Our English Daisy is a composite flower which is called in the glossaries "gowan," or Yellow flower. Botanically it is named Bellis perennis, probably from bellis, "in fields of battle," because of its fame in healing the wounds of soldiers; and perennis as implying that though "the rose has but a summer reign, the daisy never dies," The flower is likewise known as "Bainwort," "beloved by children," and "the lesser Consound." The whole plant has been carefully
and exhaustively proved for curative purposes; and a medicinal tincture (H.) is now made from it with spirit of wine. Gerard says: "Daisies do mitigate all kinds of pain, especially in the joints, and gout proceeding from a hot humor, if stamped with new butter and applied upon
the pained place." And, "The leaves of Daisies used among pot herbs do make the belly soluble." Pliny tells us the Daisy was used in his time with Mugwort as a resolvent to scrofulous tumors.
The leaves are acrid and pungent, being ungrateful to cattle, and even rejected by geese. These and the flowers, when chewed experimentally, have provoked giddiness and pains in the arms as if from coming boils: also a development of boils, "dark, fiery, and very sore," on the back of the neck, and outside the jaws. For preventing, or aborting these same distressing formations when they begin to occur spontaneously, the tincture of Daisies should be taken in doses of five
drops three times a day in water. Likewise this medicine should be given curatively on the principle of affinity between it and the symptoms induced in provers who have taken the same in material toxic doses, "when the brain is muddled, the sight dim, the spirits soon depressed, the temper irritable, the skin pimply, the heart apt to flutter, and the whole aspect careworn; as if from early excesses." Then the infusion of the plant in tablespoonful doses, or the diluted
tincture, will answer admirably to renovate and re-establish the health and strength of the sufferer.
The flowers and leaves are found to afford a considerable quantity of oil and of ammoniacal salts. The root was named Consolida minima by older physicians. Fabricius speaks of its efficacy in curing wounds and contusions. A decoction of the leaves and flowers was given internally, and the bruised herb blended with lard was applied outside. "The leaves stamped do take away bruises and swellings, whereupon, it was called in old time Bruisewort." If eaten as a spring
salad, or boiled like spinach, the leaves are pungent, and slightly laxative.
Being a diminutive plant with roots to correspond, the Daisy, on the doctrine of signatures, was formerly thought to arrest the bodily growth if taken with this view. Therefore its roots boiled in broth were given to young puppies so as to keep them of a small size. For the same reason the fairy Milkah fed her foster child on this plant, "that his height might not exceed that of a pigmy":
"She robbed dwarf elders of their fragrant fruit,
And fed him early with the daisy-root,
Whence through his veins the powerful juices ran,
And formed the beauteous miniature of man."
"Daisy-roots and cream" were prescribed by the fairy godmothers of our childhood to stay the stature of those gawky youngsters who were shooting up into an ungainly development like "ill weeds growing apace."
Daisies were said of old to be under the dominion of Venus, and later on they were dedicated to St. Margaret of Cortona. Therefore they were reputed good for the special-illnesses of females. It is remarkable there is no Greek word for this plant, or flower. Ossian the Gaelic poet feigns that the Daisy, whose white investments figure innocence, was first "sown above a baby's grave by the dimpled hands of infantine angels."
During mediaeval times the Daisy was worn by knights at a tournament as an emblem of fidelity. In his poem the Flower and the Leaf, Chaucer, who was ever loud in his praises of the "Eye of Day" "empresse and floure of floures all," thus pursues his theme:
"And at the laste there began anon
A lady for to sing right womanly
A bargaret in praising the Daisie:
For--as methought among her notes sweet,
She said, 'Si doucet est la Margarete.'"
The French name Marguerite is derived from a supposed resemblance of the Daisy to a pearl; and in Germany this flower is known as the Meadow Pearl. Likewise the Greek word for a pearl is Margaritos.
A saying goes that it is not Spring until a person can put his foot on twelve of these flowers. In the cultivated red Daisies used for bordering our gardens, the yellow central boss of each compound flower has given place to strap-shaped florets like the outer rays, and without pollen, so that the entire flower consists of this purple inflorescence. But such aristocratic culture has made the blossom unproductive of seed. Like many a proud and belted Earl, each of the pampered
and richly colored Daisies pays the penalty of its privileged luxuriance by a disability from perpetuating its species.
The Moon Daisy, or Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum Orysanthemum), St. John's flower, belonging to the same tribe of plants, grows commonly with an erect stem about two feet high, in dry pastures and roads, bearing large solitary flowers which are balsamic and make a useful infusion for relieving chronic coughs, and for bronchial catarrhs. Boiled with some of the leaves and stalks they
form, if sweetened with honey, or barley sugar, an excellent posset drink for the same purpose. In America the root is employed successfully for checking the night sweats of pulmonary consumption, a fluid extract thereof being made for this object, the dose of which is from fifteen to sixty drops in water.
The Moon Daisy is named Maudlin-wort from St. Mary Magdalene, and bears its lunar name from the Grecian goddess of the moon, Artemis, who particularly governed the female health. Similarly, our bright little Daisy, "the constellated flower that never sets," owns the name Herb Margaret. The Moon Daisy is also called Bull Daisy, Gipsies' Daisy, Goldings, Midsummer Daisy, Mace Flinwort, and Espilawn. Its young leaves are sometimes used as a flavoring in soups and stews. The
flower was compared to the representation of a full moon, and was formerly dedicated to the Isis of the Egyptians. Tom Hood wrote of a traveler estranged far from his native shores, and walking despondently in a distant land:
"When lo! he starts with glad surprise,
Home thoughts come rushing o'er him,
For, modest, wee, and crimson-tipped
A flower he sees before him.
With eager haste he stoops him down,
His eyes with moisture hazy;
And as he plucks the simple bloom
He murmurs, 'Lawk, a Daisy'"!