Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/76

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

including China, Manchuria and Japan, must be considered as a counterpart of the Mediterranean flora. The oak reappears as soon as we cross the eastern border-ridge of the plateau, which is the Great Khingan; so also the walnut tree, the lime tree, the hazel and the myrtle, while several new species of poplar, willow, acacias and many others make their appearance. The forests, consisting of a very mixed vegetation, where southern species meet with northern ones, become really beautiful; while in Japan a variety of species of pine and the reappearance of the beech add to their beauty. A rich underwood of lianas, ivies, wild vines, roses and so on renders the forests quite impassable, especially in the littoral region, which is submitted to the influence of the monsoons. In the lower parts rich prairies cover immense spaces, the grass vegetation becomes luxuriant, and in the virgin prairies of the Amur man and horse are easily concealed by the grasses of gigantic size. Eice and cotton are cultivated in the southern part of the region. However, this region is too vast, and has too many different aspects, to be considered as one single region, and ought to be subdivided into three sections—the Chinese flora, that of Manchuria and the Okhotsk littoral.

A striking change in the character of the vegetation is also seen, as we now learn from recent exploration, at the southeastern extremity of the high plateau of Asia. The traveler who comes from Mongolia and has crossed the Kam region of eastern Tibet finds, as soon as he has penetrated into the region of the tributaries of the Blue River and Mekong, quite a new world, both vegetable and animal. The very fact that the 12,000-feet-high plateau is deeply excavated by the valleys and canyons of the great rivers, and that this part of the plateau is submitted to the influence of the monsoons blowing from the southwest, is sufficient to give quite a new character to the vegetation, which may be described as a mixture of the Chinese and Indo-Chinese floras.

In the Caucasus the rich vegetation of the wet portions of the country, situated between the main chains of the Caucasus and the Pontic chain, belongs to the Mediterranean flora of western Europe. As to the flora of Asia Minor, it combines the species of southern Europe with those of north Africa, as we find there evergreen oaks, the laurel-olive tree, the myrtle, the oleander, the pistachio tree and a great variety of bulbous plants.

These few remarks indicate how much the task of the geo-botanist would be facilitated if he took into consideration the great features of the orography of Asia and the orientation of the main orographic divisions. The same must be said with regard to the fauna of Asia. It would be impossible to understand its distribution if we did not take into consideration, as has been indicated by Syevertsoff, the spreading of many species from the southwest to the northeast along the plateaus