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Alopecuros Plinius planta spicam habens mollem et lanuginem densam non dissimilem vulpium caudis unde habet nomen cauda vulpina. Alopix vulpes uros cauda.


This entry is not rubricated in ms. e but is part of the section headworded Alopathia
Alopecuros ACH e | Alopeturos B jfp {'c' misread as 't'}
planta add. est H
lanuginem | lanugieʒ f | lanugine ACH e
densam | de͞͞p͞ssam or dẽpssam ms. e | dẽpsã p
vulpium | volpiũ ef
{vulpium} candidis add. e
unde et | vñ hʒ {=habet} AC
alopis | Alopix AC
uros | ura H
vulpes AC | uulpis BH jp | volpis ef


Alopecuros, according to Pliny, is a plant that has a soft ear and a dense downy layer not dissimilar to the tails of foxes, which is why it has the name cauda vulpina {"foxy tail"}, alopix in Greek meaning "fox" and uros meaning "tail".


Greek ἀλώπηξ /alṓpēx/ means "fox", transcribed by Simon in the itacist fashion of the time: /alópix/.

ἀλωπέκουρος /alōpékouros/ is a compound noun consisting of ἀλωπεκ- /alōpek-/ {the compound form of ἀλώπηξ /alṓpēx/ "fox"} + oυρ- /our-/ {< oυρά /ourá/ "tail"} + -ος /-os/ {a compound ending} > ἀλωπέκουρος /alōpékouros/ "fox tail".

The excerpt is taken from Pliny, Natural History, 21, 61, 101, ed. W.H.S. Jones (1938-63: VI.234-5): ... alopecuros spicam habet mollem et lanuginem densam non dissimilem vulpium caudis, unde et nomen... - ... "alopecurus has a soft ear and thick down, not unlike the tail of a fox; hence too its name" (op. cit. W.H.S. Jones, 235-237).

This text is also quoted in the entry Cauda vulpina: Cauda vulpina Plinius alopecuros spicam habet mollem et lanuginem densam non dissimilem vulpium caudis unde et nomen et cetera.

Botanical identification:

Lewis and Short (1879) mention Sprengel (1807) as suggesting Saccharum cylindricum (L.) Lam. [[1]], [[2]], an unlikely plant due to its originally non-European distribution, and since Pliny’s report is based on Theophrastus’ Historia plantarum, 7, 11, 12, ed. Hort (1916), one would have to assume that S. cylindricum had already invaded Europe in the 4th c. BC.

André (1985: 11), s.v. alōpecũros in accord with LSJ suggest a more probable candidate: Polypogon monspeliensis (L.) Desf., "annual beard grass" [[3]], [[4]].

Alopecurus has survived into botanical Latin as the name of a genus of grasses [[5]] and as a specific epithet in the South African Erica alopecurus Harv. [[6]].

WilfGunther 25/10/2013

See Cauda vulpina

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