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Page:Curtis's Botanical Magazine, Volume 73 (1847).djvu/15

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observed that the marshes on either side the river were bordered with a green and floating surface; and the Guaranis told me that they called the plant in question "Yrupé", literally water-platter: from y, water, and rupé, a dish. Its general aspect reminded me of our Nénuphar, belonging to the family Nyphæaceæ. Nearly a mile of water was overspread with huge round margined leaves, among which shone, sprinkled here and there, the magnificent flowers, white and pink, scenting the air with their delicious fragrance. I hastened to load my Pirogue with leaves, flowers and fruits: each leaf, itself as heavy as a man could carry, floats on the water by means of the air-cells contained in its thick projecting innumerable nerves, and is beset, like the flower-stalks and fruit, with long spines. The ripe fruit is full of roundish-black seeds, white and mealy within.

"When I reached Corrientes, I hastened to make a drawing of this lovely water-lily, and to show my prize to the inhabitants; and they informed me that the seed is a valuable article of food, which, being eaten roasted like maize, has caused the plant to be called Water-Maize ('Maïs del Agua'). I afterwards heard from an intimate friend of M. Bonpland, the companion and fellow-labourer of the famous Humboldt, that having visited accidentally, eight years previously to my visit, a place near the little river called Riochuèlo, he had seen from a distance this superb plant, and had well nigh precipitated himself off the raft into the river in his desire to secure specimens; and that M. Bonpland had been able to speak of little else for a whole month. I was so fortunate as to get dried leaves, flowers and fruits, and also to put other specimens in spirits; and about the end of 1827, I had the delight of sending them, with my other Botanical and Zoological collections, to the Museum of Natural History at Paris.

"Five years afterwards, when travelling in Central America, in the country of the wild Guarayos, a tribe of Guaranis or Caribs, I made acquaintance with Father La Cueva, a Spanish Missionary, a good and well-informed man, beloved for his patriarchal virtues, and one who earnestly devoted himself to the con- version of the natives. The traveller, after spending a year among Indians, may easily appreciate the privilege of meeting with a human being who can understand and exchange sentiments with him; and I eagerly embraced the opportunity of conversing with this venerable old man, who had passed thirty years of his life among savages. In one of our interviews he happened to mention the famous botanist Haenke, who had been sent by the Spanish government to investigate the vegetable productions of Peru, and the fruit of whose labours has been unfortunately