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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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The Hospice of Our Lady Mother of Men boasts the triumph of the persevering faith of one man, who worked simply with scarce resources, in the year 1771, and gradually adorned the church with painting, carved work. and garrisons of silver, gold, and precious stones, preparing the building next door for the religious order, with domestic, comfortable, and perfect arrangements, and doing everything possible for the institution to reach flourishing conditions. The dignified hermit was still alive, a blind elder, of more than a hundred years, of Portuguese origin. He was delighted to be able to entertain conversation in this remote solitude with newcomers from Europe. Since he was no longer in a position to govern, and without the help of other friars, he turned the hospice over to an administrator. They welcomed us kindly, and we were surprised to find plenty of beds, clean sheets and other amenities. The establishment has already received some assets as a contribution from the loyal; eight black slaves cultivate the land in the vicinity, or engage in cattle raising, which here thrives excellently. The butter produced here surpasses the taste of the Swiss Alps. Near the hospice, there is also a plantation of several European fruits, such as cherries, quinces, apples, chestnuts and olives; however, the olive trees, despite the location and freshness of this place, never came to fruition.

The naturalist, marveling at the splendid panorama, remains in constant delight before the majestic valley. Amazing are the variety and beauty of plant shapes. Especially numerous and characteristic of this mountain, as well as others of quartzite, are the members of the Melastomaceas, Crotons, Malpighias, Compostas, and the Lilaceas family with robust trunks and large flowers. In the marshy pastures and the grassy banks of a lake enclosed by a grove of trees covered with flowers, the most enchanting forms of Hydrocotileas, Droseras, Andromedas, Gualterias, Utricularias, Sauvagesias, Eriocauleas, etc. are displayed. On the first day we collected a hundred species of plants previously unknown; and although mountainous regions are almost always animal-poor, here, however, the collection was rich, especially of the genera Cerambyx and Buprestis, especially the Buprestis tricolor, B. semistriatus nob., and the abundance of the most variegated hummingbirds.

In the afternoon, back from our walks, still new sights were waiting for us, when from the ground in the front of the convent we watched the dazzling disc of the moon, behind the mountains, or we saw the clear sky, little by little, twinkle with the constellations of the southern hemisphere. The evening bells, in that valley of

Melastomaca caudata

Croton pictum

Malpighgia angustifolia

Compostae, Coccoloba

Lilea subulata

Andromeda speciosa

Eriocaulon densifolia

 

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