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CURIOSITIES RESPECTING VEGETABLES.—Continued.) The Cocoa-Nut Tree-The Bread-Fruit Tree-The Bannian Tree-Fountain Trees-The Tallow Tree-The Paper TreeThe Calabash Tree Remarkable Oak-Dimensions, &c. of some of the largest Trees now growing in England-Upas, or Poison Tree.
Admiration, feeding at the eye,
And still unsated, dwells upon the theme.
THE COCOA-NUT TREE.
Of all the gifts which Providence has bestowed on the Oriental world, the cocoa-nut tree most deserves our notice: in this single production of nature, what blessings are conveyed to man! It grows a stately column, from thirty to fifty feet in height, crowned by a verdant capital of waving branches, covered with long spiral leaves; under this foliage, branches of blossoms, clusters of green fruit, and others arrived at maturity, appear in mingled beauty. The trunk, though porous, furnishes beams and rafters for our habitations; and the leaves, when platted together, make an excellent thatch, common umbrellas, coarse mats for the floor, and brooms; while their finest fibres are woven into very beautiful mats for the rich. The covering of the young fruit is extremely curious, resembling a piece of thick cloth, in a conical form, close and firm as it came from the loom; it expands after the fruit has burst through its inclosure, and then appears of a coarser texture. The nuts contain a delicious milk, and kernel sweet as the almond: this, when dried, affords abundance of oil; and when that is expressed, the remains feed cattle and poultry, and make good manure. The shell of the nut furnishes cups, ladles, and other domestic utensils, while the husk which incloses it is of the utmost importance; it is manufactured into ropes and cordage of every kind, from the smallest twine to the largest cable, which are far more durable than those of hemp. In the Nicobar islands, the natives build their vessels, make the sails and cordage, supply them with provisions and necessaries, and provide a cargo of arrack, vinegar, oil, gagpree or coarse sugar, cocoa-nuts, coir, cordage, black paint, and several inferior articles, for foreign markets, entirely from this tree.
Many of the trees are not permitted to bear fruit; but the embryo bud, from which the blossoms and nuts would spring
is tied up, to prevent its expansion; and a small incision being then made at the end, there oozes in gentle drops a cool pleasar.t liquor, called Trace, or Toddy, the palm wine of the poets. This, when first drawn, is cooling and salutary; but when fermented and distilled, produces an intoxicating spirit. Thus, a plantation of cocoa-nut trees yields the proprietor considerable profits, and generally forms part of the govern
THE BREAD-FRUIT TREE.-The systematic name of this plant is Artocarpus, which is merely the English name translated into Greek. There are several species; particularly A. incisa, and A. integrifolia.
The genuine bread-fruit tree is the artocarpus incisa. captain Cook's Voyage, it is observed, that the breadfruit tree is about the size of a middling oak; its leaves are frequently a foot and a half long, oblong, deeply sinuated, like those of the fig-tree, which they resemble in consistence and colour, and in exuding a milky juice when broken. The fruit is the size and shape of a child's head, and the surface is reticulated, not much unlike a truffle; it is covered with a thin skin, and has a core about as big as the handle of a small knife; the eatable part lies between the skin and core; it is as white as snow, and of the consistence of new bread. It must be roasted before it is eaten, being first divided into three or four parts; its taste is insipid, with a slight sweetness, somewhat resembling that of the crumb of wheaten bread, mixed with Jerusalem artichoke. The fruit not being in season all the year, there is a method of supplying this defect, by reducing it to sour paste, called makie; and besides this, cocoa-nuts, bananas, plantains, and a great variety of other fruits, come in aid of it. This tree not only supplies food, but also clothing, for the bark is stripped off the suckers, and formed into a kind of cloth. To procure the fruit for food costs the Otaheiteans no trouble or labour, but climbing a tree. This most useful tree is distributed very extensively over the East Indian continent and islands, as well as the innumerable islands of the South Seas. In Otaheite, however, and some others, the evident superiority of the seedless variety for food has caused the other to be neglected, and it is consequently almost worn out.
We are informed by Captain King, that in the Sandwich islands these trees are planted, and flourish with great luxuriance on rising grounds; that they are not indeed in such abundance, but that they produce double the quantity of fruit to those growing on the rich plains of Otaheite; that the trees are nearly of the same height, but that the branches begin to strike out from the trunk much lower, and with greater
luxuriance; and that the climate of these islands differs very little from that of the West Ind' in islands which lie in the same latitude. This reflection probably first suggested the idea of conveying this valuable tree to our islands in the West Indies. For this purpose his Majesty's ship the Bounty sailed for the South Seas, on the 23d of December, 1787, under the command of Lieuteuant William Bligh. But a fatal mutiny prevented the accomplishment of this benevolent design. His Majesty, however, not discouraged by the unfortunate event of the voyage, and fully impressed with the importance of securing so useful an article of food as the bread-fruit to our West Indian Islands, determined, in the year 1791, to employ another ship, for a second expedition on this service; and, in order to secure the success of the voyage as much as possible, it was thought proper that two vessels should proceed together on this important business. Accordingly, a ship of 400 tons, named the Providence, was engaged for the purpose, and the command of her given to Captain Bligh; and a small tender, called the Assistant, commanded by Lieut. Nathaniel Portlock. Sir Joseph Banks, as in the former voyage, directed the equipment of the ship for this particular purpose. Two skilful gardeners were appointed to superintend the trees and plants, from their transplantation at Otaheite, to their delivery at Jamaica; and Captain Bligh set sail on the 2d of August, 1791. The number of plants taken on board at Otaheite, was 2634, in 1281 pots, tubs, and cases; and of these 1151 were bread-fruit trees. When they arrived at Coupang, 200 plants were dead, but the rest were in good order. Here they procured ninety-two pots of the fruits of that country. They arrived at St. Helena, with 830 fine bread-fruit trees, besides other plants. Here they left some of them, with different fruits of Otaheite and Timor, besides mountain rice and other seeds; and hence the East Indies may be supplied with them.
On their arrival at St. Vincent's, they had 551 cases, containing 678 bread-fruit trees, besides a great number of other fruits and plants, to the number of 1245. Near half this cargo was deposited here under the care of Mr. Alexander Anderson, the superintendant of his Majesty's botanic garden, for the use of the Windward islands; and the remainder, intended for the Leeward islands, was conveyed to Jamaica, and distributed as the governor and council of Jamaica were pleased to direct. The exact number of bread-fruit trees brought to Jamaica, was 352; out of which, five only were reserved for the botanic garden at Kew. Captain Bligh had the satisfaction, before he quitted Jamaica, of seeing the trees, which he had brought with so much success, in a most flourishing state; insomuch that no doubt remained of their growing well, and speedily