Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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rosa solis, whereof they make strong waters, will, at
the noon-day, when the sun shine th hot and bright,
have a great dew upon it. And tlicrefore that the
riglit name is j^os solis: whicli they impute to a de-
light and sympathy that it hath with the sun. Men
favour wonders. It were good first to be sure, that
the dew that is found upon it, be not the dew of the
morning preserved, when the dew of other herbs is
breathed away ; for it hath a smooth and thick leaf,
that doth not discharge the dew so soon as other herbs

CENT, v.] NATUl^AL HISTOr.V. 407

that are more spungy and porous. And it may be
purslane, or some other herb, doth the like, and is
not marked. But if it be so, that it hath more dew
at noon than in tlie morning, tlien sure it seemeth to
be an exudation of the herb itself As plums sweat
when they are set in the oven : for you will not, I
hope, think, that it is like Gideon's fleece of wool,
that the dew should fall upon that and no where

496. It is certain, that the honey dews are found
more upon oak leaves, than upon ash, or beecli, or the
like : but whether any cause be from the leaf itself to
concoct the dew ; or whether it be only that the leaf
is close and smooth, and therefore drinketh not in the
dew, but preserveth it, may be doubted. It would be
well enquired, whether manna the drug doth fall but
upon certain herbs or leaves only. Flowers that have
deep sockets, do gather in the bottom a kind of honey;
as honey-suckles, both the woodbine and the trefoil,
lilies, and the like. And in them certainly the flower
beareth part with the dew.

497. The experience is,, that the froth which they
call woodseare, being like a kind of spittle, is found
but upon certain herbs, and those hot ones ; as laven-
der, lavender-cotton, sage, hyssop, etc. Of the cause
of this inquire farther ; for it seemeth a secret. There
falleth also mildew upon corn, and smutteth it ; but
it may be, that the same falleth also upon other herbs,
and is not observed.

498. It were good trial were made, whether the
great consent between plants and water, which is a
principal nourishment of them, will make an attrac-
tion at distance, and not at touch only. Therefore
take a vessel, and in the middle of it make a false
bottom of coarse canvas : fill it with earth above tlie
canvas, and let not the earth be watered ; then sow
some good seeds in that earth ; but imder the canvas,
some half a foot in the bottom of the vessel, lay a
great spunge thoroughly wet in water ; and let it lie
so some ten days, and see whether the seeds will
sprout, and the earth become more moist, and the

2 D 2


spunge more dry. Tlie experiment formerly men-
tioned of the cucumber creeping to the pot of water,
is far stranger than this.

Experiments in consort touching the making Jierbs and
fruits medicinable.

499. The altering of the scent, colour, or taste of
fruit, by infusing, mixing, or letting into the bark, or
root of the tree, herb, or flower, any coloured, aroma-
tical, or medicinal substance, are but fancies. The
cause is, for that those things have passed their period,
and nourish not. And all alteration of vegetables in
those qualities must be by somewhat that is apt to go
into the nourishment of the plant. But this is true,
that where kine feed upon wild garlic, their milk tasteth
plainly of the garlic : and the flesh of muttons is better
tasted where the sheep feed upon wild thyme, and other
wholesome herbs. Galen also speaketh of the curing
of the scirrus of the liver, by milk of a cow that
feedeth but upon certain herbs ; and honey in Spain
smelleth apparently of the rosemary, or orange, from
whence the bee gathereth it : and there is an old tra-
dition of a maiden that was fed with napellus ; which
is counted the strongest poison of all vegetables, which
with use did not hurt the maid, but poisoned some
that had carnal company v^dth her. So it is observed
by some, that there is a virtuous bczoar, and another
without virtue, which appear to the shew alike : but
the virtuous is taken from the beast that feedeth upon
the mountains, where there are theriacal herbs ; and
that without virtue, from those that feed in the vallies
where no such herbs are. Thus far I am of opinion ;
that as steeped wines and beers arc very medicinal ;
and likewise bread tempered with divers powders ; so
of meat also, as flesh, fish, milk, and eggs, that they
may be made of great use for medicine and diet, if the
beasts, fowl, or fish, be fed with a special kind of food
fit for the disease. It were a dangerous thing also for
secret empoisonments. But whether it may be applied
unto plants and herbs, I doubt more ; because the
nourishment of them is a more common juice ; which


is hardly capable of any special quality, until the plant
do assimilate it.

500. But lest our incredulity may prejudice any
profitable operations in this kind, especially since many
of the ancients have set them down, we think good
briefly to propound the four means which they have
devised of making plants medicinable. The first is by
slitting of the root, and infusing into it the medicine ;
as hellebore, opium, scammony, treacle, etc. and then
binding it up again. This seemeth to me the least
probable ; because the root draweth immediately from
the earth ; and so the nourishment is the more com-
mon and less qualified : and besides, it is a long time
in going up ere it come to the fruit. The second way
is to perforate the body of the tree, and there to infuse
the medicine ; which is somewhat better : for if any
virtue be received from the medicine, it hath the less
way, and the less time to go up. The third is, the
steeping of the seed or kernel in some liquor wherein
the medicine is infused : which I have little opinion
of, because the seed, I doubt, will not draw the parts
of the matter which have the propriety : but it will
be far the more likely, if you mingle the medicine with
dung ; for that the seed naturally drawing the mois-
ture of the dung, may call in withal some of the pro-
priety. The fourth is, the watering of the plant oft
with an infusion of tlie medicine. This, in one res-
pect, may have more force than the rest, because the
medication is oft renewed ; whereas the rest are applied
but one at a time ; and therefore the virtue may the
sooner vanish. But still I doubt, that the root is some-
what too stubborn to receive those fine impressions ;
and besides, as I said before, they have a great hill to
go up. I judge therefore the likeliest way to be the
perforation of the body of the tree in several places
one above the other ; and the filling of the holes with
dung mingled with the medicine ; and the watering of
those lumps of dung with squirts of an infusion of the
medicine in dunged water, once in three or four days.



Experiments in consort touching curiosities about
fruits and plants.

-[^ Our experiments we take care to be, as we have oftea
said, either experimenta fructifera, or lucifera ;
cither of use, or of discovery : for we hate impostures,
and despise curiosities. Yet because we must apply
ourselves somewhat to others, we will set down some
curiosities touching plants.

501. It is a curiosity to have several fruits upon one
tree ; and the more, when some of them come early,
and. some come late ; so that you may have upon the
same tree ripe fruits all summer. This is easily done
by grafting of several cions upon several boughs, of a
stock, in a good ground plentifully fed. So you may
have all kinds of cherries, and all kinds of plums, and
peaches, and apricots, upon one tree ; but I conceive
the diversity of fruits must be such as will graft upon
the same stock. And. therefore I doubt, whether you
can have apples, or pears, or oranges, upon the same
stock upon which you graft plums.

502. It is a curiosity to have fruits of divers shapes
and figures. This is easily performed, by molding
them when the fruit is young, with molds of earth or
wood. So you may have cucumbers, etc. as long as a
cane ; or as round as a sphere ; or formed like a cross.
You may have also apples in the form of pears or
lemons. You may have also fruit in more accurate
figures, as we said, of men, beasts, or birds, according
as you make the molds. Wherein you must under-
stand, that you make the mold big enough to contain
the whole fruit when it is grown to the greatest : for


else you will choke the spreading of the fruit ;
which otherwise would sjrread itself, aud fill the con-
cave, and so he turned into the shape desired ; as it is
in mold works of liquid things. Some doubt may be
conceived, that the keeping of the sun from the fruit
may hurt it : but there is ordinary experience of fruit
that growetli covered. Query, also, whether some
small holes may not be made in the wood to let in the
sun. And note, that it were best to make the molds
partible, glued, or cemented together, that you may
open them when you take out the fruit.

503. It is a curiosity to have inscriptions, or en-
gravings, in fruit or trees. This is easily performed,
by writing with a needle, or bodkin, or knife, or the
like, when the fruit or trees are young ; for as they
grow, so the letters will grow more large and graphical.

— Tenerisque meos inciderc amores
Arboribus ; crescent illee, crcscetis amores.

504. You may have trees apparelled with flowers
or herbs, by boring holes in the bodies of them, and
putting into them earth holpen with muck, and set-
ting seeds, or slips, of violets, strawberries, wild thyme,
camomile, and such like, in the earth. Wherein they
do but grow in the tree as they do in pots ; though,
perhaps, with some feeding from the trees. It woidd
be tried also with shoots of vines, and roots of red roses ;
for it may be they, being of a more ligneous nature,
will incorporate with the tree itself.

505. It is an ordinary curiosity to form trees and
shrubs, as rosemary, juniper, and the like, into sundry
shapes ; which is done by molding them within, and
cutting them without. But they are but lame things,
being too small to keep figure ; great castles made of
trees upon frames of timber, with turrets and arches,
were matters of magnificence.

506. Amongst curiosities I shall place coloration,
though it be somewhat better : for beauty in flowers
is their pre-eminence. It is observed by some, that
gilly-ljowers, sweet-williams, violets, that are coloured,
if they be neglected, and neither watered, nor new


molded, nor transplanted, will turn white. And it is
probable that the white with much culture may turn
coloured. For this is certain, that the white colour
Cometh of scarcity of nomishment ; except in flowers
that are only white, and admit no other colours.

507. It is good therefore to see what natures do
accompany what colours ; for by that you shall have
light how to induce colours, by producing those na-
tures. Whites are more inodorate, for the most part,
than flowers of the same kind coloured ; as is found in
single white violets, white roses, white gilly-flowers,
white stock-gilly-flowers, etc. We find also that blos-
soms of trees, that are white, are commonly inodorate^
as cherries, pears, plums; whereas those of apples, crabs,
almonds, and peaches, are blushy, and smell sweet.
The cause is, for that the substance that makcth the
flower is of the thinnest and finest of the plant,
which also maketh flowers to be of so dainty colours.
And if it be too sparing and thin, it attaineth no
strength of odour, except it be in such plants as are very
succulent ; whereby they need rather to be scanted in
their nourishment than replenished, to have them
sweet. As we see in white satyrion, which is of a dainty
smell ; and in bean-flowers, etc. And again, if the
plant be of nature to put forth white flowers only, and
those not thin or dry, they are commonly of rank and
fulsome smell ; as may-flowers, and white lilies.

508. Contrariwise, in berries the white is commonly
more delicate and sweet in taste than the coloured, as
we see in white grapes, in white rasps, in white straw-
berries, in white currants, etc. The cause is, for that
the coloured arc more juiced, and coarser juiced, and
therefore not so well and equally concocted ; but the
white are better proportioned to the digestion of the

509. But in fruits the white commonly is meaner :
as in pear-plums, damascenes, etc. and the choicest
plums are black ; the mulberry, which though they
call it a berry, is a fruit, is better the black than the
white. The harvest white plum is a base plum ; and
the verdoccio, and white date plum, are no very good


plums. The cause is, for that they are all over- watery ;
■whereas an higher concoction is required for sweetness,
or pleasure of taste ; and therefore all your dainty
plums are a little dry, and come from the stone ;
as the muscle-plum, the damascene-plum, the peach,
the apricot, etc. yet some fruits, which grow not to be
black, are of the nature of berries, sweetest such as are
paler; as the coeur-cherry, which inclineth more to white,
is sweeter than the red ; but the cgriot is more sour.

510. Take gilly-flower seed, of one kind of gilly-
flower, as of the clove-gilly-flower, which is the most
common, and sow it, and there will come up gilly-
flowers, some of one colour, and some of another,
casually, as the seed mcetcth with nourishment in the
earth ; so that the gardeners find, that they may have
two or three roots amongst an hundred that are rare
and of great price ; as purple, carnation of several
stripes : the cause is, no doubt, that in earth, though it
be contiguous, and in one bed, there are very several
juices ; and as the seed doth casually meet with them,
so it Cometh forth. And it is noted especially, that
those which do come up purple, do always come up sin-
gle : the juice, as it scemcth, not being able to suffice
a succulent colour, and a double leaf. This experi-
ment of several colours coming up from one seed, would
be tried also in larks-foot, monks-hood, poppy, and holy

511. Few fruits are coloured red within : the queen-
apple is ; and another apple, called the rose-apple: mul-
berries, likewise, and grapes, though most toward the
skin. There is a peach also that hath a circle of red
towards the stone : and the egriot cherry is somewhat
red within ; but no pear, nor warden, nor plum, nor
apricot, although they have mauy times red sides, are
coloured red within. The cause may be inquired.

512. The general colour of plants is green, which
is a colour that no flower is of. There is a greenish
primrose, but it is pale, and scarce a green. The
leaves of some trees turn a little murry or reddish ;
and they be commonly young leaves that do so ; as it
is iu oaks, and vines, and hazle. Leaves rot into a


yellow, and some hollies have part of their leaves yel-
low, that are, to all seeming, as fresh and shining as
the green. I snppose also, that yellow is a less suc-
culent colour than green, and a degree nearer white.
For it hath been noted, that those yellow leaves of
holly stand ever towards the north or north-east.
Some roots are yellow, as carrots ; and some plants
blood-red, stalk and leaf, and all, as amaranthus.
8ome herbs incline to purple and red ; as a kind of
sage doth, and a kind of mint, and rosa solis, etc.
And some have white leaves, as another kind of sage,
and another kind of mint ; but azure and a fair purple
are never found in leaves. This sheweth, that flowers
are made of a refined juice of the earth, and so are
fruits ; but leaves of a more coarse and common.

513. It is a curiosity also to make flowers double,
which is effected by often removing them into new
earth ; as, on the contrary part, double flowers, by
neglecting and not removing, prove single. And the
way to do it speedily, is to sow or set seeds or slips of
flowers, and as soon as they come up, to remove them
into new ground that is good. Inquire also, whether
inoculating of flowers, as stock-gilly-flowers, roses,
musk -roses, etc. doth not make them double. There
is a cherry-tree that hath double blossoms ; but that
tree beareth no fruit : and it may be, that the same
means which, applied to the tree, doth extremely ac-
celerate the sap to rise and break forth, would make
the tree spend itself in flowers, and those to become
double : which were a great pleasure to see, especially
in apple-trees, peach-trees, and almond-trees, that
have blossoms blush-coloured.

514. The making of fruits without core or stone, is
likewise a curiosity, and somewhat better: because
whatsoever makcth them so, is like to make them
more tender and delicate. If a cion or shoot, fit to
be set in the ground, have tlie pith finely taken forth,
and not altogether, but some of it left, the better to
save the life, it will bear a fruit with little or no core
or stone. And the like is said to be of dividing a quick
tree down to the ground, and taking out the pith, and
then binding it up again.


515. It is reported also, that a citron grafted upon
a quince will have small or no seeds ; and it is very
probable that any sour fruit grafted upon a stock that
beareth a sweeter fruit, may both make the fruit
sweeter, and more void of the harsh matter of kcniels
or seeds.

516. It is reported, that not only the taking out of
the pith, but the stopping of the juice of the pith from
rising in the midst, and turning it to rise on the out-
side, will make the fruit without core or stone ; as if
you should bore a tree clean through, and put a wedge
in. It is true, there is some affinity between the pith
and the kernel, because they are both of a harsh sub-
stance, and both placed in the midst.

517. It is reported, that trees watered perpetually
with warm water, will make a fruit with little or no
core or stone. And the rule is general, that whatso-
ever will make a wild tree a garden tree, will make
a garden tree to have less core or stone.

Experiments in consort touching the degenerating of plantsy
and of t/ie transmutation of them one into another.

518. The rule is certain, that plants for want of cul-
ture degenerate to be baser in the same kind ; and some-
times so fai* as to change into another kind. 1. The
standing long, and not being removed, maketh them
degenerate. 2. Drought, unless the earth of itself be
moist, doth the like. 3. 8o doth removing into worse
earth, or forbearing to compost the earth ; as we see
that water mint turneth into field mint, and the cole-
wort into rape, by neglect, etc.

519. Whatsoever fruit usetli to be set upon a root
or a slip, if it be sown, will degenerate. Grapes sown,
figs, almonds, pomegranate kernels sown, make the
fruits degenerate and become wild. And again, most
of those fruits that use to be grafted, if they be set of
kernels, or stones, degenerate. It is true that peaches,
as hath been touched before, do better upon stones set
than upon grafting : and the rule of exception should
seem to be this : that whatsoever plant requireth much
moisture, prospereth better upon the stone or kernel,
than upon the graft. For the stock, though it giveth


a finer nourishment, yet it giveth a scanter than the
earth at large.

520. Seeds if they be very old, and yet have
strength enough to bring forth a plant, make the
plant degenerate. And therefore skilful gardeners
make trial of the seeds before they buy them, whe-
ther they be good or no, by putting them in water
gently boiled ; and if they be good, they will sprout
within half an hour.

521. It is strange which is reported, that basil too
much exposed to the sun doth turn into wild thyme ;
although those two herbs seem to have small affinity;
but basil is almost the only hot herb that hath fat
and succulent leaves ; which oiliness, if it be drawn
forth by the sun, it is like it will make a very great

522. There is an old tradition, that boughs of oak
put into the earth will put forth wild vines : which if it
be true, no doubt, it is not the oak that turneth into
a vine, but the oak-bough putrifying, qualifieth the
earth to put forth a vine of itself.

523. It is not impossible, and I have heard it veri-
fied, that upon cutting down of an old timber tree,
the stub hath put out sometimes a tree of another
kind ; as that beech hath put forth birch ; which, if it
be true, the cause may be, for that the old stub is too
scant of juice to put forth the former tree ; and there-
fore putteth forth a tree of a smaller kind, that need-
eth less nourishment.

524. There is an opinion in the country, that if
the same ground be oft sown with the grain that
grew upon it, it will in the end grow to be of a baser

525. It is certain, that in very steril years corn
sown will grow to another kind.

Grandia saepc quibiis niandavimus liordca sulcis,
Infclix lolium, ct sterilos dominantur uvunae.

And generally it is a rule, that plants that are brought
forth for cidture, as corn, will sooner cliange into other
species, tlian those that come of themselves ; for that


culture giveth but au adventitious nature, whicli is
more easily put off.

This work of the transmutation of plants one into
another, is inter magnalia naturct ; for the trans-
mutation of species is, in the vulgar philosophy, pro-
nounced impossible : and certainly it is a thing of dif-
ficulty, and requireth deep search into nature ; but
seeing there appear some manifest instances of it, the
opinion of impossibility is to be rejected, and the
means thereof to be found out. We see, that in living
creatures, that come of putrefaction, there is much
transmutation of one into another ; as caterpillars turn
into flies, etc. And it should seem probable, that
whatsoever creature, having life, is generated with-
out seed, that creature will change out of one species
into another. For it is the seed, and the nature of it,
which locketh and boundeth in the creature, that it
doth not expatiate. So as wc may well conclude, that
seeing the earth of itself doth put forth plants with-
out seed, therefore plants may well have a transmi-
gration of species. Wherefore, wanting instances
which do occur, we shall give directions of the most
likely trials : and generally we would not have those
that read this our work of " Sylva sylvarum" account
it strange, or think that it is an over-haste, that we
have set down particulars untried ; for contrariwise,
in our own estimation, we account such particulars
more worthy than those that are already tried and
known : for these latter must be taken as you find
them ; but the other do level point-blank at the in-
venting of causes and axioms.

526. First therefore, you must make account, that
if you will have one plant change into another, you
must have the nourishment over-rule the seed : and
therefore you are to practise it by nourishments as
contrary as may be to the nature of the herb, so never-
theless as the herb may grow ; and likewise with seeds
that are of the weakest sort, and have least vigour.
You shall do well, therefore, to take marsh-herbs, and
plant them upon tops of hills and champaigns ; and
such plants as require much moisture, upon sandy and


very dry grounds. As for example, marsh- mallows
and sedge, upon hills ; cucumber, and lettuce seeds,
and coleworts, upon a sandy plot ; so contrariwise,
plant bushes, heath, ling, and brakes, upon a wet or
marsh ground. This I conceive also, that all esculent
and garden herbs, set upon the tops of hills, will prove
mpre medicinal, though less esculent, than they were
before. And it may be likewise, some wild herbs you
may make sallad herbs. This is the first rule for
transmutation of plants.

527. The second rule shall be, to bury some few
seeds of the herb you would change, amongst other
seeds ; and then you shall see whether the juice of
those other seeds do not so qualify the earth, as it will
alter the seed whereupon you Avork. As for example,
put parsley seed amongst onion seed, or lettuce seed
amongst parsley seed, or basil seed amongst thyme
seed ; and see the change of taste or otherwise. But
you shall do well to put the seed you w^ould change
into a little linen cloth, that it mingle not with the
foreign seed.

528. The third rule shall be, the making of some

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 43 of 52)