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Rubber Planting in Mexico and Central America (Classic Reprint)

Rubber Planting in Mexico and Central America (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Rubber Planting in Mexico and Central America

In 1805 an English translation of the paper was published anonymously, and now the name was changed to Castilloa. The translator (who is believed to have been Charles Koenig, the keeper of the mineralogical department of the British Museum) had no right to alter the name. A Mexican botanist had already, with just as little right, proposed to change the name to Castella, shortly after the plant had been described. Now we have in systematic botany certain recognized rules of nomenclature, and one of these is that of priority. As Castilla was the first name given, it should remain so. This question was discussed and settled in 1903 by O. F. Cook, in "The Culture of the Central American Rubber Tree" or Bulletin No. 49, Bureau of Plant Industry, United States Department of Agriculture, but it seems to have been overlooked.

Different Forms of Castilla.

Another question which is causing considerable misconception as regards our Central American rubber tree is that of species. Castilla elastica Cerv. in a very wide species, containing numerous forms. A species-making botanist could easily divide it into a dozen species or more. I have personally observed nine fairly distinct forms, but I still hesitate to recognize them as good varieties. Koschny, a Costa Rica planter, who has written considerably in "Der Tropenpflanzer" about Castilla in certain parts of Central America, speaks of several "species," but does not give satisfactory descriptions that would warrant his forms to receive the distinction of species. Cook described the form occurring on and near La Zacualpa rubber plantation in Soconusco, Mexico, as a new species, C. lactiflua. In Hawaii I saw a form planted from seeds obtained from a seed merchant in Paris under the name var. nicaraguensis. It certainly was different from any other form I have seen elsewhere. C. markhamiana is generally considered to be a separate species, and the Castilla grown in Ceylon is sometimes referred to as this species. Certain is that the Ceylon Castilla is not identical to any Mexican Castilla that has come under my notice.

From the planter's point of view it is of little significance whether one or more species are cultivated so long as the rubber is obtained. But it is in this fact of the existence of many different forms in which we have to find an explanation of the reputed failure of Castilla in different places, where its success had been presupposed.

If we plant seeds of the Castilla of the Atlantic side of Southern Mexico, with an almost continuous rainfall, on the Pacific slope of the Sierra Madre, where we have a distinct dry season of six months, the tree does not succeed in growth, the amount of latex is smaller, and a planter would soon find out that he had made a great mistake, had he tried this experiment on a large scale. It seems to me probable that if attention had been paid to this ircumstance, Castilla would be more of a favourite than it is.

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