#25 The banks of the Japura River, in the province of Rio Negro, today in the State of Para, at the time when the waters recede.
Latin translation by Ben Hennelly
In etching #25 is seen the region of the upper Japura (most Indians call this river Yapura), above the Cupatinensian waterfall (1), such as it appeared as I traveled upstream in January, when the riverbed was pretty well emptied of its waters. The banks of the river, which are for the most part inundated when the water level is high, now are seen free; in some places they present sloping sandy or clayey sides to view, and in others, though less often, display a sandstone spread flat rather like soil, whitish and granular. Buried here and there on the banks lie pieces of wood dropped into the river, variously affected by rot.
In the soil, which is not watered very fully by the river's waters, annual grasses shoot up quickly, or other perennial species that grow in tufts put out their numerous stalks, soon to flower. In corners, social species of Carludovica often appear in great number, whose bipartite leaves adorn the ground with a cheerful green. In greater abundance here than in the river's lower realm, one finds spiny, broadly woven and interwoven bushes of Smilax papyracea Poir. Grisenb., commonly known as Salsaparilha (2). It thrives in the lowest spots along the river, and other twining bushes together with dense bramble thickets, which, often bearing magnificent flowers, are deprived of their foundation where the sandy bank gives out, and bend down into the river's waters, now not very deep or clear.
Little islands emerge from the water in scattered spots, some lifeless, others supporting shrubs or small trees not easily carried away by the flooding. These are the principal things set before the kind reader here. There is no reason for me to speak at length here about the nature and character of the vegetation along the Japura River; I refer the reader to the descriptions in my other publications (3).
I do add, however, that it can be established that the vegetation along this river changes as the level of the ground rises, so that, in this region that I myself traveled through, two stages or steps might be established, in each of which the vegetation exhibits a distinct character. In the lower section through which Japura passes, from the river's mouth in the Solimoes, the plant life is generally the same as along the Amazon River, the deepest region of this same great valley. The banks are adorned with the very same trees that compose the shoreline forest, or Ygabo, along the Amazon's stream; such a forest is also not altogether lacking along the Cupatensian waterfalls.
Solid rock comes to the light almost nowhere here. Between the Cupatensian waterfalls -- formed, as I said, from white, finely granular sandstone -- and the great waterfall at Arara-Coara, where the river cuts
Arara Coara waterfall
through red, coarse-grained granite, the ground rises a little; here and there living rock juts out, and the vegetation gradually assumes another character. Smaller trees, with branches less extended and narrower crowns, do not form a forest so impure, monstrous, so defiled and polluted, as it were, as the forest right near the primary river. Rather, it is similar to the forest the inhabitants name Ybyrete, the inland forest.
The foliage is brighter, the shape of the trees more uniform. A great many epiphytes are seen, such as magnificent Orchideae and Aroideae, Cyclanthaceae and Musaceae, including that full Pacova Sororoca or Urania amazonica (4), many small, reed-like palms and tree-like grasses, flowering Gesneraceae, Melastomaceae, Clusiaceae, Marcgraviaceae, Swartzieae, Brownea with its large, scarlet flower and other splendid Leguminosae; among the palms' tall trunks are numerous species of Iriartea, Bactris, Astrocaryus and Lepidocaryus. This vegetation stays the same throughout the whole other stage, and is altered only on the peaks of the mountains Cupati and Arara-Coara, where already a humbler, wide wandering vegetation intercedes (even species of Cinchona), which can be compared with the vegetation, called Ceja de la montana by Spanish settlers, that sprouts up in elevated locations at sunset.
Etching commentary #25