De Palma

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

licet although

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. 1strengthen, 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


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.

hec: haec

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.