This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Great interest naturally attaches to a plant furnishing an important material like gutta percha, which has been found to be adapted to so many useful purposes. The concrete juice of the. tree was known in Europe and America before the tree which produced it was described. Mr. William Lobb, the indefatigable collector, had the honor of first forwarding dried specimens, from which it obtained a name and station in systematic botany; the name is Isonandra Gutta, of the natural order Sapotaceae.
It is a large tree, attaining a height of 40 feet, and sometimes a diameter of 3 or 4 feet. The leaves are alternate on the branches, somewhat leathery in texture, and obovate, entire in outline, attenuated at the base into the largish petiole, by which they are attached; they are green on the upper side, and orange shining beneath. The flowers are small, each singly stalked, more or less drooping, and growing in fasciles from the axils of the leaves; they are subrotate, with a short tube.and six ovate or spreading lobes; twelve prominent stamens are attached round the mouth of the tube. The fruit is egg-shaped, each cell with one ovule. It is a native of Singapore, Borneo, and other Malay islands; its timber is of no value, the wood being soft, fibrous and spongy, pale colored, and traversed by longitudinal receptacles or reservoirs, filled with the gum, forming ebony-black lines. From the fruit is obtained a concrete and edible oil, which is used by the natives with their food. The tree is not hardy, and its beauty is scarcely sufficient even to introduce it into our hot-houseB, except as a curiosity.
Of the various uses to which gutta percha is already applied, the following lines, written by a visitor to the great manufactory in London, will convey an idea, though he has by no means exhausted the catalogue: -
1. "My Parent died when I leap'd from her tide To fill mankind with wonder.
2. And now I abound, in the wide world around, The green sward above and under.
3. I hold the flower in the sunny bower;
1. The gutta percha trees are tapped and they then •die.
2. Used above and below ground.
4. Lining for coffins. 6. Bonnet-caps.
6. And bid defiance to knaves.
7. The miser his gold often gives me to hold;
8. I aid to extinguish the fire.
9. I am chased o'er the green, when the schoolboy is seen;
10. I wait at the toper's desire;
11. I ride on the wave, the sailor to save, When he shrieketh aloud in despair;
12. I whirl the, machine, whose arms dimly seen, Hiss as they fly through the air.
13. I have been tried and am cast, with felons at last;
14. I am balm to the wounded and torn.
16. I rival the oak, (16) the tell-tale I cloak;
17. I am fashion'd as high and low born.
18. I constantly mind the sightless blind.
19. Many garments my long arms bear;
20. By the sick man's bed, (21) by the ship's mast head - In various forms I am there.
22. Deep in the earth, though unseen, is my worth; I faithfully serve mankind.
23. I hear the whisper of the softest lisper;
24. And hold that which traceth the mind! 26. When the emigrant lands on far-off strands, Perchance he treadeth on me. 26. On the rich man's table, (27) in the horse's stable, My forms you may frequently see! Now I challenge your mind my secret to find.
28. Though I travel along by your bed.
29. I come from the south; (30) I may dwell in your mouth; 31. Or may rest on the top of your head".
6. Policemen's cape.
8. Water buckets and engine-pipes.
9. Cricket balls.
11. Life-buoys and boats.
12. Machine-driving belts.
13. Indestructible vessels for the use of prisoners.
14. Balsam for slight wounds, instead of sticking plaster.
16. Ornamental mouldings. (16.) Coating of the Telegraph wires.
17. Medallions and casts of celebrated and notorious persons.
18. Cord for window blinds.
20. Utensils for sleeping apartments. (21.) Cordage and speaking-tubes.
22. Pipes for draining, etc.
23. Acoustic tubes.
24. Inkstands. 29. Soles of shoes.
26. Ornamental dishes. (27.) Buckets and harness.
28. Noiseless curtain rings.
29. From Singapore, etc. (30.) For filling decayed teeth.
31. Sou*-wester hats.
The Flore des Serres is justly indignant at the waste and destruction of the gutta peroha tree, and calls upon governments to protect posterity, whose knowledge of the article must be, at the present rate of use, only a souvenir. The same elegant periodical asserts that the English government has appointed an agent to introduce the cinchona or Peruvian bark tree into their oriental possessions, and that M. Hasakail has been sent on a voyage to Bolivia, to obtain the seed. Baron Humboldt informed us, in an interview we enjoyed with him at Potsdam, in 1850, that there was no kind of danger of the cinchona becoming extinct, as its range of latitude was great, and there were forests of it of fabulous extent yet untouched. Notwithstanding this fact, its bark, from which quinine is made, has become a monopoly of the Bolivian government, and its price unwarrantably enhanced in this and other markets.
The Flore des Serres recommends the French government to plant the gutta percha and cinchona trees in Guyana, where the climate is propitious for both. The plan is a good one.