Rose of Jericho.

Botanical name: 

Rosa Hicracontea.

A little woody plant, named a rose from nothing but its size, and its manner of folding itself up, by bending in the tops of the branches, so that it appears hollow and roundish. We are accustomed to see it dry, and in that condition it is always thus drawn together. It it of the bigness of a man's fist, and is composed of a quantity of woody branches, interwoven with one another, and all bending inward. When it is put into warm water, it expands, and become flattish, but on drying, it acquires the old form again.

It is in reality a kind of thlaspi, or treacle mustard, but of a peculiar woody texture. The root is long, and pierces deep into the ground; there grow from this eight or ten stalks, which spread themselves upon the ground, in a circular manner, as we see the stalks of our bird's foot, and many other little plants. These stalks are thick and woody, and about four inches in length: they lie upon the ground toward the base, but lay turned up a little at the tops, and each of them has a number of branches. The leaves are long, narrow, and of a pale green; they are very numerous, and they stand irregularly. The flowers are small, and white like those of our shepherd's purse. The seed-vessels are small, and contain several seeds like those of the common treacle mustard.

This is the appearance of the plant, as it grows very frequent in the warmer climates; and thus it has nothing singular in it, while in its perfection of growth, but after a time, the leaves decay and fall off, and the stalks as they dry, in the heat, draw up more and more, till by degrees they get into this round figure, from which warm water will expand them, but they recover it again as they dry.

This is the real history of that little kind of treacle mustard, which is called the rose of Jericho, and concerning which so many idle, as well as strange things, have been said. Our good women have many ways of trying many experiments with it, by way of deciding future events, but nothing can be so foolish. The nature of the plant will make it expand, and open its branches, when put into warm water, and draw them together again, as it grows dry. This will always happen, and it will be more quick or more slow, according to the condition of the plant. Where it is to be had fresh, it does not want medicinal virtues. The young shoots are good in infusion against sore throats, but we have the plant without its leaves, and, in reality, little more than a stick; so that it would be idle to expect any good in it.

The Family Herbal, 1812, was written by John Hill.