Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Toronto to Wood Working Tools >> Tortoise Plant

Tortoise Plant

boule, tortoise-shell and material

TORTOISE PLANT, a loft climber (Testudinaria elephantipes) of southern Africa, resembling a yam, and belonging to the same family. It has slender twining stems, alternate, netted-veined leaves, small dicecious bell-shaped yellowish flowers in axillary racemes, and triple-winged capsules. It is, however, char acterized by its globular rootstock, sometimes four feet in diameter, and growing above the ground. This enormous tuberous structure is woody or succulent, and is covered with a soft corky bark, which, cracking by exposure, be comes tessellated with angular protuberant plates suggestive of those of the tortoise. When young it has also suggested the name of elephant's-foot, and its utilization as a food by the natives has given rise to the title Hotten tot's-bread.

the material of the large epidermal scales of the hawksbill sea turtle (Chelone imbricata). Thirteen of these plates cover the carapace, and instead of being joined together by their edges so as to make apparently one piece, are thinned off at their posterior margins, and overlap each other like the tiles of a roof. They vary in size according to the part of the shield they occupy. The

larger are sometimes from a foot to 18 inches long by six inches broad; the thickness rarely exceeds the eighth of an inch. The beautiful mottled color and semi-transparent characters of this material are well known. A remarkable quality is possessed by tortoise-shell which very greatly increases its usefulness for the orna mental purposes to which it is generally ap plied, that is, the property of being easily softened by a heat equal to boiling water, and of retaining any form when cold which has been given to it when heated. Pieces can also be welded together by the pressure of hot irons properly applied. The chief use of tortoise-shell is in making combs for the hair; but it is also used for inlaying ornamental furniture and various other fancy objects. By the French cabinet-maker Boule (see BUHLWORK) it was used most effectively in combination with brass as a veneer for rich furniture, and all boule or work consists of such a veneering com bination. In India, China and Japan many articles are made of it, showing great skill and taste.