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and when these are seen from an elevated point looking over an expanse of tree-tops the effect is very grand ; but nothing is more erroneous than the statement sometimes made that tropical forest-trees generally have showy flowers, for it is doubtful whether the proportion is at all greater in tropical than in temperate zones. On such natural exposures as steep mountain sides, the banks of rivers, or ledges of precipices, and on the margins' of such artificial openings as roads and forest clearings, whatever floral beauty is to be found in the more luxuriant parts of the tropics is exhibited. But even in such favourable situations it is not the abundance and beauty of the flowers but the luxuriance and the freshness of the foliage, and the grace and infinite variety of the forms of vegetation, that will most attract the attention and extort the admiration of the traveller. Occasionally indeed you will come
with blossoms or trees festooned with flowering creepers ; but, on the other hand, you may travel for a hundred miles and see nothing but the varied greens of the forest foliage and the deep gloom of its tangled recesses. In Mr. Belt's Naturalist in Nicaragua, he thus describes the great virgin forests of that country which, being in a mountainous region and on the margin of the equatorial zone, are among the most favourable examples. “On each side of the road great trees towered up, carrying their crowns out of sight amongst a canopy of foliage, and with lianas hanging from nearly every bough, and passing from tree to tree, entangling the giants in a great network of coiling cables. Sometimes a tree appears covered with beautiful flowers which do not belong to it, but to one of the lianas
that twines through its branches and sends down great rope-like stems to the ground. Climbing ferns and vanilla cling to the trunks, and a thousand epiphytes perch themselves on the branches. Amongst these are large arums that send down long aerial roots, tough and strong, and universally used instead of cordage by the natives. Amongst the undergrowth several small species of palms, varying in height from two to fifteen feet, are common; and now and then magnificent tree ferns sending off their feathery crowns twenty feet from the ground delight the sight by their graceful elegance. Great broad-leaved heliconias, leathery melastomæ, and succulent-stemmed, lop-sided leaved and flesh-coloured begonias are abundant, and typical of tropical American forests ; but not less so are the cecropia trees, with their white stems and large palmated leaves standing up
like great candelabra.
Sometimes the ground is carpeted with large flowers, yellow, pink, or white, that have fallen from some invisible tree-top above; or the air is filled with a delicious perfume, the source of which one seeks around in vain, for the flowers that cause it are far overhead out of sight, lost in the great overshadowing crown of verdure.'
Although, as has been shown elsewhere, it may be doubted whether light directly produces floral colour, there can be no doubt that it is essential to the growth of vegetation and to the full development of foliage and of flowers. In the forests all trees, and shrubs, and creepers struggle upwards to the light, there to expand their blossoms and ripen their fruit. Hence, perhaps, the abundance of climbers which make use of their more sturdy companions to reach this necessary of vegetable
life. Yet even on the upper surface of the forest, fully exposed to the light and heat of the tropical sun, there is no special development of coloured flowers. When from some elevated point you can gaze down
upon an unbroken expanse of woody vegetation, it often happens that not a single patch of bright colour can be discerned. At other times, and especially at the beginning of the dry season, you may behold scattered at wide intervals over the mottled-green surface a few masses of yellow, white, pink, or more rarely of blue colour, indicating the position of handsome flowering trees.
The well-established relation between coloured flowers and the need of insects to fertilize them, may perhaps be connected with the comparative scarcity of the former in the equatorial forests. The various forms of life are linked together in such mutual dependence that no one can inordinately increase without bringing about a corresponding increase or diminution of other forms. The insects which are best adapted to fertilize flowers cannot probably increase much beyond definite limits, because in doing so they would lead to a corresponding increase of insectivorous birds and other animals which would keep them down. The chief fertilizers—bees and butterflies—have enemies at every stage of their growth, from the egg to the perfect insect, and their numbers are, therefore, limited by causes quite independent of the supply of vegetable food. It may, therefore, be the case that the numbers of suitable insects are totally inadequate to the fertilization of the countless millions of forest-trees over such vast areas as the equatorial zone presents, and that, in consequence, a large proportion of
the species have become adapted either for self-fertilization or for cross-fertilization by the agency of the wind. Were there not some such limitation as this, we should expect that the continued struggle for existence among the plants of the tropical forests would have led to the acquisition, by a much larger proportion of them, of so valuable a character as bright-coloured flowers, this being almost a necessary preliminary to a participation in the benefits which have been proved to arise from crossfertilization by insect agency.
Concluding Remarks on Tropical Vegetation.-In concluding this general sketch of the aspect of tropical vegetation we will attempt briefly to summarize its main features. The primeval forests of the equatorial zone are grand and overwhelming by their vastness, and by the display of a force of development and vigour of growth rarely or never witnessed in temperate climates. Among their best distinguishing features are the variety of forms and species which everywhere meet and grow side by side, and the extent to which parasites, epiphytes, and creepers fill up every available station with peculiar modes of life. If the traveller notices a particular species and wishes to find more like it, he may often turn his eyes in vain in every
direction. Trees of varied forms, dimensions, and colours are around him, but he rarely sees any one of them repeated. Time after time he goes towards a tree which looks like the one he seeks, but a closer examination proves it to be distinct. He may at length, perhaps, meet with a second specimen half a mile off, or may fail altogether, till on another occasion he stumbles on one by accident.
The absence of the gregarious or social habit, so
general in the forests of extra-tropical countries, is probably dependent on the extreme equability and permanence of the climate. Atmospheric conditions are much more important to the growth of plants than any others. Their severest struggle for existence is against climate. As we approach towards regions of polar cold or desert aridity the variety of groups and species regularly diminishes; more and more are unable to sustain the extreme climatal conditions, till at last we find only a few specially organized forms which are able to maintain their existence. In the extreme north, pine or birch trees ; in the desert, a few palms and prickly shrubs or aromatic herbs alone survive. In the equable equatorial zone there is no such struggle against climate. Every form of vegetation has become alike adapted to its genial heat and ample moisture, which has probably changed little even throughout geological periods; and the never-ceasing struggle for existence between the various species in the same area has resulted in a nice balance of organic forces, which gives the advantage, now to one, now to another, species, and prevents any one type of vegetation from monopolising territory to the exclusion of the rest. The same general causes have led to the filling up of every place in nature with some specially adapted form. Thus we find a forest of smaller trees adapted to grow in the shade of greater trees. Thus we find every tree supporting numerous other forms of vegetation, and some so crowded with epiphytes of various kinds that their forks and horizontal branches are veritable gardens. Creeping ferns and arums run up the smoothest trunks ; an immense variety of climbers hang in tangled masses from the branches and mount over