Notes on the Plants Forwarded to Native Schools, 1885.
Teachers should, when planting, endeavour to utilise as far as possible the information contained in the following notes. This information has been derived from sources that may be relied upon, and if attention is paid to it the introduction of these useful plants into Native districts will be successfully accomplished.
It is desirable that teachers should endeavour to disseminate amongst the Natives the knowledge to be gained from these notes, and that, as far as may be, the Natives should take part in the operations necessary for planting and securing the trees and shrubs that are being sent to their districts, almost exclusively for their advantage. The Department will be glad to hear of cases in which the Natives and their teacher have heartily co-operated in carrying forward this good work.
1. Maranta arundinacea, (Arrowroot plant).
The true arrowroot plant is probably a native of the West Indies, where it has been very largely cultivated. It seems not improbable that it could be grown well, and with profitable results, in the northern part of the Auckland District, and that it might be grown nearly as far south as Napier.
The best soil for the plant is a deep rich loam, which should be ploughed or dug in the same manner as for potatoes. The sets should he placed in rows about three feet apart, with two feet from set to set in each row. The sets should be four inches from the surface; a single tuber forms a set. The proper time for planting is from the middle of June to the end of August. The after cultivation is much like that of potatoes, the soil being hoed up to the plants twice during page 2 their earlier growth. About the end of May would be the best time to take up the tubers and to begin manufacturing the arrowroot; the work might be continued till August, but the tubers, if broken and left for any time, would deteriorate, and the produce would be greatly diminished. The smallest of the secondary tubers should be reserved for next season's crop. These should never be allowed to become dry, as that would injure their vitality; they should be kept covered with soil until they are planted out, or they should be planted out immediately after they are lifted.
The great importance of the arrowroot plant is due to the fact that its rhizomes, or underground stems, contain a nutritious starch in great abundance. The rhizomes are tuberous, white, and scaly, and are ripe for use immediately before the period of rest, when they contain about twenty-five per cent, of the starch; they should be taken up at the end of the first year.
In the preparation of arrowroot on a small scale the rhizomes are washed, peeled very carefully and completely, and beaten in a wooden mortar or ground in a hand-mill to a milky pulp. The pulp is diluted with water, and the liquid is strained through a sieve of coarse cloth or hair, the fibres being rejected. The albumen and salts remain in solution in the water, while the starch* page 3 is deposited as a powder, which, after repeated washings, is dried in the sun.
Arrowroot is very easily digested and therefore forms a most valuable food for invalids. As, however, it contains no nitrogen, it must, if used as an article of regular diet be supplemented by milk, eggs, meat, or other substances rich in nitrogen. It should not generally be given to young infants, as their organs are not suited to the digestion of starchy food.
Arrowroot should be stirred in cold water to form a tolerably firm paste, to which, while it is being stirred, boiling water should be added. A tablespoonful is sufficient to a pint of water or milk.
2. Ceratonia siliqua, (Carob bean).
This is a native of the Mediterranean region. It requires a good rich soil and a warm climate; it would probably succeed in the northern part of the Auckland District. The fruit of the carob contains a russet, insipid edible pulp of great value as forage. The carob should be grown in clumps, as the male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. In countries where it is extensively grown the practice is to graft one branch of the male to each plant of the female.
3. Phœnix dactylifera, (Date palm).
This useful tree is a native of Arabia and Africa. The male and female flowers are borne on different plants, and as the tree cannot be grafted the young palms should be planted in clumps. A deep rich soil is needed, and the tree succeeds best when it has been sheltered for a few years by other trees. The date takes about fifteen years before it begins to fruit. In California it has been fruiting for the last two or three years, and it is almost sure to succeed in the northern parts of Auckland.
4. Fraxinus americana, (White American Ash).
A valuable timber tree; it will succeed almost anywhere in New Zealand if planted in a good deep rich soil.
5. Furcrœa flavoviridis, (Fibre plant).
This will succeed north or south of Auckland. Any rough broken ground will answer admirably for the cultivation of this plant. In fact it would succeed best on broken hill sides; it would hardly be possible to cultivate it in the ordinary manner. Where it is once established it will reproduce itself by little bulblets which fall from the ripened flower stalk. It is hoped that the Natives will soon find the way to utilise this plant, which will he found to be far less troublesome to deal with than the harakeke, or phormium tenax.
6. Urtica utilis, Rhea or Ramia; Chinese Nettle, (Fibre Plant).
The Ramia will grow well in any good rich moist soil; as it spreads its roots it should be planted by itself where it is to grow permanently. It will succeed north or south of Auckland. The fibre is extracted from the stem of the plant.
7. Platanus orientalis, (Oriental Plane).
This is a timber and shelter tree. It will grow almost anywhere in New Zealand. It maybe propagated early from cuttings.
Wellington: By Authority: George Didsbury, Government Printer.
* The following extract from Pereira's "Materia Medica," will give some idea of the leading processes involved in the preparation of arrowroot on an extensive scale:—"The carefully skinned tubers are washed, then ground in a mill and the pulp washed in tinned copper cylindrical washing machines. The fecula is subsequently dried in drying houses. In order to obtain the fecula free from impurity, pure water must be used and great care and attention paid in every step of the process. The skinning and peeling of the tubers must be performed with great nicety, as the outside contains a resinous matter, which imparts colour and a disagreeable flavour to the starch. German silver palettes are used in skinning the deposited fecula, and shovels of the same metal for packing the dried fecula. The drying is effected in pans covered with white gauze to exclude dust and insects."