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Remember the Rainforest 1



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The virgin forests, which are denser and more luxurious in the lowlands than in the higher regions, have an unusual richness, as well as several qualities of wood. We collect, in the company of a local farmer, in one day, one hundred and twenty qualities, among which one finds a relatively large sturdy hardwood suitable for building buildings and ships (1). We admired the ease with which the guide, on viewing the stem and bark of each quality, told us not only the common name in the country, but also the use, the time of flowering and fruit generation. Nature continues to deal with nature, sharpening the sense of these simple men, giving them such exact insight into their physical characteristics that at this point they surpass the European, who is very well educated, but not very observant of nature. The backcountry of Sao Paulo distinguishes several related forms of laurels, which are intended to be cut for business by comparing the leaves, with a certainty that would do honor to a botanist.

Also the countryman is notable for his perfect knowledge of the medicinal plants of his land; especially women, inhabitants of this province, have a reputation for great proficiency in medicine. In almost every house one or the other performs the functions of healer, which are not disputed by any doctor or surgeon; At the time we traveled the captaincy of Sao Paulo, doctors did not exist in the capital, nor abroad, as a graduate doctor. It is a mistake to judge that this practical knowledge of the healing virtues of plants has traditionally been inherited from early Native Americans by present generations. Long acquaintance with the Indians has convinced us that the indolence of these unfortunates makes it impossible even to investigate the healing properties of nature. Superstition, indifferent to life and insensitive to the sufferings of others, do not let the Indians make use of the gifts with which they are surrounded in munificent nature, whose knowledge would not, moreover, be difficult to their keenest senses, if they were really interested by the subject.

The champions in finding and applying the healing virtue of plants, as well as the discovery of the gold mines, lies with the Paulistas. Their active and curious genius, stimulated by rich nature, made them study the casual discoveries, made with the European's insight or rarely, by indication of the Indians. The human spirit, in the field of research, is used throughout the exploration of nature, and by the physical characteristics

(I) The most important wood qualities of this region are as follows: rue sebastiao, black emara, both preferred for fine furniture because of their red heartwood; jacaranda-tan, which also has an excellent furniture wood, similar to mahogany; ma fiaranduba, cabi'Una, peroba, paraUna, jequitibrf, cedar, etc.