THE WORLD OF NATURE
(This educational department will be a feature each month.
The two articles in this issue are from the pen of Harriet Hobson.
The facts about the "Tagua Palm" were procured thru the kindness of the Pan-American Union.)
HOW VEGETABLE IVORY GROWS
The Tagua, a palm fern that grows wild in several of the South American Republics, is one of Nature's master-pieces. Its botanical name is Phytelephas macrocarpa, and its seeds are the queer, potato-like nuts whose kernels form the beautiful vegetable ivory of commerce. The Tagua attains a height of ten to twenty feet, its short, thick trunk is crowned with a splendid crest of bright green leaves, whose deep fringes make them resemble gigantic plumes. At the base of the leaves are the white blossoms, whose rich fragrance is but one of the many attractions possessed by a tree which combines beauty and usefulness to an unusual degree.
Tagua seed pods are among Nature's most exquisite treasure boxes. They are as large as a man's head, and weigh from ten to twenty pounds, each mighty burr ...containing from fifty to ninety ivory nuts. Rough and warty on the exterior, the pods are very beautiful within. They are filled with soft, pink pulp ...that is as fine as jeweler's cotton; and snugly packed away in this pulp are wee bags of sweet juice, which soon change into little lumps of sweet pulp, and then harden into the fat nuts which possess the color and the texture of dentine ivory.
The Tagua palm is one of the world's master producers. It requires a full year to bring its ivory nuts to maturity, but during that time it is not idle; instead, it is running several side lines that it will eventually bring up to the main line of production! While it is developing its green ivory nuts, it is making glad the world about it ...with the rich fragrance of its white blossoms; and at the same time ...it is busy dumping on the market bushels of its finished product!
The nut pods of the Tagua remain tightly closed until the fat little potatoes they hold are fully ripe, and hard enough to withstand the determined drilling of a grub which likes vegetable ivory as a dwelling place. When the time comes, the big pods burst open at the lower end, and pour the contents out upon the ground. Then come scampering dozens of willing workers; wee furred creatures whose teeth and tongues remove the sweet, sticky pulp in which each nut is wrapped. Every ivory nut is licked as clean as if it had been washed, by this queer volunteer brigade, and all that man has to do to harvest this valuable crop is to bend his back and pick it up!
At the button factories the ivory nuts are subjected to intense heat which changes their pure white to the rich cream color of old ivory. After being shelled, the inner part with its "vegetable ivory," is sliced in pieces the correct thickness for buttons. Machines then chop from these slices ...buttons of every shape and size! Vegetable ivory may be cut, sawed, sliced, carved, polished, and dyed, and for these reasons it is the most beautiful and valuable button material in the world.
The Tagua palm grows in Panama, Columbia, Peru and Ecuador, but it is in the latter Republic that it reaches its greatest perfection. Thousands of tons of the ivory nuts are harvested in Ecuador each year, and shipped to various parts of the world, the United States of America being the largest consumer.
THE ARCTIC TERN
One of the most beautiful and remarkable birds in the Western world, is the Arctic Tern, a palpitating atom ...whose wings bear it 22,000 miles each year on its trips to its nesting site, and back to its winter home. The Tern is a small gull, with a tail forked like that of the swallow; it is dressed in a stylish suit of gray —trimmed with black; a tight black cap is on its wee head, and bright coral bill ...and shoes and socks, make him look very much like a winged flower as he goes through space with terrific speed.
The Arctic Tern makes its nest as close to the North Pole as it can find ground solid enough to build upon. At the end of the breeding season, this dainty little aviator points his coral bill straight South, and launching himself in the air, he keeps on going until he rounds Cape Horn, and arrives as near the South Pole as he can find open water to supply him with fish. From Pole to Pole is 11,000 miles and each year the Tern makes the round trip of 22,000 miles, aside from the other thousands he flies in search of food. The fact that he makes this marvelous flight is thought-producing. It makes one wonder how he does it; where he carries his compass; where lies the invisible trail he follows so unerringly through the pathless sky?
His love and need for sunshine must be one of the impelling forces behind his strenuous journeys, for his two polar homes keep him in regions of perpetual sunshine about eight months out of the year.
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