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An Extraordinary Discovery.


Perhaps the most remarkable, result of the Stanley expedition has as yet attained only a limited amount of publicity. We(" Christchurch Press") refer to the reported discovery of Professor Schel■tyisch, a Bavarian naturalist, while travelling with the expedition, of a very .wonderful ( "Metal Plant." One day,' while resting at a small village near the foot of Mount Milosis, in the Umbopo region, Professor Schelwisch, it is stated noticed a plant with a peculiar steelcolored foilage, and on was 'found that;the shrub,, although growing like other plants from the soil, was practically composed of iron. The leaves though very thin, were bent with great difficulty, and the twigs and branches resisted pressure with a force about equal to the same amount of iron, and to secure a leaf it was found to be necessary to separate it from the bush with a file. While he was digging about the roots the natives came up in a state of great excitement. Professor Schelwisch gave them a handful of copper coins, and the savages dropped them in a hole "at the' base of the shrub. The Professor and his party left the plant soon afterwards for the night, and re-visited it the next morning. He was astonished to find that it had changed color completely. Indeed, such a marvellous metamorphosis had taken place that we had better describe it in the narrator's own words. He says :— .

Instead of being a beautiful steel colour, the stem, leaves, and what was exposed of the roots presented the appearance of newly coined copper coins, and glittered in the morning sunlight like polished gold. Upon examination it was ascertained that during the night the strange plant had absorbed nearly all the copper coins, with the result of completely changing its colour. What was left of the coins' in the hole showed :that they were more than half eaten away or absorbed by the roots of the metal plant. Not only was the colour changed, but'the texture of the plant had undergone a similar transformation. It was found that the thin ivy-shaped leaves were now easily bent around the fingers, would retain any shape given them, and could, be readily cut with an ordinary pair of scissors."

It is a little unfortunate that owing to the menacing attitude of the natives, who declared that it was a fetish tree, and that to dig one up would bring ruin and desolation on the village, Professor Schelwisch was unable to carry away this Avonderful production with him. We are assured that he succeeded in surreptitiously securing several branches of the plant, and was also successful in obtaining a good photograph of it, all of which he intends placing in the British Museum. Further than this, when the expedition reached the Uniamesi country at the base of the Nkomakosi mountains, "a perfect forest" of this curious plant was found, and this being an uninhabited region no difficulty was encountered in securing specimens to take back to England. Some further wonderful discoveries were made as to the properties of the plant. For instance, we are told—

j '' Being curious to know how fire would affect a growing plant of this species, preparations were made for the test. Large quantities of seasoned wood were procured, and piled in a long row cove-rim; ;i]>oui'. thirty of the metal plains iiiul a \\vc kindled at the windward end. . Stanley and his entire party watched the experiment, and had the satisfaction of demonstrating that, beyond the blackening of the foilage by smoke, the intense heat to which the metal plant had been > subjected had done no harm to the plant itself. At the expiration of a week it was found that the rain had removed nearly all traces of the fire, and the plants were apparently as healthy as ever." [We have read a few travellers' tales, but the foregoing certainly "takes the I cake." It beats Manchausen into a cocked hat.—Ed.] , „ .-. •

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Bibliographic details

An Extraordinary Discovery., Ashburton Guardian, Volume xii, Issue 3407, 22 April 1890

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An Extraordinary Discovery. Ashburton Guardian, Volume xii, Issue 3407, 22 April 1890

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