Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

accompanied with an irregular hurried pulse. A fatal case has been recorded in which a teaspoonful of the powder was administered in mistake for rhubarb, intense burning heat in the throat ensued, followed by similar feelings in the stomach, succeeded by vomiting, a hurried pulse, and cold perspiration, death taking place in three days.* Mr. Baines tells me of two cases of external poisoning by the juice of the Euphorbias, which came under his notice while attached as artist to the Zambesi Expedition. In the first case one of the sailors belonging to the expedition broke off several pieces of the succulent stems of these plants, being attracted by their singular appearance; and incautiously touching other parts of his body, while the milky juice was still upon his hands, extensive blisters were raised, causing him excruciating agony, so that he had to be under medical care for some weeks. The second case occurred to a native boy in Damara land, who Mr. Baines took with him for the purpose of collecting a bottle of the juice, which being done, he was sent to wash his hands in the nearest pool, receiving at the same time a warning that he was, on no account, to touch any other part of his body till his hands were quite clean; he, however, neglected the caution, and rubbed his eyes, the lids of which next morning were swollen and nearly closed, these unfavourable symptoms continued for a day or two, so that the boy was allowed to ride in the waggon, and treated with somewhat of the care of an invalid ; this easy life suited him, and he made believe, so far as he could, that his eyes were not getting better, till one morning at breakfast, one of the party caught the boy's head between his hands, and suddenly forcing it up, caused him to stare with amazement, and with clear open eyes into the face of his aggressor, who immediately removed him from the sick list, and condemned him to take his share in the work of the expedition.

All through South Africa and southern tropical Africa, in the dense jungles of the Sundays and New Years rivers, the Fish river, the Koonass, and on the eastern border of the colony and the rivers of Kafirland, the Euphorbias attain the dimensions of considerable trees, some of which are probably five and twenty feet or more in height, the stems of many of them are nearly white externally and sometimes as much as a foot in thickness, the outside of the older stems is hard, but the smaller and younger ones, often as thick as a man's arm, can easily be cut through with one stroke of a sharp bowie knife.

* Euphorbium is now excluded from the pharmacopæia, having long since fallen into

disuse.

In those districts where the Euphorbias grow more plentifully than any other flowering plants, the honey made by the bees has a very perceptible acrid taste; but where other flowers are equally distributed with the Euphorbias, the bees seem to have the sense to choose those which do not impart an unpleasant flavour to their honey.

Several species of Euphorbia occur in India, having either acknowledged or reputed medicinal or economic properties. The acrid milky juice of E. antiquorum, L., is used by the natives for outward application in rheumatism, and is also considered a cure for toothache, and, when diluted, they use it internally as a purgative; the bark of the root is likewise a reputed purgative, and a decoction of the stem is given in cases of gout. E. Tirucalli, L., called the milk-hedge or Indian tree-spurge, grows to a height of about twenty feet, and is frequently grown in Coromandel for hedges, for which it is well adapted, as few animals, except goats, will touch it, owing to its acrid nature. The fresh milky juice is said to be an effectual application for the removal of warts, and when mixed with oil, is used as an embrocation in rheumatic affections. In small doses it has been used as an alterative; the juice of E. nivulia, Ham., is used for similar purposes, and, on the Western coast, the bark of the root boiled in rice-water and arrack has been given with success in dropsy. All these three species, as well as E. nereifolia, L., the root of which has a general reputation in India as a cure for snake bites, are included in the New Indian Pharmacopæia. E. Cattimandoo, Ell., a shrub or small tree, growing in the Madras Presidency, and known as Cattimandu, is noteworthy on account of its yielding caoutchouc of good quality, though its value is much depreciated, from the fact of its not being ductile at all times, like gutta percha or india rubber; when first boiled it can be moulded into any form, but after it has cooled it becomes brittle, and it is said to be very difficult, if not impossible, to render it again plastic. To obtain it the natives cut the branches across, when the milk, a's in all the species, flows freely; it is collected and boiled, made into cylinders or cakes, and sold in the bazaars as a cement, useful for many purposes, amongst others for fixing knives in handles. Some of this caoutchouc was exhibited so far back as the first Great Exhibition in 1851, and was then favourably reported upon, since which time we have heard little or nothing about it. The juice of this, like nearly all the other Indian species, has a reputed medicinal virtue for outward application in rheumatism. Though the above species is the only one that we are aware of as having attracted

notice as a caoutchouc producer, it is not at all remarkable that these plants should yield this substance when we consider the great quantity of viscid juice they all contain, and which hardens on exposure to the air. Mr. Baines tells me that he has collected the juice of the Euphorbias in Africa, boiled it, and found it to make an excellent and flexible waterproof for calico, and that a piece of calico so treated, served effectually as a protection for a packing case of books and papers on the deck of a small vessel during the entire voyage from Algoa Bay to the London Docks,

There are numerous other species of Euphorbia growing in India, many of which have reputed medicinal virtues; but as their uses are somewhat similar to those we have already mentioned, and their effects very doubtful, it is needless to enumerate them.

In North America several species are considered medicinal, one or two of which are acknowledged in the United States dispensatory. In the Brazilian forests a peculiar species grows, the sap of which sheds a phosphorescent light in the warm nights, it has in consequence been named E. phosphorea. Twelve species of Euphorbia are found in the British Isles, many of which were at one time used as cathartics and stimulants, and the juice of some are even now occasionally used in some parts by the country people to cure warts. E. lathyris, L., the common caper-spurge occurs in thickets and underwoods in many parts of England, its stems rise from two to three feet high, the leaves are dark green, oblong-lanceolate, heart-shaped at the base. The fruit is a three-celled capsule, about the size of a large caper, for which it has been frequently used as a substitute, after being steeped in salt and water for a long time, and pickled in vinegar, this removes some proportion of the acrid principle, but even then the fruits are far from wholesome. The effects upon the human system, caused by eating the fresh fruits, is similar to that caused by Euphorbium, though not so severe.

Dr. Christison mentions a case of a child two years old, who, having eaten some of these fruits, was attacked with severe vomiting, succeded by drowsiness, an emetic having been employed, caused further vomiting, after which the child fell into a deep sleep, broken by occasional convulsions, and sighing ; under medical treatment the child eventually recovered.

Having now given what we hope will prove an interesting glance of the most important and peculiar species of the genus Euphorbia, we cannot do better than conclude this

paper

with Mr. Baines' own description of the scene represented in his drawing. He says, in a letter accompanying it : “In the sketch I send, I have endeavoured

to reproduce such a scene as I have often witnessed near the rivers of the colonial frontier, where the massive white stems, notched with rings, marking the falling off of former leaves, bear aloft the green chandelier-like leaves, where the beautiful Strelitzia regince, the white arum or Calla Æthiopica, the cærulean Agapanthus, and many species of Amaryllis or Hæmanthus, border the pools or ornament the valleys, and where, too, often when I was in the country, the stealthy Kafirs, aided by rebel Hottentots from colonial or military service, or from border mission stations, crouched like so many panthers among the rocks and bush till a passing waggontrain should be impeded by some accident or difficulty of the road, when they would seize the opportunity to pour down a murderous fire from every commanding point, killing, if possible, the driver, or at least some of the trek oxen, so as to throw the span into confusion, and enable them to drive off the rest ; sometimes single waggons or long unmanageable trains of fifty or sixty were captured even from the military; but not unfrequently the marauders found to their cost, that the colonists with their trusty rifles, or the soldiers, so soon as they relaxed their drill a little, and adapted their tactics to the exigiences of bush warfare, were quite able to defend their convoy against any disparity of numbers."

THE FISHES OF THE HOLY LAND.

BY DR. ALBERT GÜNTHER.

Few who have heard or read for the hundredth time the passages in the Gospel relating to the miraculous draughts of fishes (St. Luke v. 4–6; St. John xxi. 11) will have asked the question, Of what kind were the fishes thus captured and presented to the astonished gaze of the disciples of Jesus? Curiosity concerning such details is abashed before the dignity of the holy narrative, and the inquiry deemed utterly irrelevant by the believer. If, perchance, the imagination supplies particulars for the completion of the mental picture, objects of such a kind are substituted, as the individual is wont to see. We certainly should like to behold an authentic portrait of Jesus Christ, but as it is impossible to gratify this desire, we generally substitute for it pictures idealized in accordance with our accustomed notions, in the form of a perfect European face, instead of that Oriental cast of physiognomy which a scion of the house of David most probably bore. If Christianity had spread over the Celestial Empire, as it did westwards, the Chinese would have represented Jesus according to their ideas of manly beauty, with flattened nose and obliquely slit eyes. So also Raphael and Rubens, for their representations of the miraculous draught of fishes, choose those fishes with which they were best acquainted, but at the same time, feeling that the fishes of the Lake of Galilee must in some measure differ from those of their own country, they introduced some other kinds, creations of their fancy. Rubens represented the fishes generally found in a Dutch fish-market, codfish and such like; and Raphael, moreover, introduced into the foreground of this part of his famous cartoons a very conspicuous group of cranes waiting for their share of the fishes which would be left on the beach. He evidently was not aware that this bird feeds on seeds and insects, and therefore did not hesitate to substitute it for the heron, on account of its more picturesque appearance.

Artists of the present day pay a little more regard to such trifles, but until a very recent period, they would in vain have sought information from the naturalist with regard to the fishes of the Holy Land. Interesting as the whole zoology of this country must be even to those who do not care much for creatures from foreign countries generally, comparatively little was known of it; and scarcely any attention has been paid to its fishes. Our knowledge of the fish-faunas ceases with the Danube and Black Sea, and does

« AnteriorContinuar »