Littell's Living Age/Volume 134/Issue 1726/A New Stimulant - Pitury
Baron von Mueller writes to the Australian Medical Journal on the origin of the pitury, a stimulant said to be of marvellous power and known to be in use by the aborigines of central Australia. After years of efforts to get a specimen of the plant, he had obtained leaves, but neither flowers nor fruits. He can almost with certainty, after due microscopic examination, pronounce those of the pitury as derived from his Duboisia Hopwoodii, described in 1861 (Fragm. Phytogr. Austr., ii. 138). This bush extends from the Darling River and Barcoo to West Australia, through desert scrubs, but is of exceedingly sparse occurrence anywhere. In fixing the origin of the pitury, a wide field for further inquiry is opened up, inasmuch as a second species of Duboisia (D. myoporoides, R. Br.) extends in forest land from near Sydney to near Cape York, and is traced also to New Caledonia, and lately by him also to New Guinea. In all probability this D. myoporoides shares the properties of D. Hopwoodii, as he finds that both have the same burning, acrid taste. Baron Mueller adds: "Though the first known species is so near to us, we never suspected any such extraordinary properties in it as are now established for the later discovered species. Moreover, the numerous species of the allied genus Anthocercis, extending over the greater part of the Australian continent and to Tasmania, should now also be tasted, and further the many likewise cognate Schwenkeas of South America should be drawn into the same cyclus of research, nothing whatever of the properties of any of these plants being known. The natives of central Australia chew the leaves of Duboisia Hopwoodii, just as the Peruvians and Chilians masticate the leaves of the coca (Erythroxylon coca), to invigorate themselves during their long foot journeys through the deserts. I am not certain whether the aborigines of all districts in which the pitury grows are really aware of its stimulating power. Those living near the Barcoo travel many days' journeys to obtain this, to them, precious foliage, which is carried always about by them broken into small fragments and tied up in little bags. It is not improbable that a new and perhaps important medicinal plant is thus gained. The blacks use the Duboisia to excite their courage in warfare; a large dose infuriates them."