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Etching 8 Ancient forest from Martius's Flora Brasiliensi 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

#8 An ancient forest shading over the public way, between Jacarehy and Aldea da Escada, in the province of Sao Paulo

Latin Translation by Ben Hennelly

On the road southwards from Jacarehy, a small city situated beside the river Paraiba, to the capital of the province of Sao Paulo, you soon recede from the realm of this beautiful river; from here you might enter the realm of the Tiete river, which leads its dark, Cocytus-like waters from the
southeast to the great rivers Parana and Paraguay

Valley of the Tiete river, artist unknown. Thanks to multicolesionismo.com.br

Valley of the Tiete river, province of Sao Paulo 

Although overall the nature of this region is the same as that of the region turned more to the north, nonetheless more Capoes [new growth forests] are found than you expect, but taller forests cloak the hills and mountains that separate the waters of those rivers.

A primeval forest of this sort is offered to the kind reader in etching #8. It has many trees noteworthy for their height and age, many of which, it is likely, are three hundred years or more old. The appearance of the trunks and foliage is very similar to that which we have already marked in the ancient forests, although they do not seem to me to display that variety of forms and elegance of foliage and flowers for which the ancient forests near Sebastianopolis [ Rio de Janeiro] stand out so much. Most of all here are absent those forms of bushes and vines stretched around many trunks, like ladders around a mast. Nor is there the same variety in the lower trees or in the herbaceous plants that grow between them, so that you would say that only the Filices abound with the same fullness and luxuriant growth. This will seem remarkable to no one who considers that this forest is already located outside of Capricorn, and so outside of that region in which plant life stands out not only for its size, abundance, and fruitfulness, but also for its extremely diverse variety of individual forms. The ground here is poorer in humus than in those groves and often displays over rocks of schistose red-spotted granite, a layer of very heavy, reddish mud which has a thickness of six or eight or more feet. 

Let me take this opportunity to add that I not only here, but also in many other forests situated between the equator and the circle of Capricorn, found that that thin, black soil matter which is usually called gardening humus, and which is usually created from rotting plants and animals, is generally not present by far in the quantity that you might expect from the amount of foliage which falls here continually, and from the large, voluminous trees that decompose here. In many places, especially where large rocks that create clefts and fissures jut forth, the fissures are found to be full of a very thin and fertile humus, but in many other places humus is wanting and the vegetation comes forth right from the clayey ground. Yet it has been observed that the most beautiful and noble vegetation can thrive vigorously, even though it lacks humus altogether, if heat, light and water foster it; this can also be seen in other regions of the tropics, such as in the Mexican dominion.This observation ought to admonish us that we should in the matter of physiology think and judge cautiously about the nourishing of plants. Indeed I would say generally that the quantity of humus which I know is in the other sorts of ground throughout the regions of tropical Brazil can scarcely be compared with the magnitude and antiquity of the ancient forests which flourish there.

Etching commentary #8