National Geographic : 1907 Jun
AN IMPRESSION OF THE GUIANA WILDERNESS 381 wall of vegetation that rises above them and no longer appear as dominating or physiognomic types in the landscape; they are hardly more than sporadic com ponents of the vegetation. It is only when we penetrate into the interior of this great forest, when we study the individual elements that com pose it, that we begin to be impressed with distinctive characteristics. One can truly say that almost every tree of the South American primeval forest is a botanical garden of its own. Rising up in supreme magnificence, the trunk hardly sending out a branch before it has attained a height of 125 or 150 feet, and completely overgrown with creeping and climbing plants, aroids and orchids, it is as wholly different from the trees of the northern woods as it well can be. The tendency to spreading umbrella-like crowns likewise differentiates the forest components of the south, as do also the giant buttressed roots which distinguish so many of the species. Alfred Russell Wallace, who has en joyed unusual advantages for the study of the general characteristics of tropical vegetation, has emphasized as one of the marked features of the tropical forest the absence of flowers. He says, indeed, that one may travel for weeks at a time along the streams of the Amazon region with out once realizing those aspects of floral development which, whether by profu sion of growth or by size and color, im press the landscape of temperate regions. This picture does not seem to apply to the forest of the river banks of the Guianas, and its inaccuracy has been pointed out by that acute student of nature Mr M. Turn. The streamers of purple, red, and white which hang down over the forest curtain easily recall in profusion and wealth of color the flowers of the north the field daisy, clover, and buttercup. In deed, it would be difficult to recall in forests of the north, even as rare in stances, that display of flowers which so frequently repeats itself here. The extraordinary passifloras, the cas sias, the rhexias, and innumerable or chids are a glory unto themselves. It is only on or close to the banks of the rivers that the forest in any way ap proaches impenetrability. Farther in ward, where the more majestic portion of the forest is reached, there is compara tively little undergrowth, and the giant foresters stand up unbroken, like the sup porting pillars the interior of a church.. The animal life of the forest surprised me by its numbers. It was not the silent wilderness, the nature that was hushed to sound, that the writings of some natural ists had led me to believe that it was. From the early hours of morning until sunfall, the forest rings with the cries of the Toucan and parrot, while the metallic tones of the chatterers and buzz-saw beetle swing out in majestic cadence a parting of the ways. At night-time this side of the forest is silent; but other strange sounds-the fitful roar of the howling monkey, the croak of the Suri nam toad-give ample evidence that the land is still of the living. It was this way, at least, that I found the forest in April. There were but few insect pests to annoy one, and that assumedly om nipresent torment of the southern wilds, the mosquito, was virtually entirely ab sent. This brief picture is, without doubt, not the true picture of the entire Guiana wilderness, but it is an impression which a few weeks' journey of wholesome pleasure has brought to me.