Box & Pomegranite
Box & Pomegranite
Buxus is a genus of about 70 species in the family Buxaceae. Common names include box in most English-speaking countries or boxwood in North America. Although this slow-growing shrub is thought native to the British Isles, it is only found wild in Kent, Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire. It grows in beechwoods and scrub on chalk and limestone. It is commonly planted for decorative purposes and may become naturalised. Names like Boxwell, Box Hill and Boxley arise from association with the plant, but there are other Box names where the species is no longer found. Box wood is renowned for its hardness, twice that of Oak. It was mentioned by Gerard (1) as being 'fit for dagger haftes'. It has been used for rulers (straight edges), chessmen and draughts, and is still used for wood-engraving. This use by man may have caused its decline. The juice of the leaves and roots is bitter and poisonous. 'Buxine' can be extracted from dried leaves and clippings and is a narcotic, sedative and purgative. The leaves have been used to purify the blood and for rheumatism but they are so poisonous they are not now used, but George Ewart Evans (2) recorded that some horse-men put powdered Box leaves into chaff fed to horses to keep down excessive sweating.
The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub in the family Lythraceae that grows between 5 and 8 m (16 and 26 ft) tall. It is indigenous to parts of Asia and is cultivated and naturalised in the Mediterranean region, the US and other warmer parts of the world. In Britain it is usually grown against a wall for shelter but fruits rarely ripen. It has been long valued for its glossy leaves, scarlet blossoms and fruit, technically a large berry which contains many seeds embedded in pink pulp. In religion and literature it is a symbol of fertility. Anthony Smith (3) cites Rhazes of Baghdad (4) as including Pomegranate skin in a recipe, dated 882, for a contraceptive pessary (5), and quotes a later suggestion of simply using half a Pomegranate or the right testicle of a wolf. Jack Lindsay (5) tells us the red juice of the Pomegranate in Ancient Greece was associated with re-birth and immortality and represented murder and broken maidenhead. Women were forbidden to pick up the seeds because the tree sprang from Dionysus' (6) blood. There are many references in the Bible (esp. Song of Solomon) and in classical literature. Chaucer (7) says of the Garden of Amour
'There were, and that I wot full well,
Of pome-garnettis a full gret dell;
That is a fruit full well to like,
Namely to folk whanne they ben sike.'
Joseph Miller (8) says Pomegranate will strengthen gums and fasten loose teeth. It may also explain why, as Arber (9) records, there is a picture of a Pomegranate with exposed seeds, and a plant of Toothwort (Lathraea squamata) in the same illustration as a set of human teeth in the Phytognomonica (1588) of G. Porta (10), a devotee of the Doctrine of Signatures. A decoction of Pomegranate bark is advised for the removal of tape-worms.
(1) Gerard, John (c 1545-1612) botanist and herbalist, Great Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597;
(2) Evans, George Ewart (1909-1988) schoolteacher, writer and folklorist, The Horse in the Furrow, 1960;
(3) Smith, Anthony (1926-2014) author, sailer, balloonist, TV Presenter, The Body, Viking, 1986;
(4) Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyyā al-Rāzī (854-932) polymath, physician, alchemist, philosopher
(5) A medicated plug of wool, lint, etc., to be inserted in the neck of the womb, or other aperture of the body, for the cure of various ailments; a suppository.
(5) Lindsay, Jack (1900-1990) Australian writer and polymath;
(6) Dionysus - god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy in ancient Greek religion and myth.
(7) Chaucer, Geoffrey (c 1343-1400), poet, the Father of English literature, The Romance (Romaunt) of the Rose, c 1440;
(8) Miller, Joseph (c 1673-1748) botanist and herbalist;
(9) Arber, Agnes (1879-1960) plant morphologist and anatomist, botanic historian and biology philosopher, Herbals: their origin and evolution. A chapter in the history of botany, 1938;
(10) Porta, Giambattista della (1535-1615) Italian scholar, polymath and playwright, Phytognomonica, Napoli, Orazio Salviani, 1588.