Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Rumphius’ Orchids

Rumphius’ Orchids: Orchid Texts from "The Ambonese Herbal"

Georgius Everhardus Rumphius
Translated, edited, annotated, and with an introduction by E. M. Beekman
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Rumphius’ Orchids
    Book Description:

    Rumphius (1627-1702), founder of Indonesian botanical exploration and one of the greatest naturalists of the seventeenth century, was the first to describe tropical orchids in a Western language. Within the pages of his monumental seven-volumeAmbonese Herbal,written in Dutch, he included descriptions of thirty-six species of orchids found on the island of Ambon in eastern Indonesia, plus twelve uncertified ones. His detailed descriptions reflect both the accuracy of a scientist and the sensibility of a poet. This lovely book is the first to gather and translate into English all the sections of Rumphius'The Ambonese Herbaldevoted to orchids.For each entry, Rumphius describes the plant, names it according to a pre-Linnaean system of nomenclature, gives its locality, and details its medicinal and non-medicinal uses. More than twenty beautiful line drawings accompany the entries. The volume includes ample notes to illuminate the text and an informative introduction that tells the life of Rumphius-a remarkable collector/naturalist who overcame fire, shipwreck, and blindness to produce his masterwork.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12931-1
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    E. M. Beekman
    (pp. xv-xlviii)

    The orchid is no longer a sinister and decadent passion but rather a commodity that represents a $9 billion business world-wide.¹ This democratization took place in less than two centuries. Orchid fever, or orchidelirium, began in Europe in the nineteenth century, and the craze was in some ways comparable to the Dutch tulipomania of the seventeenth. But it lasted longer. The British leisure class contracted the fever in 1818, when the firstCattleya labiatabloomed in Suffolk.² In 1913, Marcel Proust translated the same plant into a new verb that conjugated making love at its most intoxicating (faire catleya).³ The...

    (pp. xlix-2)
    (pp. 3-13)

    We shall now describe the Aristocrats of wild plants, who convey their nobility by wanting to live only high up in trees, and never below on the ground, just as one will commonly see Noble Castles and Fortresses built on high, wherefore they have a strange way of growing and are strangely fashioned, just like Aristocrats flaunting their finery. The Moluccan Princesses add a third reason, to wit, that they will not permit anyone to wear these flowers unless they be Gentle Ladies. But one will also find among these Nobles some who, as is the case with people, will...

    (pp. 14-21)

    The second and third species of Angrek are white, consisting of a large and a small one, both with markedly different flowers from the foregoing.

    I.Angraecum album majus¹ is almost the same plant since, first of all, it girdles² the trunks of trees with many long roots, a dirty white on the outside, green on the inside, with a tough sinew, that forms an entangled³ clump under the plants, which hangs loose sometimes, and which is rougher⁴ than I have seen in any other plant; the leaves are also gathered in small bunches of three or four, without purses,...

  9. Chapter Three THE RED ANGREK.
    (pp. 22-24)

    The fourth kind of Angrec¹ is the red one, which has only one species, even more ropy² than the foregoing, for it is a long rope that runs with long branches through tangled thickets,³ but one will not find its root anchored in the ground, but here and there on an old rotten tree; the branches are the thickness of one’s little finger, round, hard, and stiff, but snap readily when broken off; they bear the leaves, and not in separate tufts like the first kind, but on this flower-bearing stem [itself] alternately above each other, four or five inches...

  10. Chapter Four THE FIFTH ANGREK.
    (pp. 25-26)

    This fifth kind¹ is a small subspecies of the first or large one, but due to its difference I gave it a separate chapter. First of all, it has a large bunch of leaves, which grow in a particular manner, all together, and embracing one another, fourteen or fifteen inches long, two wide; the front tip is markedly split in two, and one of these corners is longer than the other. Next to this gathering, a flower-bearing stem comes from the root itself, round, stiff, four feet long, with rather limp flowers, alternately one above the other, on curved stems....

  11. Chapter Five THE YELLOW ANGREK.
    (pp. 27-31)

    The sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth kinds of Angrek are those, that have yellow flowers, with few or no characters, differing from the foregoing in that the leaves are not in separate tufts, but grow onto or next to the flower-bearing stem, but they also divide into branches, and there are a large number of them, of which we will describe two in this chapter.

    I.Angraecum sextum Moschatum sive odoratum,¹ also attaches itself to the bark of trees, with many, thick, and white fibers, which also make for a clump wherefrom one or two stems shoot up, three...

    (pp. 32-36)

    The roots ofAngraecum octavum sive Furvum¹ are more spread out than the former, and hang loosely from the trees; the leaves grow in the same manner in two rows, but they are eight and nine inches long, scarcely one wide, also split in two at the tips, without sinews, except for the central groove, with the same taste as the foregoing. The flower-bearing stem shoots up as well as to the side, and the latter sends some roots or fibers down, which also attach themselves to the bark of the tree.

    The central or main stem is also bellied,...

  13. Chapter Seven THE DOG ANGREK.
    (pp. 37-39)

    The eleventh kind also has many long roots that are all tangled up, and which wind around a tree without forming a massive clump. But from the center arise two or three stems, that are striped below and leaved for a length of eighteen to twenty inches. These leaves grow in two rows, alternately over against one another, at a straight angle from the stem, stiff and ribbed, four to five inches long, one and a half wide.

    The remainder of the stem is bare, somewhat bellied below, otherwise round, and two or three feet long, bearing few flowers at...

    (pp. 40-49)

    One should not think that Ambon’s luxuriant wildernesses produce no other kinds of Angreks, besides the ones, which we proposed at the beginning of book eleven, when I gave up hope to find out about all of them; since then I have found some new kinds, which I deemed worthy to be described, because of their rare appearance, and I will present some of them here one after another.¹

    I.Angraecum nervosum,² which grows on Kinar³ and Ironwood⁴ trees, appears with many square purses, three to four inches long, two fingers thick, heaped together in groups, of a pale green...

  15. Chapter Eight THE PURPLE ANGREK.
    (pp. 50-54)

    The twelfth kind was so rarely seen with leaves, that many thought it was leafless. I have found this difference, to wit, the one that grows on trees and on rocks on the beach, is usually seen without leaves, but the one that grows on trees inland, does have leaves, so that one could make them into two kinds, which is not necessary, however, since there is too little difference between them.

    I. First of all, the beach kind¹ has an angular or striped stem, divided into many uneven joints, that are always thicker in the center than at the...

  16. Chapter Nine THE BESEECHING PLANT.
    (pp. 55-60)

    This plant also wants to be part of the Angrek family, and it can serve that Aristocracy as a Parasite¹ or Flatterer, who usually follows the court, and it has five kinds, a small or ordinary one, and four large ones.

    I.Herba supplex minor,² is a little plant, no more than half a foot tall, sprouting from the root with almost no stems, for they begin at the bottom soon after the root, on a very short little stem, two rows of leaves over against one another, one embracing the other alternately, completely flat, as if they had been...

    (pp. 61-65)

    Now follows the Peasant kin of the Angreks, which, unlike the previous twelve,¹ do not grow in trees, but on the ground, and which are once again divided into various kinds, whereof some come close to resembling the Helleborus plant, and others the Orchis or Standelwort.² The first class has four kinds, and we devote a chapter to each one. The first one isAngrecum terrestre primum, the secondAngrecum terrestre alterum, the thirdInvolucrum, and the fourthHelleborus Amboinicus.

    I.Angraecum terrestre primum,³ orDaun corra corra,⁴ sprouts from the ground, and it attaches itself by means of many...

  18. Chapter Eleven THE SECOND GROUND ANGREK.
    (pp. 66-67)

    The second kind of groundAngrek, has a rather thick, creeping root, almost like a Curcuma, that produces some thick stems, striped lengthwise with sharp ridges, and with transverse joints. The leaves also grow clasping one another, and resemble those of a young Pinang ¹ sprout, or of Helleborus albus,² two and a half spans long, one and a half hand wide, divided lengthwise by five ridges, smooth, and a bright green.

    One or two other straight and round stems come forth from the main stem, one and a half span long, whereon grow flowers above one another, the size...

  19. Chapter Twelve THE WRAPPER.
    (pp. 68-71)

    Involucrum¹ is the third kind ofAngraecum terrestre; its leaves resemble those of the first kind, for they are full of ridges and folds, at the back with sharp protruding ridges down its length, but finer than with the first one, thin, smooth, and of a blackish green, each one growing on a ridged stem, and clasping each other, like the Curcuma,² together with the stem some three to four feet long, two hands wide.

    The flowers and fruits appear in a peculiar manner, not like an Angrek, but more like a Globba.³ For a short spike⁴ rises up from...

  20. Chapter Thirteen THE TRIPLE FLOWER.
    (pp. 72-74)

    The fourth kind¹ resemblesHelleborus albus² orGentiana³ the most, and differs so much from the Angreks, that I prefer to consider it a singular plant, but the Natives regard it (as another) kind of Involucrum. It has three or four large leaves, which together make for a thick, angular stem, eighteen to twenty inches long, six wide, striped lengthwise with five ridges, that make a sharp edge below, as with Plantago,⁴ otherwise smooth, thin, and a bright green.

    It ends below in a thick stem, striped on the outside, and grooved inside. When [these leaves] begin to wither, the...

  21. Chapter Fourteen THE LARGE AMBONESE ORCHIS.
    (pp. 75-79)

    Having discussed four kinds of Angrekum terrestre, which resemble Helleborine or Helleborus,¹ I will now present four others, which correspond to Orchis² or Standelwort,³ wherefore they can also be thought of as Ambonese Orchides. The first and most handsome kind was described before, in Book 8, among garden herbs, under the nameFlos susanae,⁴ because it is such a close kin ofAmica nocturna.⁵

    The other three we will describe in two chapters, under the namesOrchis Amboinica Majorandminor.

    This chapter includes two kinds ofOrchis major,the first one with a branched root, the other with one...

  22. Chapter Fifteen THE SMALL AMBONESE ORCHIS.
    (pp. 80-83)

    The fourth kind¹ is also a true Orchis, but smaller than all the foregoing ones.

    It first produces long leaves, numbering three or four, shaped like grass, six to seven inches long, half a finger wide, thickish, and smooth, somewhat folded, and with a groove in the center; these wilt quickly, and from their midst emerges a single stem, whereon the leaves are disposed not over against but above each other, of unequal size; the lower ones are only a thumb joint long, and partially dried up, whereafter follow three or four longer ones, four to six inches long, broad,...

    (pp. 84-89)

    Flos Susannae¹ is an AmboneseOrchis² that can be put in the fourth Class ofOrchides,calledOrchis Serapias,as described byDodonaeus, lib. 7. cap. 30.³

    It shoots up with a single, straight, round, and firm stem 2 ½ feet tall, whereof the lower part has few leaves, like those of the Plantain,⁴ though longer, thicker, and smoother, six inches long, 2 fingers wide, lengthwise divided by 3 or 4 sinews, of which the middle one protrudes on the bottom with a sharp ridge, though the others do not stick out on the bottom.

    These leaves embrace the main...

    (pp. 90-94)

    We will close the tenth book with this masterpiece of nature,¹ being a small low little plant, consisting of few leaves, but these are beautifully painted, as if wrought by art; it has a single, weak stem, not more than two or three inches high, so that this little plant is almost lying on the ground. It has three leaves on top, spread out in what is almost a triangle, and below them another two or three smaller ones, which divide the stem somewhat into joints, and cover it partly with their sheaths, like the leaves ofAlsine Indicaor...

    (pp. 95-98)
  26. NOTES
    (pp. 99-156)
    (pp. 157-164)
  28. INDEX
    (pp. 165-172)