Page:Journal of botany, British and foreign, Volume 9 (1871).djvu/345

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PROCEEDINGS OF SOCIETIES. 317

restorative. Asclepias, Senna, and Aloe plants grow abiuulaiitly, but their medicinal and fibrous uses are unknown to the natives. The most remarkable products of this country are its gums and resins. Gum arable, tragaeanth, myrrh, and many others are produced in abundance ; and in no other country, except sparsely on the opposite coast of Arabia, does the Olibanura or Frankincense tree exist. The Somal divide gum into two classes — sweet and bitter; and to the former belong gum arable, mastic, 'luban,' mayeti, etc., and to the latter myrrh and ' hodthai.' There are, at least, three species of Acacia, producing the sumugh or gum arable, and they are all very abundant ; the bark is cut three times only by the natives for the gum to exude ; if cut more frequently the tree dies. I was told that the tree is cut only in this and the neighbouring province of Wursum-Galli ; in the west the gum is allowed to exude naturally. The ' hodthai ' is a gum of peculiar quality ; the tree is a thorny Acacia, not unlike the ' babool,' but has a thorny bark. The gum is not exported, and the only use it is put to, is by men, to whiten their shields, and by women to cleanse their hair. The tree producing the Olibanura or Frankincense, which is called by the Somal ' Beyu,' grows only on the limestone ranges of this and the opposite coast. There are four different species of the tree, producing two different kinds of gum, bedwi or sheheri the best, and mayeti. Numbers of the Soinfd go across to Hadhramaut. for the purpose of gathering the frankincense, paying the Arab tribes for the privilege, the latter never attempting to collect it them- selves. The Somalies never settle there, selling the gum at Moculla and Sheher, until they have amassed a competence. Tlie Arab ' luban ' is considered inferior to the African, which is termed ' asti ' by the Aral)s ; probably the tree was imported into Arabia with the Myrrh-tree in very remote times. The mayeti is exported chiefly to Jiddah and the Yemen ports ; the bedwi goes to Bombay for exportation into Europe. The season for gathering the gum lasts for four months — from May to September; the trees may be gashed any number of times without injury ; but, unless rain falls soon after, the tree withers and dies. The gum is gathered fifteen days after the tree is cut, and it then ceases to exude, and the bark, which heals rapidly, is again gashed. The trees though growing wild are carefully watched by the Somal, and in some cases I am told they plant and propagate saplings in their fields; but this laudalde custom by which their wealth might be decupled is too

laborious to be universally followed. Mr. D. Hanbm-y ol)served that,

as stated by Captain Miles, in ancient times frankincense was held to come from Arabia and froui the adjacent coast of Africa ; but with what almost seemed to be an unaccountable confusion, but which existed in all the books that had appeared on the subject in the latter part of the last century, and iu the whole of the present up till within the last few years, they were taught to believe that frankincense was a pro- duct of India. It was very (lesiral)le to have information on that highly iiit.erestiug subject. As to the different species of Gum-trees, their infor- mation was very poor ; and with respect to myirli, it was even more so. Much had been written as to Cinnamon, early authors holding that it was a product of Africa and .\ral)ia. It was a very nice question, which re- quired elucidation, whether the Cinnamon mentioned in Holy Writ was the prorluct of Africa and Araliia, or whether it was merely carried thither from India, or froui the still remoter regions of Siam and China by w,iy

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