Charles David Badham, M. D.
London: Lovell Reeve & Co., Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.
*2 Amadou is largely used in Italy, where it is called esca; the Latins likewise knew it by this name, though their more common appellation for it was fomes; the Byzantine Greeks hellenicized esca into [---], which was their word for it; the ancient Greeks called it [---]. Salmasius tells us how it used to be made in his time, which indeed was the same as now: the fungus was first boiled, then beaten to pieces in a mortar, next hammered out to deprive it of its woody fibres, and lastly, being steeped in a strong solution of nitre, was left to dry in the sun. It appears, on the testimony of the anonymous author of the article "Fungo" in the 'Dizionario Classico di Medicina,' that it is also eaten when young; but I cannot speak of it from personal experience: - "In prima età mangiasi colto di fresco affetttato e condito d'ogni modo; specialmente nelle provincie di Belluno ed Udine, o salasi per la quadragesima."The uses to which funguses have been put are various, and, had the properties of these plants been as extensively investigated as those which belong to the phanerogamic classes, they would probably by this time have proved still more numerous: some, as the Polyporus sulphureus, furnish a useful colour for dyeing;* the Agaricus atramentarius makes ink; divers lycoperdons, of which other mention will be made presently when we come to speak of such species as are exculent, have also been employed for stupefying bees, for stancing blood, and for making tinder; their employment in the rist of these capacities, seems to have escaped the observation of the accurate author of 'Les Jardins,' who has mentioned the others:
"Ce puissant Agaric, qui du sand épanché
Arrête les ruisseaux, et dont le sein fidèle
Du caillou pétillant recueille l'étincelle."
The 'caillou,' alas, like the poet who struck this spark uout of it, is now obsolete; but amadou is till in vogue, being employed for many household purposes; in addition to which, a medical practitioner of Covent Garden has of late been in the habit of using extensive sheets of it to cover over and protect the backs of those bedridden invalids whose cruel sufferings make such large demands upon our sympathy, - for the alleviation of which so little is to be done! - as it is more elastic than chamois leather, it is less liable to crumple up when lain upon, and on this account has been preferred to it by several of our metropolitan surgeons of eminence; some employ it also as a gentle compress over varicose veins, where it supports the distended vessels without pressing too tightly upon the limb. Gleditsch relates, that the poorer inhabitants of Franconia stich it together, and make dresses of it; and also that the Laplanders burn it in the neighbourhood of their fwellings, to secure their reindeer from the attacks of gadflies, which are repelled by the smoke; thus "good at need," it really deserves the epithet of 'puissant,' given to it by Delille.*2
* "Di questo fungo servavanosene i barbieri in cambio delle strugghie dette più volgaremente codette, atte a far riprendere il perduto filo a loro rasoi."The Polyporus squamosus makes a razor-strop far superior to any of those at present patented, and sold, with high-sounding epithets, far beyond their deserts. To prepare the Polyporus for this purpose, it must be cut from the ash-tree in aurumn, when its juices have been dried and its substance has become consolidated; it is then to be flattened out for twenty-four hous in a press, after which it should be carefully rubbed with pumice, sliced longitudinally, and every slip that is gree from the erosions of insects be then glued upon a wooden stretcher. Cesalpinus knew all this! and the barbers in his time knew it too;* and it is not a little remarkable that so usedul an invention should, in an age of puffing, afvertisement, and improvement, like our own, have been entirely lost sight of. Imperato employed and recommends it as an excellent detergent, with which to brush and comb out the scurf from the hair.
* "This is the 'Moucho more' of the Russians, Kamtchadales, and Koriks, who use it for intoxication; they sometimes eat it dry, but more commonly immersed in a liquor made from the Epolopium, and when they drink this liquor, they are seized with convulsions in all their limbs, followed with that kind of raving which accompanies a burning fever. They personify this mushroom, and, if they are urged by its effects to suicide, or any other dreadful crime, they pretend to obey its commands; to fit themselves for premediated assassination they recur to the use of the Moucho more." - Rees's Cyclopædia, art. "Agaric."
*2 In such cases the minute fungus is probably absorbed in ovo and disseminated with the sap through the plant; as this ascends from the root, it remains undeveloped however till the corn is in ear, at which time it finds in the nascent grain the necessary conditions for its own development.The Agaricus muscarius is largely employed in Kamtchatka, in decoction with the Epilobium angustifolium, as an intoxicating liquor.* The Laplanders smear it on the walls and bedposts of their dwellings, to destroy bugs (Linn.); and Clusious relates, that it is sold extensively in the market at Frankfort, to poison flies; for this purpose, it is either cut into small pieces and thrown about the premises, or else boiled in milk and placed upon the window-sills; in either case it is vastly inferior in efficacy to that celebrated "mort aux mouches," the impure oxide of cobalt, that is, to the arsenic which this contains. The above are a few of the uses, exclusive of the esculent or medical ones, to which funguses have been put; it is fair, however, to notice that they maintain a debtor, as well as a creditor, account with mankind, in which the balance seems to be occasionally quite against us; those that are most injurious generally, as has been already stated, of the microscopic kinds; whereof some attack young plants still underground, emulging them completely of their juices, in consequence of which they perish; others, like the corn-blights, permit the plant to attain maturity before they begin their work of destruction, and destroy it just as it is beginning to fructify.*2 The fearful epidemics to which grain so infected has given rise are well known, though it is still a matter of question whether the ergoted corn owes its unwholesome qualities to the injury which it had sustained from the blight, or to the blight itself. Though the mischief produced by parasitic funguses be unquestionably great, this occasional and very partial evil is more thna compensated by the much greater amount of good accomplished solely by their agency, in the assistance they affor to the decomposition of animal and vegetable tissues, which has procured for them the name, not unaptly applied, of "nature's scavengers."
The mischief thus produced by dry-rot may be arrested by steeping the affected timber in a solution of corrosive sublimate, which, forming a chemical union with the juices of the woody fibre, prevents their being abstracted by the dry-rot, that would else have maintained itself and spread at their expense.This decomposition they effect by assimilating, through the medium of their radicles, the juices of the decaying structure in which they are developed, loosening thereby its cohesion, and causing it to break up into a rapid dissolution of its parts.*