Palma, ut dicit Ysidorus, arbor est sic dicta, quod manus victricis est ornatus vel quod expansis ramis est in modum manus hominis. Hec, ut Ambrosius dicit, procero decoroque virgulto nascitur, diuturnis vestita frondibus et folia sua sine ulla successione conservans. Plinius: Hec in longissima etate durat, et licet in multis locis nascatur, non in omnibus locis tamen fructus perficit maturitatem. Habundantius autem fructificat in partibus orientis. Genus vel sexum habent maris et femine. Hee nunquam fructificant, nisi pares et ita vicine sint, ut superioribus ramis inclinate se invicem amplectantur; et hoc tantum fit verno tempore. Et hoc mirum valde, ut dicit Ambrosius, quod plerumque inclinat ramos ad parem et subicit et concupiscentie atque amplexus speciem pretendit et sexum suum subiectionis specie confitetur. Mas in palmite floret, femina citra florem germinat spine modo. Primo nascitur dactilorum caro, deinde quoddam durum interius, et hoc arboris semen. Plantari autem dicuntur in hunc modum palme: Accipiuntur dicta semina recentia et ponuntur per quindecim dies in aqua, ubi admixta sit terra et cinis pariter. Deinde tali modo ponuntur in terra, ut pars seminis acutior ponatur inferius et que grossior est pars superius vel supine, sicut dicit Plinius, ut illa pars que tumet sicut venter superius, illa vero que est sicut dorsum inferius; et hoc contra modum fere omnium seminum, quia in aliis fere omnibus seminibus acutiores partes ponuntur superius. Cum ergo palmarum semina plantantur, duo et duo ponuntur iuxta invicem. Cum enim plante earum debiles sint, sic iuxta posite roborantur.
Aquis salsis vel vini fecibus iuvantur. Terram solutam et sabulonem requirit, in fundo tamen prius antequam plantetur pingui terra deiecta. Sequenti hyeme, postquam plantate sunt palme, muniri debent contra hyemem, et hoc primo anno; postea valide sunt contra frigus. Alexandri milites viridioribus fructibus palme strangulati sunt. Est autem tanta suavitas musteis, ut esus eorum non nisi cum periculo fiat. Summitas foliorum euis tante teneritudinis et suavitatis est, ut albarum nucum dulcorem excedat. In imo quidem corticis aspera palma est atque nodosa, sed tamen gracilis; in summo vero plenissime dilatatur.
The Palm tree, as Isidorus says, is called thus because it is the adornment of the victorious hand or because it has expanded branches in the manner of a human hand. This, as Ambrose says, grows from the tall and flourishing undergrowth, clothed with long lasting fronds, and preserving its leaves without any defoliation. Pliny [says]: This [tree] endures in the longest lifespan, and although it grows in many places, nevertheless, the fruit does not complete its ripeness in all places. However, it bears fruit more abundantly in regions of the east. The trees have a kind or a sex of male and female. These [trees] never bear fruit, unless they are well-matched and nearby [other trees], so that the trees, bent with higher branches, embrace each other in turn; and this happens only during spring time. And this is a truly wondrous thing, as Ambrosius says, that generally it lowers its branches to its mate and places them under and simulates the appearance of longing and an embrace and confesses its own sex by the appearance of submissiveness. The male blooms in a sprout, the female sprouts a flower on the side in the manner of a thorn. First, the finger-like flesh is born, then a certain hard thing more on the inside, and this is the seed of the tree. Moreover, palms are said to be planted in this way: the fresh seeds, which we have mentioned, are taken and placed in water for 15 days, where soil and ash have been mixed equally. Then in such a manner, they are placed in the soil, so that the sharper part of the seed is placed lower; and the part that is thicker is placed higher or faced up, just as Pliny says, so that that part which swells just like a belly is higher, truly that part which is just like a back is lower; and this is contrary to the way of almost all seeds, because in almost all other seeds, the sharper parts are placed higher. Therefore, when the seeds of the palms are planted, two and two are placed adjacent to one another in turn. For when their plants are weak, thus, planted close together, they are strengthened.
They are helped by salty waters or the sediment of wine. It requires loose coarse earth, yet in the foundation it should be placed first, with the rich soil thrown in beforehand. In the following winter, after the seedlings are palms, they should be fortified against the winter, and in the first year; afterwards they are strong against the cold. Alexander’s soldiers were choked by the greener fruits of the palm. Moreover, the young fruits have such a great sweetness, that their consumption does not happen without danger. The tips of their leaves are of such tenderness and sweetness, that they exceed the sweetness of white nuts. Indeed in the deepest part of its bark, the palm is coarse and knotted, but nevertheless slender; it truly broadens most fully at the top.
acutus, -a, -um m. sharpened, pointed
admisceo, admiscere, admiscui, admixtum v. 2, mix, mix together; involve
amplector, amplecti, amplextum v. 3, deponent to embrace, surround
asper, aspera, asperum adj. hard, tough, rough, uneven
caro, cari n. flesh, pulp (of the plant)
citra adv., on this side
concupiscentia, -ae f. longing, eager desire for
conservo v. 1, to preserve
cortex, corticis m./f. bark, cork
dactylus, -i m. finger, date, grape
debilis, debile adj. weak, feeble
decorus, -a, -um adj. flourishing
deicio, deicere, dejeci, dejectum v. 3-i, to throw down, pour in
dilato, dilatare, dilatavi, dilatatum v. 1, to broaden, widen
diuturnus, -a, -um adj. long lasting
dorsum, dorsi n. back
duro v. 1 to endure
esus, esus m. consumption, eating
excedo, excedere, excessi, excessum v. 3, to pass, die, exceed
faex, faecis f. sediment
floreo, florere, florui v. 2, flourish, blossom
folium, folii n. leaf
frigus, frigoris, n. cold weather, cold
frons, frondis f. fronds
fructifico v. 1, to bear fruit
fundus, fundi m. land, ground, foundation
genus, generis n. kind, sort
germino v. 1, sprout forth
gracilis, gracile adj. thin, simple, slender
hyems, hyemis f. winter
imus, -a, -um adj. innermost part
inclinatus, -a, -um adj. tilted, lowered
invicem adv. in turn
iuxta adv. nearby, adjacent
mas, maris m. male
maturitas, maturitatis f. ripeness
munio, munire, munivi, munitus v. 4, to fortify
musteus, -a, -um adj. fresh, young
nodosus, -a, -um adj. knotted, bumpy
nux, nucis f. nut
oriens, orientis m. east
ornatus, -us f. adornment
palma, -ae f. palm tree
palmes, palmitis n. sprout, branch, shoot
par, -es m. well-matched, equal
pinguis, pingue adj. rich, fertile
planto, plantare, plantavi, plantatum v. 1, set, plant
planta, plantae f. young plant, sapling
praetendo, praetendere, praetendi, praetentum v. 3, stretch out
procerus, -a, -um adj. tall
ramus, rami m. branch
recens, recentis adj. fresh, recent
requiro, requirere, requisivi, requisitum v. 3, require
roboro, roborare, roboravi, roboratum v. 1, strengthen, reinforce
sabulum, sabuli n. gravel, sand
salsus, -a, -um adj. salted
semen, seminis n. seed
sequens, sequentis adj. following
sexus, -us m. sex
solutus, -a, -um adj. loose
spina, spinae f. thorn
strangulo, strangulare, strangulavi, strangulatum v. 1, to choke, strangle
suavitas, suavitatis f. sweetness
subicio, subicere, subjeci, subjectum v. 3, place under
subiectio, subjectionis f. placing below, submissiveness
successio, successionis f. succession of leaves, defoliation
summitas, summitatis f. the highest point, the top
summus, -a, -um adj. top of, highest point
supinus, supina, supinum m. lying face upwards, flat on one’s back
teneritudo, teneritudinis, f. tenderness
tumeo, tumere v. 2, swell, become inflated
valde adv. truly, greatly, very
venter, -is m. stomach, womb
vernus, -a, -um adj. spring
vestio, vestire, vestivi, vestitum v. 4, to clothe
vicine – nearby
victrix, victricis f. conqueror
virgultum, -i n. undergrowth
viridis, viride adj. green, fresh, youthful
Ysidorus: St. Isidore of Seville (560 – 636 AD) – considered to be “the last scholar of the ancient world”, Isidorus is famous for his etymological encyclopedia, Etymologiae, which assembled broadly diverse extracts of many books from antiquity.
Ambrosius: St. Ambrose (337 – 397 AD) – elected as Roman governor of Milan where he became the patron saint of learning, encouraging education in law and culture.
Plinius: Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) – a Roman author and natural philosopher, writing the encyclopedia Naturalis Historia which covered botany, zoology, astronomy, geology, mineralogy, and many other fields of ancient knowledge. His work became the model for almost all later encyclopedias.
etate: aetas, aetatis f. age, lifetime
habundantius: more abundantly
in partibus orientis: While most palm trees are not native to Europe, they can be found in the region due to their association with victory, peace, and wealth. The species that is mentioned in this passage might be the Chamaerops humilis, or the European fan palm.
ut superioribus… invicem amplectantur: All palm trees go through sexual reproduction via seeds. Palms that cluster or branch, instead of merely having a single trunk, can also reproduce by offsets of branches that take root. Palm trees have male and female flowers that can be either on the same tree or separate trees depending on the species.
quod plerumque… confitetur: this refers to the behavior of the palm branches when they “meets” their “equal.” This section is explaining how the palm trees are fertilized, by intertwining and placing their branches below each other.
concupiscentie: a 1st declension noun where the typical ending -ae appears here as an -e.
pretendit: a 3rd conjugation verb where the prae- appears here as pre-.
deinde quoddam durum interius: This explains how the inside of the seed of the palm tree is harder than the outside.
ubi admixta… pariter: this refers to the 1:1 mixture of the soil and ash.
ut pars… ponatur: result clause, “so that…”
ut illa… superius: result clause, “so that…”
que: The nominative, singular, feminine relative pronoun, quae, which refers to grossior, the thicker part of the seed.
venter: This means “stomach” and is used to describe the thicker part of the seed which resembles a swelling stomach.
quia: like quod, because
fundo: this term refers to the foundation made once the land is prepped for planting.
Alexandri… sunt: Several secondary sources cite Pliny as the source for this story of Alexander (HN 13.9).
musteis: dative of posession.
teneritudinis et suavitatis: genitive of description
in summo… dilatatur: This phrase refers to the leaves of the palm unfurling at the top.