1. The Botanical Magazine
  2. The Botanical Magazine, Volume IX

Capparis Spinosa

The Caper Shrub
Class and Order
Polyandria Monogynia
Generic Character
Cal. 4-phyllus, coriaceus. Petala 4. Stamina longa. Bacca corticosa, unilocularis, pedunculata.
Specific Character and Synonyms
CAPPARIS spinosa pedunculis unifloris solitariis, stipulis spinosis, foliis annuis, capsulis ovalibus. Linn. Syst. Vegetab. ed. 14. Murr. p. 487. Ait. Kew. v. 2. p. 221.
CAPPARIS spinosa fructu minore, folio rotundo. Bauh. Pin. p. 480.

We are happy in having it in our power to lay before our readers a representation of the Caper shrub, whose blossoms are rarely seen in this country, though its flower-buds are in very general use as a pickle; indeed, so great is their consumption, that they form a very considerable article of commerce.

The plant grows spontaneously in the more southern parts of Europe, especially in Italy and the Levant; in its wild state it forms a shrub of low growth, having numerous, spreading, spinous branches, somewhat thickly beset with smooth roundish leaves; the blossoms grow alternately on the branches, and when the plant begins to flower, one opens generally every other morning, but so delicate are its parts, that on a hot summer's day it fades before noon: the petals are white; the filaments, which are extremely numerous, are white below, and of a rich purple above; in these the beauty of the flower chiefly consists, as in the pistillum or pointal does its great singularity; at first view, one would be led to conclude, that the part so conspicuous in the centre of the flower was the style terminated by the stigma in the usual way; but if we trace this part of the flower to a more advanced state, we shall perceive, that what we took for the style, was merely an elongation of the flower-stalk, and what we took for the stigma, was in reality the germen placed on it, crowned with a minute stigma, without any intervening style; this germen swells, turns downward, and ultimately becomes the seed-vessel, rarely ripening in this country.

Miller observes, that these plants are with difficulty preserved in England, for they delight to grow in crevices of rocks, and the joints of old walls and ruins, and always thrive best in an horizontal position; so that when they are planted either in pots or the full ground, they rarely thrive, though they may be kept alive for many years.

It flowers in May and June, and is usually raised from seeds.

Mr. Aiton regards it as a greenhouse plant, and informs us that it was cultivated by Gerard in 1596.

291Capparis Spinosa
Capparis Spinosa
The Caper Shrub