PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY OF THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE.
U. S. Department of Agriculture,
Washington, D. C., June 5, 1891.
Sir: I have duly prepared by your direction a descriptive list of the more important economic plants at present contained in the collection of the Department, in such a form as will, in my opinion, most satisfactorily meet the wants of the numerous visitors and others interested in the work performed by the Department in this direction, and I beg to submit the same herewith for publication.
Superintendent of Gardens and Grounds.
Hon. J. M. Rusk,
Secretary of Agriculture.
1. Abelmoschus moschatus.—This plant is a native of Bengal. Its seeds were formerly mixed with hair powder, and are still used to perfume pomatum. The Arabs mix them with their coffee berries. In the West Indies the bruised seeds, steeped in rum, are used, both externally and internally, as a cure for snake bites.
2. Abrus precatorius.—Wild liquorice. This twining, leguminous plant is a native of the East, but is now found in the West Indies and other tropical regions. It is chiefly remarkable for its small oval seeds, which are of a brilliant scarlet color, with a black scar at the place where they are attached to the pods. These seeds are much used for necklaces and other ornamental purposes, and are employed in India as a standard of weight, under the name of Rati. The weight of the famous Kohinoor diamond is known to have been ascertained in this way. The roots afford liquorice, which is extracted in the same manner as that from the true Spanish liquorice plant, the Glycyrrhiza glabra. Recently the claim was made that the weather could be foretold by certain movements of the leaves of this plant, but experimental tests have proved its fallacy.
3. Abutilon indicum.—This plant furnishes fiber fit for the manufacture of ropes. Its leaves contain a large quantity of mucilage.
4. Abutilon venosum.—This malvaceous plant is common in collections, as are others of the genus. They are mostly fiber-producing species. The flowers of A. esculentum are used as a vegetable in Brazil.
5. Acacia brasiliensis.—This plant furnishes the Brazil wood, which yields a red or crimson dye, and is used for dyeing silks. The best quality is that received from Pernambuco.
6. Acacia catechu.—The drug known as catechu is principally prepared from this tree, the wood of which is boiled down, and the decoction subsequently evaporated so as to form an extract much used as an astringent. The acacias are very numerous, and yield many useful products. Gum arabic is produced by several species, as A. vera, A. arabica, A. adansonii, A. verek, and others. It is obtained by spontaneous exudation from the trunk and branches, or by incisions made in the bark, from whence it flows in a liquid state, but soon hardens by exposure to the air. The largest quantity of the gum comes from Barbary. Gum senegal is produced by A. vera. By some it is thought that the timber of A. arabica is identical with the Shittim tree, or wood of the Bible. From the flowers of A. farnesiana a choice and delicious perfume is obtained, the chief ingredient in many valued "balm of a thousand flowers." The pods of A. concinna are used in India as a soap for washing; the leaves are used for culinary purposes, and have a peculiarly agreeable acid taste. The seeds of some species are used, when cooked, as articles of food. From the seeds of A. niopo the Guahibo Indians prepare a snuff, by roasting the seeds and pounding them in a wooden platter. Its effects are to produce a kind of intoxication and invigorate the spirits. The bark of several species is extensively used for tanning, and the timber, being tough and elastic, is valuable for the manufacture of machinery and other purposes where great strength and durability are requisite.
7. Acacia dealbata.—The silver wattle tree of Australia. The bark is used for tanning purposes. It is hardy South.
8. Acacia homolophylla.—This tree furnishes the scented myall wood, a very hard and heavy wood, of an agreeable odor, resembling that of violets. Fancy boxes for the toilet are manufactured of it.
9. Acacia melanoxylon.—The wood of this tree is called mayall wood in New South Wales. It is also called violet wood, on account of the strong odor it has of that favorite flower; hence it is in great repute for making small dressing cases, etc.
10. Acacia mollissima.—The black wattle tree of Australia, which furnishes a good tanning principle. These trees were first called wattles from being used by the early settlers for forming a network or wattling of the supple twigs as a substitute for laths in plastering houses.
11. Acrocomia sclerocarpa.—This palm grows all over South America. It is known as the great macaw-tree. A sweetish-tasted oil, called Mucaja oil, is extracted from the fruit and is used for making toilet soaps.
12. Adansonia digitata.—The baobab tree, a native of Africa. It has been called the tree of a thousand years, and Humboldt speaks of it as "the oldest organic monument of our planet." Adanson, who traveled in Senegal in 1794, made a calculation to show that one of these trees, 30 feet in diameter, must be 5,150 years old. The bark of the baobab furnishes a fiber which is made into ropes and also manufactured into cloth. The fiber is so strong as to give rise to a common saying in Bengal, "as secure as an elephant bound with baobab rope." The pulp of the fruit is slightly acid, and the juice expressed from it is valued as a specific in putrid and pestilential fevers. The ashes of the fruit and bark, boiled in rancid palm oil, make a fine soap.
13. Adenanthera pavonina.—A tree that furnishes red sandal wood. A dye is obtained simply by rubbing the wood against a wet stone, which is used by the Brahmins for marking their foreheads after religious bathing. The seeds are used by Indian jewelers as weights, each seed weighing uniformly four grains. They are known as Circassian beans. Pounded and mixed with borax, they form an adhesive substance. They are sometimes used as food. The plant belongs to the Leguminosæ.
14. Adhatoda vasica.—This plant is extolled for its charcoal in the manufacture of powder. The flowers, leaves, roots, and especially the fruit, are considered antispasmodic, and are