On Plants: the Explanations1.1 Book I
The Modes of Generation
That plants have several modes of generation has been said earlier in the History,a where we have also enumerated and described them. Since not all occur in all plants, it is proper to distinguish the modes that occur in the different groups and give the reasons why, resting the explanations on the special character of the plant,b for the explanations must first of all accord with the account given there.c(1) From Seed
Generation from seed is common to all plants that have seed, since all seeds are able to generate.
- aHP 2 1. 1–4 (cultivated trees); 3 1. 1–6 (wild trees); 2 2. 1 and 6 7. 1–6 (undershrubs and herbaceous plants); 7 2. 1–9 (herbaceous plants). Cf. especially HP 2 1. 1–2: “The generation of trees and of plants in general is either spontaneous or from seed or root or detached side-growth or from a branch or twig or the trunk itself or else from the wood chopped small . . . Of these ways the spontaneous is a primary one, and those from seed and root would appear most natural, since they too are (as it were) ‘spontaneous,’ whereas the rest belong already to a choice made by human art. All plants come up in one of these ways, and most in several . . .” Cf. also Aristotle, On the Generation of Animals, iii. 11 (761 b 27–29): “. . . some (sc. plants) come from seed, some from pieces detached and planted, and a few from sending up side-growths, as onions.” In the CP Theophrastus is almost exclusively concerned with seed-plants (Spermatophytes); in the HP a few references occur to plants which do not bear seeds: algae, fungi, lichens and ferns.
- bLiterally, “the distinctive essences” (cf. CP 2 19. 6), synonymous with “the distinctive natures” (CP 1 1. 3; cf. also 1 2. 4, 1 4. 2, 1 8. 2, 1 11. 6 [bis], 1 18. 4, 1 21. 3, 2 3. 4, 2 14. 5, 2 17. 10, 2 19. 6). The explanations are to rest on differences in the plants’ own natures, not (except incidentally) on the environment or on human skill.
- cThat is, the details about what plants can be propagated from what part. All such parts will be seen to contain a centre of vital fluid.