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Etching 18 Banks of the Itahype from Serra de Tagoahy from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

#18 Banks of the Itahype River, in the province of Bahia

Latin translation by Ben Hennelly

All the rivers that descend through eastern Brazil to the sea, such as ParahybaRio DoceRio grande de BelmontePardo or PatypeRio de Contas and others, generally exhibit a two-fold plant nature on their river banks. In the interior regions, certainly, they pass for the most part through fields or groves that, though dense, are nonetheless not as lofty as the coastal forest that shades the mountain tract of the Serra do Mar

But as soon as they have entered this last, far-stretched mountain ridge, which often bars their way as they rush seaward, so that they crook andwind extensively or open a path for themselves through narrow valleys by casting themselves down from the rocks, they are cloaked with forest that, as lovely as it is singular, contains just about all the species of vegetation of all kinds that you would name as particular to this maritime ridge.

Especially, therefore, there are those plants I am in the habit of calling Dryades. Since a view of the primary forests' plant life nowhere lies so open as from the surface of rivers, it seemed fitting to set before your eyes the vegetation that wraps these rivers on the eastern seashore. This was all the easier because, as I passed up and down the Itahype River, in the district of Ilheos in Bahia, I had good opportunity to sketch carefully the plant growth in those places. 

Since I passed along the river in a skiff in the months of December and January, when everything there puts forth delightful flowers, I was astonished at the wondrous beauty of the flora, which both sets before the traveler viewing from below the severe, as it were, majesty of the primeval forest and the immense grandeur of its forms, and displays at the same time many lesser, humbler plants very near to the river. There, watered by the chill stream and reaching up for the light and warmth of the tropical sun, they presented to me a variety of the most beautifully hued flowers such as I remember seeing just about nowhere else in that land.

Etching 18 Banks of the Itahype from Serra de Tagoahy from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

The forest stretching along the river's bank often leans out so far over its surface that living or dead trees slow a small boat's course. Indeed, this is the very thing that fills the botanist with such great joy, since with dry feet, and without great trouble, he can reach all the things that attract his eyes for their singularity. Nor is the stream so rapid that the skiff cannot be maneuvered as one pleases and held still, which, as all know, happens in other rivers. Itahype and its neighbors are also noteworthy because there is such a great variety and alternation in forms along them, while all other rivers either are wrapped over long stretches by one and the same plant, or offer the traveler by water no occasion whatsoever to reach the plants along them from his boat, as on the Amazon River and its confluents, or on the Sao Francisco River.


Etching commentary 18