31 NORTH BORNEO.
The vegetable growth on the banks and many small islands of the Padas River was most interesting to me, this being the first time I had ascended a great tropical river. The first few miles are thickly covered with mangrove-swamps ; the mangroves are much stunted on the edge of the swamp, but in suitable backwaters they form quite a forest of forty to fifty feet in height : these trees only exist in salt or brackish water, where their many-branched roots at low water form a most remarkable sight. Mangroves (Rhizoplwra) are amongst the first rank of the land-reclaimers ; so important is the work performed by them, that the remains of old swamps may now be dug up many miles inland ; this I especially noticed on the shallow muddy coast of Malacca, which in time will possibly be again joined to the opposite coast of Sumatra by the aid of these shrubs ; and wonderfully is their work performed.
As it wTould be impossible for the edge of the swamp to encroach much on the sea without some special arrangement for its increase, the mangroves drop roots from their branches, which soon become firmly fixed in the soft mud, and thus give great stability to the trees, that otherwise could hardly withstand the force of wind and tide ; the seeds, we are told by botanists, " have the peculiarity of germinating whilst still attached to the parent branch, a long thick radicle proceeding from the seed .... extending rapidly downwards, till the fruit falls off into the mud, into which its club-like form enables it to penetrate." The root-branches also serve another important function : they collect and hold together mud, sand, and any alluvial debris that may be washed amongst them either by the river or sea ; by gradual encroachments the tide-way is lessened, and when the water is not sufficiently brackish for their need the mangroves die off, giving place to other members of the vegetable kingdom that closely follow up the inland fringe of these swamps.
A mangrove-swamp forms a secure retreat for many species of birds, mostly belonging to the two families of Herons and Sandpipers : in the Bornean swamps I noticed several common European speciesaRedshanks, Godwits, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Turnstones, and several species of Eastern Plovers ; needless to say they form splendid places for crocodiles, myriads of crabs and Jumping Johnnies (Periophtlialmns Jclreuteri), not forgetting mosquitoes. The only use to which mangroves are put by the natives is the procuring of salt from the seeds and roots by burning.
Next in order come huge beds of Nipa palms (N. fruticans) ; this growth continues as long as the water is sufficiently brackish, and on the Padas River one might packlle for a day without reaching the next or forest vegetation. The roots of the Nipa are firmly heldNext in order come huge beds of Nipa palms (N. fruticans) ; this growth continues as long as the water is sufficiently brackish, and on the Padas River one might packlle for a day without reaching the next or forest vegetation. The roots of the Nipa are firmly held