Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Polynesia; A popular description of the physical features, inhabitants, natural history, and productions of the islands of the Pacific. With an account of their discovery, and the progress of civilisation and christianity amongst them.

Chapter III. — Vegetable Productions.—Trees, Fruits, and Flowers

page break

Chapter III.
Vegetable Productions.—Trees, Fruits, and Flowers.

scene in huahine; the cocoa-nut, bread-fruit, plantain, and pandanus.

scene in huahine; the cocoa-nut, bread-fruit, plantain, and pandanus.

Lying, as most of the Polynesian islands do, within the sunny regions of the tropics, and being nourished with the constant moisture of the surrounding ocean, as well as possessing generally a rich volcanic soil in their fertile valleys, their vegetable productions page 28are consequently of the most luxuriant and varied character. By far the greater portion of the forest trees, that clothe the island-mountains to their very summits, are evergreens, not only in the tropical regions, but also in New Zealand; and even in the Auckland Islands (which latter are situated in 51° south), voyagers tell us, the hills are thickly covered with lofty trees of most vigorous growth, which, in the dead of winter, retain their verdure as if it was midsummer.

The visitor to the shores of New Zealand will be struck by the scantiness of annual and flowering plants, of which very few possess vivid colours to attract the attention of the florist. On the other hand, he will find a vast number of species of evergreen forest trees, together with an endless variety of ferns, some of gigantic size, of which the greater part of the flora consists. The glaucous character of an Australian landscape, produced by its Eucalypti, Casuarinæ, and Banksiæ, is exchanged in New Zealand for the glossy green of a dense and mixed forest, or, in the open country, for the russet-brown of the social fern. In the former general aspect, together with the tree-ferns, palms, and dragontrees, which abound in New Zealand, that country resembles one situated between the tropics, and has much of the same character of vegetation as many of the beautiful islands lying north of it.

The following description, by Dr. Bennett, of his first impressions of Tahiti, will convey a general idea of the luxuriant foliage of tropical Polynesia. He says, "the waving cocoa-palms—the verdant page 29mountains in the background—the bright green of the orange groves-the drooping fronds of the Pandanus trees, almost dipping into the rolling surges on the beach—and a pretty islet, studded with cocoa-palms, situated in the centre of the bay,—all combined to form a delightful landscape. Rambling a short distance inland, no plantations were seen; but the whole island may be termed a garden; for cocoa-palms, bread-fruit trees, plantains and bananas, the Vi or Brazilian plum, and the Ohia or Jambo, were growing spontaneously, and bearing fruit; to these at another season may be added oranges, pine-apples, shaddocks, and other introduced fruits, which thrive as well as the indigenous plants. Advancing further towards the mountains, the elegant South Sea chestnut-tree adorned the banks of the streams, together with a luxuriant vegetation of ferns and other plants; whilst the brows of the hills were covered by thickets of waving bamboos, or dense masses of the mountain plantain-tree, conspicuous from its dark green and broad foliage and huge clusters of orange-coloured fruit; and the upland slopes, leading to a succession of naked crags, were feathered by tall, graceful shrubs, loaded with odoriferous blossoms."

In the gloomy and dense forests of New Zealand there are in some places groves composed entirely of the beautiful "nikau" palm, mingling with treeferns from ten to forty feet in height: these are shaded eternally from the sun by the lofty canopy of foliage overhead, and nourished by the ceaseless moisture that drops from every spray, rendering page 30these antipodean forests rank with vegetation. Parasites sprout from the loftiest trees, whilst mosses and ferns clothe their trunks with green, carrying a profusion of vegetable life up into their topmost branches. All is of the deepest green, and amidst the gloom and shady recesses of these primeval woods, a solemn and almost unbroken stillness reigns; whilst the warm, damp air is laden with the delicious odour of the "horopito;" and the tangled undergrowth of fuschias is rendered gay by the clustering blossoms of a large white clematis.

Amongst the timber trees most important to commerce are the dammara pines, several species of which occur in New Zealand, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and the Figis. The New Zealand dammara or kauri pine grows very erect, and is a model of symmetry, producing whorls of branches at regular intervals up the stem, tapering to the top. It attains the height of ninety feet and upwards, and a circumference of twenty to twenty-four feet. The timber is close-grained, durable, and valuable either in plank or for the yards and masts of vessels, for which purpose it has long been in requisition for the ships of Her Majesty's navy. This tree, like all the other species of dammara, yields a white resin, which exudes from the trunk and branches, and burns with an agreeable smell; it is known as "kauri gum," and is now in great demand as an article of commerce for the production of a clear and beautiful varnish. The New Zealanders call this gum "the water of the tree;" and on digging in the ground, the resin is found in lumps, in locali-page 31ties where, no doubt, ages since, forests of these trees grew, but where none at present exist. Large masses of resin are procured by probing the ground with iron spikes, at a depth of from two to three feet. This resin has lately been found imbedded in layers with coal in the recently-discovered coalfields of New Zealand. When mixed with a kind of asphaltum, the kauri gum is chewed by the northern natives; and the greatest compliment an old New Zealand woman can pay to a guest is to offer him the well-masticated quid which she takes from her own mouth.

In the Figis there are two other species of dammara pines, affording equally excellent timber. In the whole of the southern district of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu (Great Figi) are extensive forests, in which dammara-trees abound. On the banks of the Navuaa—a fine river in Viti Levu—they are particularly fine and very numerous, and their proximity to deep water renders their removal for purposes of commerce very easy.

The Dammara moorei of New Caledonia grows in the open ground, and fringes the summits of the hills, imparting to them a singular appearance from the sea. It is a beautiful tree, attaining a height of fifty feet, with graceful pendulous branches at the base, which gradually diminish in size upwards, so as to give the tree the outline of a sharp pyramid.

When Captain Erskine approached La Perouse Island in H.M.S. "Havannah," huge, heavy trees were conspicuous amongst the dense forests occupy-page 32ing a great extent of ground, and proved on examination to be another new species of dammara.

The Norfolk Island pine is, however, the most noble and imposing in its appearance of all the coniferous trees of the Pacific. It belongs to the genus Araucaria, which have the double-dotted vascular tissue of the fossil pines found in the coalmeasures of Great Britain. In the sheltered glens of Norfolk Island, amidst the luxuriant verdure of a perpetual spring, these giant trees tower upwards into the air to a height of nearly 200 feet, presenting a singular beauty in the straightness and regularity of their growth and denseness of their foliage, which spreads out in broad lateral branches, that spring from the mast-like trunk at regular intervals, gradually tapering towards the top, and presenting a succession of wide and shadowy plumes of the most brilliant green, set at right angles to the stem with such precision as to present somewhat of an artificial appearance.

The Kaikeatea pine (Dacrydium excelsum) is the loftiest of the many fine timber trees that adorn the New Zealand forests. It attains the height of 120 to 130 feet, and grows usually in moist localities, where it may be seen covered by an elegant climbing plant, the Freycinetia Banksii, or tawara, the sweet mucilaginous bracteæ of the blossoms of which are delicious eating, and much prized by the natives, their flavour resembling that of a rich and juicy pear; whilst its long leaves are employed to form baskets for holding food. This pine produces a reddish gumresin, and bears a small crimson page 33fruit. The native canoes are made from its timber, its great length rendering it very useful for this purpose.

The New Zealand tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides) grows to an elevation of from sixty to seventy feet: the timber is hard, of good quality, and so heavy that it sinks in water. From the bark of this tree the natives extract a permanent black dye, with which they stain their flax garments. The totara (Podocarpus totara) is also a magnificent pine from the same locality, and is much valued for the excellence of its dark-red timber. The New Zealand teak (Vitex littoralis) grows near the sea, and produces a very durable wood, which takes a fine polish, and is of great use in ship-building. Its flowers are elegant, drooping, and of a pink colour, whilst the fruit is of a brilliant scarlet.

The karaka (Corynocarpus lævigata) of New Zealand is a tall handsome tree, with dark-green shining foliage, and clusters of small white flowers. The fruit is yellow, about the size of a plum, which, as well as the seeds, is used as an article of food by the natives. The latter, when prepared by being steamed and soaked in water for some days, are made into a sort of black-looking cakes, which have an insipid taste, although the native children appear to relish them exceedingly. If eaten without being prepared in this manner, the seeds cause violent and spasmodic pains and paralysis of the limbs.

In the month of December, the New Zealand Metrosideros robusta, or pohutukaua tree is covered with its clusters of bright red flowers. It is irregu-page 34lar and crooked in its growth, but imparts a picturesque appearance to the landscape. It generally grows near the sea, or on the shores of the inland lakes, where, when the pohutukaua trees are covered with their red blossoms, the scenery is most beautiful.

The tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) is lofty and branching, with thick, oval, dark-green leaves, and clusters of scented white flowers; the fruit is reddish-brown and fragrant. This tree, in Tahiti, attains a height of fifty or sixty feet; and was formerly regarded as sacred by the natives, being planted in their morais, and the penalty of death exacted for destroying a branch. The wood is hard, red, and handsomely veined, resembling Spanish mahogany. The resin which exudes from the trunk is an article of commerce, and is also used by the Tahitian females as a perfume.

The coral tree is a magnificent object in the Polynesian landscape. It is the Erythrina corallodendron, producing masses of scarlet blossoms, like coral, whilst its foliage, of a most refreshing green colour, affords a delightful and cooling shade.

Amongst the valuable timber trees indigenous to the island of Tahiti may also be mentioned the apape (Rhus apape), the mara (Cephanthus mara), and the faifai (Acacia myriadena), all of which attain to a height of from forty to seventy feet, and produce woods of excellent quality for building and other purposes.

The blood-wood tree of Norfolk Island (Baloghia lucida), is an elegant tree, about forty feet high, with dark, shining, obtuse, dense foliage. The trunk is page 35of small diameter, and yields a blood-red sap, which, during the period that Norfolk Island was occupied as a penal settlement, was much used as an indelible paint for marking the bags and clothing of the convicts.

The Inocarpus edulis, or South-Sea chestnut grows abundantly on many of the Polynesian islands. The trunk of this tree presents a remarkable appearance, having projections like buttresses standing out from it on all sides, and extending from the root to the branches. The leaves are of a dark, rich green colour, and the flowers in racemes, small, white, and fragrant. The fruit, which is flat and kidney-shaped, is much esteemed by the islanders, and when baked, resembles a chestnut in taste.

The splendid Barringtonia speciosa is found in Rotuma, the Friendly Islands, and Tahiti. It is a lofty tree, with wide branches, bearing a profusion of magnificent pink flowers, which are succeeded by a large quadrangular seed-vessel. The wood, however, is comparatively worthless, and the fruit used only for poisoning fish.

The Rev. Walter Lawry mentions a species of banian tree which he saw in the Friendly Islands. Speaking of the island of Haafeva, one of that group, he says: "In the centre of this little isle, which is about three miles round, stands a fine "ovava" tree. We measured it, and found its girth forty-five feet round the trunk; its width, from the extremes of the opposite branches 190 feet; its height far more than 100 feet. Four houses stood beneath its shade; one belonging to each of the four districts or tribes into page 36which this sea-girt isle was formerly divided. This noble tree throws down many suckers to the earth, which grow and become props to its farextended lateral branches, similar to the banian tree, to which family it probably belongs."

There is an elegant protaeaceous tree which attains to a very great height in the forests of New Zealand, the Knightia excelsa, or riwa-riwa of the natives. It grows very straight, and is covered in the summer time with flowers of a beautiful purple hue.

The Aralia crassifolia or fish-bone tree is a curious object in the New Zealand woods. It runs up with a slender stem to thirty feet, having tufts of leaves thrown out near the top, which are about a foot in length and an inch in breadth, of a thick, coriaceous texture, irregularly jagged at the edges and abrupt at the end. Some of these trees grow erect, others incline towards the ground, and the stems being slender, tough, and flexible, readily wave to the passing breeze.

It is on the low coral islands that the cocoa-nut tree displays its fullest vigour, flourishing on the most barren and unsheltered sea-beach, amongst fragments of coral rock and sand, and where its roots are washed by every advancing tide. Unlike the bread-fruit, plantain, and other trees affording valuable fruit, which require a fertile soil to bring them to perfection, the cocoa-nut, though it grows well in the inland valleys, and on the banks of the streams that meander through them, appears to thrive best close to the sea, amidst a soil of broken coral and sand. It imparts to the landscape all the richness page 37and elegance of equatorial verdure, and forms every where a striking feature with its straight and tapering stem, and the beautiful crown of feathery leaves which it bears at its summit, and which, like a graceful plume, waves and nods to every passing breeze. The following description, from the pen of a talented author, shows the value of this tree, and the number of purposes to which its productions are applied by the Polynesians:—"Year after year the islander reposes beneath its shade, both eating and drinking of its fruit; he thatches his hut with its boughs, and weaves them into baskets to carry his food; he cools himself with a fan plaited from the young leaflets, and shields his head from the sun by a bonnet of the leaves; sometimes he clothes himself with the cloth-like substance which wraps round the base of the leaf-stalks, whose elastic rods, strung with filberts, are used as a taper: the larger nuts, thinned and polished, furnish him with a beautiful goblet, the smaller ones with bowls for pipes; the dry husks kindle his fires; their fibres are twisted into fishinglines and cordage for his canoes; he heals his wounds with a balsam compounded from the juice of the nut; and with the oil extracted from its pithy lining, anoints his own limbs, and embalms the bodies of the dead. The noble trunk itself is far from being valueless. Sawn into posts it upholds the islander's dwelling; converted into charcoal, it cooks his food; and, supported on blocks of coral, it rails in his lands. He impels his canoe through the water with a paddle of the wood, and goes to battle with clubs and spears made of the same material."

page 38

A considerable trade in cocoa-nut oil is carried on amongst the islands. It is extracted from the nut by the natives, and sold by them to the captains of vessels who make periodical visits for the purchase of the oil.

Several other species of palms occur in Polynesia, amongst which may be mentioned the fanpalm, the leaves of which serve the purpose of umbrellas, and are also used as fans; a kind of sagopalm, the medullary pith of which is eaten by the natives, whilst its broad leaves are employed for thatching: and the arekapalm of New Zealand, which grows in the forests to a height of thirty or thirty-five feet, the young succulent heart of which is edible, and resembles the cocoa-nut in flavour.

The sandal-wood (Santalum Freycinetianum) formerly grew abundantly at the Sandwich Islands, and constituted one of their principal articles of export; it has now almost disappeared from those islands, but is still found in the New Hebrides and other parts of western Polynesia. Owing to the delicious fragrance of the wood of this tree it has long been in demand for ornamental purposes, especially by the Chinese, who not only carve beautiful articles out of it, such as fans, card-cases, and the like, but burn it in their joss-houses or temples as an incense. Many small vessels belonging to the Australian colonies are engaged in the sandal-wood trade, procuring it from the natives for the Chinese market. In the New Hebrides, the traders use a shell instead of money in the purchase of the wood; it is a beautiful and scarce species of ovulum (Ovulum page 39angulosum, Lam.) about an inch and a half long, looking like polished ivory, with a violet interior. This shell is obtained only at the Friendly Islands, and is so much valued by the natives of the New Hebrides for personal ornament that they will frequently give a ton of sandal wood for a single "nampoori."

The bread-fruit (Artocarpus incisa) forms the principal article of diet amongst the islanders of tropical Polynesia. It is to them—

"That tree which in unfailing stores
The staff of life spontaneous pours,
And to those southern islands yields
The produce of our labour'd fields."

The natives are remarkably fond of it, and it appears to be very wholesome and nourishing, as a perceptible improvement is often observed in the appearance of the people a few weeks after the bread-fruit season has commenced. There are upwards of thirty varieties of this noble tree, all of which have distinct native appellations. It grows in Tahiti, the Sandwich Islands, the Marquesas, the Samoas, the Figis, the New Hebrides, and, in fact, in most of the larger of the tropical islands, where it delights in rich, moist, sheltered situations. The refreshing green of its foliage, the large and singular-looking fruits that hang from its branches, together with the pleasant shade it affords, all combine to render the bread-fruit one of the most attractive trees to those who visit Polynesia. It attains a height of from fifty to sixty feet, and measures about six feet in circumference. page 40For the chiefs and persons of distinction the bread-fruit is usually cooked three times daily; but the poorer classes seldom dress it more than once, and often rebake it on the next. Formerly, one method of preparing the bread-fruit was as follows:—the population of a district would assemble and form a large common oven, by digging a pit twenty or thirty feet round, and filling it with firewood and large stones, till the heat became very great. The covering was then removed, and many hundreds of ripe bread-fruits thrown in, with leaves laid over them; the remaining hot stones were placed above them, and the whole covered with leaves and earth. This wholesale mode of baking the fruit has, however, been much discontinued since the introduction of Christianity into the islands, in consequence of the feasting, debauchery, rioting, and kava drinking that invariably followed the opening of one of these ovens.

In the Sandwich Islands the bread-fruit is often eaten green. It is cooked by placing it on the fire, when the outer coat becomes charred, and the inner parts only roast like a potato. When the outer rind is removed it has the appearance of "a beautiful light-coloured smoking loaf." This invaluable tree, besides producing three or four regular crops annually, yields a fine resin, which the natives use to render the seams of their canoes water-tight, and a valuable timber, of which the houses, canoes, and furniture of the people of many of the islands are constructed.

Of the plantain and the banana, which are indi-page 41genous to Polynesia, there appear to be some thirty cultivated varieties, besides nearly twenty wild ones, which are also large and useful, especially the "fehi" or mountain-plantain, which adorns the elevated lands with its broad leaves, and its upright clusters of brilliant orange-coloured fruit. There is one variety with foliage of a dark purple hue, which has a beautiful effect when mingled with the greens and yellows of the surrounding trees.

The "orea," or maiden-plantain, attains the highest perfection, and is truly delicious. The stem is seldom more than twelve feet high; its leaves are magnificent specimens of tropical foliage, being often ten to fifteen feet long, nearly two feet wide, and of the most exquisite green colour. The fruit is about nine inches long, shaped somewhat like a cucumber, but more angular at the sides, and, when ripe, is of a rich yellow colour. From fifty to seventy fruits are often attached to the same stalk. Each plantain produces but one bunch of fruit, and it is then cut down, its place being supplied by the suckers that arise round the root.

The yam and the taro are esculent roots, both of which yield the Polynesians a large supply of food, especially the latter, and the cultivation of them is carried on with much care. The yam is the root of the Diascorea alata, and has somewhat the appearance of an enormous potato. It is nutritive, and of a pleasant taste, and is prepared for food either by baking or boiling. The taro is the root of the Arum esculentum, and may be ranked next to the page 42bread-fruit as an article of sustenance amongst the islanders. They bake the roots in native ovens, and then beat them into a paste, which they call 'poe.' This is eaten by thrusting the forefinger of the right hand into the mass, and securing as much as will adhere to it, passing it to the mouth with a rapid evolution.

The South Sea arrowroot, which forms an article of commerce amongst the more civilized islands, is prepared from the root of a plant called Tacca pinnatifida, which is indigenous to the soil. The root is first beaten to a pulp, and, after being subjected to frequent washings, is exposed to the sun to dry. The natives make a kind of bread of this arrowroot, which is very agreeable, and is chiefly used at feasts and other seasons of festivity.

In New Zealand the kumera, or sweet potato, is cultivated. The natives bestow great care upon their kumera plantations, and the roots form an esteemed article of diet with the chiefs on public occasions. It is the Convolvulus battata, a plant indigenous to Mexico and the Sandwich Islands, and which, according to the traditions of the New Zealanders, was brought by their ancestors when they arrived in three canoes from the eastward.

Amongst the poisonous trees in Figi, that most dreaded by the natives is the "kau karo," or itchwood (Onocarpus vitiensis). This tree when fully developed is about sixty feet high, bearing large oblong leaves, and a very curious corky fruit, something like a walnut. On a drop of the juice of the "kau karo" coming in contact with the skin, it page 43instantly produces a pain equal to that caused by a red-hot poker. Mr. Milne, who was botanical collector on board H.M.S. "Herald" when she surveyed the Figian group, says that he met with a nettle tree (a species of Laportea), forty to fifty feet high, which, when touched, causes a burning sensation so severe that the effect is felt for many weeks.

The smoke of the burning wood of the poisonous "sinu" (Excæcaria agallocha) causes intolerable pain. None save those who have experienced the effects of this smoke can form any adequate idea of the agonies endured by those Figians who voluntarily submit themselves to the smoke of the "sinu" for the cure of leprosy. The leper is divested of his clothing, and, being bound hand and foot, is rubbed over with green leaves, and suspended over a small fire, on which a few pieces of the "sinu" are laid. The door is then closed, and the sufferer left in the black and agonizing smoke for some hours, where after shouting with pain he at length faints away. When smoked enough, he is removed, the slime scraped from his body, and gashes cut into the skin to cause the blood to flow freely. In some cases of smoking lepers death is the result, whilst others end in a speedy and lasting cure from this loathsome disease.

The Ahurites triloba or candlenut tree grows in abundance on the declivities of hills and in ravines in the Sandwich and other islands of the Pacific, the whiteness of its foliage rendering it a conspicuous object. This is occasioned by a fine white powder on the upper surface of the leaf, which can page 44be readily removed by the finger; the under surface of the leaf is of a dark-green colour. It attains a height of about thirty feet, bearing small white flowers in erect clusters, and a small globular fruit, which is rough externally. The nut of this tree was the principal substitute for candles amongst the islanders previous to the introduction of sperm oil amongst them by the whalers. It is full of a rich oil, and after being slightly baked, is formed into torches by means of stringing thirty or forty nuts together on a rush, and then enclosing them in the leaves of the "ti" tree. After being lighted, before one nut is consumed, the flame extends to the oil of the one below; and, as the blaze expires, the shell of the exhausted nut is struck off and falls to the ground, and so on, until the entire torch is burnt out. These nuts are also agreeable as an article of food, and possess a flavour much like the Brazil nut. In the Admiralty Islands the natives remove the outer shells, and form a sort of cake of the nuts, which are compressed into long masses, wrapped in leaves, and tightly bound round with the stems of some climbing plant. These packages will keep for a long time, and are more convenient to the natives on their journeys than the loose nuts.

The toa, or drooping casuarina (C. equisetifolia), may be seen in many of the islands, growing in clumps about the villages, or native burying-places, for which latter its mournful character and sombre shade render it peculiarly suitable. Formerly the toa was regarded as sacred, and planted in groves round the "morais" of Tahiti. The ruins of some page 45of these places still exist, amidst the shade of the old trees—spots which, before the introduction of Christianity, were the scenes of human sacrifices, and all the horrible and degrading ceremonies of a pagan faith.

The tappa cloth, so generally used as an article of clothing in the central Pacific, is manufactured from the inner bark of the paper-mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera.) This bark is taken off the trunk in a single piece by a longitudinal incision from one end of the trunk to the other; it is scraped, spread out, rolled, and flattened, and beaten with little wooden mallets, which are four-sided; one side being smooth, the second coarsely grooved, the third more finely ridged, and the fourth checked in squares or diamonds. Thus the pattern may be varied, and cloth produced either smooth, striped like dimity, finely corded, or with a small check like diaper. The thickness of the tappa also varies, some being as stout as coarse brown paper or even morocco leather, whilst other kinds are produced as delicate and transparent as the finest gauze. Their sleeping-cloths are made of ten sheets of the stouter sort of tappa fastened together, and are as large as a good-sized blanket. Twenty yards of fine cloth are required by a Tahitian woman to make one dress, which is worn from the waist downwards.

The leaves of the pandanus, or screwpine, are used for manufacturing a very large kind of floor mats, sometimes twenty yards square, which are plaited almost as fine as Leghorn straw. Sometimes these are dyed of various colours, and bordered by a rich fringe. page 46The odoriferous nuts of this singular and useful tree are manufactured into necklaces and worn on festive occasions.

The Phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax, is the most useful plant that country affords. To the natives it is invaluable, serving them instead of hemp and flax, and excelling in strength and durability all other kinds of fibrous material. There are two varieties of this plant, one having its long flag-like leaves striped with yellow, as in the ribbon-grass. It occurs abundantly in all parts of New Zealand, but flourishes best in moist localities, and near the banks of rivers. From its cluster of long leaves, which grow to a height of five or six feet, there rises a tall flower-stalk bearing numerous rows of yellowish or dark-red blossoms. Of the leaves of the phormium, with very little preparation, the natives make all their common garments, as well as their strings, lines, and cordage of every description, which are so much stronger than anything we can fabricate with hemp, as not to bear comparison. By another process they draw from the plant long slender fibres, shining like silk, and white as snow, and of these they manufacture their finest articles of dress, called "kaitaka," dyeing their borders black and red in various angular patterns, with the juices of the "tanekaha" and the "hinau" tree. The silky fibre is separated from the leaf by the New Zealand women in the following manner: the apex is held between the toes; a transverse section is then made through the succulent matter at that end with acommon mussel shell, which is inserted between that substance and page 47the fibre, and readily effects its separation by drawing the shell through the whole length of the leaf. Simple as this native method appears to be, still no machinery has yet been invented which can successfully prepare this valuable production for the market. In the year 1831, 1062 tons of flax prepared by the natives was exported to England via Sydney; since which period the quantity has annually decreased. The Phormium tenax also grows indigenously in Norfolk Island and the Chatham Islands, and has been introduced into France, where it flourishes admirably.

The Polynesian islands abound in beautiful ferns. Amongst the most remarkable of these are the lofty tree-ferns of New Zealand, the Cyathea dealbata, which attains a height of forty feet, the Cyathea medullaris, the Dicksonia squamosa, and the Mahrattia elegans. Dr. Bennett says, "I accompanied a native to a place where I could see the tree-ferns growing. After passing through a dense forest, annoyed by the 'tataramoa,' or New Zealand bramble, and stumbling over the lianas, or supple-jacks, which trailed upon the ground, we descended a hill covered with exuberant vegetation, and shaded by enormous trees; we then came to a marshy spot, luxuriant in verdure, where the magnificent tree-ferns rose in groups before us. Solitude reigned, disturbed only by the low murmurings of a silvery rivulet, that meandered through the mossy dell below." These ferns were probably the Mahrattia elegans and Dicksonia squamosa. "The one," says Dr. Bennett, "is remarkable from the large size of the spiral stipes and the page 48enormous extent of its fronds: the trunk, stipes, and central stalks of the fronds are of a shining black colour; the fronds themselves are of the most delicate green, and their height from sixteen to eighteen feet. The other has the leaflets smaller, whilst the stalk and under surface of the fronds are yellow."

The sugarcane, and nearly all the edible fruits and vegetables of other warm climates, are found to thrive wonderfully throughout tropical Polynesia, and have, in some of the islands, been extensively cultivated. The orange, lemon, shaddock, lime, citron, tamarind, pomegranate, custard-apple, guava, mango, fig, and mulberry, besides the coffee-tree, cotton, tobacco, and indigo plants, all grow luxuriantly, though few of them are indigenous to the soil. In the Sandwich Islands the sugarcane grows spontaneously, and perhaps comes to greater perfection there than in any other part of the globe. The natives on their journeys carry pieces of the cane with them, which furnish a sweet and nourishing juice, appeasing at once both hunger and thirst. They have latterly been taught to extract the juice, and by boiling it they prepare a very excellent sugar.

By a diversity of combinations of their various indigenous fruits and vegetables the South Sea Islanders prepare several excellent kinds of food, which may be termed the confectionery or "made-dishes" of Polynesia. With ripe bread-fruit and plantain mixed they form "pepe," which, when baked, resembles soft gingerbread. A composition of arrowroot and grated cocoa-nut kernel is called page 49"taota;" and of arrowroot and plantain they make a number of sweet puddings, which are folded in leaves and baked in the native ovens. They also unhappily possess the art of extracting from the saccharine root of the ti tree (Dracæna terminalis) a spirituous and highly intoxicating liquor, which they call "kava" or "ava." This inebriating fluid they use in great quantities, especially on festive occasions. Whole districts frequently unite in erecting what might be called a public still. A rude fragment of rock, excavated below to contain a fire, and surmounted by the end of a large hollow tree in which the ma­ cerated roots of the ti are placed, compose the chief materials; whilst a bamboo-cane, placed in a trough of cold water, condenses the distilled vapour, which flows into a calabash set below to receive it.

The roots and stems of a kind of pepper (Piper methysticum) are also extensively distilled in many of the islands for the purpose of producing a kind of "kava." This latter spirit is not, however, equal to that made from the "ti," and has so nauseous a flavour that the natives usually swallow a draught of water after the intoxicating dose to remove its unpleasant taste and burning effects. The ceremony of "kava-drinking," formerly so popular amongst the principal groups of the Pacific, has latterly almost fallen into disuse, and, through the efforts of the missionaries, has been quite abolished in many of the islands. On such occasions, the king or chief would sit in state, surrounded by his principal men, or by visitors of distinction, when a portion of the kava root was handed round to each person present, page 50who, after masticating it, placed it in a large wooden bowl with four legs, which stood in front of the chief. Water being gradually added, and the roots well squeezed and worked about with the hands, the beverage was then strained through a piece of fine fibrous cloth, and the process completed. During the preparation of the bowl, other persons were engaged in making small drinking cups from the leaf of the plantain, which, on being filled, were handed round to the guests, the chief calling out "the kava is in the cup." During the drinking, and throughout the whole ceremony, the strictest silence is maintained by the visitors, who frequently prolong the festival for a considerable time, fresh bowls of kava being manufactured in turn by the most important guests.

The inhabitants of the Louisiade, New Guinea, the Admiralty, and the Solomon Islands, &c, chew the betel-nut, the fruit of the Areca catechu, which is used by them instead of the pepperbetel leaf, extensively employed throughout the Indian Archipelago. It has the effect of discolouring the teeth and imparting a bloody appearance to the saliva. In the Solomon Islands each native carries his chewing materials in a small basket, the lime, in fine powder, being contained in a long gourd with a stopper, which is frequently ornamented at the top with the carved figure of a man, having attached to it a long spatula of tortoise-shell, like a paper-knife, which is used to convey the lime to the tongue and lips.

Amongst the botanical productions of New Guinea page 51and the islands of the Louisiade, the famous pitcher-plant (Nepenthes distillatoria) deserves mention. It grows abundantly amongst the tall grasses on the skirts of the jungle, and the pitchers contain a small quantity of limpid sweetish fluid, with small insects floating on its surface.

In conclusion, we will glance hastily at a few of the more prominent of the flowering shrubs and smaller plants of Polynesia. In the New Zealand forests the blossoms of the clematis and the passion-flower enliven the sombre foliage of the larger trees, and the sweet-scented hoya fills the air with its fragrance. Of this shrub, in the woods near Waipa, Mr. Angas remarks: "On entering the forests again, a delicious fragrance, like that of hyacinth and jessamine mingled, filled the humid atmosphere with its perfume. It arose from the petals of a straggling, climbing sort of shrub, with bright-green glossy leaves, resembling those of the nutmeg tree, and a profusion of rich blossoms, looking as though they were formed of wax, which hung in clusters of trumpet-shaped bells, and were of every shade of colour, from pinkish white to the deepest crimson. The natives call this plant 'horopito.'" The fuchsia is indigenous in New Zealand, the woods in many places being adorned with an undergrowth of this elegant shrub. In its wild state it bears two distinct sets of flowers—one green and purple, the other purple and red; whilst the pollen on the anthers of the green petals is of the most vivid cobalt-blue colour. Along the banks of the rivers, the "kowai," or "native laburnum," displays its pro-page 52fusion of golden blossom. In the New Hebrides several species of convolvulus twine over the dense thickets, as does the Hoya viridiflora with its pale green flowers; whilst the mountain glens of Figi teem with beautiful plants, the odours of whose blossoms defy description.

The native females of the Sandwich Islands use a variety of flowers for making their "leis," or head-wreaths; one of these flowers is a species of Sida, which is cultivated to produce double blossoms. Those plants which afford orange or yellow colours are preferred. The large and handsome white Mexican poppy is also indigenous in the Sandwich Islands.

Many of the mosses and livermosses of New Zealand are very interesting: amongst the lichens are the beautiful Cenomyce retispora, resembling bunches of white cellular coral; and a cupmoss, the edges of which are tipped with brilliant scarlet. Some of the large fungi growing from the trunks of the trees, near the roots, are so broad and strong as to form capital seats; and at night luminous toadstools sparkle like stars in every direction amongst the damp forests. There is also in New Zealand a very curious fungus which is parasitical on a caterpillar. It is found at the roots of the "rata" trees, and is called Sphœria Bobertsii, being the "hotete" of the natives.