De Magnetica [...] Plantarum p. 638




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amounts of mercury are found, if indeed mercury vaporised through subterranean heat finds a way to percolate through the finest cracks and is bound up within the dewy leaves of trees and is restored to its natural state when it arrives within the bark of the tree. Anyone who has attained a good grasp of this reason will also understand the reason why sometimes in tombs quicksilver is found in the skulls of the dead. For those craftsmen who are much engaged in extracting or precipitating mercury often take in no small part of the vapour through their nostrils, which on reaching the cold chambers of the brain re-congeals there, and persists there even after death as if in vials: not, as the pseudoscientists gossip, because it is found within a man and anywhere else so they may vaunt the material of their stone by this prodigy. This is shown well enough and more by the dissection not long ago here in Rome of a goldsmith who had suffered for a long time from various pains in the head and eventually passed away; when they opened his head they found in his brain more than a pound of quicksilver coagulated there from absorbed vapour. But that is enough about the divining rod. But before we pass on to heliotropic plants, a certain Tartar stock merits some delay; its story is related by, among others, Sigismund von Herberstein in his 'Moscovia'; Hayton the Armenian 'de Tartaris'; Surius in his commentary of the year 1604, and Scaliger in these words: You may consider what I have said so far a trifle, so amazing is the Tartar shrub. The principal Horde of the Tartars is the Zavolha, by reason of its ancient nobility. In that land, they say, is a seed similar to the seed of a melon but less oblong; from it, when [sown], a plant emerges which they call Boramez, that is 'the lamb', for it grows to the height of about three feet in the shape of a lamb, to which it corresponds with feet, hooves, ears and the whole head except for the horns. In place of horns it has hair resembling a single horn. It is covered with a very thin hide which when removed is used by the inhabitants for head coverings. They say that the internal pulp resembles the meat of a lobster; besides, they say blood seeps from any wound, and that an extended root reaches up to the umbilicus; that creates the magnitude of the wonder, that when it is surrounded by nearby herbs it lives as long as a lamb in pleasant pasture, but if they are removed it starves and dies; indeed, it is also sought after by wolves, not so much by other carnivorous beasts. But I think this last, a sort of condiment and relish, has been added as a play on the story and the lamb. The opinions of the authors about this surprising plant are various, as some number it among the plants, others the animals; some indeed even number it among the zoophytes; I, not to be seen to multiply miracles excessively, assert that it is a simple plant; that it puts out, in place of an animals feet, the figure of one supported by a stalk, and that it oozes bloody sap when cut, beneath a woolly pelt, moves me not,

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