early used by the settlers in Virginia for the fever and ague, and the virtues of some plant bearing this name are still exploited, at least in the advertisements of quack doctors. The old chroniclers of America were profound believers in 'simples,' and the early accounts of the country set forth, at considerable length, the medicinal value of various plants. Josselyn, in 'New England's Rarities Discovered,' is a mine of information in this respect. Uses, other than medicinal, have given rise to certain local names. The candle-berry tree—the sweet bay or myrtle of Carolina (Myrica)—was so called from the use of its wax-like berries in the making of candles by the settlers. "If an Accident puts a Candle out, it yields a pleasant Fragrancy to all that are in the Room; insomuch, that nice People often put them out, on purpose to have the Incense of the expiring Snuff."

Such names as squaw-root, papoose root, Seneca snake-root, bowman's root, Osage orange, arrowwood, Indian turnip, and the like, have a decided aboriginal flavor and probably hold a story quite as fascinating as any in the Anglo Saxon lineage. Dim pictures of the life of this vanished people will rise before the mind with many of these plant names. The beautiful native orchids of the genus Cypripedium that grow in remote woodland places, are called by their Indian name of 'moccasin flower' quite as often as by that which allies them to the old world history of plants and men. In Gray's Manual there is a short sentence that to me has a peculiar and indefinable charm, where wild tobacco is spoken of as occurring in 'old fields from New York westward and southward: a relic of cultivation by the Indians.' What a picture in this brief statement of wigwams in the ancient woods, or in sun-lit clearings, with Indian women hoeing among their maize, squashes, and tobacco!

The effort of the early colonists to give familiar titles to the objects