1902 Encyclopedia > Borneo > Borneo - Plants

Borneo
(Part 5)




Borneo - Plants

The flora of Borneo is very rich, the whole surface of the island being clothed in luxuriant vegetation.

The king of the forest is the tappan, which, rising to a great height with a single branchless stem, is crowned with a splendid dome of foliage. From the wood of this tree the chiefs construct their official seats.

The ironwood, so remarkable for the durability of its timber, is abundant; it is used by the natives for the pillars of their houses, and forms an article of export to China. It is almost rivalled by the kayu temesu in hardness. In all about sixty kinds of timber are furnished in more or less profusion. Palm trees are abundant in great variety, including the nipa, cabbage, fan, cocoa-nut [coconut], and sago palms; the two last afford large supplies of food to the natives.

Gutta-percha, camphor, cinnamon, cloves, nutmegs, gambir, and betel nuts are all produced in the island; most of the tropical fruits flourish, such as the mangosteen, the lansat, rambutan, jack, jambon, and blimbang; nor must the wonderful durian be forgotten, of which Mr Wallace enthusiastically declares that it is worth a voyage from Europe to taste it [the durian]. It is a large fruit with an exceedingly strong spiked outer covering, and not unfrequently inflicts severe wounds by falling on the passers by.

Yams, potatoes (an indigenous sort), melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, pineapples, and bananas, sugar, pepper, cotton, and tobacco are cultivated, though not as yet on a very extensive scale. In the south-eastern division of the Dutch territory the export of cotton was in 1854 1795 picols. The product of the wild plant is very good, and is exported from Borneo Proper.

Among the more beautiful of the flowering plants are rhododendrons, orchids, and pitcher-plants, -- the last reaching a most extraordinary development, especially in the northern districts about Kini-balu [Kinabalu].

Epiphytous plants are very common, many that are usually independent assuming here the parasitic character. The Vanda Lowii, for example, "grows on the lower branches of trees, and its strange pendent flower-stalks often hang down so as almost to reach the ground."

Ferns are abundant, but are not so varied as in Java; Mr Wallace collected fifty species.






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