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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medley or mixture of earth with some other plants
bruised or shaven either in leaf or root ; as for exam-
ple, make earth with a mixture of colewort leaves
stamped, and set in it artichokes or parsnips ; so take
earth made with marjoram, or origanum, or wild thyme,
bruised or stamped, and set in it fennel seed, etc. In
which operation the process of nature still will be, as
I conceive, not that the herb you work upon should
draw the juice of tlie foreign herb, for that opinion
we have formerly rejected, but that there will be a new
confection of mold, which perhaps will alter the seed,
and yet not to the kind of the former herb.

529. The fourth rule shall be, to mark what herbs
some earths do put forth of themselves ; and to take
that earth, and to pot it, or to vessel it ; and in that
to set the seed you would change : as for example, take
from under walls or the like, where nettles put forth
in abundance, tlie earth wliich you shall there find,
without any string or root of the nettles ; and pot that


earth, and set in it stock-gilly-flowers, or vvalUHowers,
etc. or sow in the seeds of them ; and see what the
event will be : or take earth that you liave prepared
to put forth mushrooms of itself, whereof you shall
find some instances following, and sow in it purslane
seed, or lettuce-seed ; for in these experiments, it is
likely enough that the earth being accustomed to send
forth one kind of nourishment, will alter the new seed.

530. The fifth rule sliall he, to make the herb grow
contrary to its nature ; as to make ground-herbs rise
in height: as for example, carry camomile, or wild thyme,
or the green strawberry, upon sticks, as you do ho})s
upon poles ; and see what the event will be.

531. The sixth rule shall be, to make plants grow
out of the sun or open air ; for that is a great muta-
tion in nature, and may induce a change in the seed :
as barrel up earth, and sow some seed in it, and put it
in the bottom of a pond ; or put it in some great hol-
low tree ; try also the sowing of seeds in the bottoms
of caves ; and pots with seeds sown, hanged up in wells
some distance from the water, and see what the event
will be.

Experiments in consort touching the procerity, and lowness,
and artificial diuarfing of trees.

532. It is certain, that timber trees in coppice
woods grow more upright, and more free from under
boughs, than those that stand in the fields : the cause
whereof is, for that plants have a natural motion to
get to the sun ; and besides, they are not glutted with
too much noiu*ishment ; for that the coppice shareth
with them; and repletion ever hindereth stature:
lastly, they are kept warm ; and that ever in plants
belpeth mounting.

533. Trees that are of themselves full of heat, which
heat appcareth by their inflammable gums, as firs and
pines, mount of themselves in height without side
boughs, till they come towards the top. The cause is
partly heat, and partly tenuity of juice, both which send
the sap upwards. As for juniper, it is but a shrub, and
groweth not big enough in body to maintain a tall tree.


534. It is reported, that a good strong canvass spread
over a tree grafted low, soon after it putteth forth, will
dwarf it, and make it spread. The cause is plain ; for
that all things that grow, will grow as they find room.

535. Trees are generally set of roots or kernels ;
but if you set them of slips, as of some trees you may,
by name the mulberry, some of the slips will take ; and
those that take, as is reported, will be dwarf trees. The
cause is, for that a slip draweth nourishment more
weakly than either a root or kernel.

536. All plants that put forth their sap hastily,
have their bodies not proportionable to their length ;
and therefore they are winders and creepers ; as ivy,
briony, hops, woodbine : whereas dwarfing requireth a
slow putting forth, and less vigour of mounting.

Experiments in consort touching the rudiments of plants^ and
of the excrescences of plants, or super-plants.

The Scripture saith, that Solomon wrote a Natural
History, " from the cedar of Libanus, to the moss
growing upon the wall : " for so the best translations
have it. And it is true that moss is but the rudiment
of a plant ; and, as it were, the mold of earth or bark.

537. INIoss groweth chiefly upon ridges of houses
tiled or thatched, and upon the crests of walls ; and
that moss is of a lightsome and pleasant green. The
growing upon slopes is caused, for that moss, as on the
one side it cometh of moisture and water, so on the
other side the water must but slide, and not stand or
pool. And the growing upon tiles, or walls, etc. is
caused, for that those dried earths, having not mois-
ture sufficient to put forth a plant, do practise germi-
nation by putting forth moss; though when, by age,
or otherwise, they grow to relent and resolve, they
sometimes put forth plants, as wall-flowers. And al-
most all moss hath here and there little stalks, besides
the low thrum.

538. INIoss groweth upon alleys, especially such as
lie cold and upon the nortli ; as in divers torrasscs :
and again, if they be much trodden ; or if they were


at the first gravelled ; for wheresoever plants are kept
down, the earth puttcth forth moss.

539. Old ground, that hath been long unbroken up,
gathereth moss : and ytlicrofore husbandmen use to
cure their pasture grounds when they grow to moss,
by tilling them for a year or two : which also depend-
eth upon the same cause ; for that the more sparing
and starving juice of the earth, insufficient for plants,
doth breed moss.

540. Old trees are more mossy far than young ; for
that the sap is not so frank as to rise all to the boughs,
but tireth by the way, and puttcth out moss.

541. Fountains have moss growing upon the ground
about them ;

Muscosi fontes — :

The cause is, for that the fountains drain the water
from the ground adjacent, and leave but sufficient
moisture to breed moss : and besides the coldness of
the water conduceth to the same.

542. The moss of trees is a kind of hair ; for it is
the juice of the tree that is excerned, and doth not
assimilate. And upon great trees the moss gathereth
a figure like a leaf

543. The moister sort of trees yield little moss ; as
we see in asps, poplars, willows, beeches, etc. which is
partly caused for the reason that hath been given, of
the frank putting up of the sap into the boughs ; and
partly for tliat the barks of tliose trees are more close
and smooth than those of oaks and ashes ; whereby
the moss can the hardlier issue out.

544. In clay-grounds all fruit-trees grow full of
moss, both upon body and boughs ; which is caused
partly by the coldness of the ground, whereby the plants
nourish less ; and partly by the toughness of the earth,
whereby the sap is shut in, and cannot get up to spread
so frankly as it should do.

545. We have said heretofore, that if trees be hide-
bound, they wax less fruitful, and gather moss ; and
that they are holpen by hacking, etc. And therefore,
by the reason of contraries, if trees be bound in with

VOL. I. 2 E


cords, or some outward bands, they will put forth
more moss : which, T think, happeneth to trees that
stand bleak, and upon the cold winds. It Wi idd also
be tried, whether, if you cover a tree somewhat thick
upon the top after his polling, it will not gather more
moss. I think also the watering of trees with cold
fountain- water, will make them grow full of moss.

546. There is a moss the perfumers have, which
cometh out of apple trees, that hath an excellent
scent. Qiiejy, particularly for the manner of the
growth, and the nature of it. And for this experi-
ment's sake, being a thing of price, 1 have set down
the last experiment how to multiply and call on

Next unto moss, I will speak of mushrooms ; which
are likewise an imperfect plant. The mushrooms
have two strange properties ; the one, that they yield
so delicious a meat ; the other, that they come up so
hastily, as in a night ; and yet they are unsown.
And therefore such as are upstarts in state, they call
in reproach mushrooms. It must needs be, therefore,
that they be made of much moisture ; and that mois-
ture fat, gross, and yet somewhat concocted. And,
indeed, we find that mushrooms cause the accident
which we call incubus, or the mare in the stomach.
And therefore the surfeit of them may suffocate and
empoison. And this sheweth that they are windy ;
and that windincss is gross and swelling, not sharp or
griping. And upon the same reason mushrooms are
a venereous meat.

547. It is reported, that the bark of white or red
poplar, which are of the moistest of trees, cut small,
and cast into furrows well dunged, will cause the
ground to put forth mushrooms at all seasons of the
year fit to be eaten. Some add to the mixture leaven
of bread dissolved in water.

548. It is reported, that if a hilly field, where the
stubble is standing, be set on fire in a showery season,
it will put fortli great store of mushrooms.

549. It is reported, that hartshorn shaven, or in
small pieces, mixed witli dung and watered, putteth


up mushrooms. And we know that Iiartshorn is of a
fat and clammy substance : and it may be ox-horn
would do the like.

550. It hath been reported, though it be scarce
credible, that ivy hath grown out of a stag's horn ;
which they suppose did rather come from a confrica-
tion of the liorn upon the ivy, than from the horn
itself. There is not known any substance but earth,
and the procedures of earth, as tile, stone, etc. that
yieldeth any moss or herby substance. There may
be trial made of some seeds, as that of fennel-seed,
mustard-seed, and rape-seed, put into some little holes
made in the horns of stags, or oxen, to see if they
will grow.

551. There is also another imperfect plant, that
in sliew is like a great mushroom : and it is some-
times as broad as one's hat ; which they call a toad's
stool ; but it is not esculent ; and it groweth, com-
monly, by a dead stub of a tree, and likewise about the
roots of rotten trees : and therefore seemeth to take
his juice from wood putrified. Which sheweth, by
the way, that wood putrified yieldetli a frank mois-

552. There is a cake that groweth upon the side
of a dead tree^ that hath gotten no name, but it is
large, and of a chestnut colour, and hard and pithy :
whereby it should seem, that even dead trees forget not
their putting forth ; no more than the carcases of mens
bodies, that put forth hair and nails for a time.

553. There is a cod, or bag, that groweth com-
monly in the fields ; that at the first is hard like a
tennis-ball, and white ; and after groweth of a mush-
room colour, and full of light dust upon the breaking;
and is thought to be dangerous for the eyes if the
powder get into them ; and to be good for kibes. Be-
like it hath a corrosive and fretting nature.

554. There is an herb called Jews-ear, that grow-
eth upon the roots and lower parts of the bodies of
trees ; especially of elders, and sometimes ashes. It
hath a strange property ; for in warm water it swelleth,
and openeth extremely. It is not green, but of a

2 E 2


dusky brown colour. And it is used for squinancies
and inflammations in the throat ; whereby it seemeth
to have a mollifying and lenifying virtue.

555. There is a kind of spungy excrescence, which
groweth chiefly upon the roots of the laser-tree ; and
sometimes upon cedar and other trees. It is very
white, and light, and friable ; which we call agaric.
It is famous in physic for the purging of tough phlegm.
And it is also an excellent opener for the liver ; but
offensive to the stomach : and in taste, it is at the
first sweet, and after bitter.

556. We find no super-plant that is a formed plant,
but misseltoe. They have an idle tradition, that
there is a bird called a missel bird, that feedeth upon
a seed, which many times she cannot digest, and so
expelleth it whole with her excrement : which falling
upon the bough of a tree that hath some rift, putteth
forth the misseltoe. But this is a fable ; for it is not
probable that birds should feed upon that they cannot
digest. But allow that, yet it cannot be for other
reasons : for first, it is found but upon certain trees ;
and those trees bear no such fruit, as may allure that
bird to sit and feed upon them. It may be, that bird
feedeth upon the misseltoe-berries, and so is often
found there ; which may have given occasion to the
tale. But that which maketh an end of the question
is, that misseltoe hath been found to put forth under
the boughs, and not only above the boughs ; so it
cannot be any thing that falleth upon the bough. JMis-
seltoe groweth chiefly upon crab-trees, apple-trees,
sometimes upon hazles, and rarely upon oaks ; the
misseltoe whereof is counted very medicinal. It is
ever green winter and summer ; and beareth a white
glistering berry : and it is a plant utterly differing
from the plant upon which it growctli. Two things
therefore may be certainly set down : first, that super-
foetation must be by abundance of sap in the bough
that putteth it forth : secondly, that that sap must be
such as the tree doth excern, and cannot assimilate ;
for else it would go into a bough ; and besides, it
seemeth to be more fat and unctuous than the ordi-


nary sap of the tree ; both by the berry, wliich is
clammy ; and by that it continueth green winter and
summer, which the tree dotli not.

557. This experiment of misscltoe may give hght
to other practices. Therefore trial would be made
by ripping of the bough of a crab-tree in the bark ;
and watering of the wound every day with warm wa-
ter dunged, to see if it would bring forth misseltoe,
or any such like thing. But it were yet more likely
to try it with some other watering or anointing, that
were not so natural to the tree as water is ; as oil,
or barm of drink, etc. so they be such things as kill
not the bougli.

558. It were good to try, what plants would put
forth, if they be forbidden to put forth their natural
boughs ; poll therefore a tree, and cover it some thick-
ness with clay on the top, and see what it will put
forth. I suppose it will put forth roots ; for so will a
cion, being turned down into clay : therefore, in this
experiment also, the tree would be closed with some-
what that is not so natural to the plant as clay is.
Try it with leather, or cloth, or painting, so it be not
hurtful to the tree. And it is certain, that a brake
hath been known to grow out of a pollard.

559. A man may count the prickles of trees to be
a kind of excrescence ; for they will never be boughs,
nor bear leaves. The plants that have prickles are
thorns, black and white; brier, rose, lemon-trees,
crab-trees, gooseberry, berberry ; these have it in the
bough : the plants that have prickles in the leaf are,
holly, juniper, whin-bush, thistle ; nettles also have
a small venomous prickle ; so hath borage, but harm-
less. The cause must be hasty putting forth, want
of moisture, and the closeness of the bark ; for the
haste of the spirit to put forth, and the want of nou-
rishment to put forth a bough, and the closeness of
the bark, cause prickles in boughs ; and therefore they
are ever like a pi/ramis, for that the moisture spend-
eth after a little putting forth. And for prickles in
leaves, they come also of putting forth more juice
into the leaf than can spread in tlic leaf smooth, and


therefore the leaves otherwise are rough, as borage
and nettles are. As for the leaves of holly, they are
smooth, but never plain, but as it were with folds,
for the same cause.

560. There be also plants, that though they have
no prickles yet they have a kind of downy or velvet
rind upon their leaves ; as rose-campion, stock-gilly-
flowers, colt's- foot ; which down or nap cometh of a
subtil spirit, in a soft or fat substance. For it is
certain, that both stock-gilly-flowers and rose-cam-
pions, stamped, have been applied with success to the
wrists of those that have had tertian or quartan
agues ; and the vapour of colt's-foot hath a sanative
virtue towards the lungs ; and the leaf also is healing
in surgery.

561. Another kind of excrescence is an exudation
of plants joined with putrefaction ; as we see in oak-
apples, which are found chiefly upon the leaves of
oaks, and the like upon willows : and country people
have a kind of prediction, that if the oak-apple broken
be full of worms, it is a sign of a pestilent year ; which
is a likely thing, because they grow of corruption.

562. There is also upon sweet, or other brier, a fine
tuft or brush of moss of divers colours ; which if you
cut you shall ever find fidl of little white worms.

Experiments in consort touching the producing of' perfect
plants without seed,

563. It is certain, that earth taken out of the foun-
dations of vaults and houses, and bottoms of wells,
and then put into pots, will put forth sundry kinds of
herbs : but some time is required for the germination :
for if it be taken but from a fathom deep, it will put
forth the first year ; if much deeper, not till after a
year or two.

564. The nature of the plants growing out of earth
so taken up, doth follow the nature of the mold itself;
as if tlie mold be soft and fine, it putteth fortli soft
herbs ; as grass, plantain, and the like ; if the earth
be harder and coarser, it putteth forth herbs more
rough, as thistles, firs. etc.


565. It is common experience, that where alleys
are close gi-avclled, tlie earth ]nittcth forth the first
year knot grass, and after spire grass. The canse is,
for that tlie hard gravel or pebble at the first laying
will not suffer the grass to come forth upright, but
turneth it to find his way where it can ; but after that
the earth is somewhat loosened at the top, the ordinary
grass Cometh up.

566. It is reported, that earth being taken out of
shady and watery woods some depth, and potted, will
put forth herbs of a fat and juicy substance ; as penny-
wort, purslane, houscleek, penny-royal, etc.

567. The water also doth send forth plants that
have no roots fixed in the bottom ; but they are less
perfect plants, being almost but leaves, and those
small ones ; such is that we call duck-weed, which
hath a leaf no bigger than a thyme leaf, but of a
fresher green, and jiutteth forth a little string into the
water far from the bottom. As for the water lily, it
hath a root in the ground ; and so have a number of
other herbs that grow in ponds,

568. It is reported by some of the ancients, and
some modern testimony likewise, that there be some
plants that grow upon the top of the sea, being sup-
posed to grow of some concretion of slime from the
water, where the sun beateth hot, and where the sea
stirreth little. As for alga inarina, sea weed, and
eryngium^ sea thistle, both have roots ; but the sea
weed under the water, the sea thistle but upon the

569. The ancients have noted, that there are some
herbs that grow out of snow laid up close together
and putrified, and that they are all bitter ; and they
name one specially, ^o;/^^/*, which we call moth-mul-
lein. It is certain, that worms are found in snow
commonly, like earth-worms ; and therefore it is not
unlike, that it may likewise put forth plants.

570. The ancients have affirmed, that there are
some herbs that grow out of stone ; which may be,
for that it is certain that toads have been found in the
middle of a free-stone. We see also that fiints, lying


above ground, gather moss ; and wall-flowers, and
some other flowers grow upon walls ; but whether
upon the main brick or stone, or whether out of the
lime or chinks, is not well observed : for elders and
ashes have been seen to grow out of steeples ; but
they manifestly grow out of clefts ; insomuch as when
they grow big, they will disjoin the stone. And be-
sides, it is doubtful whether the mortar itself putteth
it forth, or whether some seeds be not let fall by
birds. There be likewise rock-herbs ; but I suppose
those are where there is some mold or earth. It
hath likewise been found, that great trees growing
upon quarries have put down their root into the

571. lu some mines in Germany, as is reported,
there grow in the bottom vegetables ; and the work-
folks use to say they have magical virtue, and will
not suffer men to gather them.

572. The sea sands seldom bear plants. Whereof
the cause is yielded by some of the ancients, for that
the sun exhaleth the moisture before it can incorpo-
rate with the earth, and yield a nourishment for the
plant. And it is affirmed also that sand hath always
its root in clay ; and that there be no veins of sand
any great depth within the earth.

573. It is certain that some plants put forth for
a time of their own store, without any nourishment
from earth, water, stone, etc. of which vide the ex-
periment 29.

Eocperiments in coiisort touching foreign plants.

574. It is reported, that earth that was brought
out of the Indies and other remote countries, for bal-
last of ships, cast upon some grounds in Italy, did put
forth foreign herbs, to us in Europe not known ; and,
that which is more, that of their roots, barks, and
seeds, contused together, and mingled with other
earth, and well watered with warm water, there came
forth herbs much like the other.

575. Plants brought out of hot countries will en-
deavour to ])ut forth at the same time that they usu-


ally do ill their own climate ; and therefore to preserve
them, there is no more required, than to keep them
from the injury of putting back by cold. It is re-
ported also, that grain out of the liotter countries
translated into the colder, will be more forward than
the ordinary grain of tlie cold country. It is likely that
this will prove better in grains than in trees, for that
grains arc but annual, and so the virtue of the seed is
not worn out ; whereas in a tree it is embased by the
ground to which it is removed.

576. Many plants whicli grow in the hotter coun-
tries, being set in the colder, will nevertheless, even
in those cold countries, being sown of seeds late in
the spring, come up and abide most part of the sum-
mer ; as we find it in orange and lemon seeds, etc. the
seeds whereof sown in the end of April will bring
forth excellent sallads, mingled with other herbs.
And I doubt not, but the seeds of clove trees, and
pepper seeds, etc. if they could come hither green
enough to be sown, would do the like.

Experiments in consort touching the seasons in which
plants comejorth.

577. There be some flowers, blossoms, grains, and
fruits, which come more early, and others which
come more late in the year. The flowers that come
early with us are primroses, violets, anemonies, wa-
ter-daffadillics, crocus vernus, and some early tulips.
And they are all cold plants ; whicli therefore, as it
should seem, have a quicker perception of the heat of
the sun increasing than the hot herbs have ; as a cold
hand will sooner find a little warmth than an hot.
And those that come next after, are wall-flowers, cow-
slips, hyacinths, rosemary flowers, etc. and after them
pinks, roses, flower-de-luces, etc. and the latest are
gilly-flowers, holyoaks, larksfoot, etc. The earliest
blossoms are the blossoms of peaches, almonds, corne-
lians, mezerions, etc. and they are of such trees as
have much moisture, either watery or oily. And
therefore crocus vernus also, being an herb that hath
an oily juice, puttetli forth early ; ibr those also find


the sun sooner than the drier trees. The grains are,
first rye and wheat ; then oats and barley ; then peas
and beans. For though green peas and beans be
eaten sooner, yet the dry ones that are used for horse-
meat, are ripe last ; and it seemeth that the fatter
grain cometh first. The earliest fruits are straw-
berries, cherries, gooseberries, currants ; and after
them early apples, early pears, apricots, rasps ; and
after them, damascenes, and most kind of plums,
peaches, etc. and the latest are apples, wardens, grapes,
nuts, quinces, almonds, sloes, brier-berries, hips, med-
lars, services, cornelians, etc.

578. It is to be noted, that, commonly, trees that
ripen latest, blossom soonest ; as peaches, cornelians,

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 44 of 52)