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in some parts of the country the inhabitants -being on the one hand sensible that the trees injured their crops and gardens by shutting out the sun and air, and being yet on the other hand loth to lose entirely the trees and their shade -have adopted the practice of cutting off the greater part of the branches, leaving only a bush at the top. The trees, when thus pruned, have a very odd appearance, having some resemblance to a mop or a broom.
H. If there are parts of Persia which are as cold as England, I wonder there are no oaks in those parts.
U. O. There are some parts of the country in which the winter is colder and the summer not much warmer than in England; but there is no part of Persia in which the climate is so temperate as ours. However, I did not say there were no oaks ; but that oaks were not large timbertrees as with us. There is oak enough in the mountains of Western Persia and near the Caspian Sea, but I do not think that I ever saw more than dwarf-trees or shrubs of oak.
It would take too long, and would make you go to sleep, if I spoke of all the numerous shrubs, underwood, and small plants ; but I
will tell you of a few that seem the most remarkable.
The desert plains furnish large quantities of a prickly plant resembling furze, which, although it would seem a rough morsel, the camel eats with the utmost satisfaction, whence it is called the “camel-thorn.”
F. But do not the thorns prick their mouths ?
U. O. No doubt. But perhaps they regard the pricks in the mouth and even the blood, as only adding to the relish of the feast-just as mustard operates with us.
The plant which yields that excellent medicine called castor-oil
U. O. I know you dislike it, Jane; but it is not the less useful to man on that account. This plant is common in Persia ; indeed the Persians rear great quantities of it, for the sake of the oil which they burn in their lamps. In some parts it is the only oil they burn. But I believe they are perfectly ignorant that it has any virtue as a medicine; and I am sure I never knew them employ it as such.
The plant which yields the gum-ammonia is common also
J. Do you mean, uncle, that nasty, yellow, bitter stuff that the doctors give?
U. O. I mean that valuable drug. It is called by the Persians Oshauk, and grows wild in the desert plains, where it far overtops all the other plants. It is from three to six feet high and jointed like the sugar-cane. Dark green leaves grow from the joints that are nearest the ground, and small flowers, not larger than a pea, at the top. When the leaves turn yellow in July, the plant is considered ripe. But before that time, in the month of May, while the plant is soft, an insect of the beetle kind begins to pierce the stem in every direction with its proboscis, which seems well suited to this work. Afterwards, when the stem shrinks and dries, a milky juice comes out from the holes made by the insect. It flows down and hardens near the joints, and is scraped off by the natives about the end of July. One of the plants will afford about a pound of the gum; but when first collected it is very impure, being mixed with bits of the dry plants, leaves, and gravel. The gum, which is of a pale yellow colour, is of a bitter, nauseous taste, and forms a valuable medicine.
F. I wonder how it is that valuable medicines are always nasty!
U.O. Not always; but often. It is well, however, that medicinal substances should be nauseous. If it were not so, people might do themselves much harm by being tempted to use them as food. If, for instance, this gum were sweet like honey, little boys might be tempted to pick it off and eat it: in which case, I believe, it would give them not a little disturbance.
. The plant which produces the well-known drug called asafoetida, that smells so horribly, grows in the eastern parts of Persia. It is in the same class of plants with that of which I have just spoken. When ripe, it affords a sort of cauliflower-head, of a light straw colour. Each plant gives about a pound of the gum, which is obtained by wounding the root. The root is sometimes as thick as a man's leg; and the upper part of it rises above the ground. The juice, as it flows from the wound, is white, resembling cream, but as it hardens it acquires a yellowish brown colour. The most stronglyscented asafoetida is considered the best, and, when fresh, the scent is so very strong as to be quite overpowering to a stranger. A very small quantity then affects the sense of smelling more powerfully than the largest quantities in a London drug-warehouse. The plants themselves are considered a great delicacy by the natives, who stew or roast the stem, and boil or fry the head and leaves in butter.
H. But I suppose there is no smell in those parts?
U. O. That there is! The smell of this mess is far stronger than that of the drug. I have been ready to faint when spoken to by persons who had lately eaten of this fare; and the smell of their dinner has often made me run away. The gum itself is much valued as a remedy in various internal disorders, and is applied externally to wounds. Our own physicians, also, use it as a medicine in several complaints. - I may now mention the flowering shrub of the willow species called by the Persians Zenjeed. In smell it is quite a contrast to the plant of which I last told you, since its fragrance is very strong and delightful. It blossoms in June, rather later than other flowering shrubs, and then its silvery white leaves are intermingled with a great number of scarlet blossoms, forming an object as pleasant to the eye as to the smell. The flowers grow in small bunches, and are of a vermilion colour within and a silvery white on the outside. The Persians.cultivate this shrub