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prepared for man, so the great primeval forests of tropical America are in the present day in the same condition, in a certain sense, and, as yet, the habitation of the predecessor of man only-the monkey-except where clearances are effected.
“ This aspect of animated nature, in which man is nothing," Humboldt goes on to remark,“ has something in it strange and sad. To this we reconcile ourselves with difficulty on the ocean, and amid the sands of Africa; though in these scenes, where nothing recals to mind our fields, our woods, and our streams, we are less astonished at the vast solitude through which we pass. Here, in a fertile country adorned with eternal verdure, we seek in vain the traces of the power of man; we seem to be transported into a world different from that which gave us birth. These impressions are so much the more powerful, in proportion as they are of longer duration. A soldier, who had spent his whole life in the missions of the Upper Oroonoko [as De Humboldt spells the name of the river), slept with us on the bank of the river. He was an intelligent man, who, during a calm and serene night, pressed me with questions on the magnitude of the stars, on the inhabitants of the moon, on a thousand subjects of which I was as ignorant as himself. Being unable by my answers to satisfy his curiosity, he said to me, in a firm tone : · With respect to men, I believe there are no more above than you would have found if you had gone by land from Javita to Cassiquaire. I think I see in the stars, as here, a plain covered with grass, and a forest traversed by a river.' In citing these words, I paint the impression produced by the monotonous aspect of those solitary regions."
There is more in it, though, than appeared at the moment even to the philosophic Humboldt. It is the deeply humiliating sense in man that the primeval forest is not yet prepared to be his abode, that, except in the spirit of adventure or necessity, renders it so repugnant to him. " He feels that it is as yet the inheritance only of arboreal man--the monkey.
Another class of philosophers, like Buckle, have assigned the exceeding luxuriance of vegetation in the primeval forest as the reason why “civilisation" cannot gain a firm footing in a region where so much of labour and energy is expended in keeping down the thousands and thousands of germs of vegetable life ever ready to dispute with man the possession of the soil. The expression, however, is erroneous. It should have been “population.” There is nothing at all to prevent the highest amount of civilisation displaying itself in Amazonia. The great rivers are navigable-open a tract in the forest, and it can be cultivated, and the produce elaborated by all that is most perfect in appliances and machinery—but the energetic vegetation opposes itself to the more humble settler, and hence it acts as a bar upon the spread of population, not of civilisation-simply as such.
The first great feature of the primeval forest is, then, its “impenetrability;" the second, is its non-adaptation to the development of the human species; the third, is the exceeding energy and restless rivalry of vegetation. A German traveller, Burmeister, has said that the contemplation of a Brazilian forest produced on him a painful impression, on account of the vegetation displaying such a spirit of restless selfishness, eager emulation, and craftiness. He thought the softness, earnestness, and repose of European woodland scenery were far more pleasing, and
that these formed one of the causes of the superior moral character of European nations. According to this view of the case, the primeval forest is not only not suited for the development of man, but is not calculated to improve his moral and intellectual faculties. How this happens will be best explained by an extract from Mr. Bates's admirable work now before us :
“In these tropical forests each plant and tree seems to be striving to outvie its fellow, struggling upwards towards light and air-branch, and leaf, and stem-regardless of its neighbours. Parasitic plants are seen fastening with firm grip on others, making use of them with reckless indifference as instruments for their own advancement. Live and let live is clearly not the maxim taught in these wildernesses. There is one kind of parasitic tree, very common near Para, which exhibits this feature in a very prominent manner. It is called the Sipo Matador, or the Murderer Liana. It belongs to the fig order, and has been described and figured by Von Martius in the Atlas to Spix and Martius's Travels. I observed many specimens. The base of its stem would be unable to bear the weight of the upper growth ; it is obliged, therefore, to support itself on a tree of another species. In this it is not essentially different from other climbing trees and plants, but the way the matador sets about it is peculiar, and produces certainly a disagreeable impression. It springs up close to the tree on which it intends to fix itself, and the wood of its stem grows by spreading itself like a plastic mould over one side of the trunk of its supporter. It then puts forth, from each side, an arm-like branch, which grows rapidly, and looks as though a stream of sap were flowing and hardening as it went. This adheres closely to the trunk of the victim, and the two arms meet on the opposite side and blend together. These arms are put forth at somewhat regular intervals in mounting upwards, and the victim, when its strangler is full grown, becomes tightly clasped by a number of inflexible rings. These rings gradually grow larger as the murderer flourishes, rearing its crown of foliage to the sky mingled with that of its neighbour, and in course of time they kill it by stopping the flow of its sap. The strange spectacle then remains of the selfish parasite clasping in its arms the lifeless and decaying body of its victim, which had been a help to its own growth. Its ends have been served it has flowered and fruited, reproduced and disseminated its kind ; and now, when the dead trunk moulders away, its own end approaches ; its support is gone, and itself also falls." .
The Murderer Sipo merely exhibits, in a more conspicuous manner than usual, the struggle which necessarily exists amongst vegetable forms in these crowded forests, where individual is competing with individual and species with species, all striving to reach light and air in order to unfold their leaves and perfect their organs of fructification. All species entail in their successful struggles the injury or destruction of many of their neighbours or supporters, but the process is not in others so speaking to the eye as it is in the case of the matador. The efforts to spread their roots are as strenuous in some plants and trees as the struggle to mount upwards is in others. From these apparent strivings result the buttressed stems, the dangling air roots, and other similar phenomena.
The impenetrability of primeval forests, their non-adaptation to the human species, and the rivalry of vegetation, are not their only almost peculiar and certainly striking phenomena. The climbing character of the plants and animals is equally remarkable. The tendency to climb, forced upon specific creations by the necessities of circumstance—the getting up in so dense a vegetation to light and air—is peculiarly attested by the fact that the climbing trees do not form any particular family or genus. There is no order of plants whose especial habit is to climb, but species of many and of the most diverse families, the bulk of whose members are not climbers, seem to have been driven by circumstances to adopt this habit. The orders Leguminosæ, the Guttiferæ, Bignoniaceæ, Moraceæ, and others, furnish the greater number. There is even a climbing genus of palms (Desmoncus), the species of which are called, in the Tupi language, Jacitara. These have slender, thickly spined, and flexuous stems, which twine about the taller trees from one to the other, and grow to an incredible length. The leaves, which have the ordinary pinnate shape characteristic of the family, are emitted from the stems at long intervals, instead of being collected into a dense crown, and have at their tips a number of long recurved spines. These structures are excellent contrivances to enable the trees to secure themselves by in climbing; but they are a great nuisance to tl.e traveller, for they sometimes hang over the pathway and catch the hat or clothes, dragging off the one or tearing the other as he passes. The trees that do not climb are for the same reasons exceedingly tall, and their trunks are everywhere linked together by the woody Alexible stems of climbing and creeping trees, whose foliage is far away above, mingled with that of the taller independent trees. Some are twisted in strands, like cables, others have thick stems contorted in every variety of shape, entwining, snake-like, round the tree trunks, or forming gigantic loops and coils among the larger branches ; others, again, are of zig-zag shape, or indented like the steps of a staircase, sweeping from the ground to a giddy height.
The very general tendency of the animals that dwell in primeval forests to become climbers is as remarkable as in the plants. It must be premised that the amount and variety of life in the primeval forests is much smaller than would, à priori, be expected. There is a certain number of mammals, birds, and reptiles, but they are widely scattered, and all excessively shy of man. The region is so extensive and uniform in the forest clothing of its surface, that it is only at long intervals that animals are seen in abundance when some particular spot is found which is more attractive than others. Brazil, moreover, is throughout poor in terrestrial mammals, and the species are of small size ; they do not, therefore, form a conspicuous feature in its forests. The huntsman would be disappointed who expected to find there flocks of animals similar to the buffalo herds of North America, or the swarms of antelopes and herds of ponderous pachyderms of Southern Africa. The largest and most interesting portion of the Brazilian mammal fauna is also arboreal in its habits. All the Amazonian, and, in fact, all South American monkeys, are climbers. There is no group answering to the baboons of the Old World which live on the ground. The most intensely arboreal animals in the world are the South American monkeys of the family Cebidæ, many of which have a fifth hand for climbing in their prehensile tails, adapted for this function by their strong muscular development, and the naked palms under their tips. A genus of plantigrade carnivora, allied to the bears (Cercoleptes), found only in the Amazonian forests, is entirely arboreal, and has a long flexible tail like that of certain monkeys. Even the gallinaceous birds of the country—the representatives of the fowls and pheasants of Asia and Africa-are all adapted by the position of the toes to perch on trees, and it is only on trees, at a great height, that they are to be seen. A great proportion of the genera and species of the Geodephaga, or carnivorous ground beetles, are also in these forest regions fitted by the structure of their feet to live exclusively on the branches and leaves of trees. This, according to Mr. Bates, who adopts the Darwinian theory, would seem to teach us that the South American fauna has been slowly adapted to a forest life, and, therefore, that extensive forests must have always existed since the region was first peopled by mammalia.
Even reptiles and insects do not abound in primeval forests so much as might have been anticipated. A stranger is, at first, afraid in these swampy shades of treading at each step on some venomous reptile. But, although numerous in places, they are by no means so generally, and then they belong, for the most part, to the non-venomous genera. Our traveller got for a few moments once completely entangled in the folds of a snake-a wonderfully slender kind, being nearly six feet in length, and not more than half an inch in diameter at its broadest part. It was a species of dryophis. The hideous sucurugu, or water-boa (Eunectes murinus), is more to be dreaded than the forest snakes, save the more poisonous kinds, as the javaraca (Craspedocephalus atrox), and will often attack man. Boas are so common in the wet season as to be killed even in the streets of Para. Amongst the more common and most curious snakes are the Amphisbænæ, an innocuous genus, allied to the slow-worm of Europe, and which lives in the subterranean chambers of the saüba ant. The natives call it, as the Orientals would do, Mai das Saübas, " the mother of ants.”
The primeval forest is also, for the most part, free from mosquitoes and other insect pests. It is this that, with the endless diversity, the comparative coolness of the air, the varied and strange forms of vegetation, and even the solemn gloom and silence, combine to render even this wilderness of trees and lianas attractive. Such places, Mr. Bates remarks, are paradises to a naturalist, and if he be of a contemplative turn, there is no situation more favourable for his indulging this tendency.
There is something in a tropical forest akin to the ocean (Humboldt had made the same remark before) in its effects on the mind. Man feels so completely his insignificance there, and the vastness of nature.
Some idea may be formed of the appearance of things in the low ground, by conceiving a vegetation like that of the great palm-house at Kew spread over a large tract of swampy ground, but he must fancy it mingled with large exogenous trees, similar to our oaks and elms, covered with creepers and parasites, and figure to himself the ground encumbered with fallen and rotten trunks, branches, and leaves; the whole illuminated by a glowing vertical sun, and reeking with moisture.
This is not the case, however, with the great extent of the primeval forests—that which is truly geographical in importance, and which stretches many hundreds of miles in some directions without a break. The land is there more elevated and undulating ; the many swamp plants, with their long and broad leaves, are wanting; there is less underwood, and the trees are wider apart. The general run of these trees have not remarkably thick stems; the great and uniform height to which they grow without emitting a branch, is a much more noticeable feature than their thickness, but at intervals a veritable giant towers up. Only one of these monstrous trees can grow within a given space; it monopolises the domain, and none but individuals of much inferior size can find a footing near it. The cylindrical trunks of these larger trees are generally about twenty to twenty-five feet in circumference. Von Martius mentions having measured trees in the Para district which were fifty to sixty feet in girth at the point where they become cylindrical. The height of the vast column-like stems is not less than a hundred feet from the ground to their lowest branch. The total height of these trees, stem and crown together, may be estimated at from a hundred and eighty to two hundred feet, and where one of them stands, the vast dome of foliage rises above the other forest trees as a domed cathedral does above the other buildings in a city. The gallinaceous birds of the forest, perched on these domes, are completely out of reach of an ordinary fowling-piece.
A very remarkable feature in these trees is the growth of buttressshaped projections around the lower part of their stems. The spaces between these buttresses, which are generally thin walls of wood, form spacious chambers, and may be compared to stalls in a stable : some of them are large enough to hold half a dozen persons. The purpose of these structures is as obvious, at the first glance, as that of the similar props of brickwork which support a high wall. They are not peculiar to one species, but are common to most of the larger forest trees. Their nature and manner of growth are explained when a series of young trees of different ages is examined. It is then seen that they are the roots which have raised themselves ridge-like out of the earth; growing gradually upwards as the increasing height of the tree required augmented support. Thus they are plainly intended to sustain the massive crown and trunk in these crowded forests, where lateral growth of the roots in the earth is rendered difficult by the multitude of competitors.
Many of the woody lianas suspended from trees, it is also to be observed, are not climbers, but the air roots of epiphytous plants (Aroideæ), whose home is at the top of the forest, in the air, and has no connexion with the soil below—a forest above a forest. The epiphytes sit on the strong boughs of the trees above, and hang down straight as plumb-lines. Some are suspended singly, others in leashes; some reach half way to the ground, and others touch it, ultimately, and then strike their rootlets into the ground.
The underwood of the primeval forest varies much in different places ; at times it is composed mainly of younger trees of the same species as their taller parents ; at others, of palms of many species, some of them twenty to thirty feet in height; others small and delicate, with stems no thicker than a finger; then, again, of a most varied brushwood, or of striving interlacing climbing lianas. Tree ferns belong more to hilly regions and to the forests of the Upper Amazons. Of flowers there are few. Orchids are very rare in the dense forests of the low lands, and what flowering shrubs and trees there are, are inconspicuous. Flower. frequenting insects are, in consequence, also rare in the forest. The