The Hunt for plants


And that year begins the romantic hunt for the Brown Gold. This hunt for seeds and plants of the Cinchona was not without dangers. The names of those who were involved with this hunt: the minister of colonies: the Mortanges Pahud, and the consul in La Paz., Schukraft. and the transmitters of seeds and plants: Hasskarl and Ledger, and the chemist: Moens. We find these names later in the types which are named after them. A place of honour will go to Cinchona Ledgeriana Moens in the development of quinine in Java. Hasskarl left the Netherlands on the 4 December 1852 and arrived months later in Lima, Peru.

He spent three months there and learned Spanish, the real Spanish that is spoken only in Peru, as the Peruvians say. The rest of South America is mixed with a number of races and no longer produces real Spanish. He learned the language and got to know the people. He organised the necessary letters of introduction to local government officials. He travelled as a scientific explorer. There was no export ban for quinine or its seeds, but it is understandable that the bark collectors, output of the “chicken”, which lays the golden eggs, would resist his efforts.
On 10th May 1853 he left for the mountains and six months later he sends a large amount of plants to Lima. An assistant sent these immediately to Panama. The plants remained there for five months in tropical conditions. All plants died, but the seeds were saved and then shipped separately. A second journey was cancelled because of illness and domestic. But a third trip in May 1854 took five hundred plants in good conditions to Indonesia. Hasskarl had requested a Dutch war frigate: The Prince Frederik of the Netherlands. The plants were picked up on the Peruvian coast and were shipped via the Carolinas, New Guinea and the Philipines. The travel was difficult. A typhoon in the China Sea threatened its precious cargo and exhausted it crew. The ship arrived on December 3d 1854 in the port of Makassar. The captain decided to give the crew a rest. Hasskarl was afraid that the plants would rot, just like in Panama. And got in touch with the colonial administration in the capital of Indonesia, Batavia. He obtained a naval steamer “The Gedeh”, which finally arrived in Batavia on the 13th December 1854, two years after he left the Netherlands.
Of the 500 plants 75 were still alive. The plants were packed in so-called Warts boxes. These boxes were designed to maintain a certain level of temperature and humidity. The plants were transferred to a branch of the Botanical Garden at Buitenzorg, the Tjibodas garden, at 1500 meters above sea level. The garden is near located at the Gedeh, where many plants were already germinated from the seeds, which were saved in Panama in 1853. This caused great joy in the Netherlands and on Java. Bernelot Moens, the writer of the standard book on quinine, wrote great words of appreciation about Hasskarl. He wrote: “the first carrier of living quinine plants to a country whith a peaceful government and good climate, which would rescue of the desired drug.

Hasskarl became the first director of Kinaplantsoenen, the quinine plantation. After eighteen months he had to return to Europe because of ill health. He was succeeded by Mr Junghun, a man famous in Java. He can be called the founder of many quinine cultures in Java. In the years 1850 – 1860 he produced soil maps produced. These are still the leading soil maps for defining quinine growing areas. After the huge expansion in the growing of quinine Junghun went back to the Netherlands in 1864 and was succeeded by Van Gorkom.
Van Gorkom led for the management of the quinine culture for forty years, especially Tjinjiroean. It is due to van Gorkom that many new methods were retained and expanded. Nothing should be said against his predecessors, but Hasskarl and Junghun were convinced that the cinchona should be planted in a forest. The tree was found in a forest, so obviously needed shade of giant trees, so it had to be planted in that environment again. This assumption was challenged by van Gorkom. The tree was found in the jungle, but gradually grew into giant trees and was in need, especially as a young tree, of direct sunshine. Van Gorkum then started clearing areas for the planting and growing of quinine trees.

A second, very favourable circumstance, which would contribute to enormous prosperity, was the purchase of one pound of quinine seeds, offered by George Ledger, a brother of a woodsman from South America. The bag contained 500 grams of seed, approximately 1.250.000 seeds, was rejected by the British government but approved by Professor Miguel from Leiden, and immediately sent to Batavia. Van Gorkom received the seeds and when it appeared that the seed was viable the original purchase price of 100 guilders was raised to more than 500 guilders! Later it became clear that this species had exceptional qualities. It was called Ledgeriana Cinchona. The purchase price was again raised to Fl 1,200.
In 1872, test showed that the bark collected from the trees had a very high level of quinine. Through intensive collaborative work between the planter van Gorkum and the famous chemist Bernelot Moens trees were developed which then were used throughout Java. Out of gratitude this type was then called Cinchona Ledgeriana Moens. To appreciate the research and selection methods of Moens and van Gorkum it is worthwhile to list the components of the Chinine bark: Quinine, Cinchonine, Cinchonidine Quinidine.

The main active ingredient is of course quinine. It was Moens who should be recognised to be the first person who discovered this. He selected varieties based on the quinine content. The English had been working hard on developing quinine as well had developed fine species, but with a low quinine content. The most important of these is the Cinchona SUCCIRUBRA, the red juicy Cinchona bark. They used the bark for sale to manufacturers of Quinquina wine., KINA_ ROCHE Kinatinctuur, Kina drops further and tonic, specifically for pharmaceutical purposes. They used the trees as saplings, to support the high Ledgeriana – grafts. It turned out that the Cinchona Succirubra had a very strong constitution and was little affected by soil types and resistant to diseases.

The delicate Ledgeriana did very well when it was grafted on this rootstock and thus the two most favorable features: high quinine content and disease resistance were united through the work of the planter Gorkom. The work on plantation combined the practical tasks of cultivating trees with the task of thorough scientific work in a chemistry lab. The main objective was to avoid surprises from Mother Nature or from science. In this essay I want to focus on the processes of turning the jungle in a functioning plantation. The word in Dutch: ‘Plantage’. The plantation managers themselves would prefer to call these ‘Kinatuinen’ or Chinine Gardens.