Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/418

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Now the fronds of the ubussú palm are not like either of these, but stand out from the trunk and behave in every way like pinnate fronds except that instead of being pinnate they are entire. The wind often whips these leaves in pieces, until they bear some resemblance to the pinnate fronds.

It is an interesting fact that those palms whose fronds are pinnate at maturity have their first fronds entire. The coco palms, for instance, have pinnate fronds, but when a young coco palm is sprouted its first leaves are entire like those of the ubussú; so far as I can now recall them, the same thing is true of all other palms having pinnate leaves. With the ubussú; this embryonic character has persisted into maturity. It is this undivided leaf that is so extensively sought and used for thatching houses. Besides being entire the ubussú; leaves are said to last for ten years as thatch.

Another interesting and peculiar character of the ubussú; palm is its spathe or flower sheath. Some of the palms have the spathes so hard and woody that they are as stiff as if they were made of inch boards; others have them rather leathery, and after the flowers open the spathes shrivel up more or less or hang among the fruits and flowers like rolls of brown or black cardboard. The spathe of the ubussú; is a slender, sharp-pointed and open-textured net or sack, not unlike a piece of burlap. In most palms the spathe yields but little, and when the flowers are ready to open it splits lengthwise and the flowers push out through the rent. The spathe of the ubussú; cannot be split lengthwise; its fibers are tough and cloth-like and cross each other at low angles, and as the cluster of flowers expands the spathe stretches. In time, the fibers, on account of the great amount of moisture within, decay, and the growing flowers or fruits tear the spathe asunder, and it drops off in ragged fragments. The ubussú; spathe is utilized to some extent by the natives of the Amazonas valley. It requires, however, to be cut before the flowers have expanded much. It is simply cut off at the stem and is drawn from over the bunch of flowers as one pulls off a close-fltting undershirt by stripping it over his head.

The cloth of this spathe is capable of a great deal of stretching if care is taken to distribute the expansion evenly. This stretching can best be done by wetting the spathe, putting the hands inside the sack and gently forcing them apart. Sacks that are not more than an inch or two across may thus be expanded to a diameter of one or two feet. One may frequently see a suit of clothes for a small boy made of one of these spathes. This is done by cutting off the pointed outer end of the spathe and cutting two holes in opposite sides near one end.

A picturesque and fairly comfortable hat can be made by pushing one end of the ubussú; sack inside, pulling it over the head and turning