The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa, in the Year 1805, by Mungo Park


The botanical specimens, mentioned in Park’s letter, arrived safe in England, and were received by Sir Joseph Banks, by whose kind information the editor is enabled to add the following particulars concerning them.

1. Fang Jani, or self-burning tree. The specimens received under this name, were branches of a species of Pandanus, which, for want of the parts of fructification, could not be ascertained. The shoots and bases of the leaves were black and withered, resembling in appearance leaves and branches that had been subjected to the action of fire. The leaves, however, above their bases, were green, although dry. On a closer examination, those parts which appeared like charcoal, were found to differ entirely from that substance, as they would not give a black colour to paper when rubbed upon it. Besides, it was wholly incredible that the young shoots and bases of the leaves should break out into a blaze, while the tops of the leaves, far less succulent than the young shoots, remained quite free from fire, not being even singed in the smallest degree.

On a more careful examination, the black colour appeared to be occasioned by a disease in the plant, of the nature of the mildew or rust of corn, arising from a parasitic fungus, probably of the nature of the Puccinia of Europe; the species of which could not be ascertained on account of the advanced state of growth of the specimen. This explanation accords very ill with the declarations of the negroes, who affirm, that they have often seen fires in the woods, occasioned by the spontaneous burning of these shrubs; but it is mentioned in Mr. Park’s letter, ‘that few of the natives had seen it actually burning.’

2. Kino. The origin of this drug, long ago admitted into the Pharmacopoeias of Europe, was unknown, till Mr. Park sent a specimen of the plant from which the negroes collect it, which proves to be a species of Pterocarpus not yet described by any botanical writer.

3. Tribo. As no part of the plant was sent except the root, nothing can be said concerning its species. It appeared to be a moderately good dye, but had no marked superiority over those already known, sufficient to induce Sir Joseph Banks to cause experiments to be made with it. Indeed, the quantity was not sufficient for any experiments, except on a very confined scale.

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