036. Fraxinus ornus. Flowering ash.

Botanical name: 

036. Fraxinus ornus. 036. Fraxinus ornus. C. Synonyma. Fraxinus tenuiore & minore folio. Bauh. Hist. i. p. 177.
Fraxinus humilior sive altera Theophrasti, minore & tenuiore folio. Bauh. Pin. p. 416.
Fraxinus Ornus, foliolis serratis, floribus corollatis. Lin. Sp. Plant.
Mannifera arbor.
Succus condensatus est Manna. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb.

Class Polygamia. Ord. Dioecia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 1160.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Hermaphrod. Cal. o, s. 4-partitus. Cor. o, s. 4-petala. Stam. 2. Pist. 1. Sem. 1, lanceolatum. Fem. Pist. 1, lanceolatum.
Spec. Char. F. foliis ovato-oblongis serratis petiolatis, floribus corollatis. Hort. Kew.

This tree greatly resembles our common ash: it is lofty, much branched, and covered with a greyish bark. The young shoots produce the leaves, which are pinnated, opposite, and consist of several pair of pinnae, or small leaves, terminated by an odd one, pointed, serrated, veined, standing upon footstalks, of an oval or oblong shape, and bright green colour. The flowers grow in close thick branched spikes, and open in May and June. In the specimen we have figured, the flowers were all hermaphrodite; the corolla divided into four narrow whitish segments, somewhat longer than the stamina; the two filaments tapering, and crowned with large furrowed erect antherae; the germen oval, and a little compressed; the style short and cylindrical; the capsule is long, flat, membranous, and contains a single flat pointed seed.

This tree is a native of the southern parts of Europe, particularly of Sicily and Calabria. [The Ornus is observed by Dr. Cirillo to be very common on the famous mountain Garganus, so that the words of Horace may still apply; aut Aquilonibus Querceta Gargani laborant, Et foliis viduantur orni. L. ii. Od. 9.] It was first introduced into England about sixty years ago, by Dr. Uvedale; [Vide Hort. Kew.] and at present adorns many of the gardens of this country. The Ornus is not the only species of am which produces Manna; the rotundifolia and excelsior, especially in Sicily, also afford this drug, though less abundantly. Many other trees and shrubs have likewise been observed, in certain seasons and situations, to emit a sweet juice, which concretes on exposure to the air, and may be considered as of the manna kind. [Dr. Cullen is certainly right in supposing "Manna a part of the sugar so universally present in vegetables, and which exudes on the surface of a great number of them;" the qualities of these exudations he thinks are "very little if at all different." The principal trees known to produce these mannas in different climates and seasons, are the larch, (vide Murray Ap. Med. i. p. 17.) the fir, (Iac. V. Engestrom in Physiogr. Sälskapets Handl. Vol. i. P. 3. p. 144.) the orange, (De La Hire Hist. de l'acad, d. sc. de Paris, 1708.) the walnut, (Hal. Stirp. Helv. N. 1624.) the willow, (Mouffet in Du Hamel. Physique des arbres, P. i. p. 152.) the mulberry, (Micheli in Tragioni Tozzetti Viaggi, Tom. 6. p. 424.) oaks, situated between Merdin and Diarbekir (Niebuhr Beschreib V. Arab. p. 145. Otter, Voyage en Turquie et en Perse, Vol. 2. p. 264.) also oaks in Persia near Khounsar (Otter. l. c.) the al hagi Maurorum, or the hedysarum alhagi of Linnaeus; of this manna Dr. Fothergill presented a specimen to the Royal Society, which he considered as the Tereniabin of the Arabians, (Phil. Trans. Vol. 43. p. 87.) the cistus ladaniferus in some parts of Spain produces a manna, which, in its recent state, has no purgative quality, and is eaten by the shepherds: so that some fermentation seems necessary to give it a cathartic power, (Vide Dillon's Travels through Spain, p. 127.)] In Sicily the three species of the Fraxinus, mentioned above, are regularly cultivated for the purpose of procuring Manna, and with this view are planted on the declivity of a hill, with an eastern aspect. After ten years growth, the trees first begin to yield the Manna, but they require to be much older before they afford it in any considerable quantity. Although the Manna exudes spontaneously upon the trees, yet in order to obtain it more copiously, incisions are made through the bark, by means of a sharp crooked instrument; and the season thought to be most favourable for instituting this process, is a little before the dog-days commence, when the weather is dry and serene. The incisions are first made in the lower part of the trunk, and repeated at the distance of an inch from the former wound, still extending the incisions upwards as far as the branches, and confining them to one side of the tree, the other side being reserved till the year following, when it undergoes the same treatment, On making these incisions, which are of a longitudinal direction, about a span in length, and nearly two inches wide, a thick whitish juice immediately begins to flow, which gradually hardens on the bark, and in the course of eight days acquires the consistence and appearance in which the Manna is imported into Britain, when it is collected in baskets, and afterwards packed in large chests. [La manne est le principal revenu de ce pays & de quelques autres qui en sont voisins. Il monte dans une bonne annee a vingt-cinq mills Louis d'or. Houel Voyage Pittoresque, tom. I. p. 53.] Sometimes the Manna flows in such abundance from the incisions, that it runs upon the ground, by which it becomes mixed with various impurities, unless prevented, which is commonly attempted, by interposing large concave leaves, stones, chips of wood, &c. The business of collecting Manna usually terminates at the end of September, when the rainy season sets in.

[This account is taken from Houel Voyage Pittoresque, and Sestini Lettere della Sicilia, and related by Murray: to which we shall subjoin Dr. Cirillo's account, communicated to the Royal Society. Vide Vol. 60. p. 233.

"The manner, in which the manna is obtained from the Ornus, though very simple, has been yet very much misunderstood by all those who travelled in the kingdom of Naples; and among other things they seem to agree, that the best and purest manna is obtained from the leaves of the tree; but this, I believe, is an opinion taken from the doctrine of the ancients, and received as an incontestible observation, without consulting nature. I never saw such a kind, and all those who are employed in the gathering of the manna, know of none that comes from the leaves. The manna is generally of two kinds; not on account of the intrinsic quality of them being different, but only because they are got in a different manner. In order to have the manna, those who have the management of the woods of the Orni in the month of July and August, when the weather is very dry and warm, make an oblong incision, and take off from the bark of the tree about three inches in length, and two in breadth; they leave the wound open, and by degrees the manna runs out, and is almost suddenly thickened to its proper consistence, and is found adhering to the bark of the tree. This manna, which is collected in baskets, and goes under the name of manna grassa; is put in a dry place, because moist and wet places will soon dissolve it again. This first kind is often in large irregular pieces of a brownish colour, and frequently is full of dust and other impurities. But when the people want to have a very fine manna, they apply to the incision of the bark, thin straw, or small bits of shrubs, so that the manna, in coming out, runs upon those bodies, and is collected in a sort of regular tubes, which give it the name of manna in cannoli, that is, manna in tubes: this second kind is more esteemed, and always preferred to the other, because it is free and clear. There is indeed a third kind of manna, which is not commonly to be met with, and which I have seen after I left Calabria: it is very white, like sugar; but as it is rather for curiosity than for use, I shall say no more of it. The two sorts of manna already mentioned undergo no kind of preparation whatsoever, before they are exported; sometimes they are finer, particularly the manna grassa, and sometimes very dirty and full of impurities; but the Neapolitans have no interest in adulterating the manna, because they always have a great deal more than what they generally export; and if manna is kept in the magazines, it receives often very great hurt by the Southern winds, so common in our part of the world. The changes of the weather produce a sudden alteration in the time that the manna is to be gathered; and, for this reason, when the summer is rainy, the manna is always very scarce and very bad."]

From this account it is evident, that Manna is the succus proprius of the tree; any arguments therefore brought to combat the ancient opinion of its being a mel aerium, or honey-dew, are wholly unnecessary: that, with which the Israelites were so peculiarly favoured, could only have been produced through miraculous means, and is consequently out of the province of the natural historian. — Manna is generally distinguished into different kinds, viz. the Manna in tear, the canulated and flaky Manna, and the common brown or fat Manna. All these varieties seem rather to depend upon their respective purity, and the circumstances in which they are obtained from the plant, than upon any essential difference of the drug: when the juice transudes from the tree very slowly, the Manna is always more dry, transparent, and pure, and consequently of more estimation; but when it flows very copiously it concretes into a coarse brown unctious mass; hence we have a reason, why, by applying straws and other such substances to receive the flowing juice, the Manna becomes much improved: Houel, who tasted the manna when flowing from the tree, found it much bitterer than in its concrete state; this bitterness he attributes to the aqueous part, which is then very abundant, of course the manna is meliorated by all the circumstances which promote evaporation. According to Lewis, "the best Manna is in oblong pieces, or flakes, moderately dry, friable, very light, of a whitish or pale yellow colour, and in some degree transparent: the inferior kinds are moist, unctuous, and brown. Manna liquifies in moist air, dissolves readily in water, and, by the assistance of heat, in reclined spirit. On inspissating the watery solution, the Manna is recovered of a much darker colour than at first. From the saturated spirituous solution, great part of it separates as the liquor cools, concreting into a flaky mass, of a snowy whiteness, and a very grateful sweetness."

Manna is well known as a gentle purgative, so mild in its operation, that it may be given with safety to children and pregnant women; in some constitutions however it produces troublesome flatulencies, and therefore requires the addition of a suitable aromatic, especially when given to an adult, where a large dose is necessary; it is therefore usually acuated by some other cathartic of a more powerful kind. The efficacy of Manna is said, by Vallisnieri, to be much promoted by cassia fistularis, a mixture of the two purging more than both of them separately; it is therefore very properly an ingredient in the electuarium e cassia.

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.