Crossword Nepenthe

From: Jason Ashley (jasona@warwick.net)
Date: Tue Nov 30 1999 - 22:30:02 PST


Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 01:30:02 -0500
From: "Jason Ashley" <jasona@warwick.net>
To: cp@opus.hpl.hp.com
Message-Id: <aabcdefg4038$foo@default>
Subject: Crossword Nepenthe

Ron et al.,

Yes and no.

>From Peter D'Amato's "The Savage Garden" ISBN 0-89815-915-6 (you're on this
list and DON'T have this book??):

The second species described was Nepenthes distillatoria from Sri Lanka.
When Carl Linnaeus (sic) first saw the dried specimens of the plant, he was
euphoric. He recalled Homer's "The Odyssey" [actually it was "The
Iliad"-me.], and the drug "Nepenthe" that Helen of Troy threw into flasks of
wine to alleviate soldiers' sorrow and grief. Linnaeus wrote, "If this is
not Helen's Nepenthes, it certainly will be for all botantists. What
botanist would not be filled with admiration if, after a long journey, he
should find this wonderful plant. In his astonishment past ills would be
forgotten when beholding this admirable work of the Creator!" (p.237)

As Peter notes, Linnaeus had no idea that this plant was carnivorous and
instead believed that the sole function of the pitcher was to hold rain
water in store for times of drought. Nor did Lennaeus know that Nepenthes
(has this been proven anyone?) secrete a narcotic that induces torpor in
insects! It would seem that the naming of Nepenthes was happily
complimentary to the actual habit of the genus.

The real nepenthe of history (if there was such a thing) is completely
unknown to the contemporary world. From the web page of Peter Cole
http://www.flytrap.demon.co.uk/dict/cpd4.htm (with help from Jan):

 Nepenthaceae
 Gr. - banisher of sorrow
 the name of a plant used by the Ancient greeks to banish sorrow and induce
a restful sleep

Hope this helps!

Jason Ashley
Warwick, NY
USA



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