Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/54

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34

PLANTS AND

scanty. The high rocks and débris on the hill-sides appeared the same as in winter; even the ravines in the mountains were very little better. Naked sand, boulders and crumbling rock, a few crooked dwarf elms, wild peach, or clumps of acacia, were the ever-recurring objects which met the travellers' eyes. Even on the banks of some tiny rivulet, which, after flowing a very short distance above ground would quickly hide itself beneath the soil as though it feared to encounter the terrors of the wilderness, the narrow fringe of verdure was mostly devoured by the Mongol goats.

The boundary of Ala-shan is marked by a line of drift sands, which, as we know, cover the whole of Trans-Ordos. The scantiness of the vegetation, notwithstanding the advanced season (end of May), was even more remarkable here than in the country through which we had passed. Indeed, the aspect of nature hardly differed from that which we had observed late in the previous autumn: here were the same cheerless yellow sands, the same patches of zak, the same clayey hillocks with clumps of stunted karmyk. If perchance some stray flowering grass (Sophora flavescens, Turnefortia Arguzia, Convolvulus Ammani, Peganum sp., Carduus sp.) appeared, it was only as a stranger or foster-child of so unprolific a parent. Two or three kinds of bushes (Convolvulus tragacanthoides, Nitraria Schoberi, Calligonum Mongolicum?) were in flower, but they only grew in clayey spots so far apart as not to brighten the prevailing gloom of the landscape.