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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/109

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101
THE TREE THAT BEARS QUININE.

so important a rank, led the Government of India to try the experiment of introducing the tree into the waste mountainous regions of that country. Difficulties almost insurmountable were at first presented in obtaining young plants and seeds from the cinchona regions of the Andes, on account of the obstacles thrown in the way by the different South American governments. Several years passed before a sufficient number of plants could be secured for purposes of experiment.

Experimental gardens were opened on the Nilgiri Mountains of Southern India, the Himalayas on the north of Bengal, the hills of Assam and the Northwest Provinces, and on the highlands of Burmah. With the exception of the Nilgiri and Himalayas, these localities were found to be unfavorable.

At Darjeeling in the Himalayas, four hundred miles north of Calcutta, near which the cinchona-gardens are located, I gathered the following particulars of the introduction and culture of the cinchona-tree, and the manufacture and use of its alkaloids:

1. The soil, climate, and temperature of the cinchona regions of the Andes were carefully noted. Gneiss and mica schist in a somewhat loose and decomposed state, with a covering of vegetable mold, at such an altitude as would secure a moist temperature with the least possible variability, were the observed conditions, and these were sought for in the Himalayas. Gneiss and mica schist compose the prevailing formation throughout the Himalayan range, except its snow-capped summits, which are granite. To find the proper altitude was a more difficult matter. The higher and lower were at first tried, but it was found that an elevation of from four to five thousand feet above the sea-level afforded the most favorable conditions.

The soil is, as far as possible, identical with that of the Andes. The eastern terminus of the Himalayan range, being nearest to the sea, and in the range of the southeast monsoon, which on land is southwest, is constantly shrouded in mist, so much so that the rays of the sun are seldom clear. The eternal snows and glaciers are here not more than fifty miles from the burning plains of Bengal, the highest peak, the second in the world, being more than twenty-eight thousand feet above sea-level. The rain-fall is more than double that of the plains, the last ten years showing an average of one hundred and thirteen inches per year. A remarkably uniform temperature is thus secured, the extremes being 34° and 90°, while the ordinary summer range is between 60° and 70°, and the winter between 45° and 55°.

Several varieties of the cinchona have been tried. Some have failed entirely, while the C. saccirubra and C. salisaya prove the most hardy. The former of these has proved by far the most productive, and is now much more generally cultivated.

2. The seeds ripen at the commencement of the dry season succeeding the rains, i.e., in October and November. After being gathered they are spread out, in shallow boxes to dry. It is estimated that an