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  ― 226 ―

The Peppermint Tree

EUCALYPTUS PIPERITA

An Eucalyptus obliqua, L'Heritier Sert. Angl. p. 18?

(See Plate annexed.)

Colour plate facing page 226 of 'The Peppermint Tree'



This tree grows to the height of more than a hundred feet, and is above thirty feet in circumference. The bark is very smooth, like that of the poplar. The younger branches are long and slender, angulated near the top, but as they grow older the angles disappear. Their bark is smooth, and of a reddish-brown. The leaves are alternate, lanceolate, pointed, very entire, smooth on both sides, and remarkably unequal, or oblique, at their base; the veins alternate and not very conspicuous. The whole surface of both sides of the leaves is marked with numerous minute resinous spots, in which the essential oil resides. The foot-stalks are about half an inch in length, round on the under side, angular above, quite smooth. The flowers we have not seen. What Mr. WHITE has sent as the ripe capsules of this tree (although not attached to the specimens of the leaves) grow in clusters, from six to eight in each sessile


  ― 227 ―
and conglomerated. These clusters are supported on angular alternate footstalks, which form a kind of panicle. Each capsule is about the size of a hawthorn berry, globular, but as it were cut off at the top, rugged on the outside, hard and woody, and of a dark brown colour. At the top is a large orifice, which shews the internal part of the capsule divided into four cells, and having a square column in the center, from which the partitions of the cell arise. These partitions extend to the rim of the capsule, and terminate in four small projections, which look like the teeth of a calyx. The seeds are numerous, small, and angular.

The name of Peppermint Tree has been given to this plant by Mr. WHITE on account of the very great resemblance between the essential oil drawn from its leaves and that obtained from the Peppermint (Mentha piperita) which grows in England. This oil was found by Mr. WHITE to be more efficacious in removing all cholicky complaints than that of the English Peppermint, which he attributes to its being less pungent and more aromatic. A quart of the oil has been sent by him to Mr. Wilson.

The tree above described appears to be undoubtedly of the same genus as that cultivated in some greenhouses


  ― 228 ―
in England, which Mr. L'Heritier has described in his Sertum Anglicum by the name of Eucalyptus obliqua, though it is commonly called in the gardens Metrosideros obliqua; but we dare not assert it to be the same species, nor can this point be determined till the flowers and every part of both be seen and compared; we have compared the best specimens we could procure of each, and find no specific difference. The Eucalyptus obliqua has, when dried, an aromatic flavour somewhat similar to our plant. We have remarked indeed innumerable minute white spots, besides the resinous ones, on both surfaces of the leaves in some specimens of the garden plant, which are not to be seen in ours, and the branches of the former are rough, with small scaly tubercles. But how far these are constant we cannot tell. The obliquity in the leaves, one side being shorter at the base than the other, as well as somewhat narrower all the way up, as in the Begonia nitida of the Hortus Kewensis, is remarkable in both plants.

The figure represents a branch of the Peppermint Tree in leaf: on one side of it part of a leaf separate, bearing the gall of some insect; on the other the fruit above described.

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