Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/215

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
207
FROM COAST TO CAPITAL.

keep the weeds down, till the land thoroughly without planting, and do everything to enrich the soil instead of exhausting it.

Coffee two years from the seed is frequently seen here, though the trees rarely bear much before reaching the age of three years, and are not in profitable bearing till four or five. But I have seen sturdy little trees, with their slender branches well bunched with fruit and flowers at between two and three years of age. Like the orange of Florida and the lime of the West Indies, the former of which will sometimes bear at two years from the bud, and the latter at two years from the seed, little reliance can be placed upon a crop at less than three or four. The coffee is in advance of them all, however, in point of time, for, while the orange hardly reaches maturity before its tenth year, coffee will repay its owner in its sixth or seventh. An advantage in favor of coffee over orange culture is, that here there can be combined with it the raising of every other tropical fruit. Here the mango lifts its solid green head above the plantations, though giving a shade too dense to be desirable, as well as the avocado pear, and even the peach and walnut.

In Mr. Finck's cafetal, or coffee grounds, we may see as great a variety of trees and smaller plants as is usually found in a jardin des plantes, for he is an accomplished botanist, and knows every plant in this region. He is especially devoted to orchids, and has collected here the rarest species, from the snow line of Orizaba to the hot lands of the coast, keeping them in great beds in the shade, and wired to the trees with densest vegetation. For a few years past he has been introducing the cinchona, and is the first one who has done it with success. From this tree he expects eventually to derive greater profit than from his coffee. The cinchona is not indigenous to Mexico; I am moved to say this because of an article in a Western paper describing the forests of the lowlands as being full of it. In that article, detailing in glowing terms the resources of Mexico, I found several products of the country that no botanist has discovered there yet.

It is a delightful zone that combines climate and soil so har-