Hermodactyls. Hermodactyli. Colchicum autumnale, Iris tuberosa.
Hermodactyls. Hermodactyli.—Under this name are sold in European commerce the roots or bulbs of an uncertain plant, growing in the countries about the eastern extremity of the Mediterranean. By some botanists the plant is thought to be a Colchicum, and C. variegatum L., a native of the south of Europe and the Levant, is particularly indicated by Fee, Geiger, and others, while by authors, no less eminent, the roots are confidently referred to Iris tuberosa L. They certainly bear a considerable resemblance to the corm of Colchicum autumnale L., being heart-shaped, channelled on one side, convex on the other, and from 12 to 25 mm. in length by nearly as much in breadth. As found in commerce, they are destitute of the outer coat, are of a dirty yellowish or brownish color externally, white and amylaceous within, inodorous and nearly tasteless, though sometimes slightly acrid. They are often worm-eaten. Their chief constituent is starch, and they contain no veratrine or colchicine. From this latter circumstance, and from their insipidity, it has been inferred that they are probably not derived from a species of Colchicum. They are in fact almost without action upon the system. It is doubted whether they are the hermodactyli of the ancients, which acted like colchicum and were useful in gout and rheumatism. Pereira describes a bitter variety of hermodactyls, which was brought from India by Royle. The bulbs are smaller and darker than the others, and have externally a striped or reticulated appearance.