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Hypoglossa Plinius folia habet similia in figura foliis mirti silvestris concava spinosa et in his ceu linguas folio parvo exeunte de foliis et cetera.


Hypoglossa AC | Hipoglossa B efjp
in om. B efjp
concaua | cũ cãna B
spinosa | spinossa f
{et} in om. AC
his ABC f | hiis ejp
et cetera om. ef


Hypoglossa, Pliny says, has leaves similar in shape to the leaves of mirtus {"wild myrtle"}, concave, prickly and on them like tongues a little leaf grows out of the {bigger} leaves, etc.


Simon's entry is taken from Pliny, 27, 67, 93, ed. W.H.S. Jones (1938-63: VII.444), with a slight rearrangement of the original sentence structure.

Latin hypoglossa and hypoglosson are the Latinized forms of Greek ὑπόγλωσσον /hypóglōsson/, consisting of ὑπο- /hypo-/ {"below, under"} + γλῶσσα /glôssa/ {"tongue"}, lit. "below tongue". The name refers to the special botanical features the plant has and which Pliny describes.

Botanical identification:

It is generally agreed that the description of the plant fits very well Ruscus hypoglossum L., "mouse thorn", [[1]], [[2]] cf. Berendes (1902: 437) and André (1985: 128), s.v. hypoglōsson. What seem to be the leaves of this plant are in fact phylloclades [[3]], i.e. stems that have been modified to act like leaves, while the actual leaves sit like tiny "tongues" on top of the phylloclades giving the impression that a tiny tongue grows on top of the "leaf". And flower and fruit will grow on the underside of these little tongues, i.e. the original leaves, which explains the naming motive for the plant "below the tongue", cf. Genaust p. 301, s.v. hypoglóssum. However, Carnoy (1959: 151), s.v. hypoglōsson, and Strömberg (1940: 41-2), see ὑπο- /hypo-/ as a diminutivising prefix and explain the name as "petite langue" {"small tongue"}, referring to the original, i.e. small leaves.

WilfGunther 29/11/2013

See also Ippoglossos, Ypoglosos

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