Monday, March 30, 2009

Talipariti elatum

Talipariti elatum | Blue Mahoe, Mountain Mahoe, Majagua, Majó, Cuban Bast

Over the last 200 years Talipariti elatum has been known by a variety of names including Paritium elatum, Hibiscus tiliaceus ssp. elatus, and more recently Hibiscus elatus. Originally from Cuba and Jamaica (where it is the national tree), it has now been introduced into other parts of the Caribbean, Florida and Hawaii.

This beautiful tree grows up to 30m tall, with a trunk sometimes reaching 1m in daimeter. Flower petals are up to 12cm long. Upon opening, flowers are bright yellow, but as the day progresses, they deepen to an orange-red color. Talipariti elatum, can be distinguished from other Talipariti by its larger flowers, and decidious calyx.

The species name elatum refers to the stature of this tree. The common name, Blue Mahoe, refers to the beautiful bluish tone of its durable wood (also with greenish and grayish overtones), historically used in furniture making, carvings, stringed instruments, and for other uses.

Historical Reference: Hibiscus elatus. BLUE OR MOUNTAIN MAHOE. CUBA BAST. Native of West Indies. A tree, 50 to 60 feet with roundish leaves and large flowers of a purplish-snffron color. (See fig. 62.)

BAST FIBER.-A specimen of the fiber from Demerara, sent to the Department in 1863, was described as very strong but coarse and suitable for making cordage, coffee bags, etc. "The fibers make good ropes. The lace-like inner bark was at one time known as Cuba bark (Cuba bast), from its being used as the material for tying around bundles of Havana cigars" (Fawcett). A small quantity of fiber known comercially as Cuba bast or Guana comes to this country, though latterly the supply is very small owing to the revolutionary troubles in Cuba. Messrs. Flint, Eddy & Co., the New York importers, have furnished information concerning it as follows:

The process of gathering entails the destruction of the tree, which is cut down, the bark peeled off, exposing the fiber, which is separated from the bark and spread out in the sun to dry,and subsequently packed in bales containing 150 pounds, or thereabouts. There are two or three grades of it, ranging in price from 25 to 75 cents per pound, the more desirable grades being the lighter and softer textures. It is used extensively in this country and Europe for making women's hats and millinery trimmings, such as braids, etc. Its porousness makes it very desirable for the above purpose, as it readily absorbs a dye without impairing its texture. We understand that it is also used to some extent in Europe for making hammock twine, narrow strips of it twisted into the form of twine having considerable tensile strength. In using it for millinery purposes it is slit into narrow strips and then woven, twisted, braided, etc.

   A descriptive catalogue of useful fiber plants of the world
   United States Dept. of Agriculture Issue 9
   United States. Dept. of Agriculture, 1897

Historical Reference: Hibiscus elatus Swartz. Prodromus Descriptionum Vegetabilium India Occidentalis, 1788. p. 102. Paritium elatum G. DON, General History of the Dichlamydeous Plants. I. 1831. P. 485.

A tree about twenty feet high, growing in the swamp at the western base of Mt. Colombo, May 12, 1910, 0.E. Jennings, No. 265. General Distribution: Cuba, the Isle of Pines, Jamaica, southern Mexico, Guiana, and probably the West Indies and tropical continental America generally.

There is a difference of opinion among botanists as to the distinctness of Hibiscus tiliaceus and Hibiscus elatus, a number of leading botanists having treated them as one and the same species. The writer has not investigated the subject to any great extent but the evidence indicates two distinct species.

   Contributions to the natural history of the Isle of Pines, Cuba
   United States Dept. of Agriculture Issue 9
   Pub. by authority of the Board of trustees of the Carnegie institute, 1917