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Etching 3 Tableiro coberto from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by Alberto Chor

#3 Groups of trees, called Taboleiro coberto by the inhabitants in Minas Novas, the province of Minas Gerais

Latin translation by Ben Hennelly

The land of Minas, that beautiful and pleasant province of the Brazilian realm, no less remarkable for its temperature, which is kindly to mortals, and the varied richness of its plant life, than for its abundance of gold and the plenty of diamonds and other multicolored gems with which the Etching 22 from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chorground is full, deserves praise also because it displays for us the greatest variety of the most beautiful regions. For the bright clearness of that firmament; the bold peaks of those mountains, down from which rush chill torrents; the vigorous and cheerful life of those valleys, in which flourish thousands of the most lovely flowers, never touched by a spectator's hand, can be neither described by the European pen nor painted with European color, no more the deep and frightening shadows of the most aged forests, and the sprouting greenery of the groves (Capoes) that roof the valleys. This is the appearance especially of the land to the south and east of its sky. If you descend farther to the west, into the realm of the river Sao Francisco or beyond to the borders of the province of Goyazana, the umbilicum of the entire empire, you will pass into the fields which they call deserted; likewise, if you approach southwards to the province of Bahia, you will gradually observe the remarkable change of the whole land.

Chapada, unknown photographer. Thanks to

Already those low lying valleys and lofty, abrupt mountains have vanished from your sight; now you tarry in the uplifted fields they call Chapadas, which here stretch out flat like a floor into the distance, and there turn one's eyes to valleys that are like river beds and not very deep. Now you do not see those sappy, broadly spread forests or those measureless fields (Campos geraës) that threaten, as if a sea of leaves, to swallow the traveler. You see rather a thinner and sparser vegetation, which does not enliven every part of the ground, but which now displays long tracts of land that is dry and clayey, or mingled with rock fragments,and now displays naked rock and layers of stone. We have set this region, dear reader, before you in etching #3. To the south of the town of Fanado, the capital of Minas Novas, they call this district "the boundary"

Etching 23 Termo from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

Termo of Minas Novas, near Fanado. province of Minas Gerais 

(Termo) --, the hilly land climbs gently to the ridge of the Serra das Esmeraldas, the promontories of which make in this area the borders of, not to say the province, but that region in which civilized human beings live; for to their east wander the man-eating Botocudos and

Botocudos from Debret's 'Voyage  Pictoresque et Historique au Bresil…', Paris 1834-39. Thanks to

other, lesser flocks of forest peoples. When, together with my friend Spix, I frequented Quartel do Alto dos Bois, since there is a military camp there, we passed through regions very similar to that which the etching #3 depicts. 

Etching 3 Tableiro coberto from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by Alberto Chor

Taboleiro coberto, near Fanado 

The ground, which is reddish and made up of many quartzfragments, lacks frequent watering and humus. As a result, it is infertile and gives birth to neither thick shrubs nor meadows, but what nature here grants is scattered, lowly herbage that occupies the fertile spots of the ground, or a peculiar form of forest called Taboleiro coberto by the inhabitants. For the trees stand not near to one another, but apart at long intervals, so that often you might discern the outlines of individual trees. Those trees have a trunk that often rises at a slant or bends back here and there, as well as thick, short, and likewise curved branches that are generally spread out straight and covered with a thick, corky bark. Since the life of these trees hangs entirely on the moisture which is absent during much of the year and appears only at certain times, not all the branches are found adorned with dense foliage, but leaves jut out only on the outermost young shoots, leaves themselves soon to perish when the branch begins to shoot out farther. Since these leaves usually have a firm structure, it is clear that these plants differ much, both in outward form and in fertility, from the primeval forests, which, since they are aided by never failing moisture, both appear more vigorous and juicier, and are never seen stripped of their leafy ornament.

Etching commentary #3