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quality with far less labour and expense, because no manure and no cultivation would be required, and the land will never be impoverished as it so rapidly becomes by the growth of sugar-cane.
The reason of this difference is, that the whole produce of a cane-field is taken off the ground, the crushed canes being burnt ; and the soil thus becomes exhausted of the various salts and minerals which form part of the woody fibre and foliage. These must be restored by the application of manure, and this, together with the planting, weeding, and necessary cultivation, is very expensive. With the sugar-palm, however, nothing whatever is taken away but the juice itself; the foliage falls on the ground and rots, giving back to it what it had taken; and the water and sugar in the juice being almost wholly derived from the carbonic acid and aqueous vapour of the atmosphere, there is no impoverishment; and a plantation of these palms may be kept up on the same ground for an indefinite period. Another most important consideration is, that these trees will grow on poor rocky soil and on the steep slopes of ravines and hillsides where any ordinary cultivation is impossible, and a great extent of fertile land would thus be set free for other purposes. Yet further, the labour required for such sugar plantations as these would be of a light and intermittent kind, exactly suited to a semi-civilized people to whom severe and long.continued labour is never congenial. This combination of advantages appears to be so great, that it seems possible that the sugar of the world
may in the future be produced from what would otherwise be almost waste ground; and it is to be hoped that the experiment will soon be tried in some of our
tropical colonies, more especially as an Indian palm, Phænix sylvestris, also produces abundance of sugar, and might be tried in its native country.
Other articles of food produced from palms are, cooking-oil from the cocoa-nut and baccaba palm, salt from the fruit of a South American palm (Leopoldinia major), while the terminal bud or “cabbage” of many species is an excellent and nutritious vegetable ; so that palms supply bread, oil, sugar, salt, fruit, and vegetables. Oils for various other purposes are made from several distinct palms, while wax is secreted from the leaves of some South American species; the resin called dragon's-blood is the product of one of the rattan palms; while the fruit of the Areca palm is the “betelnut" so universally chewed by the Malays as a gentle stimulant, and which is their substitute for the opium of the Chinese, the tobacco of Europeans, and the cocaleaf of South America.
For thatching, the leaves of palms are invaluable, and are universally used wherever they are abundant; and the petioles or leaf-stalks, often fifteen or twenty feet long, are used as rafters, or when fastened together with Pogs form doors, shutters, partitions, or even the walls of entire houses. They are wonderfully light and strong, being formed of a dense pith covered with a hard rind or bark, and when split up and pegged together serve to make many kinds of boxes, which, when covered with the broad leaves of a species of screw-pine and painted or stained of various colours, are very strong and serviceable as well as very ornamental. Ropes and cables are woven from the black fibrous matter that fringes the leaves of the sugar-palm and some other
species, while fine string of excellent quality used even for bow-strings, fishing-lines, and Hammocks, is made of fibres obtained from the unopened leaves of some American species. The fibrous sheath at the base of the leaves of the cocoa-nut palm is so compact and cloth-like, that it is used for a variety of purposes, as for strainers, for wrappers, and to make very good hats. The great woody spathes of the larger palms serve as natural baskets, as cradles, or even as cooking-vessels in which water may be safely boiled. The trunks form excellent posts and fencing, and when split make good flooring. Some species are used for bows, others for blow-pipes; the smaller species are sometimes used as needles or to make fish-hooks, and the larger as arrows. To describe in detail all the uses to which palm-trees and their products are applied in various parts of the world might occupy a volume; but the preceding sketch will serve to give an idea of how important a part is filled by this noble family of plants, whether we regard them as a portion of the beautiful vegetation of the tropics, or in relation to the manners and customs, the lives and the well-being of the indigenous inhabitants.
Ferns.-The type of plants which, next to palmıs, most attracts attention in the equatorial zone, is perhaps that of the ferns, which here display themselves in vast profusion and variety. They grow abundantly on rocks and on decaying trees; they clothe the sides of ravines and the margins of streams ; they climb up the trees and over bushes; they form tufts and hanging festoons among the highest branches. Some are as small as mosses, others have huge fronds eight or ten feet long, while in mountainous districts the most elegant of the gronp, the
tree-ferns, bear their graceful crowns on slender stems twenty to thirty, or even fifty feet high. It is this immense variety rather than any special features that characterises the fern-vegetation of the tropics. We have here almost every conceivable modification of size, form of fronds, position of spores, and habit of growth, in plants that still remain unmistakably ferns. Many climb over shrubs and bushes in a most elegant manner; others cling closely to the bark of trees like ivy. The great birds'-nest fern (Platycerium) attaches its shell-like fronds high up on the trunks of lofty trees. Many small terrestrial species have digitate, or ovate, or ivyshaped, or even whorled fronds, resembling at first sight those of some herbaceous flowering-plants. Their numbers may be judged from the fact that in the vicinity of Tarrapoto, in Peru, Dr. Spruce gathered 250 species of ferns, while the single volcanic mountains of Pangerango in Java (10,000 feet higli) is said to have produced 300 species.
Ginger-worts and wild Bananas.—These plants, forming the families Zingiberaccæ and Musaceæ of botanists, are very conspicuous ornaments of the equatorial forests, on account of their large size, fine foliage, and handsome flowers. The bananas and plantains are well known as among the most luxuriant and beautiful productions of the tropics. Many species occur wild in the forests ; all have majestic foliage and handsome flowers, while some produce cdille fruit. Of the ginger-worts (Zingiberacea and Marantaccæ), the well known cannas of our tropical gardens may be taken as representatives, but the cquatorial species are very numerous and varied, often forming dense thickets in damp places, and adorning the
forest shades with their elegant and curious or showy flowers. The maranths produce “arrow-root," while the ginger-worts are highly aromatic, producing ginger, cardamums, grains of paradise, turmeric and several medicinal drugs. The Musacea produce the most valuable of tropical fruits and foods. The banana is the variety which is always eaten as a fruit, having a delicate aromatic flavour; the plantain is a larger variety which is best cooked. Roasted in the green state it is an excellent vegetable resembling roasted chestnuts; when ripe it is sometimes pulped and boiled with water, making a very agreeable sweet soup; or it is roasted, or cut into slices and fried, in either form being a delicious tropical substitute for fruit pudding. These plants are annuals, producing one immense bunch of fruit. This bunch is sometimes four or five feet long containing near 200 plantains, and often weighs about a hundreilweight. They grow very close together, and Humboldt calculated that an acre of plantains would supply more food than could be obtained from the same extent of ground by any other known plant. Well may it be said that the plantain is the glory of the tropics, and well was the species named by Linnæus— Jlusa paradisiaca !
Arums.--Another very characteristic and remarkable group of tropical plants are the cpiphytal and climbing arums.
These are known by their large, arrow-shaped, dark
green and glossy leaves, often curiously lobed or incised, and sometimes reticulated with large open spaces, as if pieces had been regularly eaten out of them by some voracious insccts. Sometimes they form clusters of foliage on living or dead trees to which they cling by their aerial roots. Others climb
Others climb up the smooth