Theophrastus, De Causis Plantarum

LCL 471: 54-55

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De Causis Plantarum I

of all plants, since every seed contains in itself a certain amount of food. This is why they are able to survive for some time, and do not, like the seeda of animals, perish directly on separation from the parent (except for the seedsb of oviparous animals, for these survive, since they contain food, as we said,c and at the same time a protection for the starting-point).

Some seeds however survive longer than others,7.2especially when close-textured, dry and woody (like those of the date-palm);d for they allow no entrance from without nor contain within themselves a fluid liable to corruption. Hence they neither get wormy (like the seeds of cereals) nor dry out (like those of vegetables), but the seed preserves the starting-point by sealing it off within itself.

But the presence of food in all can also be seen from this: seeds that appear quite dry and as it were husk-like, like those of vegetables, start to grow at their proper seasons if they get even the slightest amount of moisture,e and are on this account kept in upper

  • aSemen.
  • bEggs.
  • cIn the first sentence of the paragraph.
  • dCf. CP 5 18. 4 and HP 1 11. 3: “. . . in some plants the seeds are immediately enclosed in a stone or something stone-like, and are (as it were) dry . . .; most evidently so are the seeds of the date-palm. For this seed does not even have a hollow inside but is all of it straight (sc. without the curves making a hollow). Nevertheless it must have some fluid and heat, as we said (sc. at HP 111. 1: ‘The seed contains in itself natural fluid and heat . . .’).”
  • eTheophrastus speaks of the behaviour of seeds in storage because here it is more easily noticed. Cf. CP 4 3. 3: “In general the driest seeds as a class are those of coronary plants and vegetables, which is why they are the quickest to attract moisture, and for this reason they are hung up away from the ground and the rooms are not sprinkled or any water brought into them at all.” Cf. also HP 7 10. 1 (of herbaceous plants): “There being differences between the various plants in the seasons of sprouting, flowering and maturing of fruit, none of them comes up before its proper season, either of those grown from a root or of those grown from seed. Instead each awaits its proper season, and is not affected in the least even by the rains . . .”
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.theophrastus-de_causis_plantarum.1976