085. Prunus domestica. Common prune, or plum tree.
Also see 084. Prunus spinosa. Sloe tree.
Synonyma. Prunum gallicum. Pharm. Lond.
Prunus domestica. Gerard. Emac. p. 1497.
Prunus vulgaris. Park. Theat. p. 1512. In Raii Hist. p. 1526.
Prunus foliis serratis, hirsutis, ovato-lanceolatis, floribiis longe petiolatis. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 1079.
Ut Linnaeo videtur Prunus fructu parvo dulci atro-caeruleo. Tournef. Inst. p. 622.
Class Icosandria. Ord. Monogynia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 620.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cal. 5-fidus, inferus. Petala 5. Drupae nux suturis prominulis.
Spec. Char. P. pedunculis subsolitariis, fol. lanceolato-ovatis convolutis, ramis muticis. Gemmae florifera aphyllae. Mur.
This species of Prunus grows much higher than the former; it is without spines, and covered with smooth bark of a dark brown colour: the leaves are oval, slightly indented at the edges, pointed, veined, of a pale green colour, and stand upon very short footstalks: the stipulae are oval, pointed, membranous, and placed in pairs at the base of the peduncles: the flowers are large, and surround the branches upon separate peduncles: the calyx is divided into five narrow concave segments, and beset on the inside with a number of glandular hairs: [See Withering, l. c.] the corolla consists of five roundish white petals: the filaments are more than twenty, tapering, inserted in the calyx, and furnished with reddish antherae: the germen is round, and supports a simple style, which is shorter than the filaments, and crowned with a globular stigma: the fruit is oblong, or egg-shaped, consisting of a sweet fleshy pulp, covered with a dark violet coloured pellicle, and including in the centre an almond-shaped nut, or stone. It is a native of Britain, and flowers in April and May.
Among the many varieties of plums [Du Hamel (Arbres fruit. T. 2. p. 65. sq.) describes forty-eight varieties: and Mayer (Pomona Francon. T. 1. p. 110.) makes them still more numerous. The original parent of these varieties is not yet satisfactorily ascertained.—J. Bauhin refers it to the Pruna cerea minora praecocia.] we find considerable difficulty in referring with sufficient accuracy to that called by the London College Prunum gallicum; it is therefore probable that some of the synonyma introduced above, are not in this respect so correctly applicable as they ought to be. [On this subject Professor Murray says, "Hisce Pharmacopoeia Londinensi duce intelligo vulgaria ista oblonga, profunde violacea, ubivis in hortis reperiunda, cui varietati non audeo in brevitate descriptionum adscribere nomen Bauhinianum vel Tournefortianum, nisi sit Pruna oblonga caerulea C. B. vel Pr. fructu oblongo coeruleo Tournef." App. Med. vol. iii. p. 230.] The Syrian Plums were much esteemed by the ancients, particularly a species which grew in the neighbourhood of Damascus, [See Dioscorides, (Lib. i. cap. 1. 174,) by whom the tree is called (greek), and the fruit (greek).] and hence a variety of this fruit is still known by the name of Pruna damascena. According to Pliny, [Hist. Nat. L. xv. cap. 13.] the tree was brought from Syria into Greece, and from thence into Italy, where its fruit is repeatedly noticed by the Latin poet. [It is also thus mentioned by Ovid: Prunaque, non solum nigro liventia succo, Verum etiam generosa, novasque imitantia ceras. Met. Lib. xiii. v. 818.]
All our garden plums are eaten at table, and when sufficiently ripe, and taken in a moderate quantity, prove a pleasant and wholesome food. But in an immature state, they are more liable to produce colicky pains, diarrhoea, or cholera, than any other fruit of this class; some attention to this circumstance is therefore always necessary. Considered medicinally, they are emollient, cooling, and laxative, especially the French prunes, which are imported here in their dried state from Marseilles; and though the laxative power of these is diminished by drying, yet it is observed by Dr. Cullen, that as they contain a great deal of the acid which they originally had, they have more effect in this way than the other dried fruits. [Mat. Med. vol. i. p. 254.] They are found to be peculiarly useful in costive habits, and are frequently ordered in decoction with senna or other purgatives. It is the pulp of this fruit which is directed in the Electuarium e Senna, or Lenitive electuary.
Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.