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soursop, papaw, and many others. This list of useful products from the exogenous trees alone of the equatorial forests, excluding those from the palms, shrubs, herbs, and creepers, might have been multiplied many times over by the introduction of articles whose names would be known only to those interested in special arts or sciences; but imperfect as it is, it will serve to afford a notion of the value of this vast treasure-house which is as yet but very partially explored. The Climbing Plants of the Equatorial Forests.-Next to the trees themselves the most conspicuous and remarkable feature of the tropical forests is the profusion of woody creepers and climbers that everywhere meet the eye. They twist around the slenderer stems, they drop down pendent from the branches, they stretch tightly from tree to tree, they hang looped in huge festoons from bough to bough, they twist in great serpentine coils or lie in entangled masses on the ground. Some are slender, smooth, and root-like; others are rugged or knotted; often they are twined together into veritable cables; some are flat like ribands, others are curiously waved and indented. Where they spring from or how they grow is at first a complete puzzle. They pass overhead from tree to tree, they stretch in tight cordage like the rigging of a ship from the top of one tree to the base of another, and the upper regions of the forest often seem full of them without our being able to detect any earth-growing stem from which they arise. The conclusion is at length forced upon us that these woody climbers must possess the two qualities of very long life and almost indefinite longitudinal growth, for by these suppositions alone can we explain their characteristic features. The growth of
climbers, even more than all other plants, is upward towards the light. In the shade of the forest they rarely or never flower, and seldom even produce foliage; but when they have reached the summit of the tree that supports them, they expand under the genial influence of light and air, and often cover their foster-parent with blossoms not its own. Here, as a rule, the climber's growth would cease; but the time comes when the supporting tree rots and falls, and the creeper comes with it in torn and tangled masses to the ground. But though its foster-parent is dead it has itself received no permanent injury, but shoots out again till it finds a fresh support, mounts another tree, and again puts forth its leaves and flowers. In time the old tree rots entirely away and the creeper remains tangled on the ground. Sometimes branches only fall and carry a portion of the creeper tightly stretched to an adjoining tree; at other times the whole tree is arrested by a neighbour to which the creeper soon transfers itself in order to reach the upper light. When by the fall of a branch the creepers are left hanging in the air, they may be blown about by the wind and catch hold of trees growing up beneath them, and thus become festooned from one tree to another. When these accidents and changes have been again and again repeated the climber may have travelled very far from its parent stem, and may have mounted to the tree tops and descended again to the earth several times over. Only in this way does it seem possible to explain the wonderfully complex manner in which these climbing plants wander up and down the forest as if guided by the strangest caprices, or how they become so crossed and tangled together in the wildest confusion.
The variety in the length, thickness, strength and toughness of these climbers, enables the natives of tropical countries to put them to various uses. Almost every kind of cordage is supplied by them. Some will stand in water without rotting, and are used for cables, for lines to which are attached fish-traps, and to bind and strengthen the wooden anchors used generally in the East. Boats and even large sailing vessels are built, whose planks are entirely fastened together by this kind of cordage skilfully applied to internal ribs. For the better kinds of houses, smooth and uniform varieties are chosen, so that the beams and rafters can be bound together with neatness, strength and uniformity, as is especially observable among the indigenes of the Amazonian forests. When baskets of great strength are required special kinds of creepers are used ; and to serve almost every purpose for which we should need a rope or a chain, the tropical savage adopts some one of the numerous forest-ropes which long experience has shown to have qualities best adapted for it. Some are smooth and supple; some are tough and will bear twisting or tying; some will last longest in salt water, others in fresh; one is uninjured by the heat and smoke of fires, while another is bitter or otherwise prejudicial to insect enemies.
Besides these various kinds of trees and climbers which form the great mass of the equatorial forests and determine their general aspect, there are a number of forms of plants which are always more or less present, though in some parts scarce and in others in great profusion, and which largely aid in giving a special character to tropical as distinguished from temperate vegetation: Such are the various groups of palms, ferns, ginger-worts, and wild plantains, arums, orchids, and bamboos; and under these heads we shall give a short account of the part they take in giving a distinctive aspect to the equatorial forests. Palms. – Although these are found throughout the tropics and a few species even extend into the warmer parts of the temperate regions, they are yet so much more abundant and varied within the limits of the region we are discussing that they may be considered as among the most characteristic forms of vegetation of the equatorial zone. They are, however, by no means generally present, and we may pass through miles of forest without even seeing a palm. In other parts they abound; either forming a lower growth in the lofty forest, or in swamps and on hill-sides sometimes rising up above the other trees. On river-banks they are especially conspicuous and elegant, bending gracefully over the stream, their fine foliage waving in the breeze, and their stems often draped with hanging creepers. The chief feature of the palm tribe consists in the cylindrical trunk crowned by a mass of large and somewhat rigid leaves. They vary in height from a few feet to that of the loftiest forest-trees. Some are stemless, consisting only of a spreading crown of large pinnate leaves; but the great majority have a trunk slender in proportion to its height. Some of the smaller species have stems no thicker than a lead pencil, and four or five feet high ; while the great Mauritia of the Amazon has a trunk full two feet in diameter, and more than 100 feet high. Some species probably reach a height of 200 feet, for Humboldt states that in South America he measured a palm, which was 192 English feet high. The leaves of palms are often of immense size. Those of the Manicaria saccifera of Para are thirty feet long and four or five feet wide, and are not pinnate but entire and very rigid. Some of the pinnate leaves are much larger, those of the Raphia taldigera and Mazimiliana regia being both sometimes more than fifty feet long. The fan-shaped leaves of other species are ten or twelve feet in diameter. The trunks of palms are sometimes smooth and more or less regularly ringed, but they are frequently armed with dense prickles which are sometimes eight inches long. In some species, the leaves fall to the ground as they decay leaving a clean scar, but in most cases they are persistent, rotting slowly away, and leaving a mass of fibrous stumps attached to the upper part of the stem. This rotting mass forms an excellent soil for ferns, orchids, and other semi-parasitical plants, which form an attractive feature on what would otherwise be an unsightly object. The sheathing margins of the leaves often break up into a fibrous material, sometimes resembling a coarse cloth, and in other cases more like horsehair. The flowers are not individually large, but form large spikes or racemes, and the fruits are often beautifully scaled and hang in huge bunches which are sometimes more than a load for a strong man. The climbing palms are very remarkable, their tough, slender, prickly stems mounting up by means of the hooked midribs of the leaves to the tops of the loftiest forest-trees, above which they send up an elegant spike of foliage and flowers. The most important are the American Desmoncus and the Eastern Calamus, the