Throughout history many things have been lost to us and went extinct, not only the dinosaurs. There is a large quantity of plant life that have disappeared also and as science discovers new species of animals and plants every day, one might wonder what we really don’t know about. There is a story I remember from some time ago about a plant that was claimed to be able to turn rock into a putty like substance, and allow it to be molded and sculpted like clay. The ramifications for this, if true, are pretty amazing and would quite literally allow someone to take the leaves of this plant, rub it onto stone and then watch the stone become pliable to their specific liking.
Crazy sounding? I thought so until I read some journal accounts of British explorer Percy Fawcett, and of his explorations in South America in search for the lost city of Z. Fawcett came across some strange things according to what has been wrote in his journal and, unfortunately he vanished in the jungle, never to be found after spending years searching for the legendary city. They are even making a movie for release in 2016 about it called “The Lost City of Z”. One of Fawcett’s accounts goes as follows:
“…Talking of birds, all through the Peruvian and Bolivian Montana is to be found a small bird like a kingfisher, which makes its nest in neat round holes in the rocky escarpment above the river. These holes can plainly be seen, but are not usually accessible, and strangely enough they are found only where the birds are present. I once expressed surprise that they were lucky enough to find nesting-holes conveniently placed for them, and so neatly hollowed out – as though with a drill. “They make the holes themselves.” The words were spoken by a man who had spent a quarter of a century in the forests. “I’ve seen how they do it, many a time. I’ve watched, I have, and seen the birds come to the cliff with leaves of some sort in their beaks, and cling to the rock like woodpeckers to a tree while they rubbed the leaves in a circular motion over the surface. Then they would fly off, and come back with more leaves, and carry on with the rubbing process. After three or four repetitions they dropped the leaves and started pecking at the place with their sharp beaks, and – here’s the marvelous part – they would soon open out a round hole in the stone. Then off they’d go again, and go through the rubbing process with leaves several times before continuing to peck. It took several days, but finally they had opened out holes deep enough to contain their nests. I’ve climbed up and taken a look at them, and, believe me, a man couldn’t drill a neater hole… I believe, as everyone who has watched them believes, that those birds know of a leaf with juice that can soften up rock till it’s like wet clay.”
Fawcett early on didn’t quite easily believe that there was a plant that could soften rock but he had heard another story that seemed to change his mind. According to the story a man lost his horse and walked through thick bushes looking for it, only to find that the spurs on his boots had literally been eaten away. This man claimed that the plants he walked through, about a foot in height and with dark red leaves did this to his spurs. He was informed that the Inca’s used the same plant to shape their stones into the formation they desired for building with.
Fawcett talks about this strange plant that softens rock again in his journals and it says:
“I have heard it said that they fitted their stones together by means of a liquid that softened the surfaces to be joined to the consistency of clay.”
In a footnote Fawcett goes on to say this about the plant:
“Another friend of mine told me the following story:
Some years ago, when I was working in the mining camp at Cerro de Pasco (a place 14,000 feet up in the Andes of Central Peru), I went out one Sunday with some other Gringos to visit some old Inca or Pre-Inca graves – to see if we could find anything worthwhile. We took our grub with us, and, of course, a few bottles of pisco and beer; and a peon – a cholo – to help dig.
Well, we had our lunch when we got to the burial place, and afterwards started in to open up some graves that seemed to be untouched. We worked hard, and knocked off every now and then for a drink. I don’t drink myself, but the others did, especially one chap who poured too much pisco into himself and was inclined to be noisy. When we knocked off, all we had found was an earthenware jar of about a quart capacity, and with liquid inside it.
” ‘I bet it’s chicha! said the noisy one. ‘Let’s try it and see what sort of stuff the Incas drank!’
” ‘Probably poison us if we do,’ observed another.
” ‘Tell you what, then – let’s try it on the peon!’
“They dug the seal and stopper out of the jar’s mouth, sniffed at the contents and called the peon over to them.
” ‘Take a drink of this chicha,’ ordered the drunk. The peon took the jar, hesitated, and then with an expression of fear spreading over his face thrust it into the drunk’s hands and backed away.
” ‘No, no, senor,’ he murmured. ‘Not that. That’s not chicha!’ He turned and made off.
“The drunk put the jar down on a flat-topped rock and set off in pursuit. ‘Come on, boys – catch him!’ he yelled. They caught the wretched man, dragged him back, and ordered him to drink the contents of the jar. The peon struggled madly, his eyes popping. There was a bit of a scrimmage, and the jar was knocked over and broken, its contents forming a puddle on the top of the rock. Then the peon broke free and took to his heels.
“Everyone laughed. It was a huge joke. But the exercise had made them thirsty and they went over to the sack where the beer-bottles lay.
“About ten minutes later I bent over the rock and casually examined the pool of spilled liquid. It was no longer liquid; the whole patch where it had been, and the rock under it, were as soft as wet cement! It was as though the stone had melted, like wax under the influence of heat.”
Supposedly, it is said, this plant grows in Peru and Bolivia and I remember reading a book about this plant that theorized that it might have been used in construction of the pyramids!
Whether this plant exists hidden in the recesses of a lost and unexplored jungle or has went extinct years ago, no one can say for sure. Check out Percy Fawcett’s accounts and the story of a strange plant turning rock into a clay like substance.