Recently I had a chance to visit an uphill region and found so many different varieties of fern. One of them look like the pretty European bracken. So I took some photos of them standing prettily by a pond which is still used by travellers to wash their cars and even to bathe in during the dry season. Villagers walk for a mile or two just to come here for their water supply when their rivers dry up or are too murky for bathing and washing of clothes.
Bracken is an old world vegetation. In fact in England it is used for lining boxes for packaging purposes. In China earthen ware too are packed with bracken as lining.
In Sarawak this kind of fern (paku pakis) which looks like bracken is found mainly in the hilly and perhaps uncultivated areas. According to the natives this fern is grown where nothing else can grow. A lot of this fern can be found along the highway from Tutong to Kuala Beliat in what we call the White Sand area.
Apparently the cooling effects of the leaves provide a shelter for pythons which love to sleep under these greens. So whenever our indigenous people walk in the forests they either avoid cutting across bracken or if they have to they will use a long stick to "beat the bushes".
In the days when our uncles and cousins in the Rajang Valley tapped rubber these fern leaves help to filter latex. Any impurities would be trapped by the fern leaves and can be thrown out of the pail or tin. I wonder how many of my Foochow friendsd remember that. And for a short while these leaves would be on top of the tins of solidifying/coagulating latex. (latex tins were halved biscuit or kerosene tins - a recycling idea of that period of our history.)
I remember plucking these ferns but as a child I was unaware that snakes could be lurking under the ferns.
In later years these ferns were used in our art lessons and art teachers in primary school would bring them into the class. We would use a ruler and an old toothbrush to spray tiny drops of water colour onto our art paper and a beautiful pattern of the fern would appear! There were so many different ways our Art teachers could use bracken. I believe these days Art teachers are different from those of my time. The love for nature was such an important element of our art syllabus.
It is very intriguing how a fern can trigger my memory in this way!!
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