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latter being the well-known rattan or cane of which chair-seats 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 equatorial zone the uses of palms are both great and various. The fruits of several species— more 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 starch— our sago. Many 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 oleracea, 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 eaten 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 Wry, 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 of good 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, Phania 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 pegs 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 palms, 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 group, the