Mattioli’s Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo (Discorsi by Mattioli and Cibo)

Field gladiolus (Gladiolus Italicus), f. 72r in Mattioli`s Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo, Add. Ms. 22332, c. 1564-1584.
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Field gladiolus (Gladiolus italicus), f. 72r

"This plant is called gladiolus by the Latins because its leaves are sword-shaped; it would be similar to the iris if its leaves were not shorter and narrower, pointed like a knife, and ribbed with veins. It has a stem a cubit long, bearing at the top its purple flowers, all placed tidily and separate from each other. It has round seeds and two roots, one above the other, like little bulbs; of the two roots the lower one is small and the upper one larger. It grows mostly in fields. The upper root, applied as a poultice with frankincense and wine, draws out of the flesh splinters of wood, thorns, and arrowheads; mixed with darnel flour and honey it dissolves warts and so is used generally in poultices; applied, it induces the menstrual flow. They say that the upper root, drunk with wine, has an aphrodisiac effect and that the other produces sterility. They also say that the upper root, given to drink with water, cures children’s bowel hernias." (71v)

This plant grows in fields and amongst crops almost everywhere in Italy and Spain, France, the Mediterranean region and southwestern Asia. As the author says, the Latin word gladiolus (little sword) refers to the short sword used by Roman legionaries. This wild species is probably the predecessor of the many cultivars used as ornamental plants. In folk medicine in Andalusia it was used as toothpaste, and also to whet the appetite and cure stomach ailments, but no other medicinal uses are currently known. This species can be found from sea level, as shown in the depicted landscape, up to altitudes of 1,300 m.

Ramón Morales Valverde
Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid
(Extract from the commentary volume of Mattioli's Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo)

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