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The variety in the length, thickness, strength and toughness of these climbers, enables the natives of trepical countries to put them to various uses. Almost every kind of cordage is supplied by them. Some will stand in water without rotting, and are used for cables, for lines to which are attached fish-traps, and to bind and strengthen the wooden anchors used generally in the East. Boats and even large sailing vessels are built, whose planks are entirely fastened together by this kind of cordage skilfully applied to internal ribs. For the better kinds of houses, smooth and uniform varieties are chosen, so that the beams and rafters can be bound together with neatness, strength and uniformity, as is especially observable among the indigenes of the Amazonian forests. When baskets of great strength are required special kinds of creepers are used; and to serve almost every purpose for which we should need a rope or a chain, the tropical savage adopts some one of the numerous forest-ropes which long experience has shown to have qualities best adapted for it. Some are smooth and supple; some are tough and will bear twisting or tying ; some will last longest in salt water, others in fresh; one is uninjured by the heat and smoke of fires, while another is bitter or otherwise prejudicial to insect enemies.
Besides these various kinds of trees and climbers which form the great mass of the equatorial forests and determine their general aspect, there are a number of forms of plants which are always more or less present, though in some parts scarce and in others in great profusion, and which largely aid in giving a special character
to tropical as distinguished from temperate vegetation: Such are the various groups of palms, ferns, ginger-worts, and wild plantains, arums, orchids, and bamboos; and under these heads we shall give a short account of the part they take in giving a distinctive aspect to the equatorial forests.
Palms. — Although these are found throughout the tropics and a few species even extend into the warmer parts of the temperate regions, they are yet so much more abundant and varied within the limits of the region we are discussing that they may be considered as among the most characteristic forms of vegetation of the equatorial zone. They are, however, by no means generally present, and we may pass through miles of forest without even seeing a palm.
palm. In other parts they abound; either forming a lower growth in the lofty forest, or in swamps and on hill-sides sometimes rising up above the other trees. On river-banks they are especially conspicuous and elegant, bending gracefully over the stream, their fine foliage waving in the breeze, and their stems often draped with hanging creepers.
The chief feature of the palm tribe consists in the cylindrical trunk crowned by a mass of large and somewhat rigid leaves. They vary in height from a few feet to that of the loftiest forest-trees. Some are stemless, consisting only of a spreading crown of large pinnate leaves; but the great majority have a trunk slender in proportion to its height. Some of the smaller species have stems no thicker than a lead pencil, and four or five feet high ; while the great Mauritia of the Amazon has a trunk full two feet in diameter, and more than 100 feet high. Some species probably reach a height
together and carried on the back, and they stand very conveniently in a corner of the hut. Water pipes and aqueducts are also readily made from bamboo tubes supported at intervals on two smaller pieces tied crosswise. In this way a stream of water is often conveyed from some distance to the middle of a village. Measures for rice or palm-wine, drinking-vessels, and waterdippers, are to be found almost ready-made in a joint of bamboo; and when fitted with a cap or lid they form tobacco or tinder-boxes. Perches for parrots with food and water vessels are easily made out of a single piece of bamboo, while with a little more labour elegant bird-cages are constructed. In Timor a musical instrument is formed from a single joint of a large bamboo, by carefully raising seven strips of the hard skin to form strings, which remain attached at both ends and are clevated by small pegs wedged underneatlı, the strings being prevented from splitting off by a strongly-plaited ring of a similar material bound round each end. An opening cut ou one side allows the bamboo to vibrate in musical notes when the harp-like strings are sharply pulled with the fingers. In Java strips of bamboo supported on stretched strings and struck with a sinall stick produce the higher notes in the "gamelung" or native band, which consists mainly of sets of gongs and metallic plates of various sizes. Almost all the common Chinese paper is made from the foliage and stems of some species of bamboo, while the young shoots, as they first spring out of the ground, are an excellent vegetable, quite equal to artichokes. Single joints of bamboo make excellent cooking-vessels while on a journey. Ricc can be boiled in them to perfection, as well as fish and
latter being the well-known rattan or cane of which chair-scats are made, from the Malay name “rotang." The rattan-palms are the largest and most remarkable of the climbing group. They are very abundant in the drier equatorial forests, and more than sixty species are known from the Malay Archipelago. The stems (when cleaned from the sheathing leaves and prickles) vary in size from the thickness of a quill to that of the wrist; and where abundant they render the forest almost impassable. They lie about the ground coiled and twisted and looped in the most fantastic manner. They hang in festoons from trees and branches, they rise suddenly through mid air up to the top of the forest, or coil loosely over shrubs and in thickets like endless serpents. They must attain an immense age, and apparently have almost unlimited powers of growth, for some are said to have been found which were 600 or even 1000 feet long, and if so, they are probably the longest of all vegetable growths. The mode in which such great lengths and tangled convolutions have been attained has already been explained in the general account of woody climbers. From the immense strength of these canes and the facility with which they can be split, they are universally used for cordage in the countries where they grow in preference to any other climbers, and immense quantities are annually exported to all parts of the world.
Uses of Palm-trees and their Products.—To the natives of the cquatorial zone the uses of palms are both great and various. The fruits of several speciesmore especially the cocoa-nut of the East and the peach-nut (Guilielma speciosa) of America-furnish
abundance of wholesome food, and the whole of the trunk of the sago-palm is converted into an edible starchour sago. Jany other palm-fruits yield a thin pulp, too small in quantity to be directly eaten, but which when rubbed off and mixed with a proper quantity of water forms an exceedingly nutritious and agreeable article of food. The most celebrated of these is the assai of the Amazon, made from the fruit of Euterpe oleracca, and which, as a refreshing, nourishing, and slightly stimulating beverage for a tropical country, takes the place of our chocolate and coffee. A number of other palms yield a similar product, and many that are not caten by man are greedily devoured by a variety of animals, so that the amount of food produced by this tribe of plants is much larger than is generally supposed.
The sap which pours out of the cut flower-stalk of several species of palm when slightly fermented forms palm-wine or toddy, a very agreeable drink; and when mixed with various bitter herbs or roots which check fermentation, a fair imitation of beer is produced. If the same fluid is at once boiled and evaporated it produces a quantity of excellent sugar. The Arenga saccharifera, or sugar-palm of the Malay countries, is perhaps the most productive of sugar. A single tree will continue to pour out several quarts of sap daily for weeks together, and where the trees are abundant this forms the chief drink and most esteemed luxury of the natives. A Dutch chemist, Mr. De Vry, who has studied the subject in Java, believes that great advantages would accrue from the cultivation of this tree in place of the sugar-cane. According to his experiments it would produce an equal quantity of sugar