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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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people of Cuiaba carry from their rich lands, above all coarse tissue of raw cotton, as well as, contraband gold in powdered and bright.

(V) Among peoples of the lowest degree of civilization, which still have not produced any historical monument, the complacent gaze of the observe wanders all around, contemplating the creations of nature that, judging by the relative stability of their current condition, have conquered time. Among these are the plants cultivated, since time immemorial, by the primitive inhabitants of Brazil: corn (Zea mais); the Banana of the Earth (to the north, called Musa Paradisiaca), the cassava (Manihot aipi and Manihot utilissima, Pohl.), the pepper malagueta (Capsicam annuum) and the Pupunha palm (Guillielma speciosa), which we contemplate now.

Zea mais

Musa paradisiaca, the banana

Manihot utilissima

Capsicam annuum

Pupunha palm, the Guillielma speciosa

All these plants carry the imprint of the longest cultivation, because either they have multiplied in many varieties, or their fruits have over time spread their seeds. This last condition manifests least frequently in the banana, whose fruits very rarely formed ripe seeds; It is rare to find the fruit of the Pupunha without the pulp or without the seed. This palm tree is cultivated by many tribes near their homes. Its growth is faster than that of many other palms, and at fifteen years it is fruitful; In any case, its cultivation needs a certain stability of households; The Pupunha cultivation, however, is not done by the Muras, Turas and other Indians that constantly change their villages.

We find this palm more often among the Passes, Juris, Coerunas and Uainumas, in Japura, and Tupinambaranas Island, previously inhabited by the Tupinambas, and on other islands to the west of it, between the Madeira and Jurua Rivers, which, according to Acuna's report, were once inhabited by the numerous industrious tribes of the Curuzicaris, Iorimans and Cochiuuaras.

This palm tree has in common with the other primitively cultivated plants,, a relatively wider propagation perimeter. It appears in French Guiana (and the Paripou of Aublet), and was observed by the Messrs. Von Humboldt and

von Humboldt and Bonpland

Bonpland in the Orinoco, in Atabapo, in the province of Choco and in the Rio Santa Madalena basin. The fruit of the Pupunha is oval, the size of a medium pear. Beneath the yellow or red epidermis, the pulp is whitish, grainy, sweet, and traversed by fibers It is comparable in flavor to many species of sweet potatoes.

Pupunha fruit, Hearts of Palm

Indians prefer this fruit, cooked or roasted, over all others. A porridge, made of pupunhas and mixed bananas, is their favorite snack. A palm tree with a few hundred fruits, which ripen little by little, to them is a natural source of rich food. The Indians avoid cutting it, though the wood, extremely tough, with a black trunk studded with thorns, serves for the manufacture of weapons and other instruments.

This is the only species of palm tree, cultivated by the Indians, that I could myself verify. A number of palms, moreover, distinguish themselves by different names, grow huge and multiply quickly and are are used for restoration of the huts, the manufacture of domestic utensils and weapons, and a few for food.

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