ページの画像
PDF

fed by dews, or deluged by periodical rains, though destitute of springs or trees, they produce in luxuriance a tall rushy grass, which pastures numerous herds of cattle, that, since the conquest of America, have become wild, and roam in a state of nature. The famfias of Buenos Ayres are plains of the same kind, but still more extensive. Among these shady flats, packs of dogs, which have relapsed into the savage state, and lodge in the holes, rush fiercely from their burrows upon the unweary traveller. A succession of plains stretches, perhaps beyond the sources of the Guaviari, to that vast npland desert, which the early discoverers of America; viewing as far beyond the din and stir of mortals, styled, in the play of imagination, the flaramo de la summa fiaz, or the wilderness of sufireme refiose. III. In the genial climes of the south, nature has poured forth her vegetable productions in rich variety and splendid profusion. Here is the reign of eternal spring; and flowers and fruits cluster the boughs in constant succession. Nothing can exceed the beauty and grandeur of the forests within the torrid zone. Thick intermingled trees, of majestick port and each varied hue, rear their lofty heads, crowned with odorous flowers, and spreading with umbrageous and resplendent foliage. Creeping plants, mantling in rank luxuriance, interlace the smooth trunks with endless festoons. Dense woods of this composition, interrupted only by some rivers, extend over a space of more than 1500 miles, from the banks of the Orenocco to the shores of the Amazons. The chief inhabitants of these forests are monkeys, which multiply exceedingly among the fruitful boughs. Some of them live in pairs, melancholy, shy, and avoiding even their own species. Others go in troops of eighty or a hundred, springing from branch to branch in quest of food. But the equatorial regions of Ame

[blocks in formation]

getable tribes. From the shore of the

Atlantick to the heights of the Andes, the different kinds of plants follow each other in almost regular succession. Similar transitions, on a small scale, are observed among the Alps of Switzerland. Ascending these mountains from the lower valleys, we meet successively with chestnuts, beeches, oaks, and then pines, which, covering a much broader space, advance till they become stunted, and gradually disappear, not far from the verge of perennial snow. To trace the geography of plants in the low grounds of Europe, is rendered peculiarly difficult by the activity of cultivation; but, in these boundless deserts, each species still occupies its own distinct territory. The vine occupies a narrow belt towards the north of the latitude of 30 degrees, Chestnuts grow in the same parallel. Next succeeds the oak, which extends almost to the 60th degree of latitude. In this temperate zone, wheat and barley are cultivated. Oats prefer a colder climate; but will seldom thrive beyond the latitude of 63 degrees. On this subject, Humboldt has furnished some valuable remarks. He has also given us a very curious and instructive drawing, which represents a vertical section of the American continent across the Andes; and exhibits, in a synoptick view, the results of his various observations, physical, geological, and botanical. The plate is, perhaps, too much crowded with names, and with detached notices; but the originality of the design, and the general skilfulness of its execution, deserve high commendation. In Europe, the several species of plants are commonly associated in large, distinct masses; but within the tropicks, the different vegetable tribes appear interspersed and blended in hoose dise order. There are, however, some partial exceptions. In new Granada, the bambusa and heliconia form continued belts; and the same disposition is observed in the mauritia, the kyllingia, and the herbaceous mimosae, that shoot up along the savanmahs of the Orenocco, and in the godoya, the bougainvillea and the croton argenteum, which grow amidst the plains of the Amazons. On the back of the extended chain of the Andes, and at the height of 10,000 feet, spread the brathis junifierina, the jarava, the escallonia myrtilloides, and especially the tourrettia, whose pith affords the abject Indian a wretched sustenance, for which he sometimes contends with the bears. But the American scenery is, in general, devoid of such uniformity. Under the equator, from the coast to the height of 3,000 feet, grow the scitamineae of Jessieu; the palms, the sensitive plants, and the most odoriferous of the liliaceous tribe. In that sultry zone, where vegetation wantons in the rankest luxuriance, appear likewise, the theofibrasta, the hymemaca, the cecroftia fieltata, the allionia, the conocarfius, the convolvulus littoralis, the cactus fiereskia, the sesuvium fortulacastrum, the toluifera balsamum, and cusharia febrifuga, or the quinquina of Carony. Between 3,000 and 6,000 feet of elevation, occur the melastomac, the clusia alba, the firumus occidentalis, the ficus, the morea, the calicarfia, the acrostichum, the solanum, the dolichos croton, and the fiassiflora tomentosa. Above those limits, the sensitive plant ceases to appear. The tree-ferns range from the height of 1,500 to that of 5,000 ft. The tracts which have an elevation from 6,000 to 9,000 feet, and enjoy a mild temperature, varying between 340 and 729, produce the fuchsia, the lobeliae, the styrax, the trofaeolum, the begonia, and the columella. Towards the upper part of that zone, the acaena, the dichondra, the nierembergia, the hydrocotile, the nerteria, and the alchemilla, cover the

surface with a fine herbage. This is the region of the oak, or the quercus granatensis, which annually sheds its leaves, and, from an elevation of 9,200 feet, never descends near the equator, below that of 5,500 feet, though it occurs, under the parallel of Mexico, at the height of only 2,620 feet. The cero-culon andicola, or wax-palm, whose trunk is 180 feet high, grows on the mountains of Quindiu, from 6,000 to 9,000 feet above the sea. Beyond this limit of 9,000 feet, the larger trees of every kind cease to appear. Some dwarfish pines, indeed, rise to near 13,000 feet. The several species of the cinchona, which furnishes the salutary Peruvian bark, are scattered along the chain of the Andes, over an extent of two thousand miles at an elevation from 2,300 to 9,500 feet, and, therefore, exposed to great variety of climate. The lanciJolia and cordifolia prefer the plains; the oblongifolia and longiflora occur somewhat higher; but the noted quinquina of Loxa, and which Humboldt proposes to name the cinchona condaminea, grows at heights from 6,250 to 8,300 feet, where the mean temperature varies between 59 and 62 degrees, on a bottom of micaceous schist in the woods of Caxanuma and Uritucinga. This precious shrub forms one continued forest on the eastern declivity of the Andes, as far as the province of Jaen, and the hills above the river Amazons. Bark of a similar quality is thus obtained from very distinct kinds of the cinchoma; in the same manner as the caoutchouc, or common elastick gum, is procured from the inspissated juice of a variety of different vegetables—from the ficus, the hevea, the lobelia, the castilloa, and several species of the euphorbium. The wintera and escallonia occur at an altitude from 9,200 to 10,8CO feet, and form scrubby bushes in the cold and moist climate of the flaramos. Above the height of 10,500 feet, the arborescent vegetables disappear. The Alpine plants occupy an elevation from 6,500 to 13,5 to feet. There grow the gentians, the starlina, and the easic/ctia fraileron, whose hairy leaves often afford cover to the shivering Indians, when benighted in those upland regions. The grasses appear at a height from 13,5 to 15,160 feet. In this zone, where snow falls at times, the jurava, and a multitude of new species of flamicum, agrostis, avena and dactylis, cover the soil with a yellow carpet, which the inhabitants call fajonal. From the height of about 15,000 feet, to the boundary of perpetual congelation, the only plants visible are the lichens, which cover the face of the rocks, and seem even to penetrate under the snow. It is a most curious fact, that those plants which seem to constitute the natural riches of the equatorial regions, are never found growing spontaneously. The carica flashaya, the jatrofi/ia manihot, or cassava, the plantain and maize, from which the native Americans drew their principal subsistence, were no where seen by Humboldt in the wild state; nor could he discover the potatoe, though this invaluable root is, along with the chemoflodium quinoa, cultivated in the high country of New Granada. In the lower grounds between the tropicks, the natives raise cassava, cacao, maize, and plantains. It is the region of the mammea, of oranges, pineapples, and the most delicious fruits. The Europeans have introduced indigo, sugar, cotton, and coffee, which they cultivate to near the height

of 5,000 feet above the sea, chiefly

by the labour of negroe slaves. Indigo and cacao require great heat; but cotton and coffee will grow at a considerable elevation; and sugar is cultivated, even with success, in the temperate parts of Quito. This is the habitation of the cerealia, or breadcorn. The introduction of wheat into New Spain, is traced to three or four grains which a negro Vol. Iy. 2 9.

servant of Cortez picked out among the stores of rice that had been sent from Europe, for subsisting the troops. The monks of Quito still preserve, as a precious relict, the earthen jar in which Father Rixi of Ghent gathered the first crop, from a spot of ground cleared away in front of the convent. Wheat, under the equator, will seldom form an ear below the elevation of 4.500 feet, or ripen it above that of 10,800. Barley is made to grow somewhat higher; but then with the utmost difficulty, Between the altitudes of 6,000 and 9,000 feet, lies the climate best suited for the culture of all kinds of European grain. In the same tract is raised the chemoflodium quinoa. From the clevation of 4,300 feet to that of 6,200 grows the erythroxylum fieruvianum, whose leaves, called cocca, being mixed with quicklime, serve to stimulate the exhausted force of the Indian, during his long and toilsome journeys over the heights of the Andes. In the space between the altitudes of 9,800 and 13,000 feet, potatoes and the tro/la-olum esculentum are generally cultivated. The natives of the warmer parts of America subsist mostly on plantains and cassava. The common banana, called filatano arton, is cultivated over an extent of low country, which contains a million and a half of inhabitants. It propagates itself by serding off shoots, and is wonderfully productive. In less than eleven months, it bears fruit, like a cucumber, but very sweet and highly nutritious. Its culture is so easy, that a slight application of two days in the week would be sufficient for maintaining a whole family. An acre of ground planted with bananas, will support five-and-twenty times as many people as one which grows wheat. The ripe fruit dried in the sun is, under the name of flatano fiassado, esteemed a pleasant and very wholesome food. o The cassava, or manihot, is furnished by two kinds of the Jacg, which, though scarcely distinguishable by their external characters, have very different qualities. The root of the juca dulce, or sweet manihot, is perfectly innocent; but that of the juca amarga, or bitter manihot, conceals a deadly poison. This acrid root, however, is reclaimed by scraping off the skin, and squeezing the pulp in a long bag; and it is then formed into thin round cakes, which are considered as very nourishing. An Indian will, after severe toil, make a hearty meal on a small crumb of cassava bread, and three ripe plantains. But even the poisonous juice of the manihot, is often converted into use. Heat being found to destroy its noxious qualities, it is boiled to a brown soup, which, in

Cayenne, is further concentrated

into the cabiou, a rich sauce resembling the Chinese soy. On the warm grounds, the natives likewise raise the convolvulus batatas, or Spanish potatoe, and the dioscorea alata or yam, which was first introduced by a slave ship from the coast of Africa. They cultivate, besides, various kinds of the tomatl or loveapple, and the pistachio, or earthnut. The cassicum, which they term chilli, is reckoned by them an indispensable condiment. ' But the principal food of the cultivators, and of the domestick animals in the Spanish settlements, consists of maize or Indian corn, which grows between the hotter and more temperate regions of America. Aided by the joint influence of heat and moisture, it shoots up to the height,of eight or ten feet, and yields the most astonishing produce. On the wide plain of Mexico, these crops, though extremely variable, are generally abundant; but, in that high country, they suffer often from drought, and occasionally from unseasonable frosts. Their failure has, at times, caused the most dreadful famine. Maize, in the Mexican language atolli, is dressed for food in different

ways, either by roasting or boiling. Crushed and baked, it forms a nutritious bread, named arefia; or the meal is boiled into gruel, which, mixed with sugar, honey, or even mashed potatoes, is called atolli. But the natives have also the art of procuring, from the infusion of the grain, at certain stages of its progress to maturation, several kinds of beer or cider, which they term chicha. Before the conquest of America, they were accustomed, from the stalks of maize, to express a syrup, and make sugar. In the valley of Toluca, these stalks are now crushed betwixt rollers, and the fermented juice converted into a spiritous liquor, which is extensively vended under the name of falque de mahis or falque de atolli. But this is not the only intoxicating draught which the Indians prepare. Large tracts in the interiour of the country appear covered with the agave americana, or American aloe, called, in the native language, fittes, manguey, or metl, and which is cultivated merely for the sake of the vinous liquor which it furnishes. A plantation of mangueys turns out astonishingly profitable. The plantis remarkably hardy, and delights in a dry soil. In about cight years, the manguey comes to flower, and its fleshy leaves gather up to a crown; and this being then cut over, it bleeds profusely for two or three months. A vigorous plant will, even during four or five months, afford every day four gallons of sap, which, being fermented three or four days, forms falque. This beverage, which tastes sweetish and slightly acidulous, is in high estimation among the colonists, though it proves very nauseating to Europeans, owing to a certain putrid or animal smell which it generally retains. There is also distilled from it a strong ardent spirit, called mearical or aguardiente de manguey. The culture of the manguey is burthened with a very heavy tax, which, from the cities of Mexico, Toluca, and Puebla alone, yielded, in 1793, a clear revenue of about 150,000l. Nor is the manguey, or agave americana, the only plant which luxury trains up in the Spanish settlements. The sugar-cane, originally transported from India and China to the Canary islands, and thence carried to St. Domingo and Cuba, has been successfully introduced into some of the interiour provinces of the continent. Though it prefers a heat of 75° or 77°, the cane is yet found to thrive where the mean temperature exceeds not 66° or 689. Sugar plantations are spreading rapidly in the plain of Mexico, and supply not only the home consumption, but afford already a very considerable surplus for exportation. This produce is not, as in the West Indies, wrung from the compulsory labour of slaves. Prodigious crops of wheat are raised in the Mexican territory. The grain is large and plump, and equal in quality to the best of the Andalusian. On the slope of the Andes, the soil, consisting mostly of decayed basalt, is remarkably fertile, though large tracts likewise occur which are covered with a hard intractable clay, called tefietate. The system of irrigation is, in consequence of the prevailing dryness of the climate, generally practised, and with great success. Cultivation appears the most active in the neighbourhood of the mines, which always create an extraordinary demand for provision. Oats are very seldom grown in the Mexican territory, where the inhabitants, as do those of Spain and Barbary, commonly prefer barley for feeding their horses. The solanum tuberosum, or potatoe, which, under the name of flashas, is cultivated along the whole chain of the Andes, seems to have followed the progress of the Peruvian arms, from the mountains of Chili to the high plain of Bogota, and to have been thence introduced into New Spain, soon after the con

quest. It is planted in the highest and coldest grounds, and becomes the more productive in that climate, as it does not require much humidity. The potatoes of Quito and of Santa-Fé, grow to a large size, and are of an excellent quality. Both the Mexicans and Peruvians can preserve them for several years, by merely destroying the principle of germination. These roots, which have been exposed to the frost, and then dried in the sun, are termed chunu. Beyond the heights where potatoes are cultivated, there occur only mountain pastures, which feed numerous flocks of lamas, goats, sheep and cows. The hamlet of Antisana, elevated 3,800 feet above the plain of Quito, and 13,500 above the sea, is unquestionably the highest inhabited spot on the surface of our globe. But animals, as well as the vegetable tribes, shrink from the region of snow. Fish are particularly sensible to the approach of cold, though they can bear, withoutinconvenience, a degree of heat that is very surprising. They abound on the shores

of the ocean; but become rare in the

waters of the upland country. The lake of Tezcuco, near which the city of Mexico is built, has only two kinds of fish, and of a very inferiour quality; one of them, called the a colotl, being so strangely formed, that the ingenious Cuvier considers it as merely the larva of some large salamander. The water of that lake, with a depth of only two or three fathoms, is, indeed, salter than the Baltick sea, containing about the 45th part of its weight of the muriate and carbonate of soda. Like the other lakes in the vale of Tenochtitlan, it is highly charged with sulphurated hydrogen. These lakes have been very considerably reduced since the famous siege of Mexico, which is described by the earlier writers, as seated in the midst of waters, though it now stands more

« 前へ次へ »