Agricultural Explorations in Ceylon, Sumatra and Java (1925-1926)

Agricultural Explorations in Ceylon, Sumatra and Java (1925-1926)


United States Department of Agriculture. Educational Film Service. Agricultural Explorations in Ceylon, Sumatra and Java. A Bureau of Plant Industry Picture. Subject Matter — David Fairchild. Editing — Laura Thornburgh. Photography — J. H. Dorsett Agricultural Explorers of the United States Department of Agriculture visit out-of-the-way places in search of plants for introduction and trial in America. As a result of the agricultural expedition into Ceylon, Sumatra and Java, many plant introductions were made. [Map showing the islands of Southeast Asia between southern India and northern Australia.] [Ceylon is labeled.] Arriving at Peradeniya, the explorers inspected the world famous botanical garden. Here they spent days studying and photographing its wealth of trees, shrubs, vines and other plants of economic importance. They saw giant bats, the so-called “Flying Foxes,” disregarding parking regulations and ruining valuable trees. [Large tree with many fruit bats hanging from the branches] Interesting Aristolochias, ornamental climbers, commonly known as “Dutchman’s pipe,” were studied. Insects entering the showy flowers rarely escape. The markets offered a profitable field for study. The village markets of Ceylon abound in familiar and little-known fruits and vegetables, oranges, cucumbers and pumpkins, jack-fruits, betel nuts, bael fruits and the King coconut, the best milk-producing coconut on the Island and an extremely handsome ornamental palm. The Bael fruit, Aegle marmelos, is a near relative of the grapefruit highly prized by the natives. It is also relished by the explorers. The Betel nut is an important article of commerce and is found in quantity in every village market. The Betel pepper is of equal commercial importance. The natives—men, women and children—chew “Betel Quid” instead of tobacco. The “Quid” is made of fresh green pepper leaves, a slice of the Betel nut, a little spice or tobacco and a dash of quick-lime paste. After studying the markets, the explorers searched for and found the famed edible husk coconut. Plants of it are now established in the Canal Zone. The husk, as well as the flesh of the Nawasa coconut, is sweet and edible and is relished by man and by beast; giant nut-crackers of the Island. [Elephant crushes a coconut with its foot, then shares the pieces with a second elephant] A piece of palm leaf tied around the trunk of a tree by a “sorcerer” protects the fruit of the tree from pilferers. The Palmyra palm, a handsome and extremely valuable plant, dominates Jaffna, in northern Ceylon. A Palmyra palm in the wild. This palm resembles somewhat the cabbage palmetto of Florida, but is more ornamental and of much greater economic importance. The explorers visited a palm-thatched Tamil village near Jaffna and learned much from the natives concerning the 801 uses of the Palmyra palm. The broad, large leaves are used as a roof thatch and for fence and basket-making. The seed or nuts are germinated in beds for the plantlets or “Sinkers” which are esteemed as a vegetable delicacy. The straw-colored plantlet frequently is eaten raw. Sometimes it is pounded into flour in a wooden mortar. The cannon-ball tree, Couroupita guianensis. Its large showy blossoms are followed by fruit which suggest the name. The tree is very ornamental and well worthy of introduction. The Jack fruit, Artocarpus integrifolia, is an excellent timber tree and one of the important food-producing plants of Ceylon. The explorers saw “Honey jacks” as large as watermelons and sometimes one is found which weighs as much as 100 pounds. The golden yellow pulp has a rich tropical fruity flavor and is much esteemed by the natives. Trees from the honey-jack, from seed secured in Ceylon, are now grown in Florida, the Canal Zone, Cuba and Honduras. From Ceylon alone, seeds of more than 200 species of little known and interesting plants were introduced. Leaving Ceylon, the explorers moved eastward. [Map showing the islands of Southeast Asia between southern India and northern Australia. Ceylon and Sumatra are labeled.] [Dotted line indicates travel route from Ceylon to Sumatra.] The coastal region of Sumatra revealed mangroves reminiscent of Florida. The explorers visited plantations where the Dutch are studying the West African oil palm. The shores of Lake Tawar, in the highlands of Sumatra, were explored from a launch. The Merkusii pine, Pinus merkusii, which produces an excellent quality of turpentine, covered the surrounding mountain sides. A short excursion through a tropical jungle brought the explorers to a turpentine forest. An unique, simple and effective method of tapping, originated by Dr. C. Brandts Buys, Government Forester, admits of retapping later. On a trek of 250 miles through the jungles of Achin the explorers found many species of unfamiliar plants, made many photographs and secured a wealth of plant material. The escort of soldiers, provided by the Governor, assisted in collecting plant material. The rivers were crossed in dug-out canoes. The soldiers, however, crossed afoot, with arms locked, for safety. At the end of the jungle trek, a Battak village was visited The community rice and flour mills are unique and extremely interesting. Here, rice growing, as elsewhere in the tropics, is an industry of prime importance. Plants from many of the seed collected in Sumatra are now established in Florida, the Canal Zone and the West Indies. From Sumatra, the explorers sailed to still another great tropical isle [Map showing islands of Southeast Asia between southern India and northern Australia. Ceylon, Sumatra, and Java are labeled.] [Dotted line indicates travel route from Sumatra to Java.] Java, with its bewildering variety of plant life, is perhaps the best-known island in the Dutch East Indies. Buitenzorg, with its world-famed botanical garden, is a paradise for plant exploration. Here many days were spent studying mangosteens, mangoes and bamboos to select the best varieties for American horticulturists. The many species of bamboo in the garden were a fertile field for study. Because of its cheapness and the ease with which it can be produced and worked, bamboo is extensively used by the Javanese. Bamboo, one of the cheapest building materials. [Scenes of people using bamboo for various purposes] [Building construction] [Fences] [A bridge] [Poles for carrying loads] The baby’s sugar pellet feeding bottle is of bamboo. Bamboo furnishes the backbone of the curious hobby-horse steeds used in the native festival dances. In the jungles of Java, the explorers found a species of Rafflesia, one of the plant curiosities of the world. This stemless, leafless parasitic plant with immense flowers, sometimes 3 feet across, in the last stage of development. Immature flower buds of this remarkable plant. As a result of the efforts of the plant explorers there are now growing in this country a number of species of bamboo, mango, mangosteen, rambutan, the pink-fruited shaddock or pomelo, and many other tropical fruits and ornamental plants from Java, Sumatra and Ceylon. [Series of plant images with labels] Bamboo Mangosteen Rambutan Mango The End

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