The Quest for the Euphorbia Intisy
February 19, 1932
On this day, The Shreveport Journal shared a story about the botanist Charles Swingle and his quest to find the Euphorbia Intisy ("in-tah-ZEE").
“Charles Swingle was the first American botanist to set foot on the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. He was on the trail of a peculiar rubber plant called "Intisy," which government scientists thought might be grown In our own Southwest.
When this young American arrived in Madagascar, he found he was just 15 minutes too late to catch a little coastwise boat heading to the south. The natives simply couldn't understand his disappointment.
"Oh sir," they said, "another boat will arrive in six weeks. In the meantime, there is rice for all —so there is nothing to worry about, good sir" In the native Malagash language, there is no word for "time."
They spend a few days a year planting, transplanting, and harvesting rice—and there's enough food for all.
"Don't the natives ever get tired of rice?" I asked Dr. Swingle.
"Not at all" be explained, "If they get tired of white rice they change to red rice or blue rice or brown As many as 64 varieties grow in Madagascar And then there are special delicacies to go with it—delicacies that are for those who like dried grasshoppers and locusts."
Dr. Swingle made daily trips to the village markets to get peanuts, bananas, pineapples, guavas, mangoes, or papayas to add to the hotel's diet of rice.
On the sixteenth day of his march into the southern brush, Dr. Swingle sighted the first of his long-sought-for plants—the Intisy plants. The curious bulbous roots were filled with water—the best they had had for many a day - and the milky latex which oozed from its trunk was found to be pure rubber.
The Euphorbia Intisy is a large, succulent tree growing up to almost 25 feet tall. Thanks to Charles Swingle, the plant was experimentally cultivated in the American Southwest.