The Cactus Patch
Volume 6       August 2003      Number 8

PERFUME and Other Plant Products
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

Almost exactly 2 months after the accident Polly had all the metal bits taken out of her arm. Her wrist is still very stiff, but with time and exercise it should recover. They drive as crazy as ever here. I was half an hour late to an official dinner due to an overturned diesel tanker left from the morning while they sent to South Africa for equipment to deal with it. A few days later we ran into another traffic jam -- another overturned tanker.

Another big news item is the IPUF (Indigenous Plant Use Forum) which met in Rustenburg, South Africa (halfway from here to Johannesburg). Nonofo Mosesane (Garden Head) and I drove over on the 7th of July and gave a paper on "AIDS and Traditional Medicine in Botswana". Mostly they just equate AIDS with Boswagadi (impurity of

bereavement) and prescribe purification rituals. One of the more common species used is the succulent Senecio (Kleinia) longiflorus. (This should only be used externally as Senecio alkaloids are known to damage the liver.) There were lots of other terrific papers including one on Aloe ferox as used for STDs. All the other speakers were from South Africa except one fellow from Mozambique and a woman from Lesotho (one of my former students).

On the 9th we visited the Robertet Plant in Rustenburg where they prepare crude extracts which are then shipped to France for production of essential oils used in perfumes etc. At the time they were processing wild marigold (Tagetes minuta), a noxious weed with about ten times the smell of garden marigolds. Next we drove over to the Institute for Industrial Crops (formerly the Tobacco and Cotton Institute). They are experimenting with fiber from Sansevieria aethiopica and Sansevieria pearsonii, both of which are common in Botswana. They also grow Hibiscus cannabinus and true hemp for fiber. (The hemp was in locked greenhouses as they have not yet got the fiber genes sorted out from the Marijuana ones. I said why bother, as it stands itís a

dual-purpose plant.) The field trip ended with a visit to a farm where we tasted "mampoer", a 55% fruit alcohol. (They had 85% for rubbing on arthritis.)

The Forum ended on Thursday and on Friday Nonofo and I visited the farmhouse of Paul Kruger which is now a small museum. The farm itself is now supporting Zebra, Buffalo and Antelope (including a friendly Eland named George). We stopped off at the nearby Fokeng Shopping Centre where I was interested to see that the Bafokeng use the Crocodile as their totem. This is interesting as the Magaliesberg area (including Rustenburg) is the ancestral home of the Sotho/Tswana peoples. The king of Lesotho belongs to the Kwena (crocodile) clan as does Nonofo and all his relatives in Molepolole 60 km West of Gaborone.

At long last I'll report on those poisonous thrillers. The first is Poison by Ed McBain (1987, Pan Books, London). This contains valuable (and dangerous) information on the poisonous uses of nicotine {as in tobacco}. McBain writes [his daddy] "used to make his own bug-killer. Used to mix cigarette tobacco and water in a coffee can, let it soak for a week or so, then boiled it. Made a sort of tea, you know? Mixed that with soap suds so it'd stick to the leaf. Worked real fine in his garden."

The second, Morgan's Run by Colleen McCullough (2000, Century, London) advises "Öin Glouster gardens wives dealt with slugs, caterpillars and grubs by plundering their husband's tobacco. They steeped the leaves in boiling water, then sudsed the liquid with soap and sprinkled the concoction upon their vegetables. The first rain washed it away, but until that fell, wriggly pests turned up their noses and refused to eat such horrid-tasting food." Note that nicotine can be deadly to humans (just ask the Surgeon General) and should be handled with care.

For another recipe see "Mealy bug: The number one enemy of Cactus" in the June 2001 Cactus Patch. Here David L Epple is quoted as recommending a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol (mampoer will do) and water. I have used tobacco soaked in methylated spirits (methanol), but I'm told that's not available in California. At any rate, I welcome the mealybugs on the cactus - they've just about wiped out our imbricate cactus (Opuntia imbricata), but are not doing so well on our pesty prickly pears. I just wish they would leave our stapeliads alone.

The winter continues to be mild here. We had one night where it got down to 0C (32F). The garden project is now only 3 weeks behind schedule (last month it was 4 weeks). The contractor has promised to catch up next month.

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