Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

Before the present supplies from the the south of the Guadiana, and part o home-growth in America, the primitive Estremadura, between the Tagus and material used for bottle-stoppers con- the Guadiana rivers. In the latter re sisted of the roots of liquorice, which gion the forests are extremely dense were cut and formed to the shape of but the quality of cork harvested is in corks. The spongy substance of an- ferior to that produced in the districts other tree, called Spondias lutea, which of Catalonia, where the cork is of a abounds throughout the marshy l'e- firmer and more compact texture. Algions of South America, and there though the cork forests of Estremadura called Monbia, was also used in the and Andalusia yield cork of a much same way. The roots of liquorice are quicker growth, and possessing some still often used in North America for excellent qualities, its consistency is the making of bottle-stoppers ; as also less rigid, and on this account it does another product called Myssa, which not enjoy the high reputation in the contains some of the component ele- open market which the cork of Catamenis akin to cork.

lonia does. In Spain and Portugal, where the In grouping the chief cork forests cork-tree, or Quercus Suber, is indige- in the province of Gerona, we include nous, it usually grows in densely a great area of territory, stretching packed groups, and attains to a height northward towards the Pyrenees to the varying from thirty-five to sixty feet; valley of the Muge and Ter, and southand the trunk to a diameter of thirty ward to the boundary of the province. to thirty-six inches. This species of the The whole of this area consists of anevergreen oak is often heavily capar- cient schist formation. In those parts isoned with wide-spreading branches, of the Spanish cork forests where the clothed with ovate, oblong evergreen trees approach the seaboard, the cork leaves, downy underneath, and the suffers from a fungous growth which edges slightly serrated. Annually, be- renders it useless for the production of tween April and May, it produces a corks. It is exported to this and other flower of a yellowish color, succeeded countries, and often used for rusticby the acorns, which are oval nuts, work, such as the adornment of fernfixed by their base into rough, closely eries and other horticultural adjuncts. fitting, permanent cups. They ripen The cork or bottle-stopper trade is in the autumn, and serve as an article still the chief cork-consuming factor ; of food, resembling chestnuts in taste. but this branch of the industry is not

In order that the reader may form an free from encroachments of rivalry, idea of the vast extent of the cork for- which so often check a monopoly of ests of southern Europe, and general this kind. In this trade several new magnitude of the cork industry, we inventions are introduced to the public propose doing this to some extent by with the object of facilitating the illustrating the present state of the trouble sometimes experienced in cork industry in Spain and Portugal. drawing the cork bottle-stopper. Some In the first place, we may add that the of these new stoppers certainly possess cork forests of Spain cover an area this advantage over the cork-stopper. of six hundred and twenty thousand The specific qualities, however, of the -square acres, producing the finest cork cork-stopper are too unique in themin the world. These forests exist in selves ever to admit of their being togroups, and cover wide belts of terri- tally annihilated. Imperviousness to tory, those in the region of Catalonia air and water is a rare quality which and part of Barcelona being considered cork possesses over any other known the first in importance. The second material; besides, they convey no dis

; area in extent has within its confines agreeable taste or flavor to the liquid several groups in the south, which con- they retain. These, coupled with such verge into a gigantic belt of territory, other qualities as compressibility and occupying the entire district lying to elasticity, are virtues which it would be

were

difficult to find in any substance out- to supply the demand from this source, side the range of cork.

which may more than counterbalance The application of cork as a bottle- any falling off in the supply to the stopper for liquid vessels is said to be principal branch of the cork industry. of great antiquity ; the earliest record The methods in vogue in barking and estant of its use in Europe is that barvesting the cork in Spain and Pormentioned by Horace, who asserts that tugal are pretty much the same. The the Romans had cork as stoppers for barking operation is effected when the their wine amphoræ. Certain of the tree has acquired sufficient strength to uses of cork were kuowu to the ancient withstand the rough handling it reGreeks and Egyptians ; but whether ceives during this operation, which they used cork for stopping the mouths takes place when it has attained the of their liquid vessels history does not fifteenth year of its growth. After the say. It was not, however, until the first stripping, the tree is left in this year 1760 that the Spaniards first com- juvenescent state to regenerate, subseneuced to work their cork woods with quent strippings being effected at ivsome degree of regularity for the mak- tervals of not less than three years ; ing of “corks.

and under this process the tree will Although, perhaps, corks were more continue to thrive and bear for upor less in use from the time glass wards of a hundred and fifty years. If bottles

first invented, which the bark is not removed artificially, it Beckmann asserts to bave been in the will on maturity split and dismantle fifteenth century, yet it was not until itself; this is caused by the fresh illo and a half centuries later that the growth of bark forming underneath. Spaniards began to prepare cork for The cork of the first barking is bottle-stoppers, which they did in a for- termed Corcho bornio bornizo, or virest situated at the north-east of the gin cork ; the cork of the second stripTigueras, on the Muge. The cork in- ping is called Pelas, or secondary cork. dustry has since gradually risen to be The work of removing the bark from one of the first magnitude, its chief the tree is performed in summer by centre in Spain being in Catalonia, men, who are paid at the rate of two where, at the present, a population of shillings and sixpence a day. The in8,228 persons are employed, who in the struments used for the work are au course of each year turn out about axe, a lever, and a hand-saw for the one hundred and eighty-eight thousand cutting of transversal incisions. hundredweight of cork grown in the The first process through which the province ; one hundred and forty-four bark passes after stripping is that of thousand hundredweight of cork grown boiling. This is sometimes done in in other provinces of Spain ; besides the woods, but more frequently in the forty-seven thousand hundredweight of cork factory, in large, specially concork exported from Algeria. The rev- structed caldrons, in which the bark is enue from the cork industry of Spain left to boil for upwards of an hour. amounts to £1,073,880 per annum. This seething process increases the

Considering the number of newly thickuess and elasticity of the cork ; invented stoppers now in use, it would and at the same time the tannin and be reasonable to anticipate a pro rata other feculent substances generally exdecrease in the consumption of cork. isting in the bark are desiccated. On comparing the past with the latest The various uses of cork in this trade returns of Spain and Portugal, no country are pretty generally known, perceptible change appears to have and do not require recapitulating ; but taken place in this respect. Probably some of its applications where it is inwe can account for it in this way, by digenous are not perhaps so univertaking into consideration the increasing sally known; it may therefore be progress in some branches of science, interesting to mention some of them. and the large draughts made upon cork In Spain, beehives, kitchen pails, and

[ocr errors]

other culinary utensils, are made of The geographical formation of Portugal cork, including pillows. In Italy, is extremely favorable for the rearing images and crosses are carved out of of cork-trees ; indecd, every evidence it, and footpaths are paved with it. In of this characteristic is well marked by Turkey, it forms cabins for the cork- the densely thick groups of cork-trees cutters, and coffins for the dead. In to be seen in certain regions, especially Morocco, it appears in the form of in the valley of the Tagus and the drinking - vessels, plates, tubs, and Sierra de Portalegre, which are the water conduits. In Algeria, shoes, chief cork-bearing centres of the counarmor, and boats, and various articles try. The cork-tree virtually abounds of furniture, consume their share. in every part of Portugal, with the exCups made of cork have been recom-ception of a section of territory at the mended for the use of hectic persons. extreme south and extreme' north, One familiar article in which a great where a calcareous strip of country deal of cork is used in our own country exists, separating the cork-trees of the is the cork jacket, an adjunct to the valley of the Tagus from those of the outfit of the mariner which cannot be valley of the Douro. dispensed with. This life-protecting apparatus, although no doubt a vast improvement on the original, cannot be classed among modern inventions ; for

From Blackwood's Magazine. Plutarch, in his life of Camellus, men

THE NEWEST ABOUT EARTH-WORMS. tions that the messenger sent by that PERHAPS the very last attribute that general to his fellow-citizens when be- would seem likely to characterize our sieged in the Capitol, used a cork lumble friend the earth-worm is the jacket in swimming across the Tiber, capacity for makivg a noise ; we are the Gauls being in possession of the told that the worm, when unduly probridge. The Portuguese use cork for voked, will turn, but it does this in a structural purposes, such as rooting quiet way, as a rule. It is, however, houses and lining wells, as well as in an undoubted fact that in the island of articles of domestic use.

Java there exists a worm which amuses With regard to the cork forests of itself in the night by producing " Portugal, our data are unfortunately sharp, interrupted sound.”

Darwin, too meagre to enable us to estimate as everybody knows, raised our views what exact proportion of the thirty- of the intelligence of the earth-worm four thousand square miles of country to a very considerable height; but even occupied by Portugal is devoted to the he did not suspect the creature of this cultivation of cork. The reason as- claim to a higher place in the animal signed for the non-existence of this world. For some time this extraordistatistical detail by the government is, nary deviation from worms in general that the cork forests of the country are was literally “ vox et præterea nihil ; » in the hands of private individuals, the but ultimately it was found and chrisState forests being very few in Portu- tened in the vernacular of its country gal. In the absence of a government tjatriny son darie, a name which apstatistical report as to the area cov- pears to indicate its power of speech. ered by cork forests, the only idea The more technical but not less apt which can be formed of the magnitude name of Megascoles musicus was subseof the Portuguese cork industry is that quently given to it. Whether by this obtained from the trade returns of that means a worm can advise its friends of country.

the approach of the local equivalent The total quantity of cork exported for the mole, which in this country is in the year 1890 is stated to be 453,650 its chief foe, remains uncertain ; but in hundredweight of cork in the rough, any case one might suppose that there and 42,427 hundredweight of cork man- was some good reason for this curious ufactured into articles of commerce.' deviation from the normal. Perhaps

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the uncanny cffect produced by sound - the worm would leave its tail in the issuing from so silent a creature may possession of the bird and go on its paralyze the energies of some intending way rejoicing; but, unlike the fox in foe. Mr. Darwin first brought the the fable, it would be able to grow a eartb-worm into fashion ; since he new tail to offer to a second bird. In wrote about it, it has steadily gone up this respect the worm offers a curious in position, and may now be fairly re- analogy to certain snails. Some of garded as belonging to the inverte- these have a weak spot in the extended brale aristocracy. It wants, it is true, foot ; when pecked at, the latter half of one feature of aristocracy, the earth- the tail, which, as in the case of the woru is vot blue-blooded like the king- worm, contains no vital organs of imcrab and some other ancient forms of portance, is sacrificed to save the anilise; it has, indeed, red blood colored mal from heing swallowed entire.

: by a pigment identical with that which Though no other earth-worm, so far tints the blood of man a further claim as is known, possesses a special proopon our sympathies. There is, how- vision for parting with a section of ever, no doubt at all about its very an- itself with impunity, a considerable cieut lineage. It has in all probability loss of length can be suffered with the been a pative of the soil ever since utmost indifference. There are even there has been any soil to be a native species — not indeed true earth-wornis. of.

but close allies — which voluntarily, Instead of retiring at the approach of when they find themselves getting too man, as most savage avimals do— if large, break up into shorter and, it such an epithet can be applied to so must be presuned, more convenient mild a creature it has been in many lengths. The agitation caused by a places positively increased in numbers slight handling of the creature is by tbe appearance of man, in spite of enough to produce this result. When trout-fisher's. By various means it is this happens, and one or two pieces are able to triumph over various defects in devoured, it is difficult to say whether its equipmeni for the battle of life ; the the animal has been killed or not; the struggle for existence must be a phrase individual becomes a little confused absolutely without meaning for the under these circumstances. Each fragearth-worm. In ils case a familiar meut, be it observed, can grow into a sentence must be reversed to express complete worm ; so that the lumbricuthe truth, for it has no eyes and yet can lus, as this particular worm is called, is see (in a sense); and indeed, gener- literally a committee of one with power ally speaking, though without organs to add to its number. It is superior to of special sense, it possesses all the the hydra ; for it can grow not only a special senses : it can hear ; its palate new head as fast as the old one is is delicate ; it is aware, as already men- | lopped off, but a new body or a new tioned, of light and darkness. What anything. Hercules would have found more can be said ? It can even cir- his match here.

" Thus it is,” recumvent, sometimes by astuteness and marked some one impolitely of the other times by peculiarities of struc-worm, " that the most contemptible ture, the early bird. In the forests of lives are with the greatest difficulty deSouth America, and in some other stroyed.” These latter facts, however, parts of the world, there is a small spe- date from the time of Bonnet, Müller, cies provided with a clear spot towards and the other fathers of experimental the tail ; at this point the tissues of zoology, and hardly, therefore, come the boily are in a somewhat immature under the head of the “newest about condition, and seem to be softer and worms." more breakable than elsewhere. Now, The fact about earth-worms which is if a bird grasps the worm anywhere perhaps of the chief interest to natubehind this spot — and there is at least ralists is their astonishing diversity of one chance in three that this happens I structure under a great uniformity of shape. In this they contrast with many Another and almost more singular other animals. The converse is more parallel between the human and vergenerally true. Earth-worms, however, mian inhabitants of the colder and lead a monotonously similar life in all hotter regions respectively is the pig. parts of the world, and there is there- mentation of the body ; not only is the fore no scope for any varied moulding Ethiopian burnt by the sun, but the of outward form. And besides, the earth-worms of tropical countries are shape which they have already got is frequently deeper in color than those that which is best suited to a burrowing of more temperate latitudes. creature ; no change would be desir- There is thus more similarity beable. Hence all the energy of varia-tween worms and men than might bility, which might have been expended appear, in spite of various well-known in producing infinite diversity of exter- remarks and comparisons. nal form, has been transferred to the

FRANK E. BEDDARD, F.R.S. internal organs.

It has been recently proved that every part of the world has its characteristic worms, which are as different from each other as the limits

From Chambers' Journal. of worm organization permit. It will

EGYPT FIVE THOUSAND YEARS AGO. probably astonish some of those who THE Archäological Survey of Egypt read these lines to learn that there are undertaken by the Egyptian Exploraover two hundred different kinds of tion Fund is proceeding under favorearth-worms. Some of them are of the able auspices, and the results of each most brilliant colors. In South Africa year's discoveries seem of increasing is a monster of its kind - six feet in interest. Last year, several artists length — of a bright grass-green color were sent out to make fac-simile drawwith orange underparts; this particular ings of the wall-paintings in tombs beworm has an intelligence not usually longing to the eleventh and twelfth associated with giants. Two worms dynasties — that is, of a period about were observed crawling at a great two to three thousand years B.C., or rate, evidently with an appointment to approximately five thousand years ago. keep ; they crawled rapidly and in the These drawings, supplemented by porstraightest of lines till they met. What tions of the original wall of a tomb sense could have guided them ? It was which had been shattered by an earthmentioned just now that earth-worms quake, rendering the removal possible had all the senses of man ; but we must without any destruction on the part of credit them with some additional senses the explorers, have recently been exnot possessed by ourselves.

hibited at the residence of the Marquis Another curious point is the extreme of Bute, and present many special power of colonization possessed by the points of interest. The freshness and European species — remarkably paral- beauty of the pigments employed in leled by the human races of the same these very ancient frescoes are most part of the world ; whenever a Euro- remarkable.

We are

accustomed to pean form is introduced into a tropical look with wonder at the works of what country, it drives the native worm in- we call the “old masters," and to think habitants before it into the fastnesses the coloring of Orcagna, Cimabue, and of the interior. The converse does not Giotto marvellous after the lapse of five occur ; when a foreign species gets or six centuries ; but here we get colinto this country it does not flourish. ors which have stood the test of ten This is a further proof of the modern times that period, and yet retain their characters, and therefore the great freshness and beauty almost unimvigor, of the animals of the northern paired, so that you may trace the delilatitudes, as compared with those of cate gradations in the plumage of a the tropics — the older and more worn- bird, and thus classify numerous varieout regions of the globe.

ties of ducks, evidently domesticated

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »