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Introducers Of Exotic Flowers, Fruits, Etc
by [?]

The greater number of our exotic flowers and fruits were carefully transported into this country by many of our travelled nobility and gentry;[1] some names have been casually preserved. The learned Linacre first brought, on his return from Italy, the damask rose; and Thomas Lord Cornwall, in the reign of Henry VIII., enriched our fruit gardens with three different plums. In the reign of Elizabeth, Edward Grindal, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, returning from exile, transported here the medicinal plant of the tamarisk: the first oranges appear to have been brought into England by one of the Carew family; for a century after, they still flourished at the family seat at Beddington, in Surrey. The cherry orchards of Kent were first planted about Sittingbourne, by a gardener of Henry VIII.; and the currant-bush was transplanted when our commerce with the island of Zante was first opened in the same reign. The elder Tradescant, in 1620, entered himself on board of a privateer, armed against Morocco, solely with a view of finding an opportunity of stealing apricots into Britain: and it appears that he succeeded in his design. To Sir Walter Raleigh we have not been indebted solely for the luxury of the tobacco-plant, but for that infinitely useful root, which forms a part of our daily meal, and often the entire meal of the poor man–the potato, which deserved to have been called a Rawleigh. Sir Anthony Ashley, of Winburne St. Giles, Dorsetshire, first planted cabbages in this country, and a cabbage at his feet appears on his monument: before his time we had them from Holland. Sir Richard Weston first brought clover grass into England from Flanders, in 1645; and the figs planted by Cardinal Pole at Lambeth, so far back as the reign of Henry VIII., are said to be still remaining there: nor is this surprising, for Spilman, who set up the first paper-mill in England, at Dartford, in 1590, is said to have brought over in his portmanteau the two first lime-trees, which he planted here, and which are still growing. The Lombardy poplar was introduced into England by the Earl of Rochford, in 1758. The first mulberry-trees in this country are now standing at Sion-house. By an Harleian MS. 6884, we find that the first general planting of mulberries and making of silk in England was by William Stallenge, comptroller of the custom-house, and Monsieur Verton, in 1608. It is probable that Monsieur Verton transplanted this novelty from his own country, where we have seen De Serres’ great attempt. Here the mulberries have succeeded better than the silk-worms.

The very names of many of our vegetable kingdom indicate their locality, from the majestic cedar of Lebanon, to the small Cos-lettuce, which came from the isle of Cos; the cherries from Cerasuntis, a city of Pontus; the peach, or persicum, or mala Persica, Persian apples, from Persia; the pistachio, or psittacia, is the Syrian word for that nut. The chestnut, or chataigne in French, and castagna in Italian, from Castagna, a town of Magnesia. Our plums coming chiefly from Syria and Damascus, the damson, or damascene plum, reminds us of its distant origin.

It is somewhat curious to observe on this subject, that there exists an unsuspected intercourse between nations, in the propagation of exotic plants. Lucullus, after the war with Mithridates, introduced cherries from Pontus into Italy; and the newly-imported fruit was found so pleasing, that it was rapidly propagated, and six-and twenty years afterwards Pliny testifies the cherry-tree passed over into Britain. Thus a victory obtained by a Roman consul over a king of Pontus, with which it would seem that Britain could not have the remotest interest, was the real occasion of our countrymen possessing cherry-orchards. Yet to our shame must it be told, that these cherries from the king of Pontus’s city of Cerasuntis are not the cherries we are now eating; for the whole race of cherry-trees was lost in the Saxon period, and was only restored by the gardener of Henry VIII., who brought them from Flanders–without a word to enhance his own merits, concerning the bellum Mithridaticum!