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this tough substance. In former times a kind of paper was made of the agave. The fibres of the leaves may be separated and used for all the purposes of thread; but they are neither very strong nor lasting, and if they are exposed to moisture soon decay. The hard point when separated from the leaf draws with it a number of fibres, which may be employed as thread, while the point serves for a needle--whence it has been called “ Adam's needle and thread." It is said that in Africa the leaves of the Guinea aloe are made into durable ropes, and that one species serves for fishing-lines, bow-strings, stockings, and hammocks.
Most of our young readers have seen the camellia, which has such beautiful flowers : it is to this tribe that the tea plant belongs. There is a hothouse in the shape of a T, in the front of which we shall find the green tea plant and the black tea plant, which are much cultivated in China, also in Asia, Burmah, As. sam, and other eastern lands. It is an evergreen, with long, narrow, indented leaves of a dark green colour, tapering to a point; and its flower is like a wild white rose, which is succeeded by a small fruit containing several seeds of the size of a pea. Every young person knows the purpose to which the leaves of the tea plant are applied ; and often have they heard of excellent bohea, souchong, congou, hyson, pekoe, gunpowder, and imperial : but probably all do not know that the various kinds and qualities of tea are not the product of different plants, but are the result of the age of the tree, the climate or soil in which it grows, the time of gathering the leaves, or tho
mode of preparing them.
A traveller says, that in the northern parts of China both green and black teas were made of what we call greentea plant, and in some other parts of the blacktea plant as we term it. If the leaves are gathered about the end of February, they are called “imperial” tea. The first downy leafbuds of three-years' old plants are called
pekoe, or pakko, which means white down. Young byson is a delicate young leaf, called yu-tsëen, meaning before the rains ; but is seldom to be had genuine in this country.
Some of the finer kinds of tea are said to grow in such dangerous declivities as to be out of the reach of man. Their leaves are obtained in the following manner :-Every effort is made to provoke the monkeys which dwell among these trees. When this is done, the enraged animals break off the boughs and fling them at their tormentors.
We must now revisit the Palm House, where we shall discover the coffee tree growing from a cleft of the bare tufa rock of Bermuda. This plant is cultivated in Arabia, Abyssinia, Persia, and the East Indies. But the coffee of Arabia is the best. It grows from eight to twelve feet high, and may be distinguished by its shining leaves, like those of the bay tree, and long slender branches bending downwards. It bears a white sweet-scented flower, altogether resembling the jasmine. The berry is red like a cherry, in this are two hard oval seeds, the flat sides of which face each other. They are the coffee so extensively used in this country. About 5,000,000 lbs. of it are used annually in Great Britain. Besides being taken as a beverage, coffee is useful for medicinal purposes, especially in cases of asthma.*
But as most persons drink sugar with their tea and coffee, the sugar-cane must not be passed unnoticed. It is a native of the East and West Indies, and is cultivated in some parts of Polynesia. It may be termed a very large kind of grass. The stalk, which is closely jointed, is sometimes twelve feet high: its leaves are long, and of a pale green. When in flower, a field of these canes forms a pretty picture. “ The stalk is of a bright golden yellow colour, and the leaves which crown it are of a deep and rich dark green, which changes to a yellow as the cane ripens. From the centre of this tuft of leaves shoots up an elegant arrowshaped head of blossoms, frequently nearly six feet high, which is crowned by a waving silky plume of delicate lilac and white." When ripe, the canes are cut down, taken to a mill, and crushed under heavy rollers till all the juice is pressed out. From this juice, by a process which may be described at a future time, sugar is made. The stalks are used as fuel to boil the juice.
We will now proceed to various parts of the garden. The nutmeg tree belongs to the laurel tribe. It is a native of the Molucca Islands. The tree is generally loaded with fruit, the kernel of which is called nutmeg, and the petwork covering the kernel is called
There are annually brought into this county 336,000 lbs. of nutmegs, and 47,000 lbs. of mace.
* For further information about tea and coffee, see “Child's Companion” for 1851.
The clove tree is a plant like the myrtle, and its flowers are very much like the blossoms of that pretty plant. It is a native of the Moluccas, and is cultivated in nearly every part of the East and West Indies. It has broad thick shining leaves, and it is generally about twenty feet high. The unopened flower-buds form, when dried, the cloves in such common
The name is derived from the French word clou, a nail, from the shape of the flowerbud. The oil of cloves is employed as a medicine, and the spice is much used in cookery.
The ginger plant resembles a rush, and is a native of the East Indies, the Moluccas, and is cultivated in the West Indies. Its roots creep along the ground, and from the sides of them leaf and flower-stalks annually spring up. The flowers, which are of a red colour, arise from expanded scaly bodies. The root is our ginger. It is dug up when the leaves fade, and is dried for sale. That which is used for preserving is taken up before ripe, then scalded, steeped in water till quite tender, and afterwards put into jars and covered with a thin syrup.
The arrow-root plant is a native of South America, but is now cultivated in the South Seas, West Indies, and some parts of Hindostan. It rises to the height of two or three feet, has broad pointed leaves, and is crowned by a spike of small white flowers. The Indians use the juice, which is pressed out of the root in preparing it for sale, to cure the wounds made by poisoned arrows.
Hence its name, arrow-root. It forms a nice light food for invalids. Other species have more showy flowers, as the Canna, the seeds of which are so hard as to be called Indian shot.
Again we must leave the gardens at Kew, and retire home to think over what we have seen of the wonderful works of God.
THE WASHING-DAY. I HAVE heard it said that every one has a right to be ill-tempered on a washing-day; and, silly as this saying is, our Peggy acted as if she believed it. On a washing-day, from morning to night, her tongue was going in no musical
Peevish Peggy she was then called, and well did she deserve the title ; for, though tolerably checrful and good-tempered at other