Notes on the recent Literature of Botany and Materia medica.
By George M. Beringer.
In accepting the commission of the editor to prepare for the American Journal of Pharmacy reviews and abstracts from the current literature of botany and materia medica, the writer fully realizes the impossibility of at all presenting a large portion of the most valuable purely scientific labors of botanists, and must necessarily restrict the contributions to those most salient matters of more or less interest to pharmaceutical readers.
Vanillas of Commerce.
Mr. R. A. Rolfe has monographed the genus Vanilla, and the Kew Bulletin for August, p. 169, abstracts the historical and descriptive account of the species yielding the commercial fruits. Four species appear to yield all the vanillas of commerce, and two other species are indicated as worthy of experimentation in this connection.
Vanilla planifolia, Andr., Bot, Rep., viii (1808), t. 538.—A tall climber, with very long, somewhat flexuose, succulent, green stems, and slender, flexuose or twining, white, aerial roots, opposite to the leaves. Leaves subsessile, oblong, acute or shortly acuminate, succulent, bright green, 4 to 9 inches long, 1 ½ to 2 2 ½ inches broad. Racemes axillary, 2 to 3 inches long. Bracts numerous, spirally arranged, oblong, sub-acute or obtuse, concave or conduplicate, 2 to 6 lines long, gradually diminishing upwards. Pedicels, 1 ½ to 2 inches long; green. Sepals and petals linear, oblong and obtuse; 2 lines long; light, glaucous green. Lip trumpet-shaped, a little shorter than the sepals and petals, of the same color, united to the sides of the column to near its apex, and then convolute around it; apex three-lobed, mid-lobe longer and retuse, margin revolute and denticulate, nerves carinate, and those in front densely crenulate, verruculose, buff yellow; disc with a tuft of retrorse hairs about the middle. Column clavate; 1 ⅛ to 1 ¼ inches long; hairy on the face. Capsule elongated linear, obscurely trigonous; 6 to 9 inches long; 6 to 7 lines broad.
[As Salisbury's name, Myobroma fragrans, antedates that of Andrews, it is apparent that, if the law of priority be here applied, the correct binomial would be Vanilla fragrans (Salisb.). There were at least four binomials applied by earlier authors; but as several species were in each case confounded under the same name, it is difficult to decide positively which of these yet older names should be retained for this species. If, however, we accept the determinations of Rolfe, that these names in part referred to this species, and adhere to the priority rule, the synonomy would appear to be:
Vanilla Vanilla (L.), 1753.
Vanilla Mexicana (Mill.), 1761.
Vanilla aromatica (Su.), 1799.
Vanilla fragrans (Salisb.), 1S07.
Vanilla planifolia (Andr.), 1808. -G. M. B.]
Habitat, southeastern Mexico, in the Vera Cruz district, Misantla and Yucatan, also in British Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Cultivated in the Mascarene Islands, Java, the West Indies, and other parts of the tropics.
This species produces the true Mexican vanilla of commerce, which has been known ever since the discovery of America by the Spaniards, and which was described by Clusius as long ago as 1605, under the name of Lobus Oblongus Aromaticus. Its early history is much confused, as, for a long time, three or four species were confounded together, and, even when the present one was described, it was not known as the source of the vanilla of commerce, which was then, and for a long time afterwards, thought to be the V. aromatica, Sw. (i. e., V. inodora Schiede). It was introduced to cultivation about 1739, but was probably soon afterwards lost. The Marquis of Blanford reintroduced it about the beginning of the present century, and it flowered in the collection of the Right Hon. Charles Greville, at Paddington, in 1807, whence it can be directly traced to various continental gardens, to Java, where Blume redescribed it under the name of V. viridiflora, and to Reunion, thus originating the present industry in that island. Salisbury's Myobroma fragrans (1807) was drawn from the same individual as the original V. planifolia, Andrews. V. sativa and V. sylvestris, of Schiede, are chiefly known by the original descriptions, but are evidently forms of the same species, differing only in the length of the fruit; the former being a cultivated race, and the latter a wild original.
Vanilla pheantha Rchb. f—General habit of the preceding. Bracts fewer and larger, broadly elliptical-oblong, sub-obtuse; 3 to 7 lines long, 2 to 4 lines broad. Flowers larger; pedicels green. Sepals and petals, 2 ¼ to 2 ¾ inches long; greenish-yellow. Lip greenish-yellow, whitish in the throat, apex obscurely three-lobed and nearly truncate, nerves not carinate in front, disc with a pair of hairy lines extending from the central tuft of hairs towards the base. Capsule linear-oblong, obscurely compressed; 3 inches long, ½ inch broad.
Habitat, West Indies, Cuba, St. Vincent. Trinidad. This is an indigenous species which has been confused with V. planifolia, Andr., though it is easily distinguished by its much larger flowers, lip without verrucose disc, and its much shorter fruit. It is cultivated in the Botanic Gardens of Jamaica and Trinidad, but there is no evidence of its fruit being of any commercial value.
Vanilla Pompona Schiede.—General habit of V. planifolia Andr, but leaves large, 6 to 11 inches long, 1 ½ to 4 ½ inches broad. Bracts larger and rather more fleshy; pedicels yellow-green; sepals and petals 3 to 3 ½ inches long, greenish yellow. Lip bright yellow, nerves somewhat thickened, central tuft consisting of descending imbricated scales rather than hairs. Capsule linear-oblong, strongly trigonous, 6 to 7 inches long, 1 to 1 ¼ inches broad.
Habitat, southeastern Mexico, Papantla and Colipa, valley of the Cordova, Nicaragua, Panama, Columbia, Tolima, Venezuela, Trmidad, British Guiana, Surinam, Cayenne. Cultivated in Martinique, Guadaloupe and possibly other localities. This species is much more widely diffused than V. planifolia, and its fruit has long been known as an article of commerce, being now usually sold under the name of West Indian Vanillons. It is the "Grosse Vanille" of Aublet, the "Baynilla de acguiles" of Humboldt, and the "Baynilla Pompona" of Schiede. The pods are more difficult to dry, and they fetch a much lower price in the market.
Vanilla Gardneri Rolfe.—Stems fleshy thick; leaves subsessile, oblong, obtuse, fleshy; raceme short, thick; bracts ovate obtuse, rigid, prominent; sepals petal-like, linear, lanceolate sub-obtuse; lip oblong sub-entire, faintly submembranaceous, nerves scarcely thickened; disc subpubescent crested, column clavate, capsule unknown.
Habitat, Brazil, in dry, rocky places, Paranagua, Natividade. Pernambuco, Para. A species allied to V. Pompona, Schiede, but with leaves about half the size, longer racemes, with smaller not reflexed bracts, and rather smaller, more membranous flowers. Gardner confounded it with V. planifolia Andr., and remarked: "This is the plant which yields the vanilla in Brazil, though, unfortunately, his specimens are without fruit. There are pods in the Kew museum labelled 'Brazilian or Bahia Vanilla,' which are 5 ½ inches long by fully 1 inch broad, fleshy and distinctly triquetrous, and thus approaching those of V. Pompona, but with a rank odor. These are probably produced by the present species.
V. appendiculata, Rolfe, is indigenous to British Guiana. The fruit is aromatic, but it is uncertain if it has any economic value."
V. odorata, Presl, of Ecuador, Guayaquil, is only known from description. Presl remarks that, although fruits had been collected thirty-six years, they still retained their aromatic fragrance.
The Sakais living in the plains employ the Antiaris poison; the Sakais of the hills use a poison prepared from three hill plants called Ipoh Aker, Prual and Lampong. Dr. Stapf has determined that the Ipoh Aker is probably from a new species of Strychnos, closely allied to S. maingayi. Prual is from a Rubiaceae, the Coptosapelta flavescens, Karth. An examination of the root bark, by Dr. Ralph Stockman, indicates that in future it must be classified among the poisonous plants.—Kew Bulletin, June and July, 1895.
Queensland cherry, the fruit of an Euphorbiaceous plant (Antidesma dallachyanum, Baill.), is also known as the Herbert River cherry. The plant yielding it is a shrub or small tree, closely allied to A. Ghaesembilla, Gaertn., of the Eastern Archipelago and Ceylon. According to Bailey, "the fruit, which, in size, equals that of large cherries, is of a sharp acid flavor, resembling that of the red currant, which it also equals when made into jelly. As the European fruit is placed among medicinal plants, on account of its juice being grateful to the parched palates of persons suffering from fever, this is worthy of a similar place."—Kew Bulletin.