19.7.05

Kauri

Mencionámos aqui o triste destino da Agathis robusta do Jardim do Carregal. Felizmente, como já antes noticiámos, existe na Quinta de Villar d'Allen uma árvore adulta da mesma espécie; e recentemente, como ilustram estas fotos, foi plantado um exemplar no Jardim Botânico do Porto.

Uma espécie congénere desta, mas que nunca vimos em Portugal, é nativa da Nova Zelândia e é uma mais das volumosas árvores que se conhecem. Trata-se da Agathis australis - kauri em língua maori -, que teve um papel importante na colonização europeia dessas ilhas, iniciada no começo do século XIX. O seu valor económico e as razões da sua quase extinção são muito bem explicados na passagem que a seguir transcrevemos de um livro de viagens de 1873.

«Kauri gum - an article of trade found (...) only in the province of Auckland - is used in the glazing of calico, and as a cheap substitute for copal varnish in the preparation of furniture; and also, - if the assertion be not calumny, - for the manufacture of amber mouthpieces. (...) The kauri gum exudes from the kauri tree, but is not got by any proccess of tapping, or by taking the gum from the tree while standing. The tree falls and dies, as trees do fall and die in the course of nature; - whole forests fall and die; - and then when the timber has rotted away, when centuries probably have passed, the gum is found beneath the soil. Practice tells the kauri gum seekers where to search for the hidden spoil. Armed with a long spear the man prods the earth, - and from the touch he knows when he strikes it. Hundreds of thousands of tons probably still lie buried beneath the soil; - but the time will come when the kauri gum will be at an end, for the forests are falling now, not by the slow and kind operation of nature, but beneath the rapid axes of the settlers.

I was taken out from Auckland by a friend to see a kauri forest. Very shortly there will be none to be seen unless the searcher for it goes very far a-field. I was well repaid for my troubles, for I doubt whether I ever saw finer trees grouped together; and yet the foliage of them is neither graceful nor luxuriant. It is scanty, and grows in tufts like little bushes. But the trunks of the trees, and the colour of the timber, and the form of the branches are magnificent. The chief peculiarity seems to be that the trunk appears not to lessen in size at all till it throws out its branches at twenty-five or perhaps thirty feet(*) from the ground, and looks therefore like a huge forest column. We saw one, to which we were taken by a woodsman whom we found at his work, the diameter of which was nine feet, and of which we computed the height up to the first branches to be fifty feet. And the branches are almost more than large in proportion to the height, spreading out after the fashion of an oak, - only in greater proportions.

These trees are fast disappearing. Our friend the woodman told us that the one to which he took us, - and than which he assured us that we could find none larger in the forest, - was soon to fall beneath his axe.»


Anthony Trollope, Australia and New Zealand (1873)

(*) 10 feet = 3,048 metros


Apesar de a destruição ter sido massiva, os neo-zelandezes conseguiram ainda salvar parte importante desse legado. Em 1952, as florestas de Waipoua, Mataraua e Waima, a primeira delas com mais de 9000 hectares, foram instituídas como reservas naturais. Hoje o abate desses ancestrais kauris está proibido, e estão em marcha ambiciosos programas de reflorestação.

Sobre o autor do texto acima: o inglês Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), um dos mais populares romancistas da sua época, escreveu 47 romances, quase outros tantos contos, uma autobiografia e vários relatos de viagens. A resina de kauri, ou kauri gum, aparece também no seu romance The prime minister, publicado em 1876: Ferdinand Lopez, o mau da história, filho de pai português e desastrado especulador, compra um grande carregamento dessa resina na mira de uma valorização rápida que não chega a ocorrer.

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