1597 Goose Barnacle Tree of Gerard Herbal

1597 Goose Barnacle Tree of Gerard Herbal

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Plate from John Gerard "The Herball or General Historie of Plantes" published in London in 1597. The legend that geese were born of barnacles goes back to before the time of Gerard. Interested to discover its veracity, while on a visit to the south coast of England Gerard obtained some "muskles" (barnacles) from the trunk of a washed up tree. On close examination at home he was able to discern feathers, soft down, and other bird features within the shells of the muskles. These were probably the delicate filter feeding arms of the barnacles, and the body could be mistaken for an "unformed thing". In his final Chapter 188 of the Herbal he was able "to confidently avouch, and boldly put down for verity" the fact that barnacle geese did grow from what we now call goose barnacles.

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Keywords: 1500s, 16th century, barnacle, colour, gerald of wales, gerard, goose, goose barnacle, goose barnacle tree, herbal, herball, illustration, myth, spontaneaus generation, superstition

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