#23 Broad fields covered with thick shrubs, near Serra de Santo Antonio in the desert of the province of Minas Gerais
Latin translation by Ben Hennelly
I sketched this picture during my trip from Tejuco, the primary town of the district that takes its name from diamond, Diamante, to Vila de Fanado, capital of the region called Termo de Minas, on June 13th between the villages of Buriti and Calumbi. It portrays the characteristic vegetation covering the high plain Chapadas that rise between the rivers Arassuahy to the east and Jequetinhonha to the west (1). The plain gradually lowers, so that the abrupt rocks and deep valleys and defiles of the diamond district recede behind you to the south. Only gentle vales cut through the length of the plain, and, since everything the eye passes over is wrapped with exceedingly thick shrubs, the traveler is moved by the sight in a remarkable way. For, surrounded by an immense sea of foliage and overwhelmed by the swell, as it were, only one who is on horseback, or who has climbed one of the trees that rise up infrequently there, is able to raise his eyes above and to view this great plain.
The thicket is of the kind the people of Minas call Serrado or Carrasco: a large variety of shrubs with foliage that is not very succulent, which are pressed up close together and often connected by the roving branches of the bushes and by chains of flowers; only rarely does a taller, fully-crowned tree or palm interrupt the shrubs. The tortuous paths that lead through this extremely crowded thicket are often so confined and narrow that you must take good care that you do not stray from them. When it happened more than once that, occupied collecting plants, I was left behind by the train of pack-animals, only by listening to the sound of the bells was I able to find my way back to them, following with quick foot. Woe to that tired traveler, who alone and on foot is borne astray in this sea of shrubs, where there is no trace of human cultivation, and all the tokens of primeval nature. With this singular and generally frightful face of nature square the words of our greatest poet, Goethe, whose long-time acquaintance I will always consider one of fortune's greatest gifts:
"But who is it off to the side? His path loses itself in the thicket, Behind him the shrubs close together, The grass stands back up, The waste engulfs him." (2)
Only a few mountains, swimming like deep-blue clouds in the farthest sky, limit here and there the prospect into boundless space. The mountains visible here belong to that diamond-rich ridge called Serra de S. Antonio do Gran Mogol. This mountain, as much as the diamond district itself, is formed of a siliceous rock they call Itacolumite, following the example of Guileme de Eschwege. In the eastern part of these fields is found a foliaceous granite, somewhat like micaceous schist, which in places surrounds another of the same appearance, but harder and of finer structure, which in some places rises up in small mountains, and elsewhere is enclosed in distinct masses by the other. In the western part of the fields a formation of micaceous schist predominates, which passes into argillaceous and talcose schist and contains nested strata of Itacolumite.
Relatively few fonts cool the plant life of this region, a region so far from enjoying the rather cool, windy sky of the area of Serro Frio, that it is far warmer and drier, and its air is perpetually still. Indeed, because of the unbroken drought during the months comparable to our summer (2), it usually happens that many shrubs drop their leaves; as a result, all the more easily can be seen the winding chains of parasites and the various arms (I mean the pricks, thorns, spines) with which these densely branched shrubs bristle. It is possible to adduce only a part of the plants that grow in this region. One observes many Bignoniaceae, from the genera of Anemopaegma, Jacaranda and Pithecoctenium, several Acaciae, Mimosae and Cassiae, Qualeae, Callisthenae, Kielmeyerae, Ochnae,various genera of Malpighiaceae, Myrsinae, Lucumae, Aspidospermae, Sparattanthelium, Anonae, Delimae, Crotones, Lychnophorae, Vernoniae, Albertiniae, Barnadeziae, Lippiae, Hyptides, a species of Bombax,various Laurineae, and, from the palms, Cocos flexuosa, Cocos capitata, Diplothemium campestre, Astrocaryum campestre, Acrocomia sclerocarpa.
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