National Geographic : 1896 Dec
394 GEOGRAPHY OF THE SOUTHERN PENINSULA West, whether in midwinter or midsummer, is full of comfort, charm, and beauty. The keys are not barren sand-wastes, as was at first supposed, but seem to be formed of the same rock as the bluff of Biscayne bay. They are tropical in plant life, genial in climate, and fertile almost beyond belief. The waters of this summer country are beautiful beyond everything that language or color can express. They are for the most part shallow, but in their greatest depths one sees through their crystal blue the underlying floor of bay or sound or strait. This floor is covered by sea-weeds in picturesque tangles and sponges of grotesque form, through and above which myriads of fish flit like flashes of electric light. Close by the shores the lazy shark glides along indifferent to your presence. The modest manatee, the strange sea-cow, hurries away to deeper water. From the opalescent surface the tarpon springs for his prey, the pompano for his pleasure. Overhead the sun shines brilliantly, but even at midsummer the trade winds blow so surely but so soothingly that there is no sense of heat and certainly none of oppression at any season of the year. The fertility of the southeastern coast region is really beyond description. It presents a variety of soils and lands unequaled. Anything known to the north temperate zone, except wheat, will grow. The vegetables of the ordinary garden mature and ripen at any period of the year. Planting and gathering run side by side winter and summer. It is the natural home for all the citrus family, such as lemons, limes, oranges, citrons, grape fruit, and shaddock. The pineapple grows and yields almost without attention. Mangos, guava, the alligator pear, the sapodilla, the sugar apple, the Japan plum and persimmon, with numer ous other tropical fruits, thrive and yield amazingly. The culture of vanilla, camphor, kola, cinchona, cinnamon, and coffee has begun with great promise of success. The eastern edge of the southern Everglade furnishes every condition of soil and climate necessary to the culture of the india-rubber tree, and, whether the glades are ever drained or not, the islands of their eastern edge will furnish the rubber of future commerce. In this favored region frost is entirely unknown. In addi tion to its southern latitude, it has two potent protectors. Close to its eastern shore courses that nursing mother of the sea, the great Gulf stream. Westward the warm waters of the glades hang a mist veil for 50 miles. In the eastern islands of the glades the habit of growth shown by the trees proves that frost has never fallen.