Apple & White Poplar
Apple & White Poplar
Some specimens of Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) are native and many so-called Crab Apples are likely to have originated as seedlings of cultivated fruits. Our domestic apples originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today. Cultivation may go back to Neolithic times. The fruit was well known to the Greeks and Romans, Pliny (1) in the first century AD knowing 22 cultivars and discussing grafting (a technique to propagate types, where seedlings will not resemble their parents). The Romans are thought to have introduced some varieties of apple to this country, and others were brought in by the Normans, returning Crusaders and Huguenots. The first named variety on record is the Pearmain, in 1204. The name apple, from the Anglo-Saxon ӕpl or ӕppel, is similar in Celtic and Slavonic tongues. The original meaning of the word is unknown, but Prior (2) suggests that as, in Sanskrit, ap means water and p’hala means fruit, the name could mean water-fruit, or juice-fruit. The Latin name pomum derives from the verb poto, meaning ‘I drink'.
The White Poplar was introduced from Holland in the seventeenth century. Populus alba, commonly called abele, silver poplar, silverleaf poplar, or white poplar, is most closely related to the aspens (Populus). Native to Morocco, the Iberian Peninsula and through central Europe to central Asia. Although widely planted it has never become naturalised. and one curious feature is that specimens in Britain usually only bear female catkins. The Dutch name arbel, derived from the Latin albus (white), is the origin of the name Abele, and Mathias de l'Obel (3) is said to have derived his name from the Abele tree which has since been passed on to a different plant, the Lobelia. Abele timber is white and soft, and does not burn easily, so has been used for floor boards. The herbalist John Gerard (4) cited the earlier writer Dioscorides (5) as saying that 'the barke [of White Poplar] to the weight of an ounce is a good remedy for the sciatica or ache in the buckle bone'. It was still recommended as a universal tonic for debility, indigestion, faintness, hysteria and urinary complaints until recently.
(1) Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher, naval and army commander, friend of emperor Vespasian, Naturalis Historia;
(2) Prior, Richard C.A. (1809-1902) physician, botanist and antiquarian, On the Popular Names of British Plants, London. 1863;
(3) de l'Obel, Mathias (1538-1616) Flemish physician and botanist, Plantarum seu stirpium historia, London, 1576;
(4) Gerard, John (c 1545-1612) botanist and herbalist, Great Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597;
(5) Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40 – 90 AD) Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, De Materia Medica;