"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Leaf of the Day: Ramie, Wrapping for Mummies and much more.

I have great admiration for habitual plein air painters. There are so many problems that arise when you are drawing or painting away from the house. Just getting your kit sorted for one, and every painter needs a slightly different set of essentials depending on how and what they want to paint. Then there is the weather, getting to your chosen spot, finding a comfortable place to sit/stand and, here in Florida of course, every tiny biting thing that can attack you will, with relish etc etc etc.
Today I almost got the kit right, but as it was my plan was to make tonal sketches of the gazebo at different times of the day, I needed the sun.. it was cloudy.. off and on..and windy ( blowy paper, hard cycling). But I did get a couple of sketches done and the gardens were tranquil today.

In the cloudy times I wandered around and found this beautifully shaped leaf from a shrubby low lying plant. The label says Boemeria Nivea Ramie. I am sure that is what it is but I cannot find a reference to one with these deeply divided leaves. However it is definitely of the species which are from the nettle family. Like nettles these are hairy, but not stinging.
This pretty plant turns out to be a very important and ancient source of natural fibres,which are called "bast". Other bast producing plants are jute, hemp, and flax and the fibres are used for innumerable different products from fabrics and car body parts to backing for fire hoses.
Rami was known for its fibres in China for many centuries and they have been found in outer shrouds of Egyptian Mummy cloths from around 5000-3300 BC. During the complicated wrapping process "spells" were recited which were formulas which the deceased should have learnt by heart during his life. The formulas were for the re-animating the body once the passage to the other world was completed and for warding off evil. I read that the fibres seem to contain an anti bacterial element which made it ideal for the process of mummification.. amazing!
It does have medicinal properties, as I am finding do most plants, many seeming to fall into the category of "purgative" but little rami seems to be able to help with many maladies including, the ominously unspecified "women's complaints". Maybe a little judicious application of tincture of Ramie might just help the forlorn 34 A cup into a happy and fulfilled 38 DD, as I also note it is excellent for fattening pigs. (This is a joke, please do not try this at home.. but if you do have fun)

The vein structure of this leaf is wonderful, I haven't time or energy to make a full study but this just records the parts that interested me.
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Ramie


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