BEN # 275

Adolf Ceska aceska at
Wed Oct 24 03:29:17 EST 2001

BBBBB    EEEEEE   NN   N             ISSN 1188-603X
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BBBBB    EEEEE    NN N N             BOTANICAL
BB   B   EE       NN  NN             ELECTRONIC
BBBBB    EEEEEE   NN   N             NEWS

No. 275                              October 24, 2001

aceska at                Victoria, B.C.
 Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2



This posting is an abbreviated copy of the following article:

Stearn, W.T. 1965. The five brethren of the rose: an old botani-
   cal riddle. Huntia 2: 180-184.

It  is  posted  in  BEN with the kind permission of the Hunt In-
stitute for Botanical  Documentation,  A  Research  Division  of
Carnegie  Mellon  University,  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The ar-
ticle should not be  copied  or  distributed  outside  this  BEN

William  T. Stearn was 90 years old when he died on May 9, 2001.
Although he was self-taught, he published 470 scientific  publi-
cations  and  is  best  known  for  his  seminal work _Botanical
Latin_, the indispensable aid to descriptive botanical taxonomy.
For his obituary see:

I hope that you will enjoy his writing, even  if  it  challenges
your knowledge of Latin. - Adolf Ceska

Here it is:

_Quinque sumus fratres, et eodem tempore nati,
Sunt duo barbati, duo sunt barba absque creati.
Unus et e quinque non est barbatus utrinque._

On a summer's day, in sultry weather,
Five brethren were born together.
Two had beards and two had none,
And the other had but half a one.

So  run  two  versions  of  an old riddle. I first heard it many
years ago from the late Edward Augustus Bowles (1865-1954),  who
had  it,  I believe, from Canon Henry Nicholson Ellacombe (1822-
1916), who probably learned it from his father  the  Rev.  Henry
Thomas Ellacombe (1790-1885). In this way from person to person,
rather  than  from  book to book, it has been passed on for cen-
turies, going back to  Middle  Ages,  before  the  invention  of
printing.  To  find  it  in print requires, indeed, considerable
search, and the versions found differ  much  in  wording,  which
points  to  long  transmission by word of mouth. Who or what are
these strange brothers, all born at the same time  of  the  same
mother,  two  bearded,  two  beardless, and one with only half a

The five brothers are,  in  short,  the  five  sepals  of  _Rosa
canina_  and the other dog roses. Two of the five are completely
outside the others and  have  appendages  or  beard  along  both
edges;  two  with  plain unappendaged edges are completely over-
lapped along the edges by other sepals; the fifth has  one  edge
appendaged  and  outside,  its  other  edge plain and inside, in
other words it has only half a beard.

Roses were favourite flowers in monastic gardens  and  it  is  a
fair  supposition  that  the  riddle  was invented in a medieval
abbey in Germany, but no-one knows where, when, or by  whom.  W.
Rytz in _Gesnerus_ 14: 76(1957) attributes it to Albertus Magnus
(1193-1280)  of  Regensburg.  Ellacombe  in  _Cornhill magazine_
(July 1905) wrote that the earliest version he  had  traced  was
quoted  by Fumarellus (Antonio Fumanelli?) in 1557. However J.C.
Rosenberg, _Rhodologia seu philosophico-medica  generosae  rosae
descriptio_  (1628) does not quote it, although he describes the
rose-bud (p. 188) in words which suggest  it:  "_Alabastri  sunt
calycis  partes  laciniosae  ...  quae  quidem  quinque  sunt ut
plurimum; duae  nimirum  barbatulae;  duae  imberbes;  &  quinta
partim barbata, partim imberbis._"

Johann  Herrmann  (1738-1800)  of Strasbourg in his _Dissertatio
inauguralis botanico-medica de Rosa_ p. 12 (1792) describes  the
calyx of _Rosa canina_ in a similar manner: "_Calycis foliola in
longum apicem producta, duobus utrinque, uno ab alterutro tantum
latere pinnatis, duobus integris._" He then adds --

_Vetus hinc etiam aenigma ortum traxit:
Quinque sunt fratres,
Duo sunt barbati,
Sine barba sunt duo nati,
Unus ex his quinque
Non habet barbam utrinque._

Scarcely  different  is  the  version  quoted in Wilhelm Troll's
_Praktische  Einfuehrung  in  die  Pflanzenmorphologie_  2:   13

_Quinque sunt fratres.
Duo sunt barbati,
Duo sine barba nati.
Unus a quinque
Non habet barba utrinque._

There  is  also  the  version  published by Adrian Hardy Haworth
(1767-1833) in his  _Miscellanea  naturalia_  p.  197.  footnote
(1803) and by W. Rytz in _Gesnerus_ (_loc.cit._):

_Quinque sumus fratres, sub eodem tempore nati,
Bini sunt barbati, bini sine crine creati,
Quintus habet barbam, sed tantum dimidiatam._

That  light-hearted  scholar  E.A.  Bowles,  when expounding the
relation of aestivation and phyllotaxy  in  his  _My  garden  in
summer_,  p.  54 (1914), gives a version different from the four
quoted above:

_Quinque sumus fratres, unus barbatus et alter,
Imberbesque duo, sum semiberbis ego._

This version is also quoted in Troll's _Praktische  Einfuehrung_
2: 13 (1957).

There  is  equal  choice  of English translations, almost all of
them made in the nineteenth century. A version attributed to the
now almost forgotten poet James Montgomery  (1771-1851)  renders
it as follows:

Five brethren there are
born at once of their mother,
Two bearded, two bare,
The fifth neither one nor the other
But to each of his brethren half brother.

The  Rev.  Kirby  Trimmer  (1804-1887),  author of the _Flora of
Norfolk_, claimed in _Notes and Quotes_, VI 4:  74  (July  1881)
the following version printed there as being his composition:

Of the five brothers at the same time born
Two from our birthday ever beards have worn
On other two none ever has appeared
While the fifth brother wears but half a beard

Another,  quoted  by  C.W. Bingham (_loc. cit._: June 1881) from
_Evening hours_ 1: 208 (1871), runs as follows:

Five brothers all equal in age,
Two bearded and equally wise,
Two beardless and equally sage,
One bearded though one half in size.

Ellacombe (1905) has a different one:

Five brothers we, all in one moment reared;
Two of us bearded, two without a beard;
Our fifth on one cheek only wears the beard.

Another attributed by Bingham simply  to  "a  learned  Cambridge
professor"  and  by  A.W.  Hill (_Henry Nicholson Ellacombe_, p.
299: 1919) to Prof. Edward Byles Cowell  (1826-1903),  professor
of Sanskrit in the University of Cambridge, is as follows:

Five brethren of one birth are we
All in a little family
Two have beards, and two have none
And only half a beard has one.


Stearn's  article  continues  with  two  German versions of this
riddle and with a short technical  discussion  about  phyllotaxy
(=positioning of leaves on stem) of the dog rose sepals.

Before  you  run out to buy a rose for your beloved (in order to
investigate its sepals), here is yet  another  version  that  my
friend  discovered  in  _The Countryman_ (April 28-June 15, 2000

We are five brothers at the same time born,
Two of us have beards; by two no beards are worn,
While one, lest he should give his brothers pain,
Hath one side bearded and the other plain.

From: Brenda Callan [bcallan at]

Holliday, P. 1998, 2001. A dictionary of  plant  pathology.  2nd
   ed.  Cambridge  University Press, Cambridge. xxiv+536 p. ISBN
   0-521-59453-7 [hardcover] 1998 - US$120.00 ISBN 0-521-59458-8
   [softcover] 2001 - corrected ed. - US$44.95

   Available from:
   Cambridge University Press
   The Edinburgh Bldg., Cambridge CB2 2RU, United Kingdom
   40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211, USA

This reference is welcome  addition  to  a  plant  pathologist's
reference  shelf. It is a carefully updated and improved version
of the first edition (published in 1989). Lengthened by over 150
pages, it contains over 11,000 subject entries.  The  dictionary
is   especially  useful  as  a  starting  point  for  literature
searches, and for linking common names  of  pathogens  to  Latin
binomials.   As  pointed  out  by  the  author,  the  masses  of
electronically abstracted literature now available at  our  fin-
gertips  can  make  it  extremely  time-consuming  to locate key
review  papers  on  unfamiliar  topics  -  we  could  use   more
references  such as this one to give us a head start. Government
agents involved with quarantine regulations and enforcement will
certainly appreciate the Dictionary's global coverage  of  plant
diseases,  both  temperate and tropical. A few specific comments
that reflect the bias of this reviewer: the names of  _Hypoxylon
mammatum_   (_Entoleuca   mammata_)   and   _H.   atropunctatum_
(_Biscogniauxia atropunctata_) have not been  updated,  although
the  current monograph of _Hypoxylon_ by Ju and Rogers (1996) is
cited. On a more positive note,  the  _Armillaria_  section  has
been  thoroughly  updated,  which  will be appreciated by forest
pathologists. Fungi are still defined in a  broad  sense  (e.g.,
Oomycetes  are still included), but brief discussions of current
taxonomic concepts in fungi are given so as to avoid  confusion.
The  paperback  edition  is nicely bound so that it lies flat on
the desk or lab bench when open.

From: Bruce McCune [mccuneb at]

I have established a new web site called "Epiphytes  and  Forest

We  have  learned  a  lot in the last ten years about how forest
management practices are likely to affect lichens in the Pacific
Northwest of North America. The purpose of this web site  is  to
help communicate those findings in a question-and-answer format.
Although  the  web  site is targeted toward botanists and forest
managers in the Pacific Northwest, and draws  primarily  on  the
literature  from  North America, the questions (and perhaps some
of the answers) are universal among forested areas of the world:

  Which epiphytic lichen species are rare?
  Which species depend on old forests?
  Which species depend on riparian areas?
  Can we accelerate the development of  old-growth  associates
    in young forests by thinning or other management techniques?
  Do  remnant  trees  promote  maintenance  of  old-growth as-
    sociated lichens?
  Should remnant trees be left clumped or dispersed  to  favor
    species at risk?
  How  can we recognize hotspots of lichen diversity and abun-
  What should we do to protect known populations?

A glossary and bibliography are included. Comments, corrections,
and suggestions are welcome (mccuneb at

   Bruce McCune
   Oregon State University
   Corvallis, Oregon, USA

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