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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/385

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PALM-TREES AND THEIR USES.

I should not much, wonder if he could in this way make a handsome speculation.

Since the above was written, I read in the dailies that Secretary Noble has been informed that speculators are following in the wake of the Government surveyors, and trying to secure land and water titles; and that the Land-Office has been instructed to inform its registers and receivers throughout the arid regions that no such business will be allowed, but that the Government will retain control of these rights. This is a matter of several hundred times more importance than one Eastern man in a dozen will dream of.

 

PALM-TREES AND THEIR USES.
By M. J. POISSON.

AFTER the grasses, with their various adaptabilities for the purposes of food and the arts, the palm-trees hold the first place; and this, not only on account of the uses for which they are fit, but also by reason of the beauty and amplitude of their foliage and the stately size which many of them attain. Their worth in decoration and their usefulness have been celebrated in all times and in many languages. In the time of Linnæus, eight or ten species, belonging to half a dozen genera, were known. At this time the number of determined species exceeds a thousand, and these are distributed among about one hundred and thirty genera. In a short article like this we can only touch upon the subject and indicate the principal useful species.

The date palm was the one of most interest to the ancients. It is the fortune of the peoples of northern Africa and the ornament of the oases of that region. It sports into numerous varieties, which are easily obtained from the seed. When quarrels arise between tribes, the first thought of the hostile factions is to ruin their enemies by attacking their date crops. The male and female flowers being borne on different trees, a few male plants are sufficient for the fecundation of a great many females; and the destruction of the former—not a very hard task—will make the latter worthless. Date-trees the fruits of which are not palatable are used for building purposes, or for making palm-wine—the fermented sap, which is drawn from the tree by tapping it as we tap maple-trees. The sap is also much drunk fresh, when the Arabs call it lagmi. The dates are eaten directly, or their expressed juice is used for sirups and flavorings. Those which, because of being grown too near the sea or in unfavorable situations, as at many places in the regency of Tunis, do not become fully ripe, are mixed with bread and fed to horses and cattle.