A View of the Jungle - Labuan ca.

1850

Original image © Natural History Museum; reproduced with the Permission of the Trustees

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Explanation of the Drawing of a view of the Jungle1
Beginning on the right2 the first plant is a sort of cane like a miniature palm with a knotty stem marked by the scars of fallen leaves. It is a very elegant & especially botanical looking plant. Second is a species of Banyan3 tree a fig like the banyan of India though not exactly the same; we have here perhaps 50 species of fig & except two very dwarf ones all are more or less parasitical. The seeds germinate high upon the trunks of trees, & send down long & exceedingly tough slender roots to the ground there roots as they descend branch & surround the fated foster mother & grafting with one another wherever they cross soon inclose her trunk in a complete lattice work; as the young fig grows its roots increase in number & thickness & by their pressure soon kill the tree still the fig grows higher & higher & its roots get stronger & larger until the decaying trunk that once held it up can scarcely be seen between the openings of its living case at last the tree begins to find itself unable to support its weight without the help of its now rotten support so it throws out other roots which by some means reach the ground at some distance from the main trunk & having rooted soon (as a sailor would say) become “set up” amazingly “taut” & support is exactly as the shrouds & stays do the mast of a vessel. These roots now seem to grow at the expense of the central ones which often die and decay; so that the aspect of an old tree is not unlike an hourglass, the lower half being diverging roots & the upper diverging branches. When secured at this stage (which however is only reached by I [sheet 2] believe two species here) they apparently grow with vast rapidity becoming some of the tallest of our trees two or three times in the year they are covered with little red figs which attract multitudes of pigeons and monkeys, & are eaten also by the Malays. All the species yield Caoutchouc4 but it is hardly collected here. unlike our English fig trees most of them have laurel shaped dark green leathery varnished leaves. The tree in the drawing is a portrait of one near my house. Third close to where the branches spring from the last, is a little orchid it is common here bearing a short spike of pretty lilac & white flowers. Fourth climbing up the principal trunk is a plant whose relationship I cannot discover5 it flowers so rarely that the Malays say it has neither flower nor fruit its leaves are very dark green with white veins, & are applied so closely to smooth barked trees as to look like painting, in some parts of the jungle it is so common as to form quite a peculiar feature. Fifth. Hanging from a branch of the same tree is another orchid it is a species of Aerides6 with small green inconspicuous flowers but of very elegant growth. Sixth under the last is another terrestrial orchid with spikes of beautiful white flowers & broad leaves it is Calanthe veratrifolia7 which has been long known in England8. Seventh. next to the last with the habit of a dwarf palm is Cycas Circinalis9 its thick soft [?] [sheet 3] sometimes branches into two or three stems; it is of very slow growth & does not exceed 10 or 12 feet in height. The midrib of the young leaves peeled & boiled are a most delicate vegetable between asparagus & vegetable marrow in flavour, & its gum which is transparent & tasteless is almost a specific in obstinate ulcers, suppurating them with incredible quickness; I use it for sore legs to which the Chinamen are very subject. Eighth is a huge dead Dammar tree “Shorea robusta”10 I believe or at all events some Shorea. It is one of the largest & commonest trees. I cut down one which was dying, & I feared the wind would throw down on the Chinese huts which was nearly 5 feet in diameter & measured from the ground to the first branch 131 feet there happened to be no trees in the way of its fall & the centrifugal force of so huge a mass swinging down caused it to leap 16 yard from its butt. The diameter above was taken above the buttresses of the root, these occupied a circle of 25 or 30 feet in diameter. These trees when wounded, or when old spontaneously exude large quantities of a very hard black or grey resin which is the Dammar of commerce, & is used mixed with oil as pitch. The wood is a dark brown like teak but heavier unfortunately however it soon decays. The tree is the drawing with all its parasites is a portrait of the one I saw one day in the jungle, I think nearly as high as the one I cut . Ninth. Ascending the trunk of the last is a large parasitic polypodium11 which like many tropical

ferns growing in similar situations sheathes & covers its creeping rootstock with membranous irregular [sheet 4] stemless fronds, usually resembling more or less an oak leaf. You may remember a specimen you got from Mr Knight12 of this sort of growth. Tenth is an orchid not uncommon here of the Cymbidium13 tribe with long stiff sword shaped leaves & no pseudobulbs. Its flowers are greenish & cream coloured streaked with pink, & are pendant in a long lax spike. It usually grows at a great height but in Burong island to the S. of Labuan is on rocks & on the ground in the greater proportion. Eleventh. Two plants of a large parasitical fern Acrostichum grande14 nearly allied to the specimen I sent to the Swansea museum before I left home which was with A.alcicorne or A.distichum each plant consists of a tuft of distorted barren veiny fronds & a central bunch of fertile ones which sometimes are several feet long. Twelfth. Another parasitical fern. I believe Asplenium maximus not so common as the other. Thirteenth. A tuft of the Nibong palm, which is here an universal plant, & of extraordinary beauty. The long fluttering leaves & bright black stem of a well grown tree are most elegant especially when the bunch of bright yellow flowers is hanging below the leaves. The stem is thickly armed with black flat horny prickles several inches long, & its fallen leaves which are similarly provided are no little annoyance in walking in the jungle, I have had one go even through the sole of my boot, only however of China leather. [sheet 5] It grows in all sorts of soils & situations, is sometimes very dwarf and slender on high barren rocks, and attains sometimes nine inches in diameter in dark valleys, but in low marshy grounds it grows in the greatest profusion in huge clusters, covering the ground to the exclusion of almost every thing else, & by its thorny fallen leaves making the jungle quite impassable to the bare feet of the Malays. It is the most useful of all plants to the natives: their houses are almost entirely built of it: it serves for posts & framing, & split into narrow pieces & the inside chopped out, it serves for planks for floors; wedges a& spears are made of its hard inside wood, needles of its spines, buckets of the broad thick sheaths of its leaves. Its central bud is white & sweet, with a nutty flavour, & makes excellent salad, or when boiled is not unlike asparagus; from its pith sago is occasionally made; & when the areca nut is scarce its seeds are chewed instead. It is an elegant palm, usually from 70 to 100 feet high when in perfection, I have however seen much more. When seen from a distance the curved leaf stalks & swaying leaflets, ever in motion, make a grove of nibong a most elegant object. Fourteenth, a small dwarf fan palm15. It is very ornamental to the darkest and deepest parts of the jungle, where it grows in profusion, bearing a bunch of red berries. Fifteenth, a small tree common in many places, & remarkable for its mode of growth, never branching unless injured, its leaves are something like the ash tree, growing in an elegant head, with several bunches of [sheet 5] purplish red berries about the size of a damson hanging below. Its bark is intensely bitter & is much used by the Malays as a febrifuge. Sixteenth, one of the broad riband shaped creepers of which there are many sorts. They are remarkable for producing wood on one side of the pith only, so that a section of the stem may be represented thus, the black spot to the left being the pith, & the curved marks what in other plants are concentric rings. Seventeenth a parasitical fern Asplenum nidularis16. Eighteenth. A small tree of very elegant growth, all its branches being at right angles to the trunk, its bark is very rough, & its small green fruit makes very nice tarts; it belong to the order Guttiferae17, the gamboge tribe & bleeds copiously a thick yellow juice when wounded. Nineteenth. A curious species of Hoya18. It is not climbing, but shrubby, & consists of fasicled green succulent leaves branching from a knotty grey stock, it roots in the very smallest crevices, so as to appear often really parasitical, it is leafless except when very young; & opens its flowers only at night. Twentieth. One of the huge contorted creepers which often overwhelm the largest trees in the forest. I have seen them as thick as my body, & twisted like a cable. They are often prostrate a great length in the ground before they rise. The present is a portrait of one near my house. Twenty first, a species of Caladium19: it grows in deep dark swamps & bears a white flower, very

sweet scented; in habit it is not unlike Caladium odoruius Which we used to have in the hothouse but is smaller. Twenty second. The Camphor tree Dryobalanops Camphora20 one of our commonest & largest trees: & I think almost the handsomest tree I ever saw. The bark is thin & smooth of a soft light brown & is shed periodically in thin scales. The trunk is very high & straight with huge buttresses at the root. When in very thick tall jungle the top is of course small but when it has room to spread it bushes out very elegantly. The leaves are small & polished; and like the wood, bark & every part of the tree very aromatic. The flower is white & deliciously fragrant, & the seed winged with 5 long leafy bracts like a shuttlecock so that when it falls it keeps spinning round in a very odd way. The wood is clean & straight grained of a light reddish colour. This tree is very different from the Laurus camphor which produces the camphor of our commerce. The Borneo camphor is harder & less volatile, though I believe almost chemically the same, it is only in China where it is highly valued as a medicine, & is very expensive when fine clear & in tolerably large crystals it is sometimes worth 30 dollars a catty £4..13..9 per pound. There are four different growing products of this tree. First the camphor which is found in the hollow parts of very large old trees only when partly decayed. Secondly camphor oil, which appears to be camphor mixed with a resinous oil & is found in hollows of the sound wood as we sometimes see turpentine in deal; it is also used by [sheet 8] the Chinese doctors. Third a beautiful white resin which exudes from the trunk when wounded, & smells between camphor & spirit of turpentine; the Malays use it to rub for sprains & bruises. Fourth a hard black resin which accumulates in hollow trees & is used with dammar & other resins for paying21 boats. I have seen above 1 cut in a jungle tree. Sometimes these trees are of a huge size. I measured one at 1 foot from the ground following all the ins & outs of its buttresses & found it 333 feet above its diameter is 7 feet. Twenty third. Phalaenopsis amabile22 a most lovely orchidaceous plant. It has no pseudobulbs but clings with its thick green fleshy roots to the trunks of trees. The leaves are broad & large, of a rich deep green, & the flowers are in long branched or simple spikes of eight or ten flowers. They are from 2 to 3 inches in diameter white as snow; the curiously branched labellum only tinged with deep golden yellow. Twenty fourth. A species of Freycinetia23 or climbing pandanus, it grows to a great height, clinging to the trees like ivy, by rootlets on the stems, & with its curved branches & long leaves has a most peculiar aspect where it is abundant. Twenty fifth. A species of scilamineous24 plant allied to Alpinia, but bearing its flowers close to the root.Very common in dark low places. Twenty sixth. A species of Pandanus25 growing in deep jungle, called by the Malays MangKwang26, it is a very handsome plant with short stems, but with leaves often 15 or 20 feet long & 3 or 4 inches broad, of these are made the best kadjangs or mats for the sides of houses, the leaves are laid one along side the other & laced together with strips of rattan; when dry they are of a pleasant light straw colour & polished surface. The fruit which I had [sheet 9] not seen when I made the drawing is like a huge fir cone a foot long with 2 little black hooks on the point of every scale. Twenty seventh. A species of calamus27 or rotang rattan as we call it in England its long tough weak stems sometimes twirl & twine among the trees a hundred feet long but never branch their stems are sheathed in the upper part of the bases of the leaves which are armed with a complete chevaux de frise of spines & at the end of every leaf is a prolongation of the midrib several feet long & armed with multitudes of sharp hooks thus & not unfrequently there is another long fishing tackle of the same sort growing from the base of every leaf These are some times almost as fine as thread but very strong if you get caught in one which is frequently the case for they are almost invisible among thick jungle the only way is to cut it off & then carefully unhook it no struggling is of any use The fruit of the rotang grows like all the rest of the palms, in bunches & is covered with little bright scales pointing downward toward the stem. We have at Labuan I believe 14 species varying from three inches to ¼ inch in diameter The smallest are the most valuable in commerce. They are perhaps the most useful of all plants to the native houses & even boats are held together with split rattans. They are twisted into cables &

rigging for prahus & answer in short all the purposes of twine & string & many besides. Twenty eighth. The Kruing28 tree, one of the handsomest of all our trees the trunk is usually perfectly straight & smooth & very tall & the top handsomely & regularly shaped the young branches are clothed with lustrous brown hair & the leaves [sheet 10] are light green hairy & very distinctly veined almost perfectly oval & about 10 or 12 inches long It is valuable for its oil, which the Malays use mixed with dammar for paying their boats, & Europeans to rub the wooden houses to protect them from white ants. It is collected by cutting a deep notch into the trunk of the tree so as to form a deep sort of reservoir as in this section into this flow the sap & oil mixed together & the sap being more fluid flows away down the trunk leaving the oil in the notch It has a peculiar rather pleasant smell & is about the consistence & colour of cocoanut oil in England (here it is as fluid as olive oil) Twenty ninth. Another species of rotang with wedge shaped premorse29 leaflets instead of the usual long pinnate ones of palms. Not very common here. Thirtieth. Another species of Pandanus called by the natives Gadore its leaves are 3 or four feet long & near a foot wide of a glorious bright varnished green. The plant in the drawing is a young one the only one I had seen when I drew it & I thought it a glorious plant but I have since seen it with a trunk 18 inches in diameter & 30 or 40 high supported by thick roots thrown out to stay it thus divided at the top into a score or more of branches each with its huge tuft of leaves & a great milk white fruit hanging from it like a pineapple about 18 or 20 inches long. This was on Burong island where there are hundreds & I think they are almost the handsomest plants I ever met with. [sheet 11] Thirty first. The Aroo30 or Casuarina equiselifolea which grows every where on the sea side where there is sand. It is tall but usually the trunk divides into several branches pretty near the ground. Its wood is exceedingly hard & dark red & the trunk when old deeply channelled. It is a most elegant tree when young with its long light waving leafless branches swinging in the wind but it makes a doleful sighing noise. Its cones are like those we once had from the Swan river31 but much smaller. It seems to be appointed to the office of reclaiming land from the sea for wherever a bit of sand is untouched by the tide for a few weeks up come scores of young casuarinas & they grow with wonderful rapidity. Thirty second. Dendrobium cruminatum32, one of our commonest & prettiest orchids & very sweet scented but unfortunately its pretty white flowers come out by thousands all on the same morning & are over before noon, & then not a flower again for a couple of months. It grows in vast abundance on some of the little islets & a root or old tree thickly clothed with it is a lovely sight. Thirty third. A species of Hoya of which we have a great many. They are quite as much epiphytes as any of the orchids. Thirty fourth. The Nipa fruticans33 or Nipa palm which grows wherever there is a tide not quite salt water. It has no stem but a huge rootstock sheathed with the thick bases of the leaves which rise sometimes 30 feet high & it is very curious sometimes to see a nipa that has been washed up & carried out to sea floating hundreds of miles from land with all its huge leaves [sheet12] still erect and green. The fruit is a number of angular nuts closely packed into a round mass about 2 feet in diameter. Botanist are undecided whether to place this plant with palms or in the arum tribe. Whatever it is, it is of vast use to the Malays the leaflets laced side by side with rattans form the ataps a sort of mat which we all use for thatch. The young unopened leaflets seperated & dried are used to wrap up cigars as the Spaniards use paper. From the ashes of the leaves a coarse sort of salt is procured & from the very young fruit a dark treacley sugar, when a little riper they are made into a sort of preserve & when quite old they furnish a very inferior sort of vegetable ivory. These nuts float out of the rivers & are thrown up on all the beaches in thousands & as nature has given them the power of growing in salt water they all shoot as the float about at sea & are ready to grow the moment they feel earth they are constantly to be seen floating far from land with the long green shoots at one end. Thirty fifth. A curious tall fern which grows within reach of the salt water & at Singapore is the

only thing that grows in many of the salt marshes. Thirty sixth. A curious plant whose flowers I have never seen it is I suppose a Scirpus34 it grows only in salt marshes & consists of a bunch of sharp stiff triangular leaves like daggers. Thirty seventh. A very handsome salamineus35 plant bearing a small white flower. It is remarkable for its long polished canes without leaf or joint sometimes 15 feet high & as straight as an arrow. The first time I met with it I found, [sheet 13] Thirty eighth. a curious plant with sharp holly like leaves which fringes all the watercourses in the mangrove swamps & makes it very difficult to penetrate. Thirty ninth. The common pandanus which grows every where near the sea both on rocks & sand the leaves are disposed on the stem in a curious spiral form. The trunk of an old plant throws out many thick fibres several inches in diameter which fix themselves & stay up the plant. The fruit is a rich deep red when ripe. Fortieth. The Mangrove.The sole tenant of millions of acres along the coasts. As a Malay once told me it is a tree with many legs both trunk & branches throwing out many strong arched roots which fix on the mud & as the trees grow very thickly & the bottom is usually very soft it is easy to conceive that the impassability of a mangrove swamp is proverbial. This plant has a singular provision for protecting its seed from the action of the salt water as soon as the seed is formed it begins to grow without leaving the seed pod or the parent tree the radicle goes on growing sometimes 2 feet long & near an inch in diameter until it drops from its weight having usually a pair of young leaves partly formed at the summit & the root end being the thickest & heaviest & very sharp sticks at once in the mud & is planted or if it falls in the water continues to float about perpendicularly in the sea still growing until it is cast ashore in some quiet muddy corner. The mangrove wood possesses the [sheet 14] property of burning well when green & the steamers machines use a good deal. Forty first. A species of Dacrydium36 our nearest approach to a fir which though generally a mountain plant grows in the peat bog at the SE of the island its fruit is a little brown nut upon a scarlet berry like a yew. The branches closely resemble a lycopodium. The wood resembles deal, & makes capital spars. but does not grow very large. Forty second. A little low shrub inhabiting the same district as the last. It is very ornamental bearing abundance of scarlet berries which however have no flavour. Forty third. A species of Angraecum37 or orchid climbing the face of the rock by means of long roots thrown down & reaching a foot or more from the surface.

1 The accompanying drawing of a view in the jungle was drawn in pencil on four sheets of paper. Although unsigned, it cannot have been done by anyone other than James Motley (1822-1859) fairly soon after he arrived in Labuan in 1849. The original drawing and manuscript explanation were given to the British Museum (Natural History) by Joan Motley (1902-1991), a grand-daughter of James' brother Francis (his assistant in Labuan from 1849-1852), and it is now held in the Botany Library of the Natural History Museum, London, UK with call number BOTANY MSS MOT 1. As it retained by the family (as some other letters to his father still are) it may well have been prepared for his father, Thomas Motley (1782-1863), although it would also have been of interest to other known correspondents such as W.J.Hooker at Kew, and the Dillwyn family in Swansea. The drawing bears comparison with the illustrations of the Brazilian forests by von Martius in Flora Brasilensis (1840-1906), but, omitting background and non-botanical detail, is deliberately stylistically drawn more in the manner of what P.W.Richards would pioneer as a measured transect profile diagram as late as 1930. Image clarified, transcription, and annotation by Martin Laverty, Sept 2009-Apr 2010. 2 It appears that Motley couldn't tell left from right as the numbering indicates that the image has not been reversed. 3 Banyan, strangling fig 4 Caoutchouc is a general term for natural rubber from a variety of trees. 5 This looks like a bole climber, which could be a climbing fern or, more likely, aroid... 6 Aerides, the cat's tail, or fox's brush, orchid 7 Calanthe veratrifolia = Calanthe triplicata. 8 Named by Willdenow in 1823, the West of England Journal of Science and Literature for 1835-6, p.135, for example, records it as one of the orchids flowering at the Bristol Nursery. Motley's familiarity with orchids may have something to do with his friendship with the Dillwyn family who had an orchid house in Swansea. 9 Cycad circinalis is a cycad, not a palm, although it is also known as Queen Sago 10 Shorea robusta a Dipterocarp tree but not necessarily this species.... 11 Polypodium fern 12 Mr Knight might have been Joseph Knight (1778-1855), a gardener and taxonomist 13 Cymbidium or boat orchid 14 Acrostichum grande = Platycerium grande, the stag's horn fern 15 The drawing suggests a Licuala 16 Asplenum nidularis = Asplenum nidus, the bird's-nest fern 17 Guttiferae, the family containing the mangusteen 18 Hoya, or wax plant 19 Caladium is native to South America 20 Dryobalanops Camphora = Dryobalanops aromatica, another dipterocarp 21 Paying is a nautical term for “smearing boats with pitch, tar, &tc. as a defence against wet” 22 Phalaenopsis amabile = Phalaenopsis amabilis, the Moon Orchid 23 Freycinetia 24 Scilaucineous or scilamineous = ? 25 Pandanus, or screw pine 26 Mang-Kwang becomes Bankwang by 1854, when writing of his first Sumatra journey 27 Calamus 28 Kruing = keruing, the timber of many Dipterocarpus species. 29 Premorse = terminating abruptly, as if bitten-off 30 Aroo (aru , rhu, or ru), Casuarina 31 Although Swan river might be taken to mean the River Tawe, the river whose mouth is at Abertawe in Welsh, or Swansea in English, this usage is unheard of; more likely it is Swan river in Tasmania (where there is another Swansea). The sample would have been sent by J.E.Bicheno, friend of the Dillwyns in S.Wales where he lived from 1832 until he migrated to become Colonial secretary of Van Dieman's Land in 1842. His herbarium was sent back to the Royal Institution of South Wales – now Swansea Museum. Bicheno invested in the same ironworks as Motley's father and must have been one of Motley's botanical mentors. 32 Dendrobium cruminatum or Pigeon Orchid 33 Nipa (Nipah), or Nypa 34 Scirpus, or rush 35 Salamineus ? 36 Dacrydium, a conifer 37 Angraecum , or comet orchids, are typically from Africa or Madagascar

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