Sex. Syst. Hexandria, Monogynia.
The Xanthorrhoeas or Grass-Trees of Australia differ considerably in habit from the other Liliaceae. Their stems are usually shrubby and resiniferous; their leaves long, narrow, grass-like, and in tufts; and their flowers small, white, and densely crowded on long cylindrical spikes like those of bulrushes (Typha). Mr. Brown [Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae, 1810. One of the arborescent species (probably X. arborea) is called black boy (Drummond, in Hooker's Journal of Botany, vol. ii. p. 344, 1840).] has described seven species, viz, X. arborea, australis, Hastile, media, minor, bracteata, and Pumilio. The first two are arborescent, the third and fourth have short stems, and the last three are stemless.
Two resins, both the produce of this genus, have been imported into this country—one yellow, the other red.
1. The yellow resin of Xanthorrhoea, known by the various names of yellow resin of New Holland (resina lutea novi Belgii), Botany Bay resin, and acaroid resin or gum (resina vel gummi acaroides), was first noticed by Governor Phillips, [Voyage to Botany Bay, 1789.] in 1789.
It is obtained from the trunk of one or more species [Smith (Rees's Cyclop. vol. xxxix. art. Xanthorrhoea) refers it to X. Hastile and some other species (see, also, Bennett's Wanderings in New South Wales, &c. 1834). On the othe rhand, L. Gmelin (Handb. d. Chem. ii. 618), on the authority of Sieber, and Mérat and De Lens (Dict. Mat. Méd. vi. 970, 1834), on the verbal authority of Mr. R. Brown, refer it to X. arborea.] of Xanthorrhoea by spontaneous exudation. [White, Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales, in 1787, p. 235, 1790.] It occurs in more or less rounded tears; in flattened pieces, bearing on one side an impression of the stems to which they were attached, and intermixed with portions of wood, stalks, earth, &c; and in masses of variable size and irregular shape, having, when fractured, a speckled or granitic character. The pure resin is reddish-yellow. Its fresh fractured surface resembles that of gamboge; its powder is greenish-yellow. When heated, it emits a vapour having a fragrant odour like that of Tolu or storax. It has been repeatedly subjected to chemical examination; viz., by Lichtenstein, [Crell's Journal, ii. 242, 1799; also, Thomson's Chemistry of Organic Bodies—Vegetables, p. 532.] Schrader, [Trommsdorff's Journal, v. 96.] Laugier, [Ann. de Chimie, lxxvi. 265.] Widmann, [Buchner's Repertorium, xxii. 198, 1825.] Trommsdorff, [Taschenbuch, 1826, also, Gmelin, Handb. d. Chemie, ii. 618.] and more recently by Stenhouse. [Memoirs of the Chemical Society, iii. 10, 1848.] It consists essentially of resin, cinnamic acid, a small quantity of benzoic acid, and a trace of volatile oil. Some samples contain a small quantity of bassorine. Heated with peroxide of manganese and oil of vitriol, it evolves the odour of the oil of bitter almonds. Its alcoholic solution yields, on the addition of water, a yellow precipitate soluble in caustic potash. By the action of nitric acid it yields so large a portion of carbazotic acid that it is likely to prove the best source of that acid. As it sometimes resembles Tolu and storax in composition, so it probably resembles them also in its medicinal properties. Mr. Kite [Essays and Observations, p. 141, 1795.] employed it in several diseases. He says it neither vomits, purges, nor binds the belly; nor does it act materially as a diuretic or diaphoretic. More recently, Dr. Fish [Dierbach, Die neuesten Entdeckungen in d. Materia Medica, Bd. i. S. 225, 1837; from the Boston Journal, vol. x. p. 94.] has employed it in the form of tincture with opium in fluxus hepaticus, and the colliquative diarrhoea of phthisis. On account of its resemblance in composition to the balsams, it deserves a trial in chronic catarrhs. A tincture of New Holland resin is prepared by digesting the resin in rectified spirit: Kite used equal parts of resin and spirit; Fish, 2 ounces of resin to lb j of spirit. The dose of the tincture is ℨj or ℨij in milk or mucilaginous mixture.—It might be used as a substitute for, or mixed with other substances in the preparation of fumigating pastiles.
2. The red resin of Xanthorrhoea is sometimes imported under the name of black-boy gum. In colour it somewhat resembles dragon's blood, or Botany Bay kino (Eucalyptus resinifera); but many of the pieces, like some of those of the yellow resin of Xanthorrhoea, are marked by the impression of the trunk to which they have adhered. When heated, it evolves a fragrant balsamic odour; and, with the exception of the intermixed and adherent ligneous matters, is completely soluble in rectified spirit. The source of this resin would appear to be X. Hastile; for Viquet (quoted by Nees von Esenbeck [Geiger's Pharmacie, Bd. ii. S. 178, 2te Aufl. 1839.] ) says that this species yields a red resin which resembles dragon's blood.
The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1853.