Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/225

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interest in this subject, and how wide is the field in our own country for the introduction of new tanning plants.

It seems highly probable, however, that artificial tanning substances will at no distant day replace the crude matters now employed.

VII. Resins, etc.—Resins, oils, gums, and medicines from the vegetable kingdom would next engage our attention if they did not seem rather too technical for this occasion, and to possess an interest on the whole somewhat too limited. But an allied substance may serve to represent this class of products and indicate the drift of present research.

India Rubber.[1]—Under this term are included numerous substances which possess a physical and chemical resemblance to each other. An Indian Ficus, the early source of supply, soon became inadequate to furnish the quantity used in the arts even when the manipulation of rubber was almost unknown. Later, supplies came from Hevea of Brazil, generally known as Para rubber, and from Castilloa, sometimes called Central American rubber, and from Manihot Glaziovii, Ceara rubber. Not only are these plants now successfully cultivated in experimental gardens in the tropics, but many other rubber-yielding species have been added to the list. The Landolphias are among the most promising of the whole: these are the African rubbers. Now, in addition to these, which are the chief source of supply, we have Willughbeia, from the Malayan Peninsula, Leuconotis, Chilocarpus, Alstonia, Forsteronia, and a species of a genus formerly known as Urostigma, but now united with Ficus. These names, which have little significance as they are here pronounced in passing, are given now merely to impress upon our minds the fact that the sources of a single commercial article may be exceedingly diverse. Under these circumstances search is being made not only for the best varieties of these species but for new species as well.

There are few excursions in the tropics which possess greater interest to a botanist who cares for the industrial aspects of plants than the walks through the garden at Buitenzorg in Java and at Singapore. At both these stations the experimental gardens lie at some distance from the great gardens which the tourist is expected to visit, but the exertion well repays him for all discomfort. Under the almost vertical rays of the sun are here gathered the rubber-yielding plants from different countries, all growing under conditions favorable for decisions as to their relative value. At Buitenzorg a well-equipped laboratory stands ready to answer practical questions as to quality and composition of their products, and year by year the search extends.

  1. See note (*), p. 11.