Harvest

I have described that we are working with two different trees: one growing quinine for pharmaceutical purposes, the other for manufacturing purposes. The first is the Ledgeriana Moens, grafted onto the rootstock of the Succirubra variety. The second type is the pure Succirubra. The harvesting of these two types varies considerably, because of the various purposes and because the quinine content in the stump, branch bark differs so much. The pure Ledgeriana Moens is from top to bottom Ledgeriana. The Ledegeriana graft on the Succirubra stump has a high chalibre of quinine in the bark and in its branches; and a low level of quinine in the rootbark. The pure Succirubra has a low level of quinine in the root bark. Its stump and branch barks have to be treated in a particular ways which suits its purposes. Harvesting a pure Ledgeriana tree involves first the removal of the branches by sewing these off. Hacking them of causes splinters which defile the bark. Then, when only the stump is standing, the bark will be removed and it will be cut above the still visible graft line. Then the pieces of wood are gathered as much as possible; any bits that attach it to the ground are removed. The bark is hit with wooden hammers, in such away that the bark comes away from the tree. This pure Ledgeriana bark is then gathered. If one is too late with the harvesting of a sick tree, the bark doesn’t come away from the tree, and the tree is a loss. In certain climatic conditions the bark doesn’t come easily away from the tree, Then a tool made out of bone is used. This usually is a sharpened buffalo rib. We prefer not to use a steel or iron tool as this blackens the bark. When iron touches the ever present tannin in bark ink is created. The Ledgeriana graft on a Succirubra stump is treated in the same way. However, great care has to be taken that the bark of the roots is separated as the quinine content is so different.

The Harvest of the Succirubra bark is a completely different story. In contrast to the Ledgeriana, it grows straight, 15 to 20 meters high. The Ledgeriana is never higher than about 13 meters. There are few branches. At the top there I a crown of a few small branches.The Ledgeriana has many branches, already from 5-6 meters up. On the bark of the Succirubra a mark is made at about 1 meter hight. Then with an extremely sharp knife cuts are made in the bark, which are then removed with the knife made out of the rib of a buffolo. The bark is removed and if possible, rolled up and taken directly to drying racks, avoiding any possible contamination. Then the tree is cut down with great care. It is pulled down with ropes, put on a set of blocks and the bark is peeled along the length of the bark. From the bark pipes are made, also diamond shapes and discs, each with their own value on the international market. Employees of the quinine plantatations would pride themselves on the price their produce would achieve.
So, here it is, in short, a description of the harvest of the bark. So, you may wonder, what happened to ‘the chicken’, that has lain these golden eggs? The answer to this question provides the continuity of the delivery of the quinine bark. This question is the core to the development and growth of quinine bark. The removal of the bark kills the tree.

The careless ‘cascarillos’ in Peru, the gatherers of bark in Latin America, thought that there was an endless supply of trees. They removed the bark from trees, without ever planting one. Sometimes they only took the bark reachable from the ground. Up to this moment, there has never been a quinine plantation in one of the countries where the quinine bark was first found. At first, the bark was harvested by cutting vertical slices out of trees. The bare stump was then covered with moss to encourage new growth. Another method was to cut the tree at the stump and regrow the tree on the stump. Another approach was to gradually re-plant gardens, from where poor quality or ill varieties had been removed. All these methods have now been abandoned. Regrowing the stump doesn’t work, because the roots connect with each other underneath the ground, and this would prevent normal growth. The replanting approach was abandoned because the shadow of the remaining tree would prevent good growth.
In the end a method was chosen called: Circulation Time. The evidence that supports this approach was based on the value of the quinine over a certain accreage and the yearly increase in the amount of bark grown.