Manicaria saccifera (2)

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Figure 1. M. saccifera

This unique and handsome palm has a stem from ten to fifteen high, curved or crooked and deeply ringed. The leaves are very large, entire, rigid and furrowed, and have a serrated margin; they are often thirty feet long and four or five wide; and split irregularly with age. The petioles are slender with a broadly expanded fibrous-edged sheath at the base. These sheaths are persistent and often cover the stem to the ground.

The "bussu" produces the largest entire leaves of any known palm, and for this reason, as well as on account of their firm and rigid texture, they form the very best and most durable thatch. The leaves are split down the midrib and the halves laid obliquely on the rafters, so that the furrows formed by the veins lie in a nearly vertical direction and serve as so many little gutters to carry off the water more rapidly. A well-made thatch of "bussu" will last ten or twelve years, and an Indian will often take a week's voyage in order to get a canoe-load of the leaves to cover his house.

The spathe too is much valued by the Indian, furnishing him with an excellent and durable cloth. Taken off entire it forms bags in which he keeps the red paint for his toilet or the silk cotton for his arrows, or he even stretches out the larger ones to make himself a cap,-- cunningly woven by nature without seam or joining. When cut open longitudinally and pressed flat, it is used to preserve his delicate feather ornaments and gala dresses, which are kept in a chest of plaited palm leaves between layers of the smooth "bussu" cloth. This species inhabits the tidal swamps of the Lower Amazon. A palm called "bussu" is also found on the Rio Negro and Upper Amazon, but it is of a smaller size and is probably a distinct species.

Extracted from:

Alfred Russel Wallace, Pub: John van Voorst; 1853

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