Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/44

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The eye was constantly delighted with the endless variety of the clothing of the palm-stems with festoons of pepper-wort and other vines, swung like beautiful and artfully arranged garlands from tree-top to tree-top, and hanging down in bouquets of dense foliage set off with bright flowers. Under and among the stately palms were other trees, the noble mango and the large bread-fruit tree, with its thick, dark green crown of leaves. The slender, pillar-like stem of the handsome papaya-tree (Carica papaya) was elegantly inlaid and adorned with a regular diadem of broad, palmated leaves; and jasmin, orange, and lemon trees in varieties were covered over and over with fragrant white blossoms.

As the road neared the sea-shore, the pandanus, or screw-trees (Pandanus odoratissimus), picturesquely growing upon the rocky hills, attracted attention. These are among the most remarkable and characteristic plants of the tropics. They are nearly allied to the palms, and are often called screw-palms, or, improperly, screw-pines. The cylindrical stem of this plant, which seldom reaches more than from twenty to forty feet in height, is bent and twisted, and its branches are forked like a chandelier. Each limb bears on the end a dense tuft of large, sword-shaped leaves, like those of the dracæna and the yucca. The leaves are sometimes sea-green, sometimes dark-green, and are arranged spirally at the base, so that the limb resembles a regularly turned screw. At the bases of the leaf-tufts hang clusters of white, extremely fragrant blossoms, or large red fruits like the anana. The most remarkable feature of the plant is afforded by the numerous air roots which branch out from the trunk and ramify again, lower down, fastening themselves in the earth when they reach the ground, and forming buttresses to support the main stem. The tree looks as if it were walking on stilts.

The entrance to the Botanic Garden of Peradenia is through a noble avenue of India-rubber trees. This tree, which is known to us of the north only by puny specimens in greenhouses, grows in these tropical regions to a giant's stature, of a size comparable to that of our largest oaks. An immense crown of many thousand leaves covers with the aid of its horizontal limbs, which are thirty or forty feet long, the area of a stately palace; while from the base of its thick trunk extends a frame-work of roots over a space of often between one and two hundred feet in diameter, and much larger than would correspond with the height of the tree. This wonderful structure consists of twenty or thirty chief roots proceeding from as many corresponding ribs in the lower part of the trunk, and spreading themselves like great snakes on the ground. The tree is hence called the snake-tree by the natives, and has been compared by the poets to the coiled serpents of the Laocoön. The roots, with the ribs which mark their swelling out from the trunk, form strong buttresses to the tree, and enable it to bid defiance to the storm. The spaces between the buttresses consti-