The Camphor Tree of Sumatra.—Among the most luxuriant and valuable trees of the island of Sumatra, the first place belongs to the Dryobalanops camphora. The tree is straight, extraordinarily tall, and has a gigantic crown, which often overtops the other woody giants by one hundred feet or so. The stem is sometimes twenty feet thick. According to the natives, there are three kinds of camphor tree, which they name "mailenguan," "marbin tungan," and "marbin targan," from the outward color of the bark, which is sometimes yellow, sometimes black, and often red. The bark is round and grooved, and is overgrown with moss. The leaves are of a dark green, oblong oval in shape and pointed. The outward form of the fruit is very like that of the acorn, but it has five round petals. These are placed somewhat apart from each other, and the whole form much resembles a lily. The fruit is also impregnated with camphor, and is eaten by the natives when it is well ripened and fresh.
The amazing height of the tree hinders the regular gathering, but when the tree yields its fruit, which takes place in March, April and May, the population go out to collect it, which they speedily effect, as, if the fruit be allowed to remain four days on the ground, it sends forth a root about the length of a finger, and becomes unfit to be eaten. Among other things, the fruit prepared with sugar furnishes a tasty comfit or article of confectionery. It is said that it is very unhealthy to remain near the camphor tree during the flowering season, because of the extraordinary hot exhalations from it during that period. The greater the age of the tree the more camphor it contains. Usually the order of the rajah is given for a number of men, say thirty, to gather camphor in the bush belonging to territory which he claims.
The men appointed then seek for a place where many trees grow together; there they construct rude huts. The tree is cut down just above the roots, after which it is divided into small pieces, and these are afterward split, upon which the camphor, which is found in hollows and crevices in the body of the tree, and, above all, in the knots and swellings of branches from the trunk, becomes visible in the form of granules or grains. The quantity of camphor yielded by a single tree seldom amounts to more than half a pound, and if we take into account the great and long continued labor requisite in gathering it, we have the natural reply to the question why it fetches so high a price. At the same time that the camphor is gathered—that is, during the cutting down of the tree—the oil that then drips from the cuttings is caught in considerable quantity. It is seldom brought to market, because, probably, the price, considering the trouble of carriage, is not sufficiently remunerative.
When the oil is offered for sale at Baros, the usual price is one guilder for an ordinary quart wine-bottleful. The production of Baros camphor lessens yearly, and the profitable operations of former times—say in the year 1853, when fully 1,250 pounds were sent from Padang to Batavia—will never return. Since time out of mind the beautiful clumps and clusters of camphor trees have been destroyed in a ruthless manner. Young and old have been felled, and as no planting or means of renewal has taken place, but the growth of the trees has been left to nature, it is not improbable that this noble species will ere long wholly disappear from Sumatra.—Chem. and Drug., Lond., Jan. 14, 1871.
Pharmacy in Paris during the Insurrection.—The advantages possessed by iron revolving shutters have generally been admitted, but few, I think, ever found them more useful than did the shopkeepers and pharmacists in the neighborhood of the Place Vendôme on Wednesday last. Since the horrors of the siege, Paris had been gradually sliding into the old grooves; strangers reappeared, letters and telegrams seemed no longer a strange and new pleasure, and commerce had reinstated herself. It was unfortunately but the lull before the storm. Three days before, the Place Vendôme had been occupied by the insurgent battalions of the National Guard, the pretending friends of order, who, at the approach of a peaceful unarmed deputation headed by the journalist Henri de Pène, discharged more than 500 shots into the crowd, killing over twenty and wounding about sixty persons. In an instant the pavement was red with blood, and the dead and dying were carried into the neighboring pharmacies, to receive what attention could be given to them, awaiting the arrival of the surgeons. Ambulance stretchers were soon procured, and mournful processions, headed by men bearing large white flags with the Geneva cross, traversed the streets of Paris, exciting the hate and loathing with which all orderly citizens regard the resumption of a new reign of terror at the hands of the Belleville insurgents. All business, except the mournful duty of staunching death-wounds, is over for the present in this usually gay quarter of Paris. Half a dozen blood-stained mattresses piled in a corner of nearly every pharmacy tell their own sad tale, and the once white marble floors are variegated and slippery as the pavement of the Piazza San Marco, at Venice, on a rainy day. All the shops are closed, and peremptory commands to shut all windows fronting the street are issued in loud tones, accompanied by menaces from loaded chassepots. In comparison with this, the siege was quite enviable then, at all events, shops were open, and one could walk about the central parts of the city in perfect safety.
And then a certain amount of business was done—business of the pathetic kind. Wives, sisters and sweethearts came and bought pocket pharmacies, little stocks of lint and plaster, perchloride of iron, etc., for their dear friends about to start for the fields of battle. Many a tear was shed over the purchase, many a wish uttered that those dear to them should never require the sad appliances of modern civilization to heal the wounds caused by the destructive engines of modern barbarity. Alas! how many hopes have been scattered to the wind! How many pale, weeping figures, clothed in black, are daily to be seen carrying in pious hands wreaths of "immortelles," to deck the rude crosses, that lie thick at Montretout and for miles around. The past was dreadful enough, gilded over by a coating of patriotism; the present is doubly fearful—brother against brother, and no canopy of glory, but one reeking shroud of vengeance, hatred and bloodshed.
The siege, by provoking the appetite, instigated curious researches among the edibles generally found in pharmacies. As long as a few tins of concentrated milk remained, we fared luxuriously on arrowroot puddings and oatmeal gruel; in fact, a tolerable pharmaceutical dinner, save the monotony, was daily procurable, and consisted of a soup of Liebig's extract thickened with tapioca or pearl-barley. A hors d'oevre of anchovy paste or olives; then a pièce de resistance, such as curried horseflesh, or a cat's thigh strong with garlic, a salad of mustard and young flax, which we grew in boxes in the cellars, a dessert of Jordan almonds and conserve of hips, and a strong cup of coffee with which to wash all down. When the bread became almost uneatable, Hard's food was brought into requisition—the dough was cleanly made in a large pestle and mortar, with a due proportion of bicarbonate of soda and hydrochloric acid, and baked into light little loaves, or rather cakes, of surpassing delicacy of flavor. Our distaste for horseflesh induced us to invent sundry bouquets, the success of which was so great in imparting a really pleasant flavor to the insipid meat, that I am sure no cordon bleu should ignore their utility. The favorite consisted of a clove of garlic and a pinch of peppercorns, corianders, cloves, parsley-seed, dried thyme and ginger, bruised together and tied in a piece of muslin.
The only article for which an extraordinary demand existed was extract of meat. Tonics were much taken, and resulted in several new specialities, rather more ingenious than tasty, such as a combined essence of calisaya and Liebig prepared with Cognac!
ERNEST J. T. AGNEW.
232 Rue de Rivoli, March 22nd, 1871.—Pharm. Journ., Lond., April 1, 1871.
Will Snake-Poison Kill a Snake?—Dr. Fayrer, in India, has been experimenting to correct the popular error that a snake cannot kill a snake. He took a young and very lively cobra, fourteen inches long, and which was bitten in the muscular part of the body by a krait forty-eight inches long. The krait had not bitten for some days before. From a detailed report by Dr. Fayrer, it appears that the cobra was bitten at 12.50 P.M. At 1 P. M. it was very sluggish, at 1.3 P.M. so sluggish that it moved with difficulty, could be easily handled, and made no effort at resistance. At 1.20 it was apparently dying, and its movements were scarcely perceptible, and at 1.22 it died, thirty-two minutes after the attack. Dr. Fayrer has found that the water-snakes of India are deadly poisonous. In the Bay of Bengal they swarm, and it is noted as ominous that lately it was proposed to erect a sea-bathing establishment for Calcutta at Barwar, under the assurance that there were no sharks. It is remarked that sharks need not be noticed when a bather may have deadly water-snakes swimming after him.—Pharm. Journ., Lond., April 1, 1871, from Nature.
Sandal-Wood.—This valuable wood was formerly obtained by the East India Company in large quantities from the Fejee Islands. As many as seven large Indiamen have been known to be lying at anchor in one of the bays at once, waiting for cargoes of the precious wood. The trees have been felled with such reckless improvidence, that, on the shores of this same bay, a solitary sapling, planted by a missionary, is now the only living sandal-tree for many miles around.—Technologist, May, 1871.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871, was edited by William Procter, Jr. (Issues 1-4) and John M. Maisch (Issues 5-12).