#1 Forest on the bank of the Amazon River called Caaygapo, Para
Latin translation by Ben Hennelly
That the vegetation in the great realm of the Amazon River, especially where it flows through Brazil, has its own peculiar character, and that it differs in many regards from the vegetation of the bordering lands we have mentioned already in many places of the works written by us about Brazil. The largest part of this region by far is covered with thick and deep forest, which is home only to uncivilized indians who flee dealings and partnership with other human beings. The heat of the sky is great and even, such as presses upon the equator, and the moisture very powerful; the moisture is brought to the plants by the frequent rain and from the innumerable springs with which the ground, firm with sandy stone that is usually covered with layers of mud and marl, bubbles up. It is this which is so very greatly favorable to the nature of plants that you scarcely anywhere in all the world find vegetation richer, more splendid, or more perfect in its abundance, size and variety. These plants, mostly on account of the fact that Neptune favors them so greatly, I have named Najades plants, so that they are distinguished from those that are conspicuous in other parts of Brazil.
The forest itself in the realm of the Amazon differs very much according to the situation of the regions: there is one kind near the course of the river, another on the river's submerged and sandy islands, and another which is far from the river in the higher parts of its realm. Etching #1, which we have presented to you here, depicts the forest situated beside the river, that is, running along its banks. That forest is exposed to the floodings of the river which rise to a great height very quickly, below the place where the Amazon and Rio Negro flow together, in the months of March and April. The trees, which are flooded to a height of 30 feet or higher, at that time most lavishly produce foliage and flowers; and because of these rather deep waters which invade every year, it happens that you see there the primary branches have grown out of the trunk above the height of the water. The shooting plants and thickets of the sunken places, which rot after they have been entirely covered over by the waters, for that very reason, are more richly restored when the water flows away.
That which etching #1 depicts is the region near the shores of the river and the town Santarem. Abundant vegetation of shooting plants and reeds can be seen, and dense rows of the white trunks of tree-like Aroideae [Arum liniferum] present themselves at the same time with their large, arrow-shaped leaves. From out of the mud, where there is no other vegetation, a unique parasite, Helosis gujanensis, a fleshy, leafless plant very similar to purple fungus, rises out of the roots of trees. Trees of the genus of Inga, adorned with delicate leaves and remarkable for their large, hanging legumes; another small legume-bearer with much divided foliage, Pithecolobium; Triplaris americana; and Cecropia peltata, which grows scattered widely, girds the shores of the river and shades its tranquil inlets, among which the large, shield-shaped leaves of the Nymphaeae are spread. You see the slender trunks of the palms Astrocarya Jauara and Euterpe oleraceasurpassing the peaks of the other trees. Theobroma Cacao, with its short, thick and straight-stretched branches, bears fruit not unlike melons now on its branches, now on the trunk itself. Near that tree you will see the branches of Smilax with their long embraces, the roots of which are collected by the inhabitants for Salsaparilha.
The most magnificent flower of the whole region is Carolinea princeps,to which this name is justly given on account of the shining-white splendor of its petals, which are beset with a densely interwoven, pale-yellowcovering of short hairs and which attain a length of about one foot. Ficus doliaraiae of great magnitude crown the river banks, and offer living quarters in their hospitable branches to a countless number of parasites: Bromeliae, Pitcairniae, various Anthuriae, and Orchideae notable for the magnificent structure of their flowers, while the vines of BauhiniaOutimouta and several others, now stretching into the air and now sending roots downward, wrap all around these trees in various and remarkable ways.
#1 of 42 expedition commentaries