Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1/Malvaceae

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Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1  (1840)  by Robert Wight


A large and important natural order of plants, consisting of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous annuals, with round, spreading branches, alternate, simple, entire, or lobed leaves; generally crenated or toothed ; furnished with stipules, and usually clothed with stellate hairs. The flowers are hermaphrodite, or occasionally unisexual, generally regular, solitary or aggregated, in axillary, solitary, or fascicled, peduncles.

The calyx is persistent, composed of 5 sepals, sometimes free, sometimes more or less cohering, valvate (the edges not overlapping) in oestivation, and occasionally as in Abelmoschus , splitting only along one side (spathacious) often furnished with an involucrum of approximated bractete, resembling an exterior calyx, and so called by Linnaeus. The torus is dilated disk- like. The corolla is 5-petaled, inserted into the edge of the torus, alternate with the sepals, equal, unguiculate, cohering at the base among themselves and with the staminal tube, and spirally twisted in oestivation. Stamens usually indefinite, inserted between the petals and ovary ; filaments more or less completely united into a tube, sometimes the union, as in Sida, is confined to the base, while at others, as Gossypium, &c. it extends nearly to the apex, and being of unequal lengths, they present the appearance of a column covered throughout with anthers, with the stigmas projecting and forming the apex of the pillar. The anthers are 1 -celled! reniform, opening by a transverse clift, giving passage to the globose hispid ! grains of pollen. The ovary is composed of several carpels, either definite (about 5) or indefinite, from 20 to 30 ranged round a central axis, with one or many ovules. Fruit capsular, many celled, cells either remaining completely united, or becoming more or less distinct, and sepa- rating with the seed enclosed, dehiscence in the former case loculicidal. Seeds somewhat reni- form attached to the internal angle of the carpels, glabrous or enveloped in a covering of hairs ; albumen none or very sparing. Embryo large, the cotyledons foliacious, variously doubled and twisted, often cordate, radicle pointing to the hilum.

Affinities. This large and, as it may appear from the preceding description, complex order is yet one of easy determination, even among the orders with which it was originally combined by Jussieu, now forming the class Columniferce, of Bartling (all remarkable for having the oestivation of the calyx valvate) by its I -celled reniform anthers. Dr. Lindley gives the following brief exposition of its affinities, premising as an anomaly in the order that " In Malope the carpels are numerous, and distinct, not arranged in a single row as in the rest of the order." " The relation of Malvacece with Sterculiaceae, Tiliaceae, and Elceocarpaceae, is clearly indicated by their general accordance in structure, and especially by the valvate oestiva- tion of their calyx. With other orders they also agree in numerous points ; as, with Ranun- culaceae, in the indefinite stamens and distinct aggregate carpels of Malope ; with Ternstrce- miaceae in their monadelphous stamens ; with Chlenacea,e in the presence of an involucre below the flower, and monadelphous stamens ; with Linaceae in their mucilaginous properties, definite seeds, many-celled fruit, and unguiculate petals ; and through the medium of this last order with Silenacece."

Essential Character. Polypetalous dicotyledons. Calyx with valrate cestivation. Sta- mens numerous, monadelphous : Anthers one-celled. Ovary wholly superior ; of several carpels combined into a solid pistil, with more placentas than one. Leaves furnished with stipules.

Geographical Distribution. This, although some species extend nearly to the polar limits of the temperate zone, may be looted upon as principally a tropical family, the greater part of them being found either within the tropics, or in the warmer latitudes on their immediate confines and within that range are very abundant both as to species and individuals. Three or four only are found in England, but the number is considerable in the south of Europe, while in the north they altogether disappear. The Indian peninsula presents a catalogue of about 62 or about g' T of the whole phenogamous flora (estimated to amount to 4000 species) which is a considerably smaller proportion than that of the equinoxial regions of America, in which they are said to amount to T ' y th or ^th of the flowering plants. This difference may possibly result from my having used too high an estimate for the whole flora as according to Brown, the pro- portion for tropical India is as high as -~ : this again may be owing to his having included Byttneriaceae and Bombaceae in his calculation which I have excluded from mine, but which when included still leaves the proportion below Mr. Brown's ratio. With the addition of these orders, the ratio malvales bear to the rest of the flora, estimated as above at 4000, is J^th which I believe may be considered a very near approximation to Mr. Brown's estimate, now that the proportions have been altered, by the recent discovery of many alpine plants altogether un- known to Roxburgh, from whose materials Mr. Brown's estimate is deduced.

Properties and Uses. Mankind are largely beholden to this order, more so perhaps than to any other, as supplying them with food, medicine, shelter and clothing.

The uniform character of Malvaceae is to abound in mucilage and to be totally destitute of unwholesome properties. Such being the case, it is to be expected that many of them are em- ployed as food : among these may be enumerated our Hibisctis (Abelmoschus) esculentus the mucilaginous fruit of which is our well-known Bandikai : Hibiscus Cannabinus, the leaves of which are eat as spinach, while the fibres of the bark is twisted into a kind of cordage : the Hibiscus Subdariffa or rozelle from the fleshy acid calyx of which, excellent jelly, and tart fruit, are prepared : and many others.

In medicine nearly the whole tribe are employed, as affording medicines possessing demul- cent, and emollient properties. The marsh mallow, and many other allied species are indiscrimi- nately used as such in Europe, and several species of Abutilon (Sida), such as A. indicnm and Asiaticum are similarly employed in this country. The yellow juice, as well as strong infusions of the bark of Thespesia (Hibiscus) populnea (Portia tree) are employed by native practitioners for the cure of cutaneous diseases. An infusion of the roots of Pavonia odorata is prescribed as a diet-drink in fevers. Other species of this order are, and nearly all from their mucilaginous properties, may be, similarly employed. The petals of Hibiscus Rosa Sinesis (Shoe-flower or China-rose) communicate, when rubbed on paper, a bluish purple tint which forms a very ex- cellent substitute for Litmus paper as a chymical test. It has been already remarked that the fibres of the bark of Hibiscus Cannabinus are employed in the formation of course cordage, those of most of the larger kinds might be thus used, as in all they are very strong. The heart wood of Thespesia (Hibiscus) populnea is dark coloured and very hard, somewhat re- sembling that of the chesnut, and like it, adapted for the formation of gun stocks and similar purposes requiring a hard close grained, but not heavy or large sized, timber, which this rarely becomes, owing to the white outside portion being like that procured from all the other arbo- rious forms occurring in the order, soft and of little value.

This last named species enjoys in a remarkable degree, a peculiar tenacity of life, large branches, after being severed from the trunk, surviving long enough to admit of their taking root, when planted as cuttings, like slender slips, and in a few months presenting the appearance of very respectable sized trees. It is worthy of remark however, that the trees so produced, rarely produce seed though they flower freely, and what is perhaps not less deserving of no- tice, they all decay in the centre, hence it is now rare among them to meet with either the mature fruit, or a sound timber tree, the practice of thus propagating them by cuttings, in place of by seed, for so long a time, having at length apparently destroyed their reproductive power, and. deteriorated the quality of their vegetation.

But it is in their last mentioned capacity, that of affording clothing, that the Mal- vaceae become the greatest benefactors of mankind, Cotton being the produce of a genus of plants appertaining to this order. The genus Gosst/pimn from which it is derived, embraces but few species, and these of difficult discrimination, owing to long culture having caused them to run into every variety of form. So great indeed is their tendency to run into variations that some Botanists have even doubted whether there are more than two distinct, and permanently distinguishable species, among the whole host of forms that have by different au- thors been supposed entitled to rank as such.

To some it may appear a question of little moment whether we consider all these forms as species or varieties so long as they continue permanent. This is partly true, but at the same time it is desirable to ascertain what are species and what varieties, since the term species implies permanency, while variety conveys exactly the opposite idea, or that of liability to change under any variation of the circumstances under which they may be produced, hence their aptitude for culture unchanged in some favoured situations and their disposition to change in others to all appearance equally favourable. My own observations certain- ly lead me to adopt the conclusion, that the species have been unnecessarily multiplied by some, and reduced too low by others. Thus DeCandolle enumerates 13 species, and Mr. Royle eight, both these catalogues will probably be found in excess. Dr. Lush and Jacquemont reduce them to two. These Botanists probably err in the opposite extreme, but yet, as their opportunities of observation were great, their statements must be received with deference. They seem to attach no value to characters taken either from the colour or quality of the wool on the seed, or the absence or presence of a coating of short hair or down, with which the seed of some sorts are clothed ; neither to the forms of the foliage or native country, or clothing, or ha- bit, of the plants, whether glabrous or hairy, arborious or annual. According to this view the various [ndian forms in which a somewhat palmate form of the foliage prevails and is most constant, and the American ones figured here under the specific name of G. barbadense , in which a lobed and angled foliage is equally permanent are all mere varieties of the same plant, while the form named G. acuminatum is, on account of its adherent seed alone, looked upon as a distinct species. With this view I confess I feel disposed to coincide to a great extent, though not to go the whole length, since I cannot yet bring myself to acknowledge the specific identity of the constantly palmated leaved and hispid Indian forms, and the equally permanently lobed and angled leaved and glabrous American forms. The more so, as these forms retain their pecu- liarities of foliage in all the varied situations and circumstances in which they have been made to grow in all the four quarters of the world. Under this view, I acknowledge three species as certain, viz. the old Qossypium herbaceum, with palmately lobed leaves, whether an annual or a tree of indefinite duration, secondly, the American form with simply lobed or angled leaves, equally leaving duration out of the question, G. barbndense ; and thirdly, the form with the seed adherent in form of a cone, G. acuminatum, comprehending the various forms known under the names of Pernambuco, Peruvian, Bahia and Ava cotton. I prefer Roxburgh's name to the older G. ppru- vianum, as it expresses the prevailing form of the lobes of the leaves rather than the native country of a plant so widely distributed. Under the first of these leading forms may be ranged: G. indicum Lam : G. micranthnm Cav. G. arboreum f Linn. G. vitifolium ff J Lam. G. hit' sutum Linn.G. eglandulosum Cav. G. religiosum f? J Linn, and G. obtusi folium, Roxb. Under the second all the American forms with distinct seed: and under the third, all those having them coherent; whether downy or smooth, or with 3 or 4-valved capsules. Dr. B. Hamil- ton, following Van Rohr employs the seed to furnish his specific characters, and according as they are black or white, reduces all the forms to one or other of two species, distinguished by that mark. Our country Cotton, and all its varieties, form his G. album : the American ones with black seed, his G. nigrum, among which G. acuminatum is included. The charac- ters on which this division is established I consider of no value in themselves, but the divi- sion itself, excluding G. acuminatum from his G. nigrum, I think correct.

In three instances in the above enumeration I have added marks of doubt, indicating there- by, that I am still uncertain whether or not they ought to be considered distinct species. Judg- ing from Mr. Royle's description, G. vitifolium seems to be either a hybrid or cross, between the Indian and American forms, or G. acuminatum, but as I have not examined the plant I forbear to offer any opinion. The other two, G. arboreum and G. religiosum are, I believe the same plant, though possibly distinct, but I rather think not, since the difference of the colour of the flower only, (the one purple the other yellow), gives probability to that suppo- sition, and such a distinction, would scarcely be admitted in any other genus. With the view however of enabling all those who take an interest in this branch of the enquiry to judge for themselves, I shall copy and reprint in outline, in my forthcoming Icones, along with the obtuse lobed variety, Mr. Royle's figures, both as showing the grounds on which his opinion is formed, and the difference of forms of the Asiatic and American species. In so far as I have yet gone, my remarks have all been directed to the botanical peculiarities of this genus, it is now incum- bent on me, in a work which has for its object to give some account of the history and the uses of the more valuable plants which fall to be noticed in its progress, to consider briefly the eco- nomical applications of the produce of this genus, which, when viewed in all its relations, must without any exception, be ranked as the most valuable to mankind of the whole vegetable kingdom.

During the year 1835, there was imported into England 361,685,000 pounds of clean cotton. As however the imports that year were very high, let us suppose that 350 millions of pounds is the quantity imported into England annually, and as a general average, that one acre produces 100 lbs. of clean cotton, then 3,500.000 square acres of surface or about 5469 square miles, are required to supply the English market with that one commodity : to cultivate which, at the rate of 100 persons per square mile 5,46,900 persons are employed; and to convey the produce to England 1,56,250 tons of shipping, or about 157 ships of 500 tons are required giv- ing employment to upwards of 6000 persons to navigate them : add to these, the number of people employed in packing, conveying the article to the coast, embarking, relanding, &c. and we may perhaps fairly assume as a very low estimate, that not fewer than a million persons are engaged in supplying England with the raw material only, of her cotton manufactures.

The numbers employed in the construction of the machinery, and in the fabrication of the article into the thousands of shapes it is made to assume, it is quite impossible to say, but may perhaps, at a moderate estimate be stated at ten times that amount, when to that we add, that probably not one-twentieth of what is produced finds its way to England, we may well say, that cotton is the most valuable product of the vegetable kingdom.

The production of an article conferring so great commercial advantages on any country enjoying a soil and climate suited for the growth of the plant, becomes an object of the first importance, and has, more especially of late years, attracted much attention in India, in the hope of enabling her, by improving the quality and increasing the quantity of cotton grown for exportation, to compete, in supplying the English market, with America, though the latter is a country, apparently enjoying every advantage for its successful culture, one from which by far the best cotton has hitherto been derived, and which, contributes nearly 8- tenths of the quantity imported into England : realizing there, for her most ordinary kinds, from 20 to 30 per cent, more than the average prices of all those sorts, of East Indian extraction, technically known under the name of Surats. Is it probable that we shall ever be able to accomplish this object ? and if so, by what means are we most likely to succeed in so far improving the staple of our cottons, as to place them on a par with those of America ? These are important questions to this, as a productive country, and as such, ought, especially the first, to be well considered before an answer is given, since, if in the negative, it might have the effect of discouraging enterprise, and thereby, very materially tending to establish its own correctness, while, on the other hand, if answered confidently in the affirmative, might have the effect of leading to very injurious expenditure in a hopeless speculation.

The plan and limits of this work, not less than the short time allowed by the rapidly revolving months to devote to the elaboration of a comprehensive article on the subject, prevents me taking it up in all its bearings, I shall, however, endeavour to present a summary of what has been ascertained, and thence proceed to deduce such conclusions as will, I trust, prove a safe guide to future cultivators.

I stated above that in the English market even the cheapest sorts of American cotton, usually sell, from 20 to 30 per cent, higher than the East Indian sorts or ' Swats' as they are technically denominated in the Price Currents. Under these circumstances it became desirable that measures should be adopted to improve the Indian staples, with the view of placing them upon a more equal footing with the American, and the most obvious means of doing so appeared to be, to import seed and cultivate the American plant in India. It was, however, objected to this plan that as the Indian cloths, were more lasting or wore better than those fabricated from American cotton, that the Indian cotton was in reality better than the American, and that if more pains were bestowed on its cultivation, so as to render it a more market- able article, that it would from its own intrinsic merits supercede the latter. This objection was however readily answered by assuming, which is probably the fact, that the supe- riority of Indian cloth was not so much attributable to the quality of the cotton, as to its being used in a more favourable condition, and still more, by its not being injured by the application of acids, &c. in the bleaching.

On these grounds, and on the supposition that it might be easier to improve the cultivation by inculcating a little additional care in the management of a new and higher priced article, than by attempting to introduce any alteration in the management of one, which had been cultivated from time immemorial, and though not according to the most approved system, yet well enough to answer every useful purpose. Under this last view of the case, which to the best of my knowledge is strictly correct, it seems desirable to introduce as far as possible, the cultivation of some of the foreign sorts, were it for no other purpose than to establish improved modes of culture and preparation of the indigenous kinds, the quality of which, when well prepared, is considered but little inferior, if not, indeed, fully equal to Upland Georgian. To promote this object the Court of Directors with the concurrence and advice of the Board of Control, resolved in 1829, to establish experimental cotton farms under the Bombay presidency for the introduction of foreign sorts, especially the Upland Georgian and New Orleans, both belonging to the kind called " short staples" (from the shortness of the fibres of their wool,) and believing that it owed its superiority, partly, to the mode of cleaning, sent also American machines to separate the cotton from the seed.

The better to give these experiments every chance of success by diffusion, large quantities of American seed, accompanied by a copy of Captain Hall's instructions for its cultivation and the method of cleaning the produce as practised in America, was sent out in the course of that and the succeeding years to Bengal and Madras, and the Governments of these Presidencies instructed to distribute it among each of their Collectorates for experimental cultivation.

The seed thus received was accordingly distributed, but owing to accidents and delays too commonly attendant on first attempts, the greater part spoiled and failed to vegetate, and of that which did grow much was afterwards lost, some owing to improper soils having been selected, but by far the greater portion owing to the season, so far at least as the Madras Presidency was concerned, proving one of the most unfavourable that could be imagined for such an experiment. Extreme drought and famine prevailing generally throughout the country, cotton, and every thing else was neglected by the starving cultivators, who were intent only, on procuring food enough to maintain life.

So general a failure in the first experiment has proved most unfortunate, as it has tended to damp enterprise and destroy that hope of better success in after trials which would have resulted from success, however partial, in the first attempt, and seems to have put an almost entire stop to the further prosecution of these experiments, in which, by the way, the natives never seemed to take much interest, partly perhaps through apathy, but more probably, because they were frighten- ed at the anticipated additional trouble and expense without seeing any very certain prospect of adequate remuneration. This was more to be regretted, as success can scarcely be anticipated where the parties engaged in rather expensive and troublesome experiments have no direct inter- est in the result. The civil establishment could have none,and though they were, from their bet- ter knowledge of the advantages likely to accrue to the country from success, most willing and anxious to promote the introduction of the new kinds, yet being hampered by the strictness of the regulations of the service, were prevented aiding and stimulating to the extent that might have been required, native efforts for its attainment, added to which, was the uncertainty existing, on the part of the growers in the interior, of finding a ready market for an article less esteemed by the native manufacturer than their own short stapled but strong cotton, in the manufacture of which, long practice had conferred perfect facility. Impediments such as these are not to be overcome unless by persons who are really interested in the result, who can devote much of their time to the superintendence of the cultivation, can at all times command a ready market for their produce, and lastly, who have a considerable amount of capital to invest in the business.

The mere distribution of seed to ryots will not accomplish these ends in their present state of ignorance, poverty, and depression, for they at once say, the cost of ploughing and preparing the ground is so much, suppose this new seed is bad, or the plants do not thrive, or I do not know the proper seasons to sow, and gather in the harvest, who is to pay me for my lost time and labour, or to provide that proportion of support, for myself and family, that I would have derived from a crop of our own, less valuable it may be, but yet well known cotton, which I know how to cul- tivate, and which long experience informs me will not disappoint my expectation. This I cannot say for yours, since I never saw it growing, and as I am a poor man with a large family, I dare not engage in speculative experiments.

That such is the true source of aversion on the part of the natives to engage in these new kinds of cultivation, and neither apathy nor indifference to their own interests, of which they have a keen perception, is rendered evident by the fact, that in those districts, Salem, Tinnevel- ly, and Coimbatoor, where the cultivation of Bourbon cotton has taken firm root under the super- intendence of European Merchants, the natives cultivate it of their own accord, as readily or nearly so, as the indigenous country cotton, well knowing, that the crops of it are as certain as those of the other, and the demand for it equal if not greater. The American, short stapled cottons can be cultivated as easily and with equal certainty of success in these districts, but are actually discouraged, though they succeed well, as being more troublesome and expensive to clean, and much less valuable, both as an article of export commerce, and for domestic consumption among themselves, than the Bourbon cotton.

These instances, though the only ones I know, of unquestionable success on a large scale, prove indubitably the existence, in the Southern provinces of the Peninsula of India, of a soil and climate favourable for the production of these, in Europe, more esteemed varieties, and go far I think to show that if they have not succeeded elsewhere, that it is mainly for want of the proper encouragement being held out to the only persons qualified to cultivate them at a cheap rate, the native cultivators ; which, on this side of India, maybe fairly attributed to the want of European speculators, possessed of sufficient capital and enterprise to give the necessary impulse ; as it is through European enterprise alone, that success has been attained to the extent here stated. In this conviction I am farther confirmed, from the result of experiments I have had in progress during the last twelve months, on too small a scale, it is true, to admit of any very cer- tain conclusions being deduced, but still, such as to convince me, that with no other care than they receive in field cultivation, that both the Bourbon and short stapled American cottons may be successfully cultivated in our common alluvial soils, but more profitably in the red ones, which are largely charged with the red oxide of iron. The long stapled or sea island cotton has not succeeded with me, not because the plants themselves have been more delicate or less adapted to our climate than the others, but because they are subject to the attacks of an insect, which deposits its eggs in the young fruit, causing blight and destruction of the produce long before it attains maturity.

The Pernambuco variety ( Gossypium acuminatum J promises to succeed better, and being a strong growing shrub producing a very long stapled cotton, may prove a very useful addition to our stock.

It appears from the facts adduced, that the soil and climate of this portion of India, are far from unfavourable to the growth of the foreign varieties of the cotton plant, and equally that they produce cotton of good quality, but whether equal to that of American growth I am unable to say. Mr. Fischer of Salem, the Principal Cultivator on this side, of India has altogether dis- continued cultivating it, not on account of the inferiority of its produce, but because it is greatly inferior as an article of commerce to the Bourbon variety and much more troublesome and expensive to clean and fit for the market, and then, does not fetch so high a price by nearly 50 per cent. But though that is the case in the ferruginous soils of Salem, it does not follow that it would prove equally so in other districts where the soil is entirely alluvial and argillace- ous, since in such soils, my experiments have led to the conclusion that the American short staples are more productive, and answer upon the whole better, than the Bourbon, while, from the rapidity with which they come to maturity, they are as susceptible, as the indi- genous sorts, of being cultivated as an annual, which, in the opinion of the natives, might be thought an advantage.

Having I trust satisfactorily shown that in the southern provinces of India, the American short stapled cottons can be cultivated with equal ease and certainty, under the same course of treatment, as the indigenous kind, it only remains to ascertain whether the produce is intrinsically equal in value, or in other words whether fabrics manufactured from it possess the recommendation of wearing equally well. On this point I confess myself unable to afford any satisfactory information. The belief of the natives as above stated is adverse to the supposition that the American cotton is equal in that respect to the Indian, but their conviction is formed from comparing imported European cloth, with native fabrics, which I do not consider fair subjects of comparison, in as much as India was, in the first instance and for a long time after, supplied with old cloths, the re- fuse of European warehouses, which had been deteriorated by long keeping and more or less by the processes employed in bleaching in Europe to which Indian cloths are not subjected. The result of my own experience, as well as of several others with whom I have conversed on the subject, is in favour of the supposition, that European cloth is fully equal to Indian, and I have no hesitation in adding, that native cloth which I have had made up to express order, and of the most costly quality, did not wear nearly so well as European cloth purchased 100 per cent, cheaper from the boxes of strolling hawkers. From this 1 infer American cotton grown in its own country, is at least equal to Indian, but whether when grown in India it retains its good qualities, remains to be determined, on that point I am unable to give any precise information, and for the present leave the matter as I found it sub-judice.

The fact of Bourbon cotton of Indian growth, having sold in the London market for the highest prices going, and I believe I may safely add, always 100 per cent higher than the native cottons or ' Surats' leaves no room to doubt its excellence, and some specimens of cloth fa- bricated from that kind have been acknowledged, in this country, to be of the first quality.

While thus endeavouring to the utmost to introduce new varieties it must not be overlooked, however much of the native partiality in favour of the indigenous cotton we may attribute to prejudice, that, notwithstanding it is generally badly prepared and dirty, it bears a fair and steady price in the English market, and is in constant demand for mixing with the American kinds, thus proving almost to demonstration, that in the estimation of the English manufacturer it possesses valuable properties, and even leads to the inference, that we might be more usefully em- ployed in directing our energies to its improvement, than in devoting so much labour and capital to the introduction of an exotic, only adapted for successful culture on particular kinds of lands, and these well suited for other kinds of cultivation, while it is less, or not at all fitted for culture on the Black soils, especially adapted for the production of the indigenous sorts, which, on the other hand, are not so well adapted for the general purposes of agriculture. Could then anything be done to improve the quality and marketable value of the Indian cotton ? To me it appears that much might be done towards the attainment of this object. According to the system usually pursued in native husbandry, the soil is rarely, if ever, manured, is but indifferently ploughed, the seed are never changed, but that from the same stock constantly resown, and that too broad cast usually, so thick that the plants choak each other in their growth, the young shoots are never topped, in short nothing is done hav- ing a tendency to improve the quality or increase the quantity of the produce by invigorating the plant while the land is still farther exhausted and the plants still more choaked, by crops of other grain being taken off, while the cotton is advancing to maturity, and when the crop is at length ready to gather, no care is taken in the gathering to keep it clean and free from dry and broken leaves, and what is much worse, when a great demand for the article exists, the ryots have even been known to gather the green pods and ripen them in the sun, in place of allowing them to ripen and open on the stalk, much to the injury ot the good name of Indian cotton, more especial- ly of that of Tinnevelly, which used to be in high esteem, but has, I am told, recently fallen into disrepute owing to that cheat having being practised in 1833-4. Ought we not then to endea- vour, to the utmost, to elevate the culture of the indigenous cotton, and by ascertaining its intrin- sic value and cost of production, determine by comparative returns the respective value to the country of the two kinds ; for it may be found that our cottons make a better return to the country at 6d. than the American ones do at 8d. per pound, owing to the much smaller cost of production and larger amount of produce from the same extent of land.

These however are points which I am certain will never be ascertained while the culture is left entirely in the hands of natives, as they have not the means of securing a regular succession of new seed, or of bestowing extra expense on the cultivation, and gathering in of the crop, nei- ther have they the intelligence or means of going in search of better markets, supposing them to have bestowed the requisite care to improve the produce, but must sell it on the spot, possibly at a rate but little higher than their neighbours get for an article of very inferior value, thus incurring a loss in place of a gain for the extra labour and care devoted to its production.

In thus urging greater attention to our native produce, I am far from wishing to discourage the cultivation of the exotic kinds. On the contrary, I feel quite convinced that the country would derive immense advantage from their more general culture, on the simple principle of their enabling us to bring extensive tracks of country under cultivation, that are now either waste, or of comparatively little value, since, on such the American cottons can be cultivated, while the Indian would altogether fail, it requiring a soil both rich and retentive of moisture for the attainment of its highest degree of perfection. Another, and in native practice not the least important, recommendation of the American short stapled cottons is the rapidity with which they mature their first crop, (the time required being even shorter, than that for our native cot- ton) and their larger produce of wool in proportion to the quantity of seed ; but then, the seed are considered less wholesome for feeding cattle, which, should such be found to be the case, will prove a very heavy drawback if not an almost insurmountable obstacle to its general in- troduction as an article of native agriculture,

I shall conclude this article with a few remarks appertaining to the history of the species, and varieties figured in the accompanying plates. Gossypium Barbadenseis one of the oldest species of the genus, having been established by Linnaeus on the authority of a figure of Plucknet (Tab. 188, Fig. 1,) published 1691 — Mr. Royle remarks of it, "but this figure may answer equally well for some other species" a remark, in which I do not concur, for, with the exception of the leaves being a little narrower, than we usually find them in the plant as cultivated in this country, they are most characteristic, and the figure altogether a very passable one, of our Bourbon cotton plant. This species we are iuformed by Swartz is most extensively cultivated in the West Indies, and thence, according to Roxburgh, it was brought to the Islands of Bourbon and the Mauritius, whence again, it was introduced into India under the name by which it is known here, Bour- bon cotton. On its first introduction into these Islands the plant seems to have found a soil and climate in every respect suitable, and rapidly became an article of great commercial importance, both on account of the fine quality and of its wool, and of its extreme productiveness ; in both of which respects, however, it has recently fallen off so much, that the lands which were formerly appropriated almost entirely to its culture, are now more profitably employed in the culture of sugar. This deterioration may be owing to two causes, first neglecting to renew the stock from time to time by fresh importations of seed, and secondly to the soil itself, having been injured by a too constant repetition of the same kind of crop. A similar deterioration formerly took place in the West Indies, and to so great an extent, as to lead to the almost total discontinu- ance of the cultivation of cotton, which, as in the instance of the African islands, was sue- ceeded by sugar, much to the profit of the cultivators. It seems probable, that if the cultiva- tion of cotton was resumed in the West Indies from seed carried either from this country or the Mauritius, that those islands in which the produce of the sugar cane is beginning, from long culture, to deteriorate, might be much more profitably devoted to the cultivation of cotton. In Malta, Spain and Sicily, in all of which places cotton is cultivated to a considerable extent: much attention is given to frequent changes of seed, each supplying itself from one or other, of the other two. If similar attention was bestowed in India to such interchange of seed between remote districts, there can scarcely be a doubt, it appears to me, that all would benefit. The cultivators of Bourbon and American cottons will do well to bear in mind the examples of the West Indies and the Mauritius, and not only attend to the occasional renewal of their stock of seed from the original source, but also to refresh the lands under cultivation every few years, by taking not one, but a succession of crops of different kinds off those tracts which have been long under cotton cultivation with only short intervals of rest. The other two varieties of G. Barbadense here figured, the long and short stapled kinds, or " Sea Islands" and " Up- lands," as they are called, are derived from the same stock as the Bourbon, and were with much difficulty introduced into North America owing to the shortness of the summer season. The former indeed could not be established until the fortunate occurrence of a very mild winter permitted the roots to live through it, and produce an early crop of fresh shoots in the spring. These bore and ripened a crop, the seed of which was found sufficiently hardy to resist the cold of spring, and matured a crop of excellent cotton in the course of the succeeding autumn.

The produce was a variety intermediate between the Pernambuco and Barbadoes, or Bour- bon, cottons ; having the long staple, smooth black seed, and 5-lobed leaves of the former, with the free or detached seed of the latter. The peculiar and very superior qualities of this kind, are attributed to its growing in a soil highly calcarious, and strongly impregnated with salt, aided by the influence of a " saline atmosphere." To this last, though much dwelt upon by American writers, I feel disposed to attribute much less importance than to the character of the soil in which it grows. All attempts, so far as I have yet been able to learn, to introduce this kind into India have failed, the pods are said to be blighted in the bud, and the few that attain maturity are generally more or less injured by the attacks of caterpillars, such I have invariably found to be the case in all my attempts to raise it. The Egyptian cotton which in that country partakes largely of the valuable properties of this kind, is supposed to have been derived from the Sea Island stock ; however, judging from some that I had sown in my garden, it. has either got mixed with the short stapled sort, or is in course of transition into it. The latter I rather suspect to be the case, but whether or not, it is most certain that, from a quantity of Egyptian seed sown in Madras both kinds were produced, and having the distinctive characters of each strongly marked ; that produced from smooth seeds according in every particular with the produce of Sea Island seed received direct from America, even to its liability to attacks of in- sects and consequent blight of the young pods; while that from rough downy seed equally cor- responded with the green seed, or " Uplands" growing on the same plot of ground. The fact here stated is an interesting one, and one which it is my intention still further to investigate so soon as I can procure a fresh supply of seed direct from Egypt, for that from which my plants were raised was not such, but saved in Madras, from plants however, raised from seed received direct from that country.

Respecting the origin of the Uplands variety, and the period of its introduction into North America, I am not so well informed, but I have no hesitation in considering it another variety of G. Barbadense, from which in fact it scarcely differs except in the much greater size of the pods, the shorter and stronger staple of its wool, the usually 5-lobed leaves, and the seeds more or less clothed with down. This last is a mark of very minor importance, as it is now known, a single generation may change the character of the seed from smooth to downy : those of the Bourbon cotton, are generally described as black and smooth, yet I have scarcely ever met with one that was not more or less downy, and often not less so, than the American green seed. This (Uplands) variety thrives well in India, producing abundance of very large pods, so large indeed that of a number I weighed, the contents rarely fell short of 70 grains, and some, picked ones, even exceeded 100, while those from the indigenous cotton, growing on the same price of ground, barely weighed 25, and large pods of Bour- bon under 50 grains. The proportion of wool to seed in the American was about 30 per cent., in the others from 20 to 25 — to which may be added, as a further recommendation, that the former produced ripe pods in less than three months from the time of sowing !

The most advantageous time for sowing this kind is, I believe, towards the end of the rains in December, or with the first of those in April and May, when they happen to fall freely. Should the following dry season be protracted, of course watering would greatly augment the crop. My Egyptian (Uplands) cotton was not sown until late in the season, it grew well and produced a very abundant crop, the pods being by far the largest I had seen, but. nearly the whole was lost owing to the setting in of the heavy October rains before they were quite ripe. A second, and abundant, but in all other respects much inferior cr ip was subsequently pro- duced, the bushes being apparently much injured by the strong blighting north winds of January and February, from which they never recovered. I have since cut them down nearly to the ground and manured them, in the expectation of restoring them to vigour, but owin°- to the hot dry weather, and artificial watering being purposely withheld, hitherto with but partial success, a few only of the bushes having grown strongly, the others continue puny ; those however that have shot vigorously promise a very abundant crop, the seed from which will of course be subjected to farther trials.

The Gossypium acuminatum as observed above seems to be very extensively distributed since it is brought to India under the- various names of Pernambuco, Peruvian, and Bahea cotton and is spoken of in the Agri-Horticultural Society's transactions under the name of Ava cotton, and lastly is by Dr. Roxburgh, " said to be a native of the mountains to the north and westward of Bengal," but he adds " I do not find this species is ever cultivated." From this last remark we may infer it is not a native of India, but has accidentally found its way here, and up to the time that Roxburgh wrote, had not become sufficiently known, for its value to be justly appreciated. However as Roxburgh's information regarding its native country may be correct, and as his name is expressive of a Botanical character rather than of a native country to which the species is not limited, I have preferred adopting it. This is a very strong growing plant, and as it bears apparently without injury the high temperature of this coast, it is probable, it merits, and will receive, more attention than has hitherto been extended to it. In the light sandy soils of the coast it seems to thrive remarkably well and is very productive.

Respecting the indigenous species, ( G. herbaceum ) it is unnecessary to dilate, that one being already so well known in India, and indeed over all the warmer portions of the old world from the south of Europe, the northern limit of its cultivation, through the whole of the torrid' zone, and as being the species first and best known to mankind generally.

Remarks on Genera and Species. In this as in most very natural orders considerable difficulty is experienced in finding good generic characters, by which to distinguish groups of species which evidently ought to be kept distinct from each other, but the difficulty of discriminating among the species and varieties is often much greater, and has been produc- tive of the usual result, that of causing an excessive multiplication of species, by inducing Botanists, working with imperfect materials, in numerous instances, to raise mere varieties to the rank of species. Gossypium affords a striking example of this fact in a cultil vated genus : those of Sida and Abutilon are scarcely less remarkable among the uncultivated ones. Some species of each are common to the tropical regions of both the old and new world, and have in nearly all such cases received distinct names according as they happen to come from the one or other. Did the multiplication stop there, we would have little to complain of, as the geographical character would of itself, in the absence of botanical ones serve to distinguish them, and prevent any serious confusion, but unfortunately it does not ; our Abutilon indicum for example has in India, in my opinion, on most inade- quate grounds, been split into two, viz. A. indicum and A. asialicum, and has besides at different times received a variety of other names, such as Sida populifolia, Sida Eteromischos Sida Beloere, &c. but under how many more names it figures in tropical America and' her islands is not easy to discover.

In the discrimination of the genera of Malvacece, reference is principally had to the involucrum and fruit, and generally these, combined with habit, afford very permanent generic characters : by the involucrum for example Malva and Althea are principally distinguished. The principal distinguishing characters between Hibiscus and Abelmoschus appertain to the calyx, in the former its segments are distinct, while in the latter they continue to adhere, presenting the form usually called spathaceous, that is, splitting along one side only, like a spathe. The carpels being many or few seeded, afford subsidiary characters, but that taken from the calyx is essentially the distinguishing one, as many species of Hibiscus have carpels with a plurality of seeds, but few, if any, have the spathaceous calyx. Upon the whole however, I think there is reason to doubt the propriety of breaking down even very large genera on such grounds. Abutilon and Sida, which want the involucrum and were formerly united, have on somewhat similar, but much better grounds, been separated. In Abutilon the carpels are membranacious or bladdery, and contain several seeds : in Sida they are l-seeded, usually coriacious, and furnished at the apex with a double beak. Thespesia is separated from Hibiscus on account of its truncated undivided calyx, resembling (he cup of an acorn, and Paritium on account of its imperfectly 10-oelled capsule, caused by the bending inwards of the margins of the valves.

It seems questionable whether it is judicious to take leading generic characters from the involucrum, Linnaeus objected to the principle, and laid it down as a rule, that they ought always to be taken from the fructification only, by which he meant the calyx and organs embraced by it ; but in the case of the Malvacece, nearly all of which are referable to his class and order Monadelphia polyandria, and also in Umbelliferce , he found it convenient to depart from his own rule, and got over the difficulty by calling the involucrum an external calyx. Dr. Zenker has, (Plantae Indicae) in his genus Hymenocalyx, our Abelmoschus angidosus, carried this departure from the Linnean rule to excess, by founding a genus on the circum- stance of the involucrum as well as the calyx occasionally splitting spathaceously, for with that exception, which I have since ascertained is not constant, there is absolutely no difference between that genus and Abelmoschus, and ought not in my opinion, to be retained.

The spathaceous involucrum of that species which completely conceals the calyx, led Mr. Arnott and myself into a curious error, by inducing the belief that it was the calyx, and that the involucrum was so early caducous that we had no opportunity of describing it.

The genus Dyctiocarpus which associates with Sida in wanting the involucrum, and in having l-seeded carpels, I ventured to separate on account of its definite stamens, which had previously caused it to be removed from the order and referred to Bytlneriacece. The curiously reticulated testa of its seed affords another good character, as being one which I am not aware of existing in any other species of the order. The genus Decaschistia is re- markable for its 10-celled and 10-valved, capsule, with a solitary seed in each cell. For further illustrations of the several genera of this rather large and complex order, I must refer to my Icones, with the aid of which, I hope to be able to afford most ample illustrations of the genera of all the larger and more important orders to be treated of in the course of this work.

The following additions have been recently made to the order.

Urena repanda — Of this little known species I have at length got specimens, from Goomsoor (unfortunately rather imperfect,) through the kindness of W. G. Davidson, Esq. I find it does not correspond very accurately with the generic character of Urena : neither does the specimen agree well with the character of the species, but as the species of this genus are apt to vary considerably in their forms I have no doubt of its being the same plant, as it agrees in one or two important points. These peculiarities lead to the suspicion that it ought to be removed from the genus, though in habit it associates very closely. The most prominent fea- tures of distinction between this and the other species of the genus consists in its having both the involucel and calyx campanulate, 5-cleft, or rather toothed at the apex, and completely enclosing the carpels, which, in place of being globose and armed all over with hooked prickles, as in the rest of the genus, are only slightly convex exteriorly, and nearly trian- gular. The very distinct form and large size, as com- pared with the rest of the genus, of the involucel and calyx, added to the different shape, and glabrous exte- rior of the carpels, lead to the supposition that it ought to form a separate genus. The habit however, and the peculiar reticulation of the leaves, which coincide ex- actly with some other species of Urena, induce me for the present to leave it as a doubtful member of that genus, the more so as my specimens are in fruit only. The leaves in them are nearly round, slightly acuminated at the point, cordate at the base, repandly dentate on the margin, and pubescent on both sides with a single gland beneath ; the flowers numerous, the peduncles axillary several flowered, and from the abor- tion of the leaves, racemose towards the ends of the branches.

Though my specimens are imperfect, yet as this plant is very little known, I shall endeavour to have it figured in my Icones, Hibiscus Irionum — This species I found in consider- able abundance in very dry gravelly soil near Cudda- pah, in 1834. I have not since met with it in any other locality. Abelrnoschus migulosus W. and A. Hymenocalyx variabilis, Zenker's Neelgherry plants. Had not this plant been previously named angulosus Dr. Zenker's specific name would have been most ap- propriate, as I find from numerous specimens collected on the Pulney mountains that it is a variable plant. There it grows to the height of several feet, the lead- ing branches terminating in long dense spikes of large flowers. The fruit as represented in Zenker's figure seems to me much too long and tapering, and in that respect differs so much from my specimens that I should almost have been induced to consider them dis- tinct species did they not agree well in every other respect. Abutilon Neelgerrense (Munro's M.S.S.) — Suffruti- cose, sub-glabrous : leaves roundish, deeply peltato- cordate, acuminated, unequally crenato-dentate, whitish beneath: peduncles about the length of the petiols, several flowered, (2-8-10 Munro) corolla spreading, petals obovate, united below into a short tube, hairy at the orifice, tube of the stamens glabrous, carpels about 9, truncated, nearly twice the length of the lanceolate, acuminated, villous sepals. Neelgherries not unfrequent — Specimens of this fine species were communicated by Lieut. Munro, who found them in several localities. In the great size and form of its leaves it is closely allied to A. polyandrum, from which however, it is readily distinguished by its umbellate flowers, and more numerous carpels ; by this last mark it is equally distinguished from A. (Sida D. C.) umbellatum and A. (Sida) Leschenaultiana, which have umbellate flowers and 5-carpelled fruit. This appears a very handsome species, the larger leaves exceeding in their smaller or transverse diame- ter 71 inches. The fruit altogether resembles those of A. indicum, except in the carpels being fewer and less hairy ; the flowers too, nearly correspond except that in this, the petals are hairy at the base where their union ceases, and the tube of the stamens is glabrous, where- as in that, the filaments are very hairy and the corolla glabrous. In addition to the preceding I have received a spe- cimen of what appears a new genus, but unhappily too imperfect to admit of my attempting to characterize it. It has the involucrum of Pavonia, with the fruit of Abelrnoschus. It was sent along with several other plants from Goomsoor, by W. G. Davidson, Esq. but unfortunately so much injured in the drying as to be unfit for more minute examination and description.


1. Branch of Gossypium acuminatum, showing the flower and full grown capsule. 2. Staminal column, formed by the union of the filaments into a tube embracing the style. 3. Proper calyx, (enclosing the ovary) style, and stigma; the involucel leaves and corolla being re- moved to bring these parts into view. 4. Ovary cut vertically. 5. Mature pod open. 6. Seed and cotton. 7. Column of firmly adherent seeds. All natural size except the cut ovary, which is a lit- tle magnified.

EXPLANATION OF PLATE 28- a. b. and c.

1. Gossypium Barbadense— natural size. 2. Two detached stamens showing the one-celled anthers— magnified. 3. Ovary, style, and stigma, the calyx partly re- moved to show the ovary — natural size. 4. Ovary cut transversely— magnified. 5. Ripe capsule as it appears on first bursting, and before the valves have fully opened. Plate 28 b. Sea Island cotton. Same as the pre- ceding, except— 9. The cotyledons removed and un- rolled, radical inferior, and seen in the plate pointing towards the figure 9. Plate 28 c. Upland Georgian cotton, the same as the preceding, except— 8. A seed cut transversely — magnified.

Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1 (page 149 crop).jpg

Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1 (page 151 crop).jpg
Barbados or Bowdon Cotton

Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1 (page 153 crop).jpg
Sea Island or long Stapled Cotton

Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1 (page 155 crop).jpg
Plana Guyana or short Stapled Cotton