Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/395

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MARCH, 1902.

By Professor JOHN C. BRANNER,


OF all the graceful, beautiful and bizarre plants that grow in the tropics none are more graceful and none give such character to tropical vegetation as do the palms. Varied in form and size, adapting themselves to a wide range of elevation, sweeping up from the sandy shores of the sea across marshes, flood-plains and well-watered forests, over barren and thirsty deserts to the subalpine slopes of lofty mountains, they are, above all plants, the ones that give character and picturesqueness to every tropical landscape. And there is no place in the world where one finds a greater number of species of palms or where they grow more abundantly or more luxuriantly than they do in Brazil, and above all, in the valley of the Amazonas.

No good word is needed for the grace and stately beauty of palm trees. Those of us who live in the temperate regions already appreciate these ornamental plants to such an extent that there is now an established business in the manufacture of artificial palms for decorative purposes, to say nothing of their extensive cultivation by gardeners and seedsmen. As useful plants in other ways we know, as a rule, but little about them. In their native tropics palms are better thought of; the people fully appreciate them as ornamental plants, especially for large landscape effects. This is well shown in the use of the royal palms in Brazil. One of the most impressive sights in the sightly city of Rio de Janeiro is the avenue of royal palms at the Botanical Gardens. It is impossible to convey an idea of the grandeur of these enormous trees with their trunks as round and smooth as if they had been