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Thornton, Robert John, 1768?-1837 / Temple of Flora, or, Garden of the botanist, poet, painter, and philosopher.

A group of stapelias

              A GROUP OF STAPELIAS.
DISPERSED over the arid * wilds of Africa, in pyramidal forms, issue the
fleshy stems, desti-
tute of leaves, of the several STAPELIAS.  These stems are on every side
armed with books like
claws.  The juices of the Hirsute are so acrid, that the smart these occasion
on the tongue will be
sensible a long while, and even fatal, if tasted beyond a certain proportion.
 Nature has well
marked it of the natural order, the Lurid, or poisonous, for the corolla,
which is deeply cleft into
five segments, is of a dusky purple, and dingy yellow, and speckled like
the belly of a serpent,
besides being fringed with hairs, which gives to this flower something of
an animal appearance.
It has likewise so strong a scent, resembling carrion, that blow-flies in
abundance hover round it;
and mistaking the corolla for flesh, deposit there their eggs, which are
soon converted into real
maggots, adding to the horror of the scene, some being seen writhing among
the purple hairs
of the flower, and others already dead for want of food, the vegetable in
this rare instance de-
ceiving and overcoming the animal creation.   The starlike appearance in
the centre is the Nec-
tary, mingled with the five Stamina, and two Pistilla.  Hence it arranges
under the Class V.
PENTANDRIA, Order II. DIGYNIA, of Linnaeus.     We have been favoured with
the following fine
poetic effusion, from the masterly pen of Dr. SHAW, on this plant.
                  'Mid the wild heights of Afric's stormy cape,
                  The fell STAPELIA rears her Gorgon shape;
                  Spreads her rough arms, and turns, with scowling eye,
                  Her bearded visage to the thund'ring sky.
                  To magic rites she bends her wayward care,
                  And with unholy vapours taints the air.
                  Distils with fatal art each secret bane,
                  And gathers all the poisons of the plain.
                  By native instinct, round her drear abode,
                  Glides the green snake, or crawls the shapeless toad.
                  Lur'd to the hag, by horrid spells subdu'd,
                  The care-craz'd mother brings her numerous brood;
                  Hears the smooth tale, and trusts in evil hour,
                  The tender offspring to her guardian pow'r.
                  The subtle fiend assumes a softer air,
                  And falsely smiles, and feigns a mother's care:
                  But gone the parent, 'mid the cavern's gloom
                  The dire Enchantress drags them to their doom;
                  In pining atrophy to yield their breath,
                  And slowly languish in the arms of death;
                  Till, dried each wasted limb, each haggard eye,
                  Their shrivell'd forms her hideous rites supply.
                  No soft remorse her fell resolves can stay,
                  Born of the rocks, as pitiless as they!
                  So foul Canidia + with malignant joy,
                  Watch'd the slow progress of the buried boy;
               * The STAIELTAS in our hot houses never require to be watered.
 + Hor. Epod. 5.

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