Monday, 19 January 2009

Argania Sideroxylon

The courteous Monarch smiled ! The Queen
Invisible Titania led
His steps adown the glowing green
Of our great emerald Lawn to tread
The borders of that great incensed bed,
Far scenting 'Thalamus :' the King
Made sudden pause, and stood before
A modest shrub : Ah ! lovely thing !
'In Pena's groves thou bloom'st no more ;
'Well do I mind me, once we had
'This beautiful Indian Sapotad :
'But , pshaw ! his name I do confess
'Hath fled to Indian Wilderness,
'From out my brain ! -- Vertumnus thou,
'Good Vertumnus ! help me now !'

But pitiless Puck, with malice fell, 'Gan mumble forth that curséd spell,
By magic wove ! -- To break the chain,
And loose Vertumnus' tongue again,
I did incline - but did refrain.

Puck. Speech, be Silence ! Man, be mum !
Wherefore, Vertumnus ! art thou dumb ?

Vert. 'Sider -- Sider --

Puck. Oxylon:
The species ! -- Nought ! -- Come on ! Come on !
But by royal Oberon !
And by our blest Titania !
And by every Fay that there
Stoopeth from the languid air,
Or hovereth high, I swear, I swear,
Thou dost not say 'Argania !'*

And so befel it ! and again
The courteous monarch smiled full fain
On vexed Vertumnus, and did say :
'I marvel not some words should stray
'From thy o'erladen memory ! -- All
'Wide Flora's reign is held in thrall,
'By words incongruous, whimsical ; --
'Brave Welwitsch self might stand appalled,
'If the task colossal called,
'To change, by sound reform, our names,
'And stablish all the Goddess claims !'

* Argania Sideroxylon

On the "Argan" Tree of Marocco (ARGANIA SIDEROXYLON);
Sir W. J. Hooker, K.H., D.C.L., F.R., A, and L.S.

(with 2 Plates, Tab. III., IV.)

Through the kindness and by the exertions of the Earl of Clarendon, Chief Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the Royal Gardens of Kew have been put in possession of living plants and fresh seeds of a tree or shrub very little known in Europe, little known even to botanists, but highly esteemed by the Moors, in those parts of Marocco where it is a native, for its useful qualities, viz. the " Argan." Its economical properties are best explained by the copy of a letter, which his Lordship did me the favour to communicate along with the plants and seeds, from Henry Grace, Esq., British acting Vice-consul at Mogador, addressed to J. H. Drummond Hay, Esq., Her Britannic Majesty's Agent and Consul-General at Tangiers; both of which gentlemen spared no pains in procuring the information and seeds and living specimens; an example we should be glad to see followed by our Consuls in other countries abounding in new and useful plants.

Mogador, November 7th, 1853.

" Sir,—The Argun tree grows more or less throughout the States of Western Barbary, but principally in the province of Haka, and south of this town. The soil in which it is found is light, sandy, and very strong; it is usually seen upon the hills, which are barren of all else, and where irrigation is impossible.

" I should imagine, from the appearance of some of the trees, that they are from one to two hundred years old; and a remarkably large one in this neighbourhood is probably at least three hundred. This individual measures 26 feet round the trunk; at the height of three feet it branches off; the branches (one of which measures 11 feet in circumference near the trunk) rest upon the ground, extending about 15 feet from the trunk, and again ascend. The highest branch of this tree is not more than 16 to 18 feet from the ground, while the outer branches spread so as to give a circumference of 220 feet; this is the largest I am aware of.

" The mode of propagation, in this vicinity, is mostly by seed. When sowing this, a little manure is placed with it, and it is well watered until it shoots ; from which period it requires nothing further. In from three to five years after sowing it bears fruit, which ripens between May and August (according to the situation of the tree). The roots extend a great distance underground, and shoots make their appearance at intervals, which are allowed to remain, thus doing away with the necessity of transplanting or sowing. When the fruit ripens, herds of goats, sheep, and cows are driven thither; a man beats the tree with a long pole, and the fruits fall and are devoured voraciously by the cattle. In the evening they are led home, and when comfortably settled in their yards, they commence chewing the cud and throw out the nuts, which are collected each morning as soon as the animals have departed upon their daily excursion. I have heard it remarked that the nut passes through the stomach, but this is only a casualty, and not a general rule. Large quantities of the fruits are likewise collected by women and children: they are well dried, and the hull is taken off, and stored for the camels and mules travelling in the winter, being considered very nutritious.

" The process of extracting the oil is very simple. The nuts are cracked by the women and children (and not a few fingers suffer at the same time, owing to the want of proper tools, for the nuts are very hard, and a stone is the only implement used) ; the kernels are then parched in a common earthen vessel, ground in handmills of this country, and put into a pan; a little cold water is sprinkled upon them, and they are well worked by the hand (much the same as kneading dough), until the oil separates, when the refuse is well pressed in the hand, which completes the process. The oil is left to stand, and the sediment removed. The cake (in which a great deal of oil remains, owing to the want of a proper press) is generally given to the milch-cows or goats.

" I never heard of any part being used as manure, but I have no doubt it would form an excellent one.

" Some of these Argans grow in clusters, others are single trees.

" I have, etc.,
"(Signed) Henry Grace. " To J. H. Drummond Hay, Esq., etc. etc."

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