The Mystery of Resin

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You may well be thinking 'The mystery of what?' but resin (the type from trees) is still something of a mystery. The jury is still out about why exactly plants secrete (or excrete, depending on what side of the argument you are on) the sticky oozy stuff on which you may well have at some point inadvertantly put your hand or your clothes while taking a stroll through the woods. Plus at the right time it looks simply amazing, especially with insects inside it.

Some plants produce explosive resin. The Jeffrey Pine of California produces resin which is highly volatile – that mean it has, under the right circumstances – a tendency to vaporize. When people tried to distil it in nineteenth century America, they thought it was Ponderosa Pine resin. A number of distilleries exploded as a result of this mis-classification and the mistake was put right in something of a hurry. The reason behind the explosion was that the Jeffrey Pine resin was made up largely of pure heptanes – highly flammable. Distillation of Jeffrey Pine resin continues to be very dangerous to this day but the denizens of California have managed to get it right since the great pine explosions of 1852.

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