Cutch Tree

(Acacia catechu) An important dye plant; by boiling chips of the wood, a permanent brown dye can be obtained (Barker). The leaves and shoots can be used as well. The dyestuff is known is known as Cutch, or sometimes Gambir (Le Strange). Much of the catechu exported comes from the Gulf of Cutch, where it has been used as a brown dye for over two thousand years, hence the name. True khaki cloth is made with cutch (Willis).

Cyclamen europaeum > SOWBREAD Cydonia vulgaris > QUINCE Cynara scolymus > GLOBE ARTICHOKE CYPRESS

(Cupressus sempervirens) Cypress was important in Greek mythology, being sacred to Hercules, the word, according to some authorities, coming from Cyprus, which was called after Hercules' mother, Cyprian Aphrodite (Graves). Actually, it seems that it may be the other way round, the island being named after the tree (Moldenke & Moldenke), the eventual derivation being from the Hebrew gopher, thence to Greek kyparissos (Grigson. 1974). It is probably this, or one of its varieties, that supplied the gopher wood of Genesis 6; 14, of which Noah's Ark was made. The wood is indeed very durable - the doors of St Peter's in Rome are made of cypress, and after two hundred years still show no signs of decay (Moldenke & Moldenke). Ceres, according to another myth, plugged the crater of Mount Etna with a huge cypress trunk, and thereby imprisoned Vulcan for ever. Etna's eruptions were looked on as Vulcan's attempts to escape his imprisonment.

Cypress was a sacred tree in Persia, a symbol of the clear light of Ormuszd, and was frequently represented on gravestones with the lion, emblem of the sun-god Mithras (Philpot). But it is better known as a symbol of death and mourning, and for that reason there was a superstition that it should never be cut, for fear of killing it (Evelyn. 1678). The old dream books foretold affliction after dreaming of cypress, in keeping with this symbolism (Gordon. 1985). The classical story of Cyparissos tells how he was stricken with sorrow at having killed his favourite stag, begged the gods to let him mourn for ever, and was transformed by Apollo into a cypress tree (Dyer. 1889). Venus, mourning Adonis, wore a cypress wreath. Both the Greeks and the Romans called it the "mournful tree", because it was sacred to the rulers of the underworld, and to the Fates and Furies. As such, it was the custom to plant it by the grave, and, when a death occurred, to put it either in front of the house or in the vestibule, in order to warn those about to perform a sacred rite against entering a place polluted by a dead body (Philpot). And it is the very durability of the timber (plus the fact that it is insect-proof) that made it desirable from ancient Egyptian times onwards for making the coffins of the rich (modern Greeks still use it for this purpose (Moldenke & Moldenke) ). As the wood is incorruptible, and linked with ideas of life after death, it figured a lot in oriental carpet symbolism (Bouisson).

In spite of this death and mourning association, it is still an evergreen tree, and so, inevitably, a symbol of immortality. Gubernatis classes it as an "arbre phallique", and as such is "tout â la fois un symbole de la génération, de la mort et l'âme immortelle ...". But on the Greek islands, a cypress is planted when a daughter is born. It was part of her dowry, and when she married it formed the mast for the couple's boat (T B Edwards. 2002/3).

The wood was highly valued by the ancient Greeks, especially for use in temples, more than anything else for monumental doors, as at the Parthenon and the Temple of Asklepios at Epidaurus (Meiggs). It resists decay, and is virtually immune from insect attack, and is also one of the longest-lasting woods. In Addition, it has an attractive scent. It follows from what we have heard of the nature of the timber that "the shavings of the wood laid among garments preserve them from the moths; the rosin killeth Moths, little wormes, and magots" (Gerard). Evelyn described the timber as "a very sonorous wood", enough to account for its use for organ-pipes, harps, and the like.

In medieval times, it was said that the upright of the Cross was made of cypress, the cross-member of palm, "the stock that stood within the earth in which they made a morteys", was of cedar, and the "table above His head ... on which the tytle was written" was olive. The cypress was used "so that the smell of His body shal grieve no man that came by ..." (Mandeville). Other traditions made the Cross of cypress, cedar, box and pine. It is in the eastern tradition that olive and palm are substituted for box and pine (Child & Colles). Evelyn speaks of a cypress, near the tomb of Cyrus, to which pilgrimages were made. It was believed that the gum turned every Friday into drops of blood. The tree was hollow, and fitted for an oratory (Evelyn. 1678).

The cones have their medicinal uses; they are astringent, and used either internally (finely crushed, infused in water), for menopausal disorders, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, etc., or externally (the decoction applied as a hot compress) on painful haemorrhoids, or used as a footbath, or to combat offensive perspiration (Palais-eul). But apart from all this, the tree itself was seen as a thoroughly healthful being - to quote Evelyn again, "I commend it for the improvement of the air, and a specific for the lungs, as sending forth most sweet and aromatick emissions, whenever it is clipp'd, or handled, and the chips or cones, being burnt, extinguish Moths, and expel the gnats and flies, etc., ..."

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