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Pigniogomon Plinius herba est solvens ventrem eruce foliis crassioribus et acrioribus, radice tenui lutei coloris terram olente caule quadrangulo modico tenui flore ozimi invenitur in saxosis locis et cetera.


Pigniogomõ AC | Pigmocomõ B | Pigniocomon (-g nio- f) e f | pycnomon Pliny

crassioribus e f | crasioribus B | crassioribus Pliny | crossioribus (-bus A) AC

acrioribus (-bus A e) ABC e Pliny | acucioribus f

tenui lutei | B adds tenui flore lutei anticipating tenui flore ozimi further down.

coloris (-ris B) ABC e | colori f

olente (-lẽt- AB) ABC f | olentẽ e

caule B e f | caulo AC

quadrangulo (-drãg- C) C e f | quadrãgulo A | quadrĩgulo B | quadriangulo Pliny

saxosis locis (-cis A) ABC f | locis saxosis f

et cetera om. B e f


Pigniogomon, Pliny says, is a herb that loosens the belly, with leaves like eruca {"rocket"} but thicker and more pungent, with a thin root of an orange-yellow colour smelling like earth; with a moderately long square stalk and a thin flower similar to ozimum {"basil"}. It is found in rocky places, et cetera.


Greek πυκνόκομον /pyknókomon/ is a compound name consisting of Greek πυκνο- /pykno-/ {"dense, compact"} + κόμη /kómē/ "head hair; foliage", which Berendes p. 466 translates as "dichthaarig, dichtköpfig" {i.e. "densely haired; with a dense flower-head"} and André (1985), p. 211 «à la chevelure touffue» {i.e."with bushy top hair"}.

Simon quotes near verbatim from Pliny, 26, 36, 57, ed. Rackham (1938-63: VII.306), except for the introductory remark herba est solvens ventrem - "it is a herb that loosens the belly", which is a rephrasing of Pliny's statement that et nymphaea in vino austero solvit et pycnocomon – "nymphaea {'water-lily'} taken in dry wine loosens {i.e. the bowels} and so does pycnocomon".

Botanical identification:

The botanical identification of this plant is disputed.

Pycnocomon is also described in a chapter by Dioscorides, e.g. 4, 74, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: II.324-5). Since Dioscorides' description is very similar to Pliny's it is clear that both authors used the same source. Berendes, p. 466, identifies it as a Scabiosa, but which species it is remains doubtful. He quotes Fraas, who is inclined towards Scabiosa ambrosioides Sibth. & Sm., a plant with a tuberous root and leaves similar to rocket. Observe however, that while Simon speaks of radix tenuis - "a thin root", the original Plinian text says radix rotunda - "a round or tuberous root", or in Dioscorides ῥίζα στρογγύλη /rhíza strongýlē/ id.

Lewis & Short suggest Scabiosa succisa L. "Devil's-bit Scabious" and they quote Sprengel as suggesting: Leonurus marrubiastrum L. "false motherwort".

LSJ put forward Leonurus cardiaca L. "motherwort".

André (1985: 211), says that the common identifications as Leonurus cardiaca L. or L. marrubiastrum L. cannot be right since these plants have neither the leaf shape of rocket leaves nor do they have a round root like a small apple. He quotes P. Fournier in a work not mentioned in André's bibliography, who proposes Valeriana tuberosa L., the "tuberous valerian" of Southern Europe.

See also: Policomos

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