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his modesty would not permit him to subscribe his name to it, a series of very curiou sand useful observations on the vegetable poisons growing in England; the knowledge of which could not be too much or too generally inculcated.
The plants described in this account were disposed according to the sexual system of Linnæus: but our author had not contented himself with a simple arrangement of the plants, the subject of his work; he had gone further, and had given not only the synonyms of some of the best authors, but, as far as his reading and observations had enabled him, their medical and economical uses, and their places of growth.
Nothing could more tend to the advancement of the natural history of this kingdom, than that persons conversant in the various parts of it, should collect the productions of their own neighbourhood, and transmit accounts of them to the How much correspondence of this kind had already done, nothing could give a stronger testimony than the Synopsis Stirpium Britannicarum of the late Mr. Ray; as this, joined to his own industry, enabled Mr. Ray to communicate to the public a more perfect account of the plants of this country than any other nation had then seen.
[Then follows the catalogue of Leicestershire plants, which it was deemed unnecessary to reprint, after the complete arrangement and descriptions of English plants by Hudson, Withering, and Smith.]
CXII. An Attempt to Ascertain the Tree that yields the Common Varnish used in China and Japan; also to Promote its Propagation in our American Colonies; and to Rectify some Mistakes Botanists appear to have entertained concerning it. By Mr. John Ellis, F.R. S. p. 866.
As Mr. E. had a favourable opportunity, from his situation opposite to Mr. Christopher Gray's nursery garden at Fulham, to examine his curious collection of exotic plants, he began with the rhus, or toxicodendron, in order to clear some points disputed in two letters, lately published in the last volume of the Transactions, Art. 27. One from the Abbé Mazeas, on the discovery of the juice of certain species of toxicodendron staining linen of a fine black colour, and the other, in answer to it, from Mr. Philip Miller, of Chelsea, insisting that it was not a new discovery.
To be satisfied of the fact; Mr. E. made several experiments on the 3 species of toxicodendrons, mentioned by the Abbé Mazeas; and found that their juices do stain black, and, if fixed by alum, are not to be washed out by soap, or boiling in a lye of pot-ashes: but the pinnated one, called by the gardeners the poison ash, did not strike so deep a black as the other two trifoliate ones, being more of a rusty colour.
He went next on the inquiry, to compare, and see, whether in reality this
pinnated toxicodendron of our North American settlements, is the true varnish tree of Japan, as asserted by Mr. Miller; and first he found it necessary to know where this poison tree was described. This he was led to by Mr. Miller's letter, where he says the poisonous quality is described in the Philosophical Transactions, No 367, and a very exact figure of a leaf of it there referred to in Plukenet's Phytographia, tab. 145, fig. 1. See fig. 1, pl. 3.
In order to know what Dr. Kæmpfer has said of this matter, whose words Mr. Miller seems to depend on, Mr. E. carefully translated his description both of the true varnish tree, (fig. 2,) and the spurious one (fig 4;) and found that his description of the true varnish tree, or sitz, does not agree with this toxicodendron, which Mr. Miller supposes to be the same; for the leaf-stalk or midrib of this, that supports the pinnæ or lobe leaves, as well as the under part of the leaves are quite smooth; which is one specific character, that every botanist and gardener knows is necessary to be observed in the proper classing the various species of this genus of plants; many of them being smooth, and many of them downy; whereas Dr. Kæmpfer, speaking of the midrib of his true varnish tree, calls it," leviter lanuginoso," which may be translated, somewhat downy: and when he describes the under part of the leaves, he says, "dorso incano et molliter lanuginoso," that is, the under part hoary and covered with a soft down.
How far the bottom or lower part of each lobe, or small leaf, answers to the drawing he has given of it, Mr. E. leaves to the curious botanist; for he says it is," basi inequaliter rotunda," that is, having some inequality in the roundness of its base: whereas the lobe leaves of the American pinnated toxicodendron come to a point at their footstalks, nearly equal to that at top, as may be seen in Plukenet's figure, (fig. 1,) here copied exactly. He likewise copied minutely, for inspection, Dr. Kæmpfer's figure of his true varnish-tree, as in fig. 2.
Dr. Dillenius, late professor of botany at Oxford, has omitted these necessary characters in his description of the true japan varnish-tree from Dr. Kæmpfer in his Hortus Elthamensis, where he gives it as a synonym for this American pinnated toxicodendron: whereas had he been exact in the description given it by his author, he must evidently have made it another species. This has misled the accurate Linnæus, who quotes Dillenius's synonyms for Kæmpfer's arbor vernicifera, or sitz-dsju.
As another synonym, and in proof of our poison ash, or winged-leaf toxicodendron, being the true japan varnish-tree, Mr. Miller says in his letter, that Mr. Catesby has given a very good figure of it, in his Natural History of Carolina, vol. 1, page 40, where he calls it toxicodendron foliis alatis, fructu purpureo pyriformi sparso (fig. 3;) but as the bare inspection into Catesby's figure of this tree will convince the curious inquirer, whether botanist. or not, that it
cannot be the poison ash, known to the gardeners, he observes, besides its having a pear-shaped fruit, that he is persuaded, as are many other persons skilled in these things, that Mr. Catesby never saw the blossom of this tree, so as to determine absolutely its genus, or he would certainly have given it to us; and that he does not once say, that the inhabitants of Carolina call it the poison tree, or even that it grows among them. Mr. E. has given (fig. 3,) a sketch of a leaf, and some of the fruit, which he copied out of Catesby's Natural History, that it may be compared with the other figures, to save the trouble of turning to the original.
How near the jesuit, Father D'Incarville's, Pekin varnish-tree, which he says grows in the province of Nankin, will agree with the figure Kampfer has given of his fasi-no-ki, (fig. 4,) or spurious varnish-tree, which Mr. Miller says in his letter are the same, Mr. E. leaves to those gentlemen who may have seen it growing in the curious exotic garden at Busbridge, or at the physic garden at Chelsea; at both which places it has been raised from seed received from the R. S. sent by Father D'Incarville; but lest it may not be in the, power of every curious person to take that trouble, Mr. E. sent the figure of one of the leaves, which he drew from a specimen he got in the former garden. As it has not been yet described, he calls it (fig 5.) "Rhus Sinense foliis alatis, foliolis oblongis acuminatis, ad basin subrotundis et dentatis." The lobes or small leaves are of an oblong figure, pointed at top and roundish at the bottom, where they are remarkably jagged with about 4 teeth. He joined to the figure of this on the same paper an exact copy of a leaf of Kæmpfer's fasi-no-ki (fig. 4,) or spurious varnish-tree. Kæmpfer, takes notice in his, that the middle nerve often divides the small leaves into 2 unequal parts, which is a character Mr. E. has not observed in this China one; nor has he observed that it is of a remarkable fine red in the autumn, as indeed many of the sumachs are; whereas Kæmpfer gives a very poetical description of the striking red of this wild varnish at that season. Dr. Kæmpfer, in the account he gives of his sitz-dsju, or true varnish-tree, takes notice of the effect of its poisonous exhalations; which reminds Mr. E. that this China rhus, when first it began to extend its leaves in the small stove, had so remarkably a disagreeable smell, that he frequently complained of getting the head-ach and a sickness at his stomach by remaining too long near it; and after it was removed into the great stove, where, notwithstanding that building was very spacious, and near 20 feet high, yet, as it grew most luxuriantly, one could not without pain continue long near it. He measured one of the whole great leaves of this tree in the summer 1755, and it was above 3 feet in length. He supposed, as it is a native of Nankin, where the winters are cold, it thrives well in the open air, as it does in the physic garden at Chelsea; where it throws out a great number of suckers.
After Dr. Kæmpfer has described the true japan varnish-tree, he then tells us, that the varnish is collected from it near the city of Jassino, and that it is the best varnish in the world, but that it is in so small quantities, that there would not be sufficient for their own manufactories, were it not for a baser kind of varnish, brought to them from Siam, and called nam-rak. This Siam varnish he says, is got in the province of Corsima and kingdom of Cambodia, from the tree anacardium, called by the inhabitants ton-rak, that is tree-rak. The fruit of this tree he says expressly is called in our shops anacardium; his words are, "cujus fructus officinis nostris anacardium dictus." See fig. 6.
In Mr. Miller's answer to the Abbé Mazeas he says, this varnish is produced from the anacardium, or cashew nut-tree; and recommends it to the inhabitants of our southern colonies in America to draw this varnish from it, as a national advantage. In order to know what kind of tree bears this officinal anacardium, Mr. E. consulted Linneus's Materia Medica, and Species Plantarum; and there he found it a quite different genus of plants from the acajou or cashew nut-tree of Tournefort. He calls this oriental anacardium, avicennia; and has given its characters at large in his Genera Plantarum, and ranks it among the tetrandria monogynia; whereas the occidental anacardium, or cashew nut-tree of the American islands, he calls anacardium, and ranks it among the decandria monogynia.
As the printers or stainers of callicoes in the East Indies make use of some black dye, that holds its colour, and does not impair their cloths, Mr. E. tried some fresh nuts of this oriental anacardium, and found, that not only from his own experience, but lately from the confirmation of many gentlemen in the East India trade, that a fine black colour, which will not wash out, is struck on cotton and linen with the juice of the shell of this nut. They They are known all over India by the name of marking-nuts, and are sold for that purpose in their bazars or markets, the figure of which is given in fig. 6. At the same time he tried the acrid oily substance of the shell of some fresh cashew-nuts (fig. 7,) and observed that it gave no colour to linen, but remained like oil of olives on it. He had heard indeed, that the juice of the fleshy fruit that supports the cashewnut will stain the lips black, and perhaps it may linen; but the gum or liquor which proceeds from the tree, it is agreed by later authors, is of the same nature and mechanical use with gum arabic; and consequently will dissolve in water; which would render it improper for varnish. The figure of the cashew-nut and, its fruit are exhibited in fig. 7.
Dr. Kæmpfer further observes, that the quantity of varnish obtained from this officinal anacardium tree is so great, as not only to serve to varnish all the utensils of China, Tonquin, and Japan, but that it is exported in wooden vessels to Batavia, and several other parts of India. It is not improbable therefore that H
this is the varnish mentioned by Father D'Incarville in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. 48, p. 254, called toeng-yeou; so universally used in China for preserving and ornamenting their furniture.
Mr. E. confesses that he cannot find, after carefully considering and examining Mr. Miller's letter, that he has brought any proof to lessen the merit of the Abbé Mazeas and the Abbé Sauvage's discoveries: and the use Mr. E. would propose from the remarks he made, is, that as the Premium Society for the encouragement of Arts and Sciences have a scheme on foot to promote the growth of many really useful vegetable productions, which are at present brought to us, at a great expence, from Spain, France, Italy, the Levant, Africa, and the East Indies; he thinks this anacardium orientale, or avicennia of Linneus, claims a place among the rest; especially when we consider of what use and importance it is in the two great empires of China and Japan, besides all the other parts of India. The chief difficulty will be the preserving its vegetative quality during 2 so long voyages; but by many contrivances he was persuaded it will at last be effected; however, the very attempt is laudable.
After writing the above, he received a specimen of the gum of the cashew nut-tree, and found it dissolves in the mouth like gum arabic. It is of the colour of myrrh; but very brittle, shining, and clear. He also procured a specimen of the varnish of China from Mr. Margas, a great dealer in China commodities, just as it was imported from thence; this seems to answer the description of the Siam varnish. He made some experiments on it, and found it did not dissolve by being put either into water or spirits of wine. And further, Dr. Sibthorp, professor of botany at Oxford, informed him, that they have no specimen of the sitz, or true varnish-tree of Japan, in the Sherardian collection, as mentioned by Dr. Dillenius; but that they have one of the fasi-no-ki, or spuPious varnish-tree of Kæinpfer, with the synonym, "toxicodendron foliis alatis. fructu rhomboide, Hort. Eltham:" inscribed under," from Japan:" and that it resembles much our American one. So that Mr. Miller's observations on his toxicodendron, or poison ash, may be proper in the 6th edition of his Dictionary, but not in his letter above-mentioned, where he makes the spurious varnish-tree of Japan, or Fasi-no-ki, the same with the Nankin varnish-tree, of which the jesuits of China sent the seed over to the R. S. a few years ago: whereas they are utterly unlike each other. Dr. Dillenius was perhaps led into this error by depending on the report made to Dr. Kæmpfer on the common people of Japan, which was, that the true varnish-tree degenerated into the spurious one for want of culture. But Mr. E. believes our knowledge in this science is so much improved, that such doctrines are not easily admitted among our gardeners (whatever varieties may possibly arise from seed;) and in this he was persuaded Mr. Miller would agree with him, that the 2 sorts of varnish-trees, mentioned by Dr.