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Full text of "The geology, botany, and natural history of the Maltese Islands"

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11 




^f 




THE 

GEOLOGY, BOTANY, 
AND NATURAL HISTORY 

OF 

t jj,%lim islands. 




COMPILED BY 



JHE J^EY. p. N. GODWIN, 



CHAPLAIN TO THE FORCES. 



MALTA: 

PRINTED BY PAOLO BONAVIA: M.DCCC.LXXX. 
SOLD BY W. WATSON, 248 Strada Keale. 



W-/5 



ch 



TO 

CHARLES AND EMILY BURT, 

MY FRIENDS A.ND TEACHERS, 

THIS LITTLE WORK 

IS DEDICATED. 



JVJ3753B6 



CHAPTER I. 



GEOLOGICAL OUTLINE, 

Ancient and Modern Geologists. Classification of Strata. 
Upper or Coral Limestone. Yellow Sandstone and Blue 
Clay. Free-stone. Lower Limestone. The Great and Lesser 
Faults. Fossil Fauna. 



THE Knights of St. John had in their ranks 
some few observers of natural phenomena. In 1647 
the historian Abela wrote quaintly concerning cert- 
ain huge bones which he somewhat credulously 
supposed to be those of the giant builders of the 
ancient temples of Malta and Gozo, and in 1747, 
Scilla, the well known Sicilian artist, pourfcrayed 
several characteristic Malttse fossils and the teeth 
of the carnivorous fossil whale Zeuglodon, the re- 
mains of which have also been met with in North 
America. The Commander Dolomieu about a century 
ago laboured in the same field, but it is to the 
patient industry of Professor Edward Forbes, Cap- 
tain Spratt R. N., Dr. A. L. Adams M. A., Dr. 
Wright and others, that we are chiefly indebted for 
our knowledge of the various geological formations 
of the Maltese islands, and it is from their works 




6 

that the following outline has been compiled. Herr 
Fuchs must also be mentioned as the author of a 
very able sketch on " The age of the Tertiary For- 
mations in Malta, (Das alter der Tmtiaren Schicfi- 
ten filr Malta}, which contains the most complete 
list at present in existence of the various fossils 
found in the different strata. 

The Maltese islands situated nearly in the centre 
of the Mediterranean basin, are of Tertiary origin 
and are now generally admitted to belong to the 
late Eocene subdivision of that formation. It is 
scarcely necessary to remark that the names of 
Eocene and Miocene were given by Sir Charles 
Lyell to the Lower and Middle Tertiary strata. The 
Eocene fossils include only 3 per cent of living 
species whilst in the Miocene formations the pro- 
portion of living to fossil species is 25 per cent. 
Dr. Adams says that " the Maltese islands are as- 
suredly mere fragments of what had once been an 
extensive sea-bottom, which when first upheaved 
formed part of either Europe or Africa or both, 
and lastly that after oscillations of level the greater 
portion was submerged, leaving only these small 
remnants now known to us as Malta, Gozo, and 
Comino. " The latest theories favour the idea of up- 
heaval after previous submergence. To quote 
Captain Spratt R. N. " The axis of the chain 
of the Maltese islands runs from S. E. to N. 
W. and is about 29 miles long. Malta, the south- 



7 

ernmost of the group, is nearly 17 miles long; 
and its greatest breadth measured transversely to 
the axis, is nearly 9 miles. Gozo, the northernmost 
island is nearly nine miles long, and its greatest 
transverse breadth is a little more than 5 miles." 
' The mineral deposits of which these islands 
consist are all stratified and disposed in parallel 
layers. They seldom deviate much from the horizontal 
position, but the prevailing dip, which is very gentle, 
varies from N. E. -to E. by N. and consequently 
the prevailing strike of the deposits coincides nearly 
in direction with the axis of the chain. " 

The Apennines and the Sicilian chains have 
the same inclination rendering it probable that all 
were upheaved ab the same time. The rocks blend 
into one another so gradually that it is sometimes 
not easy to say where limestone ends and sandstone 
commences. 

" None of the deposits are wholly devoid of 
organic remains and some of the softer strata con- 
tain them in great abundance, and in a state of 
excellent preservation. Many of these fossils are 
characteristic of certain strata, and all are of marine 
origin." 

From the discovery of the remains of amphibious 
animals such as the dugong, manatee, seals, and 
crocodilians, together with corals and corallines it 
is thought that the rocks of Malta were formed 
at no great distance from land. 



8 

Captain Spratfc thus groups the strata in descen- 
ding order: 1 Coral Limestone: 2 Yellow Sandstone and 
Blue Clay: 3 Freestone: 4 Semi-crystalline Limestone: 
whilst Dr. Adams has five divisions thus: 1 Upper 
Limestone: 2 Sand: 3 Marl: 4 Calcareous Sandstone: 
5 Lower Limestone. 

The Upper or Coral Limestone (A) which is 
in some places 250 feet in depth " consists of a 
reddish-brown or whitish calcareous rock which is 
mostly of a compact, hard and almost flinty texture. 
It contains cretaceous nodules, and is sometimes 
interstratified with soft calcareous sandstone. " It 
covers almost the entire S. W. and N. W. portions 
of Malta. The island of Comino with its cliifs rising 
more than 200 feet above sea-level is almost entirely 
composed of it, and it forms a capping to nearly 
all the isolated hills of Gozo, from which however 
t has been much denuded. "Near Casal Garbo, 
towards the N. W. angle of Gozo, the only remains 
of the coral limestone, which originally formed a 
continuous upper crust over that part of the island, 
are detached masses of this deposit lying on the 
surface of denuded freestone. Similar masses are 
seen in other parts of the island. Some of these 
fragments at Casal Garbo are variegated with yellow 
and white, and are used for ornamental work under the 
name of "Gozo Marble/" It abounds in fossils, amongst 
which molluscs and echinse are numerous with some 
remains of sea-weeds, but traces of the higher animals 



THE GEOLOGICAL FORMATIONS 
OF THE MALTESE ISLANDS. 



(A... 

L { 

IB... 



No 

No. II. 

No. III. 



fD... 
E... 

. F... 

G... 



H.. 
^ 

No. IV. I.. 



.Coral Limestone. 

Yellow and black or 
green sand intermixed. 
.Marl. 

.White sandstone. 

.Keddish, yellow, & grey 

sandstone. 
.Pale yellow sandstone. 

.Chocolate-coloured no- 
dules, teeth, shells, &c. 
.Yellow sandstone. 

..Semi-crystalline lime- 
stone. 



The geologist should not fail to examine the admir- 
able Geological Map at the Garrison Library, and the 
Geological Sections in the Museum, Valletta. 



9 

are not so frequently met with as in the under- 
lying beds. 

The Yellow Sandstone (B) the depth of which 
is variously estimated at from 20 to 40 feet " consists 
of yellow sand or sandstone with greenish-black 
parfcicles intermixed. It abounds in organic remains 
many of which differ from those of the coral limestone. 
One of its most characteristic fossils is a small 
Nummulite which sometimes is in such quantity 
as to form a third part of the bed to which it 
belongs. It occurs most abundantly in the cliffs 
of the Bay of Ramla on the N. W. coast of Gozo." 
Layers of oysters, the teeth and bones of sharks, 
and the remains of Cetacea are also met with in 
this formation which can be easily examined in the 
cliffs on the N. W. shore of Malta, at Ramla Bay in 
Gozo, and below Fort Chambray in the same 
island, and also in the neighbourhood of Citta Vecchia. 

The Blue Clay or Marl (C) from 100 to 120 
feet in thickness "contains two or three thick layers 
of a lighter colour than the rest, and imbedded 
in it are crystals of gypsum and occasionally nodules of 
sulphur/' The cliffs at Karabba shew to advantage 
the thickness of the marl, which is strongly impregnat- 
ed with lime, and contain a few organic remains. 
The bones of whales, sharks' teeth, teeth and spines 
of rays and other species of fishes are not uncommon. 
"The Testacea are chiefly species of Mitra etc. 
A Nautilus is found, but rarely, under Fort Chambray. 



10 

With the shells has been found the bone of a 
small Sepia (or cuttle fish). The fossils of the clay 
generally serve as nuclei to irregular nodules of 
iron pyrites, and the substance of the fossils is 
frequently converted into hydrated peroxide of iron. " 

To the Blue Clay succeed five beds which Captain 
Spratt groups under the name of Freestone and 
Dr. Adams under that of Calcareous Sandstone, 
with a depth of 200 feet. This formation occupies 
fully one half of the surface of both islands, and 
iu Malta its district would be portioned off by a 
line running about N. through Citta Vecchia. 

" The clay passes into a white calcareous 
sandstone (D) from 20 to 30 feet thick, and below 
this is a blueish-grey or fawn coloured marl (E) about 
20 feet thick. These two deposits contain several 
species of microscopic chambered shells. " 

" Next are found from 20 to 30 feet of a 
pale yellow or white calcareous freestone (F) sep- 
arable into thin strata. It contains nodules of flint, 
and the fossils of this bed are found in a silicified 
state on the N. W. side of the Bengemma hills. " 

" This stone is sometimes used for building, 
but it exfoliates by exposure to the weather, and 
more particularly when acted on by the sea. It 
contains a Scalaria and other forms. " 

" Below the upper bed of Freestone is a bed, 
from 2 to 8 feet thick of Calcareous Sandstone (G) 
of a pale chocolate colour and flinty hardness which 



11 

consists almost wholly of the casts of organic re- 
mains (see Professor Forbes' catalogue), and mixed 
with the casts are shapeless nodules of the sand- 
stone of the same colour and texture. This deposit 
preserves its peculiar character wherever the free- 
stone group of beds is found. It is best exhibited 
in the island of Gozo, in the Bay of Marsa el 
Forno on the N. W. coast, and at the base of the 
cliffs under Fort Chambray where it forms rocky 
ledges two or three hundred yards broad, extending 
along the coast, and rising only a foot or two above 
the sea level." 

"The lowest bed of the group is a yellowish 
white calcareous freestone (H) from 40 to 50 feet 
thick. This is the stone which is commonly used 
for building in the two islands. From the facility 
with which it may be cut with the hatchet, or formed 
with the lathe, this stone both in the rough state 
in the form of slabs, and also when turned into 
pillars, balustrades, vases, and other architectural 
ornaments is used extensively in all the public and 
private edifices of Malta and Gozo, and is an arti- 
cle of considerable export to all parts of the Me- 
diterranean. A fossil turtle was found in this bed 
near Casal Luca, south of the city of Valletta/' 

Remains of the great carnivorous whale Zeug- 
lodon, of seals, and of the amphibious mammal 
Halitheium have been discovered in this formation, 
together with jaws of crocodilians, not to mention 



12 

numerous molluscs, cuttle fish, barnacles, and marine 
plants. 

The lower or semi-crystalline limestone (I), is 
of a greyish colour, and on the S. and N. W. coasts 
of Gozo shews nearly 400 feet of perpendicular depth. 
It, in common with the harder varieties of the Up- 
per Limestone is known as Gozo marble and Malta 
granite. It is extensively quarried for building pur- 
poses in the neighbourhood of Musta, and on the 
denuded flat to the W. of Valletta. 

All along the southern shores of tho islands, 
this formation is gradually yielding to the disin- 
tegrating influence of the Sirocco blast, and the 
ever-beating surf. 

The Lower Limestone can be easily studied be- 
tween Fort Ricasoli and the Zoncor Tower, whilst 
inland it may be traced in the Wied Incita, near 
the Lunatic Asylum, in the ueighbourhood of Musta, 
and below Gargur. 

Fossils are abundant, but owing to the hard- 
ness of the rock perfect specimens are detached with 
difficulty. The saucer shaped urchin, an organism 
resembling fossil leaves, sharks' teeth, whales' bones, 
oyster shells, claws of swimming crabs, burrowing 
sponges, &c., are amongst those most frequently met 
with. Nine species of shark formerly inhabited 
these waters, the teeth of some of them being 7 
inches long ! 



13 

Malta is divided into two parts by a great 
" fault " or break in the continuity of the strata, 
due to either depression or upheaval. This fault 
" cuts the island transversely to the axis of the 
chain, and to tho N. W. lets down the strata about 
300 feet. Gozo also is divided, a little way in- 
land from the strait which separates it from Malta 
by a fault running also transversely to the axis of 
the chain, and producing to the S. E. nearly the 
same amount of depression in the strata which is 
occasioned in the opposite direction by the fault 
of Malta. The joint effect of these two disturb- 
ances is to let down the deposits in the space 
between the two faults to the depth above-men- 
tioned, that being about half the height above the 
sea-level of the most elevated points in each of the 
two islands." 

A rising ground near Casal Dingli 750 feet 
above sea-level, and the hill of Bisbiegi with an 
altitude of 743 feet are the two highest points in 
Malta and Gozo. "In the sunken tract lie the 
straits of Frieghi which separate Malta from Gozo, 
and midway between the two principal islands, the 
small island of Comiao." The fault of Malta is 
clearly visible in the Bay of Fom-e-Bieh (mouth 
of the wind) on the S. W. shore of the island, 
from whence it passess below the Bengemma Hills, 
crosses the plain of Nasciar, and reaching the north- 



14 

era shore at Maddalena terminates in a bold bluff. 
(See Section 4.) 

The Revd. H. Seddall says: "To the existence 
of this fault is due one of the most picturesque 
features of Malta. Often on a fine spring morning 
have I stood on the ridge of the Nasciar heights, 
the whole plain below glowing with the blossom 
of the purple sulla ( a kind of clover Hedysarium 
coronarium), the inlets of the bays of the Salini, 
St. Paul's, and the Straits of Frieghi reposing like 
gems of tha deepest blue in their setting of white 
rock, which the sun irradiated with a perfectly 
dazzling lustre, enjoying the first cool breath of 
the maestrale, as it dimpled the azure of the lazy 
deep, and mapping out the course of present or 
future excursions with gun, hammer, or botanical 
box." 

Minor faults in the depressed area have aided 
in the formation of the Bays of St. Paul and Mel- 
leha. According to Capt. Spratt the Gozo fault 
emerging from the ravine of Ghain Selim passes 
to the N. of Fort Chambray, and to the S. of Casal 
Nadur, meeting the sea on the N. E. coast in the 
Bay of Silek (See Map and Section 2), but 13i\ 
Adams assigns to it a somewhat different direction. 
Numerous minor faults exist such as that of Malak 
on the southern shore, the Macluba near Crendi, 
and the curious hollow known as the Kaura in Gozo. 

"Most of the valleys in the Maltese islands 



15 

follow fche course of the dip of the strata. Among the 
Bengemma Hills lie the valleys of Boschetto and 
Emtahleb, wlr.ch are noted for their picturesque 
scenery and also for their fertility. Their productiveness 
is owing to the springs which break out at the 
outcrop of the blue clay, in consequence of its 
retaining the moisture which falls on the porous 
substance of the superincumbent coral limestone and 
yellow sandstone. There are no springs in Malta 
and Gozo but where there is clay to retain the 
water. " The washing away of the mari would 
therefore make Malta a mere arid rock and deprive 
Valletta of its supply of water. 

From the numerous and interesting remains of 
hippopotami, elephants, fresh-water tortoises etc. 
found in these islands, and also from other evidence 
it seems probable that Africa, Malta, and Italy were 
formerly united and that the now submerged dis- 
trict was covered with a varied and extensive 
flora. Herds of both larger and pigmy elephants the 
latter being 3 feet, 4 feet 7 inches, and 7 feet in 
height roamed the land. Dr. Adams and Sig. Caruana 
have found skeletons or teeth of hundreds of these ani- 
mals near Benghisa Tower, near Fort Ricasoli, at Zeb- 
bug, Crendi, the Mnaidra Gap, the Malak and Melleha 
caves, and other places. 

The Hippopotamus Pentlandi has left his bones 
at Melleha, Malak, and elsewhere. Abundant wild-fowl 
covered the lakes and lagoons, one of which the 



16 

Cygnus Falconeri was fully one third larger than 
our present swan. Its remains have been found at 
G-andia and Mnaidra. The Myoxus a gigantic fossil 
dormouse, as big in proportion to the living species 
as a good-sized rabbit is to a brown rat existed 
in large numbers. A lizard larger than a chameleon 
and a hnge fresh water tortoise have also been met 
with. Carnivorous animals were not wanting for the 
elephants' bones found at Zebbug showed marks of 
fierce and eager gnawing. The bones of a ruminant 
allied to the goat or sheep have been unearthed 
near Crendi. No traces of implements or of man's 
presence amongst these long extinct animals have as 
yet been discovered. Those who wish to pursue 
this subject further are referred to the " Notes of 
a Naturalist iu the Nile Valley and Malta" by Dr. 
Adams, Captain Spratt's f< Geology of the Maltese 
Islands," Seddall's "Malta Past and Present," 
Tallack's " Malta under the Phoenicians, Knights, 
and English" and other kindred works too numerous 
to name. 



17 



CHAPTER II. 

BOTANICAL NOTES, 

Maltese Botanists. Books of Eeference. General Aspect 
of the Islands. Trees and Fruits. Marine Flora. Grasses 
and Aromatic Plants. Midsummer in Malta. Spring and 
Summer Vegetation. Fungus Melitensis, etc. Botanical 
Excursions in Malta. The Flora of Gozo. 

IN the year 1670, Dr. G. F. Bonamico the 
Father of Maltese Naturalists enumerated 243 distinct 
varieties of plants as existing in these islands. Five 
years afterwards Dr. G. Zammit a member of the 
Order of St. John occupied the Botanical Chair, 
and established a Botanical Garden in the moat of 
Fort St. Elmo. Dr. Cavallini, one of Dr. Zammif's 
pupils published in 1698 the result of the researches 
of Bonamico, with the addition of 83 varieties noted 
by himself. P, Boccoue of Palermo between 1674- 
1697 wrote ably upon the flora and fauna of Malta. 
He has been styled the Pliny of his century. Not 
to mention others, Peter Forskal in 1775 described 
the plants of Egypt and Malta, and was followed 
by J. D ; Urville in 1822. In 1825 G. E. Giacinto 



18 

a Genoese, who had been appointed Professor of 
Botany in 1805 by Sir Alex. Ball, published with 
the aid of Drs. Naudi and Zerapha " The Plants of 
the Islands of Malta, Gozo, and Lampedusa" enu- 
merating 854 distinct varieties. 

In 1827 and 1831 Dr. S. Zerapha published 
his admirable "Florae Melitensis Thesaurus" which 
describes 498 native and 155 exotic plants, and in 
1853 the "Flora Melitensis" of Dr. Delicata containing 
an account of 716 plants saw the light. Three 
years later Dr. Gulia published his valuable " Re- 
pertorio Botanico " to which the student is referred, 
and from which many of the foregoing 1 ' particulars 
have been gathered. See also Dr. Gulia' s " Eepertorio 
di Storia Naturale," Gussone's "Floras Siculae Syn- 
opsis" (Naples), and Wood's "Tourists 7 Flora" (Reeves, 
Henrietta Street, Covent Garden), together with 
"Malta Past and Present," by the Revd. H. Sed- 
dall, and Dr. L. Adams' " Notes of a Naturalist 
in the Nile Valley and Malta, " and the exhaustive 
Analytical Flora of Dr. Gulia, one third of which 
has already (1880) seen the light. 

The islands have a general aspect of barrenness, 
owing to the want of trees, and the absence of 
shade renders the heats of summer more than 
usually oppressive. The three necessaries for suc- 
cessful arboriculture, viz., abundant soil, constant 
moisture, and shelter, are not always readily attain- 
able. But where these advantages exist, almost all 



19 

trees of temperate or even tropical regions flour- 
ish and thrive. Beneath the surface rocks there 
is an inexhaustible bed of marl eminently adapted 
for the support of trees. The Gozitans were form- 
erly in the habit of destroying all trees along 
the roads lest their spreading roots should lessen 
the yield of cotton from the adjacent fields. The 
carouba is the most common tree, but it abounds 
chiefly in the eastern districts of Malta. The aloe, 
actus indicus, and geranium attain a considerable 
size. The principal fruits are strawberries, figs, 
pomegranates, grapes, prickly pears, apples, pears, 
peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries, melons, 
and lemons. Also the Japanese medlar or nespoli 
and the orange, which latter is not surpassed any- 
where in the Mediterranean. Even the best varie- 
ties of grapes speedily degenerate in these islands. 
The planting of trees would lessen the excess- 
ive heat, increase the water supply, and multiply 
fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The indigenous plants 
of which Dr. Zerapha enumerates 644 species are 
more numerous than might perhaps be expected 
from the rocky nature of the soil and the almost 
universal cultivation. The marine flora are of course 
numerous. The grass wrack is washed on shore in 
vast quantities, and does good service as manure- 
Those however which require a sandy beach are 
comparatively rare such as Polygonum maritimum 
found at the Marsa and St. George's Bay, Galtile 




20 

maritima in the Bay of Melleha, Euphorbia Para- 
lias in the Bays of Saline and Gneyna, E. terra- 
cina in Melleha Bay, Eryngium maritimum at Mel- 
leha, Gneyna, etc., Pancratium Illyricum at Eamla 
Bay in Gozo. Dr. Zerapha enumerates 19 species 
of the handsome Euphorbia. A very common marine 
plant which loves the sandy shore is the Crucia- 
nella maritima, which may be met with at SHema 
and elsewhere. It blossoms in April and June. 
On the rocks of the southern shore are particularly 
to be noticed the Hypericum ^Egyptiacum and An- 
thyllis Hermannice, the latter having also an affect- 
ion for the barren hill side. 

The islands are rich in the natural order of 
the Papilionacece, Of this the genus Trifolium counts 
the greatest number of varieties of which some of the 
most interesting are Trifolium subterraneum found 
in sunny spots during March and May, and Trifolium 
suffocatum not unknown at Floriana. Then follow 
the genera Medicago, Melilotus, Lotus, and Ononis. 

The grasses are of course in great variety, 
We may note the Lygeum spartum found at St. 
Paul's Bay, Imtahleb, Fauara, etc. The Stipa tortilis 
and Stipa pinnata are found everywhere on uncul- 
tivated spots. 

Aromatic plants are few in number but we 
may note Mentha Pulegium vulgare, Melissa officinalis y 
Nepetha calamintha, and Thymus capitatus, the flowers 



21 

of which give a delicious flavour to the honey of 
Malta whilst the stalks are used as fuel. 

Dr. Adams says. "The physical aspect of the 
Maltese islands in midsummer is by no means inviting. 
Viewed from a commanding position, they present 
an extremely sterile and desolate appearance which 
is heightened by the interminable stone walls, rocky 
ravines, bare plateaus, and plains without marsh or 
stream ; for, excepting a few fig, vine, cactus, carob, 
orange, pomegranate, and Persian lilac trees in 
gardens in or about the towns and villages not a 
blade of grass or a plant of any sort is there to 
gladden the eye, or relieve the glare of a semi- 
tropical sun. " 

But after the autumn rains Malta grows green as 
if by miracle. In January, anemones, several vari- 
eties of Fumaria, geraniums, the Hypericum JEgyptia- 
ctim and numerous other plants are in blossom. The 
Mediterranean heath Erica peduncularis is found in 
the Wied Incita, and the borage, rosemary, various 
euphorbias, and plants of the nettle tribe will repay 
the toil of the botanist, not to mention the narcissus 
and asphodel. 

In February the pheasant's eye, poppies, mallows, 
and geraniums, vetches, chrysanthemums and varieties 
the iris are in bloom. 

To quote Dr. Adams once more "As far as 
verdure is concerned Malta may be said* to be in 
its prime in February. It is then that the daisy 



VP 



22 

and dandelion deck the meads, grassy lanes, and 
waysides, wheat is ripening, and the luxuriant tops 
of the purple vetch Hedysarium corcnarium adorn 
the terraced fields and commingle their flowers with 
the red poppy, yellow marigold, daffodil, crimson 
pheasant's eye and purple anemone, where the painted 
lady, cabbage, clouded saffron, and other butterflies 
are sporting. The evergreen of the stunted locust 
or carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) contrasts well with 
the whole scene, whilst the bare boughs of the 
fig stand out in inanimate ugliness against the 
stone fence around the terraced fields. About the 
loth of February wheat is in ear, and the progress in 
vegetation may be said to have reached its height." 

During March and April vegetation is luxuriant. 
Eanunculi, poppies, several species of Cruciferce, etc. 
flower. The caper plant makes fortifications gay 
with leaves and flowers, and the ice plant may 
be met with. 

The summer flowering plants mostly belong to the 
Composites. The so called Centaurea Spatulata with 
leaves like those of a Sempervivum which grows on 
the rocks above Fauara, blossoms in May. Some 
botanists deny its claim to be considered a Centaurea 
and regard it as a distinct genus. Snapdragons, 
aromatic plants, glassworts, euphorbias, the caper, 
cinerarias etc., with numerous others perfume the air. 

Fifteen species of the orchid tribe amongst which 
are the Orchis undulatJfolia 3 and saccata are found. 






23 

The OpTirys tenthrect inifera or saw fly orchis is re- 
markable; gladiolus, wild garlic, squill, 17 species of 
sedges and 77 grasses are also to be procured. 
The viscous Orsinia campkorata with a strong smell 
of camphor grows on the walls of Valletta, and 
in many a valley. 

Other rare plants are the Scolopendrium hemi- 
onitiSy Fagonica cretica, Putoria calabrica found on 
a rock near the chapel of St. Paul the Hermit in 
the Wied El Ghasel, near Musta, Convolvulus cala- 
brica which grows near Imtahleb, Cheiranthus tricus- 
pidatus near Marsa Sirocco, Teucrum scordioides, 
Helianthemum Fumana near Gerzuma, Hyacinihus 
romanus at Fauara, Imtahleb, and Musta, Carthamus 
coeruleus at Imtahleb, etc. 

The Cynomorium coccineum or Fungus Meliten- 
sis which is found on the southern shore of Malta 
near Casal Dingli, and more abundantly on and 
around the General's Rock in Gozo, was long in 
great repute as a remedy for hoemorrhage and dys- 
entery. It begins to blossom in April. It is said that 
the Daucus gummifer, certain species of the Cheir- 
anihi, and Gnaphalia, and several other plants not 
met with elsewhere in the Maltese islands are to 
be found on the General's Eock. 

During the summer months botanists who care 
not to suffer from sunstroke will not go far from 
home. Dr. Delicata's "Flora Melitensis" admirably 
points out the localities in which various plants will 



24 

be found, together with their times of flowering, 
and Dr. Gulia in his Analytical Flora estimates the 
Maltese plants to be not less than 1000 in number. 

The following remarks by the last named able 
naturalist will be found useful by the botanist in 
his rural excursions. 

" Let us ascend into the higher valleys which 
formerly when submerged gave shelter to marine 
animals. Here we shall meet with the fragrant 
narcissus and the modest violet, which take the place 
of the seaweeds which formerly covered this district." 

"Let us penetrate into Wied Kirda, on the stately 
sides of which the Coronilla valentina blossoms in 
March." Its perfume which resembles that of the jon- 
quil is a good reason for its cultivation within doors. 
Some authors say that it exhales perfume by 
night, but it is certain that it is also fragrant 
during the day. Very beautiful is the yellow tulip 
Tulipa sylvestris which grows beneath the olive, and 
on the edges cf the fields opposite to the picturesque 
Chapel of Sant. Antonio. It was first met with 
here by Dr. Agostino Naudi, and grows nowhere 
else in Malta or Gozo." 

" The ivyclad walls of the fields urge the botanist 
to continue his researches, which will be repaid by 
Calendula sicula with its large flowers and by 
many other species. One of the best places for a 
botanical excursion is the Wied Babu, between 
Crendi and Zarrico, where, at various seasons, a 



25 

large portion of the Maltese flora can be studied. 
Large bushes of the fragrant rosemary cover the 
rocks, and here and there upon heaps of stones may 
be seen the Lonicera implexa with its twig-abounding, 
climbing stalks adorned with large masses of blossom. 
The beautiful Gypsocallis multiflora is abundant and 
most beautiful orchids, two kinds of narcissus, and 
several coronillas make gay the soil. The service 
tree, the quince, the white thorn with its numerous 
varieties, the Neapolitan medlar, together with the 
cultivated and wild pear tree grow there, no doubt 
spontaneously. We must not forget to mention a 
very beautiful Centaurea which grows on the rocks 
near the sea, which from the form and thickness 
of the leaves has been variously named spatulata 
and crassi folia. From the beauty of its large violet- 
coloured flowers it deserves to be introduced into 
our gardens." 

"Amongst rare plants we may mention the SCOT- 
zonera octangular is found at Uardia by Mr. C. A. 
Wright, who also discovered the Ononis variegata, 
and in Gozo the Senencio. 

The Aristolochia longa is found in the Wied 
Herief, and the Scolopendrium officinale in the Wied 
Ghomor. On a shady rock in the Wied Babu the 
S-plenium trichomanes finds a home, and the Romulea 
r ami flora, Asparagus fistulosus, Iris tuber osa, and 
Sisymbrium sophia are not unknown." With refe- 
rence to the flora of Gozo Dr. Gulia says: 



26 

" After making several excursions in various 
directions the botanist will observe that in districts 
in which the upper calcareous strata are found, 
plants thrive which are sought for in vain in the 
denuded districts : and that in the localities where 
marl is abundant he will find plants which do not 
grow elsewhere. It is on this account that more 
wild varieties are met with in Gozo than in Malta, 
and that others which in Malta are sickly and 
captious, in Gozo exhibit all the vigour of healthy 
growth, and cover a considerable area/ 7 

" The vegetation of the N. W. portion of Malta 
resembles that of Gozo, the Kundmannia sicula 
which is found near Citta Vecchia and at St. Paul's 
Bay, growing also in great abundance upon all 
the calcareous hills in the sister island. The beautiful 
Reseda lutea which in Malta is found in the spots 
loved by the Kundmannia is very plentiful in Gozo. 
Numerous also are the plants which grow in Gozo 
and not in Malta. The sweet and vigorous balm mint 
Melissa officinalis clothes all the valleys, and there 
grows also in the clefts of the rocks of the Wied 
el Xlendi the Silene fruticosa with its rosy flowers, 
and which at first sight seems to be a saponaria, 
together with Raphanus landra and Raphanus 
fug ax by the side of the never-failing brooklet/' 

"In the valleys wherever running water is to 
be found the agnus cast us or Vitex agnus castus 
flowers in profusion, Its seeds were formerly consider- 



27 

ed to be of use in checking immodesty, and for the 
preservation of chastity, which caused the monks of 
the fifth century to cultivate it in their monasteries 
with jealous care. It grows vigorously at Marsa 
Scala and Wied el Bu'runi together with the Populus 
alba and the Tamarix Africana. On several hills 
in Gozo thrives the graceful little valerian named 
by Dufresnoy Oentranthus Calcitrapa." 

"Unless the botanist visits Gozo in the springtime 
he can form no idea of the beauty and wealth of 
some of its valleys in which the fertilising waters 
constantly refresh numerous indigenous plants, which 
together with the cultivated species make these 
districts fair to look upon. The Hypericum JEgijptiacum 
grows abundantly all adown the valley of Xlendi, 
the steep sides of which here and there give susten- 
ance to the Daucus australis. In the same valley 
are to be found very beautiful specimens of Delphinium 
iongipes, Clilora perfoliaia, Sedum amplexwaule y and 
Sedum cceruleum which the Gozitans call, I know 
not for what whim, Gheneb il Madonna or Our 
Lady's grape, the rare Scutellaria pereyrina, and 
many another plant which adds to the beauty which 
Nature has lavished upon this spot." 

"Plants belonging to our flora grow abundantly 
in like manner in other valleys. In marly soils, 
and in the neighbourhood of the sea may be recog- 
nised by its rosy red cluster of blossoms the 
lesser centaurea. which is no less useful in medicine 



28 

than lovely in the garden. At El Pergla in the 
proper season we may find the Triolium abbreviatum, 
the Scabiosa longiflora, the cineraria with its golden 
clusters, and the Samolus Valerundi. There the queen 
of European grasses assumes stately proportions, 
and there grow in great abundance the Campanula 
Erinus, the Rovo, the fruit of which is called the 
spotted mulberry, the plantain, the agnus castus, 
with the sweet melissa and the graceful Torilis 
nodosa. The Similax aspera, and the 8. Mauritanica 
with their climbing stalks cover the rocks and heaps 
of stones." 

" Common in such rural spots are the wild plum, 
quince, pomegranate, and German medlar trees. There 
also we may notice the Celsia cretica, the Diplilotaxis 
viminea, and a goodly number of grasses. On the 
coast) grows the OaJcile maritima, and every where 
in Gozo we find tufts of Ononis ramosissima, which 
is dried and used in the caulking of ships." 

" The Crucianella maritima exhales its balsam- 
like perfume at eventide, and every spring gives life 
to beds of water cress. At San Paolo di Marsa el 
Forn the botanist will find the striped convolvulus, 
and upon the lofty Ta Cenc Rocks the sturdy 
Euphorbia dendrotdes. Upon the hill Ta Harrax 
luxuriate the Conixa Saxatilis, the Lotus cytisoides, 
the tall Fenda nodiflora, and the Ruta chalepensis. 
In the fields which flank this hill grows amongst 
the standing corn the Bartsia trixago var. versicolor 



29 

and under the stone heaps by the sides of these 
fields Helmintia echoides in great profusion. In 
certain waste places we meet with a variety of the 
Cardus pycnocephalus of Linnaeus, which differs 
from the typical species in having perfectly white 
flowers. 

Since the Chair of Natural History and Medical 
Jurisprudence has been occupied by Dr. Gavino 
Gulia, the Botanical Garden has been re organised, 
and now contains some 2000 foreign plants. The 
most critical and rare plants belonging to the 
Maltese flora are also cultivated, so that the tourist 
lover of botany will have no need to visit the 
ravines during the great heats of summer. 



30 



CHAPTER III. 



ffisTOf\v. 



Maltese Naturalists. Wild animals. Marine Mammalia. 
Domestic animals. Maltese Dogs. Tho Econornico-Agrarian 
Society, 

AMONGST the careful observers of birds, beasts, 
reptiles, and zoophytes may be mentioned Sig. 
Antonio Schembri who in 1 Q 43 published a valuable 
list of birds observed in Malta and Gozo, and in 
January 1864 there appeared in the columns of the 
Ibis a most careful and able enumeration of 253 
different species by C. Wright Esqre., since which 
time this eminent naturalist has added 14 others, 
making a present total of 267 species. W. C. P. 
Medlicott. Esqre., W. Grant Esqre., Dr. A. L. Adams, 
the Revd. H. Seddall, Dr. Gavino Gulia, Sig. G. 
Marno, Sig. Gaetano Trapani, Dr. A. A. Caruana, 
Mr. Davidson, and others have also studied the 
Maltese fauna, and the student of Natural History is 
referred to their works which can be obtained from 
the local libraries and booksellers. 



31 

The mammalia of the Maltese islands are re- 
presented by a few well known European forms. 
The wild animals are the weasel, hedgehog, rabbit, 
Norway rat, several species of mouse, and the horse- 
shoe and long eared bats. 

The weasel is the solitary representative of the 
carnivora and is a determined foe to the rabbit- 
It is seldom seen, living as it does in dikes and 
stony places. The hedgehog prefers the cultivated 
districts as does also the rabbit. This latter animal 
was formerly strictly preserved at certain places 
such as Corradino Hill, the neighbourhood of Fom- 
e-rieh, the island of Comino, etc., by the Knights, 
no Maltese sportsman being allowed to shoot or 
otherwise destroy it. It is said that in less than 
seven years Sir H. C. Ponsomby when Governor 
of Malta had 11,000 rabbits killed off near Marfa. 
Eabbits in Malta are less warmly clad in fur than 
their English family connexions. Marl heaps along 
the shore are convenient for burrowing purposes, 
but men and weasels are terrible foes to them. 
The little horse-shoe bat (Phinolophus hipposiderosj 
is often seen during the summer, and is sometimes 
tempted forth by a mild day in winter. The long 
eared bat (Plecotus communis) which has relatives 
both in Southern Europe and Northern Africa, finds 
a home in the caverns and catacombs of Citta Vecchia. 
The Norway rat and common mouse are certainly 
by no means extinct. 



32 

The marine Mammalia are the Monk Seal (Phoco 
Monachus), the porpoise, and one or two species 
of the whale tribe. Specimens of this cetacean are 
occasionally found stranded, as was the case not 
long ago near the General's Rock in Gozo. The 
dolphin Delphis tursio is abundant but being natu- 
rally timid does not often approach the shore. The 
fishermen meet with it at a distance of some six 
miles from the coast. 

Mules and asses which are employed to tread 
out corn, and are yoked with cattle in the fields, 
are of large size, and the Knights of St. John set 
great store by a superior breed of these animals, 
called Janets, which were formerly often exported 
to America and elsewhere. A few specimens worth 
about 20 may still be seen in Gozo. The live 
stock, including some 6000 cattle number about 
25,000. There are two well marked sorts of cattle. 
One is a large, fawn-coloured, bony animal, which 
was evidently formerly very powerful, though at 
present of a very degenerate type. The cows, which 
are frequently used in the cultivation of the soil, 
give but little milk and often produce two calves 
at a time. 

The Barbary ox is a smaller animal, which is 
generally imported from Africa in a lean condition, 
but after being stall-fed for a short time on green 
barley and clover or at other seasons on bruised 
pulse, or barley mixed with bran, and plenty of 



33 

the fat producing cotton seed, he quickly gains 
flesh, and is speedily converted into beef. At 
certain seasons these animals are fed entirely on the 
leaves of the prickly pear which gives a very peculiar 
flavour to their flesh. The horses of Malta which are 
barbs, are being greatly improved by the introduction 
of English and Australian blood. They have the 
character of giving the colt-breaker some trouble. 
Sheep and goats are exceedingly prolific, ewes some- 
times bringing forth as many as four lambs at a 
birth. From the scarcity of pasture, mutton is not 
of the best quality, and both sheep and goats have 
greatly degenerated. They are the chief milk-produ- 
cers, a good goat giving as much as two quarts 
at a time. In Valletta the goat-herd leads his 
bleating animals, whose udders are of unusual size, 
from door to door for the supply of customers. Cheese 
is made from the milk of the sheep, more especially 
in Gozo. 

The Greeks and Roman.s set great store by 
Maltese dogs, and Aristotle describes them as being 
small but beautifully proportioned. Timon says that 
the Sybarites used to take little Maltese dogs with 
them when they went to the bath. These animals 
had long silky hair, and are described by Buffon 
under the name of Bichons, as being a cross between 
the small Spanish terrier and the little barbet. 
Malitheus after Aldrovandi who wrote a very good 
description of this species gives it the name of 



34 

Canis familiaris Meliticus. It is now almost if not 
quite extinct. It was remarkable for the very slight 
affection which it evinced for its master. Plenty 
of loudly barking dogs are however still to be met 
with, but several cases of hydrophobia having been 
reported the police have of late cut short the life 
of many a cur. 

Sir W. Reid whilst Governor of Malta re-organized 
the Economico-Agrarian Society for the improvement 
of the breeds of domestic animals, and for the 
general advancement of agriculture. This Society 
has done good service by holding annual Agricul- 
tural Shows at the Boschetto on the popular festival 
of S. S. Peter and Paul (June 29th), at which 
prizes are given for the best animals and farm 
produce. The same useful Society also holds an 
annual Flower Show at the Upper Barracca in 
Valletta, at the same time maintaining there a 
pleasant garden which is a deservedly popular resort, 
and much frequented both by residents and visitors. 



CHAPTER IV. 



OBSERVED IN MALTA AND Gozo. 

Ornithologists. Periodical Migrations. Influence of 
Winds. Malta in Spring. Indigenous Birds. Feathered 
Visitors. Winter Birds. 

THE following outline has been gleaned from 
the" Notes of a Naturalist" by Dr. A. L. Adams, 
" Malta Past and Present ;> by the Revd. H. Seddall, 
and the exhaustive catalogue of Mr. C. A. Wright^ 
to which with other kindred works such as the 
<c Repertorio di Storia Naturale " of Dr. Gulia, Mr. 
W. Grant's " Birds found in Malta" and the lists 
given by the Marquis Barbaro-Crispo and Sig. Schem- 
bri reference should be made. 

Mr. Wright's original list contained: "Raptores, 
28 ; Insessores Dentirostres, 57; Insessores Conirostres, 
33; Insessores Scansores, 4; Insessores Fissirostres, 13; 
Rasores, 9; Grallatores, 64; Natatores, 47. He has 
since added 14 other species making a total of 
267. He says: "Only 10 or 12 species, are resident, 
that is remain with us all the year round, Malta 



36 

being merely a resting place for birds in their peri- 
odical migrations across the Mediterranean. The 
arrivals of birds chiefly take place at the period of the 
vernal and autumnal equinoxes." The ornithologist 
must be on the alert from the middle of March till the 
end of April, and also during the autumn migration 
which is known as " the great passage." " Occasional 
visitors appear during the winter months, and a 
$ew in summer. Birds generally arrive and leave 
at night, and do not usually remain more than one 
day, thus giving little opportunity of studying their 
habits. Some species however remain a few months 
on the island, and several of them breed here 
en-route for Europe, whilst flocks chiefly of Grallatores 
and Natatores may be seen passing high in the ai r 
without alighting." 

<e The influence exerted by the wind over these 
migrations is no doubt very great. In spring, the 
quails and most of the short-winged and smaller 
birds, and such as are of weak flight, though not unfre- 
quently arriving in calm weather, generally appear 
during the prevalence of winds from the N. N. 
W. to S. S. W., and in autumn with those from 
the S. S. E. to N. N. E., being probably stopped 
in their migratory course, and driven to seek rest 
on our shores." Dr. Adams is of opinion that a 
strong sirocco or north wind and dense sea-haze 
cause the quail to come upon the island unawares. 
<( Sometimes a fresh breeze springing up from any 



3? 

point will bring with it numbers of the smaller 
brids; and if it increase in strength the larger 
birds and those of stronger flight will also make 
their appearance. But there appears to be no 
rule for birds strong on the wing, which arrive 
under all circumstances of weather and with winds 
from all points of the conlpass." 

Mr. Wright continues : " It is more especially 
in spring that in the rocky "wieds" we find the 
bright coloured Bee eaters, Orioles, and Boilers shel- 
tering themselves from boisterous winds, while the 
dense foliage of the Carob trees and Orange groves 
serve them and many others for shade and roost- 
ing places. At this season the Harriers scour the 
rocks and corn fields; the Quails crouch amongst 
the tangled stalks of the crimson Sulla; the Larks, 
(Alauda braehydactyla) , hover over the rocky wastes, 
covered with the aromatic Thymus Capitatus ; and 
the numerous thickets of prickly pear (Cactus o- 
puntict), fig, and pomegranate trees provide resting 
places for Warblers. The air is perfumed by thous- 
ands of wild flowers ; here and there rises a tall 
palm ; and the Arab houses, language, and origin 
of the inhabitants indicate, despite Acts of Parlia- 
ment and a European fauna, Malta's alliance with 
Africa and the East." 

The Revd. H. Seddall says that the indigenous 
species comprise only the Jackdaw, which breeds 
iu cliffs and the fortifications of Valletta; the Blue 



38 

Solitary Thrush,, a lover of rocks and solitude; the 
Spectacled Warbler, generally to be found in the 
Military Cemetery at Floriana ; perhaps the Robin, 
the Herring Gull, and the Kestrel, which breeds in 
cliffs and fortifications. To these may be added 
the Barn Owl, which breeds in ruined walls near 
Valletta and the Three Cities, the Rock Pigeon, 
which rears its young on the southern shores and 
at Filfla, with the Cinereous and Manx Shearwa- 
ters, and the Storm Petrel, which also select 
the same localities for their domestic establishments. 
Fort Manoel Island, the Marsa, the Salini, Marfa, 
etc., are spots loved by the ornithologist. 

The Egyptian Vulture is a rare visitant, but the 
Imperial, Spotted, Short-toed, and Golden Eagles, 
together with the Osprey are sometimes shot. The 
Rough-legged and Honey Buzzards feed on lizards 
and small birds. The Common and Black Kites are 
very rare. The Maltese call the Marsh Harrier, 
Bu-Ghadam or "the father of bones," naming the 
Hen Harrier Bu-ghadam abiad or "the white father 
of bones." Montagu's and the Pale -chested Harriers 
are also seen in March and September. Numerous 
hawks pause in Malta during the spring and au- 
tumn, such as the Sparrow Hawk, Little Red-billed 
Hawk, Falco larbatus, the Peregrine and Eleonora Fal- 
cons, the Lanner, Goshawk, Hobby, Orange-legged 
Hobby, Merlin, Kestrel, and Lesser Kestrel. 



39 

Of the family of the Owls we have the Barn 
Owl, which breeds in the battlements of Valletta 
and the Three Cities, with the Sparrow, Scops, Short, 
and Long- eared varieties. The Wryneck locally known 
as "the King of the Quails," or " the Father of 
Crouchers" is one of the earliest visitors in spring 
and autumn, at which seasons the Cuckoo is also 
common. The Great Spatted Cuckoo is very rare, 
as are also the Crossbill, and Bullfinch. 

The Vinous and Scarlet Grosbeaks are winter 
visitants, and we must not forget the Serin, Green, 
and Hawfinches, or the Spanish, Tree, and Eock 
Sparrows. The Finches are the Chaffinch, Bramble 
Finch, and Siskin, which is often crossed with the 
Canary by the native bird-fanciers. A few Linnets 
breed in Malta, but of the Buntings the Girl, Mea- 
dow, Reed, Snow, and Black-headed varieties are 
rare, whilst the Common and Ortolan species, the 
latter of which loves to bathe in rain water upon 
the rocks, are not uncommon. The beautiful Gold- 
en-crested Regulus is somewhat rare, as is also the 
Fire-crested species. The Book pays us a visit, the 
Jackdaw is a resident, the Magpie and Sardinian 
Starling have been shot, and the Common Starling 
is numerous during the autumn and winter. The 
Eose-coloured Pastor arrives at irregular intervals. 
The Swallow and its relatives must not be 
passed over. They are the Common, Eufous, and 
Eock Swallows, the latter species being perhaps 



40 

resident in Gozo. Also the House and Sand Martins, 
wifch the Common and White-bellied Swifts. The 
Night-jar, Gaprimulgus Europoe-us is shot and snared 
in large numbers for the table, but the Rufous- 
necked Goat Sucker, Gaprimulgus Ruficoilis is rare. 

The Spotted, Pied, and White-necked Fly-catch- 
ers arrive and depart in spring and autumn, and we 
see the Grey, Great Grey, and Lesser Grey Shrikes; 
the Woodchat Shrike known as Bu-Ghiddiem or 
the "Father of Biters" being much more common. 
The Red-backed Shrike is not unknown. 

The Skylark and its congeners, the Crested, 
Wood, Short-toed, Cream-coloured, and Calandra 
Larks are more or less numerous, whilst of the 
Pipits we have the Richard's, Tawny, Meadow, Red- 
throated, Tree, Rock, and Water varieties, together 
with White, Grey, and Yellow Wagtails. 

The Golden Oriole visits the islands regularly 
in spring. This most beautiful bird is exceedingly 
fond of the fruit of the Nespoli or Japanese 
medlar. The Blackbird, Great Titmouse, Ring Ouzel, 
Song, and Missel Thrushes swell our list of birds 
at the spring and autumn migrations. A few Fieldfares 
are caught every year in January, and the 
Redwing appears at irregular intervals. The Rock 
Thrush pays us a flying visit twice yearly, and 
next to the Nightingale the indigenous Blue Solitary 
Thrush is prized for its song. It is remarkable 
for its attachment to the locality in which it has 



41 

been brought up. High prices are often paid for 
good songsters, and the Maltese often suspend a 
piece of red cloth and a cowry shell in the cage, 
which they consider a certain specific against the 
"evil eye"! 

The Common, Russet^ and Eared Wheatears 
visit us, as do also the Winchat, and Stonechat. The 
Nightingale, together with numerous Warblers and 
other small birds is taken in nets which are thrown 
over a low spreading carob tree selected for the 
purpose, the birds being driven from other trees 
into it. 

The Redstart together with the Black variety, 
and the Robin deserve mention. The Hedge Sparrow 
is rather rare, as are also the Blue-throated Warbler, 
and Blackcap. The Garden Warbler is sometimes 
brought to market to the number of a hundred 
dozen at a time. It is the far-famed beccafico of 
the Italians. We can only enumerate the White 
Throat and Lesser White-throat, with the Orphean, 
and Subalpine Warblers. The Spectacled Warbler 
is a resident, and haunts the Military Cemetery at Flo- 
riana. The Maltese call the Black-headed Sardinian 
Warbler Ghasfur tal maltemp or "the bird of bad 
weather/' The Dartford, Willow, Wood, Bonelli's 
and Vieillot's Willow Warblers are all found upon 
these shores. 

The Chiffchaff bears the name of Bu-fula, or 
" the Father of a Bean." The Sedge Warblers are 



42 

three in number, viz., the Common, Rufous, and 
Great varieties. The Reed, Savins, Moustached, and 
Eiver Warblers are all catalogued by Mr. Wright. 
The Hoopoe which is said to breed in great num- 
bers in Tripoli, the Roller, a bird which occasionally 
makes a nest in some ruin, and which English- 
men sometimes call "the Blue Jay," and the two 
Bee-eaters, which are shot by the score at one dis- 
charge, are amongst the most beautiful of our fea- 
thered visitants. 

It is said that the Kingfisher sometimes breeds 
here, but the Wood and Stock Pigeons do not. The 
Rock Pigeon rears its young in considerable num- 
bers on the southern shores of the islands, and also 
at Filfla. The Turtle Dove, strong on the wing, 
is caught in large numbers in platform nets by 
the aid of the hooded decoy birds. For a full ac- 
count of this sport see Mr. Wright's list before 
referred to. Dove catching is a thoroughly clerical 
amusement in Malta, The natives are good marks- 
men, and are very skilful in luring birds by imita- 
tions of their notes. The Pintail Sandgrouse comes 
now and then, and the Quail is the principal game 
of the sportsmen of Malta. Fifty or sixty brace 
may be shot in a day, but ten or fifteen brace 
are ordinarily a very good bag. Some quail are also 
caught by imitating the call-note of the female, and 
so drawing the males, which are the first to arrive, 
into nets spread on the standing corn. 



43 

The Bustard, Little, and Buffed Bustards are 
rare, as is also the Cream-coloured Courser which 
the natives call the English Plover, but the Thick 
Knee may be almost considered resident. The Golden 
Plover, Dotterel, Ringed, Little Kinged, and Grey 
Plovers are common, and visit the islands regularly, 
but the Kentish, White-tailed, Asiatic, Golden, and 
Spur-winged Plovers are more or less rare. The 
Oyster Catcher is only an accidental visitor, but the 
Collared Pratincole and the Lapwing arrive and 
depart year by year. 

Common and Numidian Cranes are sometimes 
seen, and Common, Purple, White, Squacco, and 
Buff-backed Herons, together with Egrets, pass and 
repass, as do also the Bittern, Little Bittern, and 
Night Heron. White and Black Storks, and the 
Spoonbill are alike rare, but the Glossy Ibis, Cur- 
lew, Whimbrel and Slender-billed Curlew, are re- 
gularly seen and shot during the spring and autumn. 
The Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits are not 
common, but the Greenshank, Redshank, and Spot- 
ted Redshank are more so. 

Sandpipers are often observed. We may men- 
tion the Marsh, Wood, Green, Common, Bartram'"s, 
and Curlew varieties, together with the Sanderling, 
which last occasionally finds its way to our shores. 
Ruffs, Great, Common, and Jack Snipe, as well as 
Woodcocks are fairly abundant at the periods of 
migration. The Knot is rare, but the Dunlin an.4 



44 

Stint are common, though Temminck's Stint is much 
less so. The Turnstone and Avocet are somewhat 
rare, but the Stilt is more frequently met with. 
The crimson-winged Flamingo which is so abundant 
upon the inland waters of Barbary is merely a acci- 
dental visitor. The Water Rail which the Maltese 
call the Winter Rail is not very common, but the 
Corn, Spotted, Baillon's and Little Crakes are in 
some years fairly abundant. The Water Hen> Coot, 
and Crested Coot, are not uncommon, nor are the 
Skua and Pomarine Skua quite unknown. 

Of the Gulls the Lesser Black-headed, Herring, 
Audouin's, Common, Kittiwake, Slender-billed, Adri- 
atic or Mediterranean, Black or Brown-headed, and 
Little varieties hover above and around us. The 
Terns are represented by the Sandwich, Common, 
Lesser, Black, Whiskered, and Gull-billed species. 
The Cinereous aud Manx Shearwaters which are 
amongst our indigenous birds rear their young among 
the cliffs of the southern shores of Malta and Gozo, 
at Filfla, and at Comino, allowing themselves often- 
times to be taken whilst sitting on the nest. To 
the Storm Petrel we have already alluded. The 
Cormorant and Pelican are by no means regular in 
their visits, and the Bean Goose seldom makes any 
stay with us, usually flying high over head, as do 
also the Hooper and Mute Swans. A flock of the 
last named noble birds was however seen in the 
Quarantine Harbour on December 23rd, 1865. 



45 

The Common and Ruddy Shieldrakes bead the 
list of the genus Anas, of which the Shoveller is 
one of the most common, the Mallard being also 
a winter visitor. The Pintail Duck and Gadwall come 
only occasionally, but the Widgeon, Teal, and Summer 
Teal are seen in larger numbers. The Pochard, 
and the Tufted, Red-crested, Whistling, and White- 
headed Ducks are scarce, but the Nyroca Duck is 
perhaps the commonest Duck that visits the islands. 
The Red-breasted Merganser, Smew, Red-throated 
Diver, the Crested, Horned, Eared, and Little Grebes, 
with the Guillemot and Puffin close our list. 

Dr. Adams says: r" To the ornithologist there 
is not much variety in the fields in midwinter. 
Among the crops of cacti, (0. Op.untia), a solitary 
song thrush or blackbird is occasionally seen; from 
the dike -top the ringing note of the bunting, ( E. 
mil aria), the chirpings t of the reed sparrow from 
the house-top, robin, and the chiff-chaff utter their 
well-known call-notes. A few song larks, and a 
solitary pied or grey wagtail are occasionally observed; 
but of all the midvyinter tenants of the fields the 
tit-lark is the most plentiful. A stoneohat, or the 
white-fronted redstart hops along some stony lane, 
whilst small flocks of chaffinches are seen among 
the tree tops. About this season of the year, when 
the northern blasts blow strong, and the gregale 
lasts for three days at a time, there may appear 
such accidental visitors as the fire and golden- 



46 

crested wrens, pelican, crossbill, fieldfare, missel- 
thrush, rook, etc; but many of the early winter 
birds push southward by the middle of Jannuary, 
as soon as the fields have been ploughed, and the 
crops are getting up. If there is one pleasant re- 
miniscence more acceptable to my memory than ano- 
ther, it is those happy winter days, when I used 
to crawl along the beetling cliffs of Emtahleb and 
its neighbourhood fossil-hunting, with the blue 
thrush, serin finch, linnet, and spectacled warbler, 
singing sweetly among the olive trees below me. " 



47 



CHAPTER V. 

REPTILES, 



/ 



DR. GULIA has published a complete list of 
the reptiles existing in Malta in II Barth, a medical 
and scientific journal of which he was the editor* 
The common Land Tortoise or Fecruna ta V ard is 
not used as food, although its flesh is palatable. 
The common Turtle or Fecruna tal Bahar is often 
taken by fishermen. 

Lizards are plentiful enough especially the Wall 
Lizard or Gremxula, which changes its colour with 
ease. Strange to say, all the lizards on the islet rock 
of Filfla are of a beautiful bronze black, a colour 
not to be found on the mainland. The Gongylus 
ocellatus or Ocellated Skink, which the natives call 
Xahmet V ard or " the fat of the earth" is a smooth, 
slippery, fat reptile, with a skin like a snake's and 
vary short legs. It grows to the length of 8 or 10 
inches, and lives under large stones. The Ascal- 
obotes Mauritanicus or Italian tarantola is called in 
Malta Uizgha Seuda, and the name of Uizgha is 
given to a small ugly house-infesting lizard. The 



48 

bones of a large fossil lizard were found by Dr. 
Adams at Benghisa. Only two species of snakes 
are indigenous, both of which are quite harmless. 
They are the Coluber viridiflavus which the Maltese 
call Serp or Ghul, and the Spotted Snake or Lifgha. 
These snakes are plentiful but timid, sometimes 
attaining a length of 23 inches. According to native 
tradition St. Paul banished all venomous snakes 
from Malta, as St. Patrick did from Ireland, and 
the saliva of persons born on the festival of the 
Conversion of St. Paul is said to be efficacious in 
the cure of snake bites, as are also St. Paul's earth, 
and the Terra SigiUata Melituce. 

The Painted Frog which croaks in numbers in 
the pools, in the aqueduct at the Marsa, and some- 
times in brackish water was formerly fried and eaten 
on fast days, and was also given in the form of 
soup to sick children. 

In addition to the list of reptiles by Dr. Gulia 
already referred to, see also Dr. A. L. Adams' 
"Notes of a Naturalist,'\and "Malta Past and 
Present. " 



49 



CHAPTER VI. 



ALTESE I CHTHYOLOGY. 

Books of Reference. Methods of Fishing. Finny Resi- 
dents and Visitors. Fishery Regulations. 

The following remarks are for the most part 
translated and abridged from the admirable "Ten- 
tamen Ichthyologise Melitensis" of Dr. Gulia, who 
has most kindly given me every possible assistance. 
Carsten Niebuhr a Danish naturalist was the first 
to publish a list of Maltese fishes in 1775, compiled 
by Giorgio Locano, which described some 116 species^ 
and in 1838 Sig. Gaetano Trapani compiled a cata- 
logue in which he enumerated 157 different species. 
Dr. Gulia in 1861 made mention of 186 species, 
belonging to 108 genera, and 47 natural families. 
The markets should be visited in the early morning, 
and at the fishing port of Migiarro in Gozo many 
curious specimens may be met with. Fish are 
fairly abundant and cheap. Their colours are more 
gorgeous, but their flavour is inferior to those 
caught in more northern latitudes. The hand line 
lenza, and the wicker pots naose, the large seine 



50 

xarpa, and the small seine tartarun, together with 
the trammel parity the casting net teriha, the long 
handled fish spear foxna-, and the rod are all em- 
ployed by the fishermen. The latter is most successful 
after a gregale. Fishing with a white feather below 
which is a hook whilst sailing briskly is often amp- 
ly rewarded. The Lampuca a large species of 
Mackerel is caught by this means, and also by long 
lines with almost countless hooks, cuttle fish being 
used as bait. 

The Sea Lamprey or Kalfat famed for activity 
is seldom caught, being deficient in flavour. Malta 
can boast of two varieties of the Murasna (Marina), 
of exquisite flavour, but of which the bite is dan- 
gerous, viz., the very abundant and much prized 
Murcena hcelena or Yellow-spotted Eel, and the Mu- 
raena unicolor which is extremely rare. The Com- 
mon Eel which the Maltese call Sallura is plenti- 
ful. Four species of Conger Eel or Gringu inhabit 
these waters. They are the Rock, Sand, White, and 
Black Congers. The Sea Viper called here the Sea 
Snake has good but indigestible flesh. Of these 
gluttons of the sea the two former are edible, the 
second being generally preferred. 

Passing on to the family of the Clupeideae, we 
note their commercial importance. The Anchovy is to 
the Mediterranean what the Herring is to the north- 
ern waters. This fish known in Malta as the In- 
ciova is gregarious in its habits. With the excep- 



51 

tion of the Bitter Anchovy the various species are 
deservedly esteemed for the table. The Sardine, shoals 
of which are caught in the fishermen's seines must 
not be forgotten. The Salmo Fario or Salamun is 
but rarely caught, and two species of fish which Dr. 
Gulia classifies as Micromugil timidus and Micromu- 
gil macrogaster are found in the aqueduct at the 
Marsa, and round the shores of Malta. 

Five species of the Scomberesocidae are met with, 
amongst which are the Flying Fish or Rondinella, 
the Sea Pike or Litza, and the Needle Fish or 
Imsella. The Maroon or Ciaul is a favourite food 
of the feline race. 

The rock-haunting Wrasse or Tirda which be- 
longs to the family of the Labridae often repays 
the patience of the angler. Dr. Gulia has done 
much to classify the different species of Wrasse, 
and to his most interesting treatise the lover of 
ichthyology is referred. We must not fail to men- 
tion the Scarus Creticus or Martzpan, renowned of 
old in story, which Epicarmus in the fifth century 
before the Christianera, said was a dish for the Gods. 
From its beautiful colours it has been styled the 
Parrot of the Sea. It was formerly somewhat rare 
on these shores, but has of late been plentiful. 

Of the Acantini we have ten or eleven species, 
most of which are edible. The Galera or Ballottra 
tar-ramel, is the Ophidium barbatum, and is the only 
species of this genus found in our waters. It is 



52 

neither very abundant nor highly esteemed for the 
table. 

The Gadideae or Cod family are somewhat nu- 
merous, and are represented by some four or five 
varieties. These are the Pecorella or Ballottra, the 
Merluzzo or Marloz, and the two varieties of the 
Lipp or Sea Tench. The famous Eemora or Pesci 
Tmun, with its curious sucker must be included in 
our list. 

Of the Pleuronectideae or Flat- Fish Dr. Gulia enu- 
merates four species as belonging to the fish of 
Malta. The Rhombus Laevis or Barbun is the most 
plentiful. The Rhombus Maximus or Turbot is very 
rare. Two kinds of Sole are also caught, the com- 
mon variety being styled by the natives Linguata. 
The Order of the Acanthopteri furnishes many a 
dainty for the table. 

The Trachini or Weever Fish, which it is said de- 
rive their name from their tenacity of life, are repre- 
sented by three varieties. They are edible, but are justly 
dreaded by the fishermen on account of the wounds 
inflicted by their dorsal fins. Hence the great Weever 
is often called by English fisher folk the Sting-Bull. 
The Percideae or Perch family are numerous- The 
Basse or Spnotta is rare, but is a very handsome 
fish. Apogon rex mullorum or Beardless Mullet which 
is much esteemed by eaters of fish, really belongs to 
this family. The Kock Cod or Cerna, and the 
Thorny Perch or Hanzir grow to a large size, 



53 

&nd inhabit deep water, whilst other varieties are 
caught not far from shore. The Sea Perch is highly 
recommended to convalescents as being easy of 
digestion. 

The Red and Yellow- striped Mullets or TrigUe, 
the former of which loves the rock, whilst the 
latter prefers the inud, are well known fish. Six 
species of the mullet are mentioned by Dr. Gulia. 
Of the Triglidiae eleven species swim in our seas, 
including the beautiful Flying Gurnard, called by 
the Maltese Falcun or Bies. 

The Sow*fish and Sea Scorpion are nutritious, 
but another variety of the same tribe which inhabits 
deep waters is but lightly esteemed. 

The family of the Sparideue, can boast of 17 
species, amongst which we may especially note the 
Vopa or Boops. The fishermen love the fish of 
this family well. 

The migratory Scombriedae or Mackarel which 
are plentiful at all seasons muster in great force, 
and are of immense value to the dwellers on the 
shores of the Mediterranean. The Pilot Fish is 
foolish, and tenacious of life, but no delicacy. The 
four varieties of the Tunny are with one exception 
deservedly and highly prized, and the Sword Fish, 
albeit of no great size is not to be despised. The 
Lampuca is an autumn visitant most welcome to 
the fishermen, but the oily Turkish species is rare, 
as it prefers Sicilian waters. The Bonito is a great 



54 

delicacy, but the Plain or Striped variety is rarely 

eaten, nor is the Horse Mackarel highly thought 

of. The John Dory or Pesci San Pietru deserves 

mention. 

The Cepolideae are represented by the Bed and 
White varieties of the Snake Fish, and by Trachy- 
pterus Spinoloe which last was caught at Marsa- 
sirocco in 1871. 

The Blenny tribe is not of any great value 
as food, and two varieties of the Sea Devil or 
Petricia are caught, together with two several kinds 
of Hippocampus or Sea- Horse. 

The Plagiostomi are numerous. One of the 
varieties of the Scyllideoe is the Catfish, which is 
very plentiful, but its flesh has a disagreeable odour, 
which is only partially removed by being steeped 
in water. The poorer classes eat it, and its native 
name is Kattus. The Lesser Spotted and the 
Black Mouthed Dog Fish are caught. 

The Pesce Cane or Penny Dog which whilst 
young is called the Miller Dog is common, the 
female producing from 60 to 80 young every year. 
The Blue Shark which the Maltese style the Sea 
Dog is still more ferocious. 

The White Shark is the most terrible of his 
tribe, but is fortunately a somewhat rare visitant. 

The Lamna cornubica or Smeriglio which some- 
times attains the length of 24 feet is edible, but 



55 

woe to any hapless mariner on whom his cruel jaws 
may close ! 

The Sea Fox or Fox Shark is rare and of 
singularly cunning habits. The Grey, Smooth, and 
Picked Sharks may be mentioned, together with the 
Shark Ray, Balance Fish, and Saw Fish. 

The Rays nine in number, such as the Cramp, 
Thornback, Spotted, Sharp-nosed, Sting, and Eagle 
varieties are voracious, and lovers of darkness. They 
have been compared to the birds which seek their 
prey by night. Edible themselves, they are terrible 
fish slayers. 

Fishery regulations and a close season have 
lately been established, to the no small benefit of 
the fisheries, which were fast becoming impoverished. 



56 



CHAPTER VII. 

ENTOMOLOGY. 

Beetles. Cockroaches, Locusts, and Grasshoppers. 
Dragonflies etc. Bees, Wasps, and Ants. Butterflies and 
Moths. Parasites. Flies and Gnats. Scorpions, Spiders, 
etc. 

IT was reserved for Dr. Gulia to publish th e 
first, and as yet, the only standard work on insects 
found in Malta and Gozo. Mr. Leach in 1832 
collected numerous specimens, which he sent to 
the London Zoological Society, but his lamented 
death from cholera at Genoa prevented the publi- 
cation of his intended work. In 1857 under the 
auspices of Sir W. Eeid, who was then Governor 
of Malta, Dr. Gulia delivered a course of entomo- 
logical lectures to a class of students at the 
Palace of St' Antonio, which he afterwards published. 
These he has most kindly allowed me to use, and 
from this source the following pages are drawn. 

Three varieties of the Tiger Beetle are met 
with, of which Oicindela littoralis and C. hybrida 
love the [sand, whilst C. germanica, which is only 
half the size of the other two, prefers herbage. 



57 

Passing on to the Carabidce we have the voracious 
Calosoma sycopkanta, C. indagator, Carabus granulatus, 
Carabus laevigatus, Procrustes coriaceus, and numerous 
varieties not as yet classified. 

In stagnant pools dwell Gyrinus fontanalis and 
Dytiscus circumflexus. Of the Burying-Beetles, known 
in France as Boucliers we have two varieties Silpha 
sinuata and S. obscura* 

Several species of the Scarabaeus form part of our 
list, of which Bubas bison is not very common. The 
name of Bukuar is locally given to three species 
collectively. The Horned Beetle is the largest 
insect of the order which we possess, the Stag 
Beetle is rare, but the Tumbler Dung Beetle abounds 
in the fields, and the Cockchafer must not be 
excluded. 

The Barbary-bug or Busuf is terribly destructive 
when fruit-trees are in flower. The Rose-chaffer is 
here called Ghaur or the Digger, and we have also 
the swift Rove Beetle. Buprestis tenebricosa, B. dis- 
coidea, with B. viridis and several other species are 
well known, as is also the Glow-worm or Musbih 
el-leil. 

The Darkling Beetle or Hanfusa together with 
a smaller variety is found in moist spots, and the 
Field Beetle or Hanfusa Tar-raba is everywhere 
plentiful. The Meal Beetle is a pest to millers and 
storekeepers, and at least two species of Blister 
Beetle, one of which is found on the blossoms of 



58 

the Chrysanthemum, have been observed. The Soft 
Beetle or Dliela endangers the lives of animals that 
inadvertently swallow it. Pea, Kice, and Grain Weevils 
are unwelcome guests, the Lixus parapleticus is 
hurtful to horses when swallowed, and Brachycerus 
undatus and barbarus, of which negro women make 
necklaces and amulets are common. 

The Golden Beetle specially loves the cat-mint, 
and we have also the variety called in France the 
Gilded Harlequin, not to mention others. The Crio- 
ceris asparagi has been seen in Gozo. Lady-birds 
called Dud ta 1'iscola are plentiful. 

The Orthopteri those scourges of industry abound 
in these islands. We have the Black, Eed, and 
German Cockroaches, the latter being small and 
rare. Three species of Mantis or Walking Leaves 
bear the name of Debba ta F Infern. Two of them 
are Mantis oratorio, and Mendica. Eed, Blue, and 
Green Grasshoppers swarm, and the Migratory Lo- 
cust sometimes threatens us with its destructive 
visits. In 1850 a swarm passed over the eastern 
portion of the island, doing damage at Casal Zab- 
bar and at Wied el Ghain, and covering the sea 
with their bodies. The Mole Cricket is also very 
hurtful to the crops, the Field-Cricket proverbial for 
stupidity utters its shrill note in summer, and we 
have two varieties of the Long-headed Grasshopper 

the Bar-wig. 



59 

The Neuropteri are here named Mazzarelli. May- 
flies, Dragon-flies, two varieties of the Ant-lion, A- 
grion puella, Oalepterix virgo, with one species of 
(Eshna, Lestes, and Chrysopa, sum up this class of 
insects. 

The Wild-fig and Oak-leaf Flies which are better 
known as Gall-Flies, and the Ruby- tailed Fly all 
dwell in Malta. The female Urocerus Gigas stings 
sharply. The Blue Bee or Nahal Baghli, the Spot- 
ted Bee, the Mason Bee or Nahal Bennei, the Hive 
Bee or Nahal, P the Nomada bi-fasciata and N. uni- 
Jasciata are all Maltese insects, as are also several 
kinds of wasps, such as the Sand Wasp or Baghal, 
Vespa Ichoris, V. Grecorum, and Polistes gallica. 
Sphex spirifex is fond of grapes, and Scolia j)avi- 
frons is very common. 

To the Ant the Maltese give the name of Ne- 
meL Two kinds of Eed Ants, the Turf Ant, and 
Formica herculanea dwell here. The winged Ants 
are called Sultan el nemel or King of Ants. 

Caterpillars have the local name of Duda tal 
Farfett, the chrysalis being styled Fosdka, and the 
butterfly Farfett. The Cabbage and Turnip Butter- 
flies are common, and in the caterpillar stage do 
much mischief. We may enumerate Rhodocera Rham- 
ni, R. Cleopatra, Vanessa Atalanta, the Swallow 
Tailed Butterfly, here called the Rue Butterfly, or 
Farfett tal Feigel from its preference for that plant, 
the Queen's Page, or Papilio Podaliurus, Ochsenhu* 



60 

meria Cardui, Golias Edusa, C. Lesbia, Polyomat- 
us Phloeas, and the beautiful P. Argus, which the 
Italians call Hundred Eyes. 

The Humming-bird Hawk Moth or Bahria is 
sometimes called the Pigeon's Tail Sphinx. The 
Death's Head Moth is called Farfett el Meut or 
Eas el Meut. The Humming - bird Hawk Moth is 
looked upon as the harbinger of bad news, whilst 
the sight of the two varieties of the Eed News- 
monger is considered a happy omen. The Convol- 
vulus Moth feeds upon the Convolvulus whilst in 
the Caterpillar stage. 

A solitary specimen of Saturnia pavonia major 
has been caught. The Mulberry Silkworm called 
Dud or Farfett tal harir has been reared here for 
centuries, and Sir "W. Reid when Governor introduced 
the Palma Christi species called Duda tal Harir 
ta Riccinu. 

Clothes Moths are destructive, and other species 
spoil quantities of grain. Deiopeia pulcliella is seen 
at eventide. 

Two kinds of cicala feed upon the sap of 
trees and plants, and Aphidae or Brighet-tas-sigiar 
are numerous on the centaurea, bean, oat, cabbage, 
etc. Indeed every plant seems to have its parti- 
cular aphis. Scale insects including the cochineal va- 
riety are likewise not wanting. The latter however does 
not thrive in Malta. Would that we could say the 
same of Black, Green, Wild, and Bed Bugs, with 



61 

other pests such as Flies and Gnats ! The Common 
and Meat Flies, the former of which is called 
Dubbien and the latter Dubbiena tal Laharri, have 
many friends such as Musca meteorica, M. ster cor aria, 
M. pumulionis, and others. Gnats, Sand-flies, and 
Gad-flies tease and sting, the latter depositing their 
eggs beneath the skins of sheep and oxen, whilst 
the Conops or Horse Wasp called Xidia is troublesome 
in damp weather, The usual parasites infect men 
who love not soap and water, and badly tended 
animals. Although not coming under the head of 
insects, we may here make mention of the Scorpion 
or Imkass, from one to two inches in length found 
under stones in the valleys, but which never seems 
to harm any one, together with the Water Scorpion 
or Imkass ta V Elma, and also the Scolopendra or 
Xini Esfar, the Gally-worm or Hanex ta I/ Endeua^ 
the Centipede or Xini ta I/ Endeua, and the Wood- 
louse or Hanzir ta V Art. 

Numerous Spiders are also to be met with, 
amongst which we must not forget the Geometric 
Spider, or Brimba tas salib, the Dancing Spider, 
or Brimba tal Meut, several kinds of Hunting 
Spider, known as Brimba ta Sakajha Tual, and the 
Tarantula Spider or Trenta. 

The Earth Worm is of course plentiful, but 
the Revd. H. Seddall says: 

" Of Tube Worms and other Annelids I have 
met with but few species, and these of no remarkable 



62 

beauty, with the exception of the Sabella, which 

may frequently be seen on a calm day in the 

Quarantine Harbour, with its double spiral of ten- 

taculse projecting from its leathery tube of eight 

or ten inches in length. They live well in an 

aquarium." 

Much more could be added did space permit, 
but every entomologist should not fail to study for 
himself Dr. Gulia's most interesting and able treatise. 



63 



CHAPTER VIII. 



LF^USTACEA, 

THE Crustacea of Malta have been admirably 
classified by Dr. Gulia and for his list of them see 
page 314 of the first volume of "II Earth." The 
Revd. H. Seddall also enumerates numerous species 
in an appendix to his book " Malta Past and Pre- 
sent/' but it is from Dr. Gulia's list that, with his 
kind permission and assistance the following facts 
have been gathered. 

The Long-legged Spider Crab about an inch in 
length is plentiful, as are also the Four-horned and 
Spinous Spider Crabs. The common Shore Crab 
loves the mud, and the Swimming Crabs are repre- 
sented amongst others by the Cleanser, Velvet, and 
Wrinkled varieties, all of which are useful as food. 
Land crabs abound in brooks, and in fresh water at 
the Marsa, Gneina, etc. They are often converted 
into soup on fast days by poor people, who in 
consequence suffer from diarrhoea. The Common 
Pea Crab is very rare, but the Pinna variety is 
fairly abundant, as are also the Angular Crab, the 



64 

Death's-head Crab excellent in soup, the Turk Crab, 
or Granc tat toroc, and the Sea Cock or Serduk 
el bahar, a gigantic mollusc of a dark claret colour 
with an internal shell. 

The Hermit crabs number eight varieties, and 
are plentiful. The Pacjurus Prideauxii which loves 
the anemone so well, is not as common as the 
other varieties. 

The Hairy Porcelain crab is abundant, but not 
so the minute variety. The White and Rough Craw- 
fish, and the Spiny Lobster dear to epicures be- 
sides other varieties are common in the markets. The 
Common and Banded Shrimp, and the Common Prawn 
must not be omitted. 

The Phyllosomidae have but one representative, 
and Squilla mantis known as Cicala Baida also stands 
alone. The Fishing or Shore Worm is used as bait 
for fish of the Sparus tribe. Its English name is 
the Sea Slater. Three species of Wood-lice are met 
with. Several varieties of Water Fleas, three or four 
kinds of Cowries, one of which Cypris Pubena has a 
horny bivalve shell like a mollusc, and the active Cyc- 
lops vulgaris may be mentioned. 

To quote the Eevd. H. Seddall once more. 
<( Many of the crustaceans may be taken with a 
common dip or landing net from the rocks and 
quays by drawing it through the seaweed: others 
by dredging the beds of Zostera in the bays or 



65 

harbours. Marsascala and Mareasiroeco are good lo- 
calities. Others can only be taken in the large fish 
and lobster baskets called nasse, which are laid 
down in deep water by the fishermen/' 



66 



CHAPTER IX. 



OLLUSCA. 



Authorities. Edible Mollusca. Eock Shells, Whelks, 
and Cone Shells. Turret, Wreath, and Ear Shells. Snails, 
Echini, and Mussels. Brachiopoda and Pteropoda. 

THERE is in the Public Library a large col- 
lection of Malta shells which should be examined 
by any one who feels an interest in this branch of 
Natural History. Captain Spratt R. N. and the 
Revd. H. Seddall were amongst others, zealous col- 
lectors, and in an appendix to his well known work 
"Malta Past and Present," the latter has given much 
useful information as to the places which will best 
repay a search. In the first volume of the Medi- 
cal Scientific Journal "II Earth" there is (p. 193), 
the first portion of a classification of the terrestrial 
and aquatic mollusca of these islands by the Cav. 
Luigi Benoit and Dr. Gavino Gulia. It is much 
to be hoped that the remaining portion will ere 
long see the light. 

The late Sig. G. Mamo, in the course of 47 
years collected in the Maltese islands and adjacent 



67 

seas 438 species of Mollusca. His collection of which 
after his death, Dr. A. A. Caruana published a ca- 
talogue in 1867, comprised "Acephala or bivalves, 
145; Tunicata, 6; BratMopoda, 9; Pteropoda, 8; Ga- 
stropoda, 259; (of which 42 inhabit land or fresh 
water); Cephalopoda, 9; Heteropoda, 1. This valuable 
collection was fortunately retained in Malta, and has 
ever since been of great use to all lovers of Nature, 
Sir William Reid, who was then Governor of Mal- 
ta, having purchased it for the small sum of 30^ 
for the Public Library. 

Many Mollusca are here used as food, espe- 
cially by the poorer classes, such as the Helix as- 
persa known in Malta as Okal'mxa. With the ex- 
ception of the musk- poly pus and the paper nauti- 
lus, all the cephalapods found hereabouts including 
two varieties of the octopus, and several of the cut- 
tle-fish are eaten. The gasteropods likewise increase 
our supplies of food, and many a univalve is highly 
appreciated, as are also numerous bivalves. Marine 
molluscs have a more delicate flavour in summer 
than in winter, but care must be taken not to eat 
those taken from copper sheathing, those which at 
certain periods become unwholesome, those which 
are of an unusual colour, those which do not shut 
spontaneously, and those which have been caught 
more than 12 hours in summer and 24 in winter. 

The family of the Muricidae or Rock Shells 
is represented by several varieties, which have a 



68 

special affection for the weedy bottom of the Bay 
of Marsasirocco. Murex brandaris is locally known as 
Sultan el Beccum, or the King Beccum, Murex 
trunculus being styled simply Beccum. Both of these 
are abundant and edible, and some think that it was 
from them that the ancients obtained their world 
famous purple dye. It is however the opinion of 
Dr. Gulia and other competent authorities that 
Purpura Hawiastoma supplied the dye in question. 
The edible Fusvs lignarius is somewhat common, 
and is called Gharus or Sigromblu tal bahar. The 
Maltese call the sea " Bahar." 

The Buccinidce or Whelks have numerous re- 
presentatives, which are found in very large numbers 
at Marsasirocco, in the harbours of Valletta, and 
indeed everywhere. Specimens of Nassoe- are most 
abundant in the Great and Marsamuscetto Har- 
bours. 

Of the beautiful Cone Shells Conns Medi- 
texraneus which the Maltese call Sgorra is abundant. 
Pleurotoma septangularis may be met with at Marsa- 
cala, Chercheua, and St. Julian's. The rarer P. 
multilineata haunts Marsascala. 

Four species of Mitra and three of Marginella 
are common upon the sands. Cipraea lurida of 
the Maltese name is Bahbuha is very common, as 
is also C. spurca, but C. pyrum is very rare. Threa 
varieties of Natica are numerous, edible, and knosvn 
by the name of Ghakrux el bahar or 



69 

snail." The genus Cerithium is represented every- 
where, and adds to our food supplies, preferring 
shallow waters with a sandy bottom* Its repre- 
sentatives are popularly styled Brancutlu. 

The Turret Shells can boast of a Scalaria, and 
two species of Vermetus, one of which bears the 
name of Farrett, are tolerably common in the Great 
Harbour. Litorina neritoides is plentiful all along 
the shore, and also upon the stones and sides of 
the brackish canal at the Marsa, and several vari- 
eties of Rissoa will be found at Marsascala, San 
Tommaso, and Bir-zebbugia. Hydrobia uluoe is com- 
mon amongst seaweed, as is also Neritina viridit. 
The pretty Wreath Shells are also numerous. We may 
note Phasianella speciosa with its two varieties, 
one almost entirely red, and the other milk white. 
The Top Shells or Carriers are common both as. to 
living and fossil specimens. Of the Ear Shells 
Haliotis tuberculata is eaten by the Sicilians. Its 
Maltese name is Mhara Imperiala. It- is found 
everywhere attached to stones in deep water. Jan- 
ihina bicolor is rarely taken except at St. Julian's 
Bay. 

Several varieties of limpets are eagerly collected 
for the table, their Maltese name being Mhara, 
and the Crepidula unguiformis known as Papocc 
or "slippers" represents the Calyptraeidae, as the 
Xifa tal bahar or "sea-thread" does the Tooth Shells. 
Chiion cajetanus abounds in the Great Harbour. 



70 

Numerous indeed are the Helicidae. No fewer than 
nineteen species of the true snails are met with. 
The Helix aspersa called Ghakruxa ta V art (earth- 
snail) or Bebbuxa ragel (male snail) is eaten by 
the poorer classes. The Moghza or black snail, the 
ravages of which are justly dreaded by the farmer 
is a Sicilian dish. The prolific Nagbgia or female 
snail and the egg snail are also wholesome. Helix 
gaulitana is found at Marsa-el-Forn and on the 
General's Rock in Gozo. Amongst the Clausitia, 
we must mention C. DeUcatae and C. Mamotica, 
the first of which is only found at St. Paul's Bay, 
and the second in Gozo. Physa meUtensis disports 
itself in fountains and aqueducts, and Oyclosfoma 
Melitense is very common under stones in uncul- 
tivated grounds. 

Bulla liydatis commonly styled Baida tal Bahar 
or Sea Egg abounds in the bays of Marsascala 
and Cercheua. 

Several species of oysters are obtainable, and 
in 1866 oyster beds were formed in various places, 
but without much success. The Rev. H. Seddall 
says "Five species of Pinna are found in Malta, 
some of them common in the harbours within 
reach of a pole or boat hook. They project from 
the mud amongst the Zostera roots to which they 
are attached by their silken cable. Of this silk 
which is of fine texture, but heavy, I have seen 
gloves made/' 



71 

The Mussel, or Masclu is found everywhere, and 
also the Pholas dadylus or "sea date." Its native 
name is Tarala baida or "white date." A Maltese 
author says that "nature in her bounty to her 
favourite people of Malta has made even the very 
stone upon the sea -shore to become pregnant, 
from whence we draw the delicious sea date." 

It is found in soft limestone below water. 
One of the two varieties has a white, and the 
other a brown shell. The latter is highly phos- 
phorescent. 

Area barbata called Fardocclu or Spardocclu, 
found on submerged rocks is the most savoury of 
its tribe. The edible Cockle or Arzel loves the 
muddy bottom, five varieties of Lucinidae, ten of the 
genus Venus and nine Tellmidae may also be noted. 
Mr. Davidson has described some of the Brachiopoda, 
but many others still await examination and classi- 
fication. "Terebratula vitrea and T. caput serpentis, 
with five species of Orthis have been taken in deep 
water off the islands. Eight species of Ptero- 
po(/a, of the genera Hyalana, Cleodora, and Odon- 
tidium" are included in Dr. Caruana's catalogue of 
Sig. Mamo's collection, to which, together with 
other previously mentioned works the reader is 
referred. 



72 



CHAPTER X. 

ZOOPHYTES. 



/ 



THE Zoophytes of the Mediterranean will well 
repay the careful student, who will here find a wide 
and comparatively unexplored field of labour. No 
naturalist has as yet written a full, accurate, and 
minute description of the lower forms of Maltese 
animal life. Dr. Gulia who has kindly aided me, 
has devoted much careful attention to this and 
other departments of Natural History, and the publi- 
cation of the results of his observations is a thing 
greatly to be desired in the interests of science. 

Fishermen and others meet with rare and 
beautiful zoophytes, but, ignorant of their scientific 
value, consign them to the deep, or throw them 
upon the rocks to die. About four varieties of 
sponge grow in the harbours and in deep water- 
It is as yet uncertain whether a fifth variety can 
be claimed as belonging to Gozo, or whether it is 
but a waif and stray from Sicilian waters. A 
gregale brings on shore numerous sponges, seaweed, 
and other marine treasures, amongst which we 
may note the Portuguese Man of War, Cesium Vene- 
ris etc. 



73 

The Eev. H. Seddall to whose work " Malta 
Past and Present" reference should be made, says: 
"Zoophytes of many species are easily found in 
the rock pools, and growing on the quays of the 
harbours. Of these Anthea cereus is by far the 
most common, with its long and finely coloured 
tentaculae, which are not contractile within the mantle 
of the animal as in the true anemones (Actinia)." 
No fewer than seventeen kinds of anemones 
may be met with, the scarlet variety of Actinia 
wesembryanthemum being not uncommon round the 
rocks in sheltered pools. Sertularia, Flustra, Goryo- 
nia, Gelepora, Lepralia, Garyophyllia, with many 
other genera are represented. Amongst the Chelen- 
terata we must mention Pelagia noctilica, which is 
now and again phosphorescent, especially during a 
storm and at night. Rhyzostoma pulmo must not 
be forgotten, nor the remarkable Charybdia marsu- 
pialis so named from having on the abdomen a 
curious purse, which is by some supposed to be a 
food receptacle. Porpita mediterrunea strews the 
beach at Marsascala after a gregale. 



74 



CHAPTER XI. 

* * 

AGRICULTURE AND PRODUCTIONS. 

Maltese Soil. Cotton, Land Tenure, and Agricultural 
Implements. Corn, Sulla, and Potatoes. Carouba Trees, 
Fruits and Vegetables. Figs, Oranges, Grapes, etc. 

IT is fortunate for the agriculturist that the 
Maltese islands are composed of soft rocks which 
readily disintegrate. Still farming in Malta and Gozo 
is a battle and victory of labour. The 114 square 
miles comprised within the insular area are partly 
barren rock, and in many respects a geographical 
riddle. Cultivation has asserted its sway over 54,716 
acres, the remainder being sterile rock. Ow r ing to 
the absence of trees and shrubs, the soil of Malta, 
which is most erroneously said to have been im- 
ported from Sicily, contains but little vegetable 
matter. Plenty of rich alluvial earth which has 
been washed down from higher levels by the semi- 
tropical rains is found in the valleys. In other 
places the surface rock has been removed, and 
the fragments built up into walls to hinder the 
washing away by the rains of the earth, which is 
found below the surface rock in beds of not more 
than a foot or eighteen inches in thickness. Many 



75 

fields have thus been formed and brought under 
cultivation. Since the English have occupied Malta 
many more animals have been reared, and land has 
in consequence been more heavily manured. The 
porous rock below the surface retains a valuable 
amount of moisture, and heavy dews somewhat sup- 
ply the want of rain in summer. The cultivation 
of cotton is thought to have been first introduced 
by the Phoenicians, and the Carthaginians made Mal- 
tese cotton cloths famous in distant lands, on ac- 
count of their whiteness and substance. Under the 
Greeks agriculture flourished, the weaving of cotton 
prospered, and the bee-keepers of Malta were re- 
nowned throughout fcih civilized world. Lucretius 
Cams and Silius Italicus sing in immortal verse of 
the fabrics of Malta, Diodorus Siculus speaks of 
" cloths remarkable for their softness and fineness/' 
whilst Cicero lashes Verres, in no measured terms 
for his interference with the local traffic in cotton, 
Under Arab rule agriculture received a check, but 
on the arrival of the Norman deliverer Count Rog- 
er, lauds were re-divided, and the farmer again 
began to grow wheat and cotton. In 1525, the 
islands were "unfit to grow corn and other grains, 
maintaining only a population of 12,000 inhabitants, 
who lived by exchanging honey, cotton, and the 
aromatic cummin for the more substantial necessar- 
ies of life." In 1687 Gozo produced a large 
amount of cotton, and wheat and barley sufficient for 



76 

three months' consumption, importing annually from 
7000 to 8000 quarters of grain, and sending many 
cattle to the sister-island. In 1801 the value of 
the raw cotton produced in Malfca was about half 
a million sterling. The Civil War in America gave 
a considerable impetus to the cultivation of cotton, 
and the crop amounted to more than three hund- 
red tons, but the invention of new machinery and 
the competition of Egyptian cotton have of late 
years caused prices to decline. Both the white and 
dark nankeen varieties are cultivated. The seed is 
sown at the end of April, the plant flowers in 
August, and the crop is gathered in September. 
Cotton thrives well, is sown as a second crop, pro- 
vides seed for fattening cattle, gives employment 
to numerous families, and is principally cultivated 
near Citta Vecchia, Zebbng, Siggieui, Zeituu, Lia, 
Balzan, and Tarxien. Land in Malta belongs to 
the Church, the Government, and about 2000 pri- 
vate individuals in almost equal proportions. The 
farms are often let on lease for 4 or 8 years, and some- 
times longer. Government leases are usually for a 
longer period than others, and waste open spaces 
have been largely sold to tenants for small sums, 
to be brought under cultivation. The implements in use 
are truly primitive, and may almost be styled Ad- 
amitic. Ploughs, which are of the most simple 
construction, can be carried home on a man's shoulder, 
and are drawn by cows, asses, oxen, or mules. The 



77 

English plough is not suitable for this rocky soil, 
and the tillers of the land reject with a smile more 
costly and highly finished implements. 

The harrow is also of a most original type, and 
not unfrequently branches of trees are dragged over 
the fields as a substitute. A large hoe is often em- 
ployed, and in rocky soils the pickaxe is found use- 
ful. The land is never permitted to lie fallow, and 
the marvellous patient industry of the Maltese far- 
mer overcomes all natural obstacles, and wins from 
the soil a return of from 12 to 40 or even sixty- 
fold. Wheat, the harvest of which suffices for 3 
or 4 months' consumption is sown every alternate 
year with barley and clover, in November, and is 
reaped in June. Barley ripens a month earlier. Cot- 
ton, melons, cumrnin, sesame, etc., follow. If any 
signs of exhaustion of the soil appear, peas, beans, 
maize, etc., are substituted for barley. Melons de- 
generate in Malta. Dr. Gulia introduced the Can- 
taloupe of Paris with but slight success, but has 
succeeded in naturalizing the Cantaloupe of Valpa- 
raiso in the Botanic Garden, the second year's seeds 
being as good as those originally imported. The 
crimson flowering Sulla or clover adds greatly to 
the beauty of the landscape. It is the French hon- 
ey-suckle or Hedysarium coronarium, grows to the 
height of from three to five feet, and produces 
about 190,000 loads per annum. The Economico- 
Agrarian Society, which was re- organized by the late 



78 

Sir W. Reid lias conferred great benefits on the 
tillers of the soil. The annual yield of cummin, which 
is valued at about 2,200, and which is mostly 
exported, averages from 70 to 80 tons. Malta has 
two crops of potatoes per annum, which produced 
some years ago about 800 tons. Increased atten- 
tion has of late been paid to this useful vegetable. 
English potatoes degenerate after the second year. 
The kidney variety has been most successfully grown, 
and bids fair to supersede all others, as the pro- 
duce though less in quantity commands double prices. 
Many sacks of potatoes are annually exported. 

Market gardening has somewhat diminished in 
extent since the appropriation by the public aque- 
ducts of many of the springs, but is still an important 
branch of industry. The carouba tree is abundant, 
growing on rocky soil, and its dark foliage is a 
conspicuous feature in the landscape. It attains a 
considerable size, and its seed-pods and leaves are used 
for feeding cattle and horses. Poor people also 
eat the seed- pods, which when baked, are said to 
be not unpalatable. Tanks and cisterns are to be 
found in almost every field and garden, and are 
indispensable to the gardener or agriculturist. The 
ornamental plants of Malta are very beautiful and 
abundant. Amongst them we may enumerate roses, 
which speedily assimilate to the Maltese type, a- 
nemones, violets, hyacinths, geraniums, the vanilla, 
jessamine, tuberose, heliotrope, oleander, and many 



79 

others. Strawberries, figs, peaches, pomegranates, 
apricots, grapes, apples, pears, nectarines, plums, 
melons, and prickly pears, are amongst the fruits, 
as are also the orange, lemon, and nespoli or Ja- 
panese medlar. Vegetables of various kinds are 
abundant and cheap. The prickly pear which is the 
product of the Ficus Indicus is largely consumed^ 
and the cactus on which it grows, and of which 
four varieties are cultivated, might well be largely 
used for fences, as the Opuntia Maydia is in many 
parts of Sicily. Only Nice can surpass Malta, which 
is in truth the modern Garden of the Hesperides, 
for oranges, and that only so far as one or two 
varies are concerned. The fi^-tree of which several 
varieties are cultivated in Malta, is justly prized 
on account of its juicy and abundant fruit. The 
first fig which is called "baitra ta San Junn," or 
"St. John's fig" ripens towards the end of June, 
on the 24th of which month is the feast of St. 
John. This fig is of large size, and is succeeded 
by other varieties, which ripen towards the latter 
end of July. To prevent the premature fall of the 
fruit, and with the idea of hastening its ripening 
the process known as caprification is employed. 

A cluster of wild figs is suspended amongst 
the branches of the cultivated variety by means of 
a plant Ammi majus called on this account Dakra, 
the wild fig-tree bearing the name of Dokkara. 
Numerous diptera (Oynips) become covered with 



80 

the pollen, and convey it from one fig to the other. 

The oranges of Malta which are largely ex- 
ported are justly renowned. They are in season 
from November till April, and of the ten varie- 
ties here cultivated, the egg, blood, and mandarin 
are the most highly esteemed. The latter is a fa- 
vourite with the Mandarins of the Celestial Empire; 
hence its name. Oranges, lemons, and other fruits 
to the amount of 100 tons are annually exported. 
Two specimens of each variety of the orange, whe- 
ther imported or native, are carefully tended in 
the Botanic Garden, and cuttings may be had on 
application. Grapes are cheap. They speedily become 
watery, perhaps sowing to unskilful cultivation, with 
the exception of the delicious Pine-Apple and Fin- 
ger varieties, which thrive well at St. Antonio. 

During the government of Sir H. C. Ponsonby, 
the tobacco plant was successfully introduced, but an 
attempt to naturalize the cochineal insect proved a fail- 
ure, for want probably of the proper species of Opun- 
tia for the support of the insects. Many mulberry 
trees were destroyed some years ago. Silk of excel- 
lent quality can be readily produced, but financial re- 
sults proving unsatisfactory, tbe rearing of silk-worms 
as an industrial occupation has been abandoned. 

The best thanks of the auther are justly due to Dr. Gavino 
Gulia, Dr. Cousin, Dr. Vassailo, Sig. G-. A. Pulis, and others 
who have most kindly given him much valuable assistance. 



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