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LOPEZIA RACEMOSA.- MEXICAN LOPEZIA.
Class I. MONANDRIA.–Order I. MONOGYNIA. NATURAL ORDER, CIRCÆACÆ.---THE ENCHANTER'S NIGHTSHADE TRIBE.
ned in honour of New World. Imost to the bottom, eg alternate, ovate on the
LOPEZIA named in honour of Thomas Lopez, a Spanish botanist, who is said to have directed his attention to the natural history of the New World.
Stalk five or six feet high, branched almost to the bottom, square, of a deep red colour, smooth towards the bottom, slightly hairy above: Branches like the stalk; leaves alternate, ovate, pointed, toothed on the edges, more so on the larger leaves, slightly beset with soft hairs, veins prominent on the under side, usually running parallel to each other and unbranched: Leaf-stalks hairy; flowers numerous, from the alæ of the leaves, growing irregularly on hairy leafy racemi, standing on long slender peduncles, which hang down as the seed-vessels are produced ; Calyx : a Perianthium of four leaves sitting on the Germen, leaves narrow, concave, reddish, with green tips, the lowermost one widely separated from the others, and placed immediately under the nectary; Corolla four Petals of a pale red colour, forming in their mode of growth the upper half of a circle, the two uppermost linear, of a deeper colour near the apex, jointed below the middle, with a small green gland on each joint, standing on short round foot-stalks ; Nectary situated below the Petals, perfectly white, somewhat ovate, the sides folding together, before the flower fully expands, nearly upright, embracing and containing within it the Pistillum and Stamen, Stamen Filament one, tapering and very slender just below the Anthera, arising from the same part as (and placed opposite to the base of) the Nectary, the lower part of it broader, somewhat fleshy, cartilaginous, and of the same nature as the inferior part of the Nectary, with a groove as that has on the inside, so that before the flower expands, the bases of each are like two half tubes, the sides of which, nearly touching each other, wholly enclose the Pistillum; Pistillum Germen below the Calyx, round, smooth, and green; Style filiform, white, length of the Filament; Stigma forming a small villous head.
Some plants have a claim on our attention for their utility, some for their beauty, and some for the singularity of their structure, and the wonderful nature of their economy; in the last class we must place the present plant, the flowers of which we recommend to the examination of such of our readers as may have an opportunity of seeing them; to the philosophic mind, not captivated with mere shew, they will afford a most delicious treat.
A VISIT TO A VEGETABLE GIANT. This huge tree which spreads out its great branches over a large area of ground, formerly overshadowed the royal palace, and was the wonder of the whole city; and now, when palace and city are only constituents of the dust around it, the tree flourishes, and commands the admiration of the traveller, and the adoration of the majority of the Javanese nation. The place where it is found is now known as Batatulies. At its foot is a small wooden structure, where a few Mohammedan priests officiate, to whose care is committed the conservancy, of this monarch of the forest, and of some supplementary relics, upon the proceeds of the exhibition of which, and on the fees for the attendant religious ceremonies, they contrive to pick up a tolerable livelihood; for the tree is in an odour of sanctity beyond all other trees in the island. Wo and bad success to that miserable peasant who goes to market without paying his adorations and coin at the shrine of the giant tree! Besides this, the fame of the tree has spread far and wide, and many come to behold and wonder, who may pay the customary offerings without adoring the deity of the place. The subsidiary relics consist of some pieces of old Padjajarian tombstones, and a marvellous bit of rock, into which some Hercules of old is said to have set his foot. These are held in equal veneration with the great tree, and their worship is commingled with the services of the mighty vegetable idol which towers above them. The tree stands at no considerable distance from the wayside, and forms an imposing feature of a landscape, by no means deficient in grandeur. It is placed upon an elevated plain, and is conspicuous from all sides of it, and attracts the attention of every one even at some distance. So noble is its appearance, so majestic its port, that it has been said if once beheld, it cannot soon be forgotten. Coffee plantations crown the fields and the sides of the hills, offering a striking contrast of foebleness and colossal strength in the vegetable kingdom. Shining rivers, waving rice-fields, woods and mountains, with a fuming volcano in the distance, complete the picture of its situation.
The trunk of the tree is of dimensions so vast, that very many men, by their united hands, cannot embrace it; botanical data do not exist for the determination of its age; the tree is too sacred probably to allow of the requisite steps for that examination. The trunk at first sight almost appears, as if it consisted of a number of trees all intimately united together; and from all sides of it huge irregular boughs jut up of all sorts of shapes, and in every direction, while the deep furrows and hollows consequent upon extreme vegetable old age contribute to give the monster a grandeur and awfulness of character not easily conceivable. perhaps the greatest marvel about the tree is the remarkable fact, that it is actually made up of two trees united into one; and most curious to relate, two trees of the same genus, but of different species! Both have grown together, so as to form one indivisible trunk of enormous size; but the distinctive features of each species come out in the branches, and appear, even to the eye of the casual observer and untutored savage, in the remarkable difference in the colour of the foliage. At a little distance the spectacle is very
peculiar. The leaves of one species are of the most lively and beautiful green, while those of the other are dark green on the upper surface, and a very pale green on the under. The one species has long, slender, drooping branches, adorned with elegant foliage, refreshing even to look upon; from its majestic appearance this kind is commonly planted before the palaces of the Indian princes; its larger branches puts forth facicles of roots, which, instead of descending as they commonly do to the earth, have crept along the aged trunk, wrapped their strong arms around it, and have ultimately blended themselves with its substance. The other species, less graceful in growth, has shorter, more rugged, and lustier branches, and by these and the colour of its leaves was readily distinguished from its twin sister. Below, both were as it were, fused into one vast mass, mingling its juices and fibres together. The trees both belong to the natural family Moracec, a race of trees which has given birth to some of the giants of the vegetable world, they are of the genus Ficus. This genus is held very sacred in Java, for it is believed the spirits of the departed delight to make their habitation in the grateful shadows of its branches.
It was in the latter part of the year 1818, that the author of the “ Flora Javoe" made his visit to this celebrated wonder. The visiting party determined on setting out on the expedition before sunrise, which is the pleasantest period for travelling, impelled not merely by the idle curiosity excited by the thousand fables current relative to this marvel-doing, marvellously-great tree, but instigated by the more praiseworthy desire of ascertaining its scientific character and standing. Since, however, the natives regarded the tree with a superstitious awe of no common intensity, and considered it a heinous degree of sacrilege for a European so much as to break off the smallest branch, it was probable they would resist all botanising attempts upon its sacred boughs, and it became expedient, therefore, to get the authority of the Indian prince then having power in the island to sanction the meditated investigation. This was readily granted, and with it the assistance of a military convoy; and so all started before day-dawn. The route lay for the most part along the military road ;and after passing long rows of the huts of the natives, the party at length emerged upon the plain on which the tree stands. Immediately to the right was the vast object of attraction, its aspect imposing in the extreme, which was heightened by the dim shadows of a departing night, still covering hill, valley, mountain, and plain in a dusky inantle of vapour, through which the first beams of the sun were now struggling. Even at this early hour, the belief of the wonderful blessings which were bestowed upon the worshippers who made the proper offerings to the leafy god, had drawn a considerable number of them together, some of whom were lost in contemplation of the green idol, while others were humbly kneeling before the pieces of stone, and the giant's footmark in the bit of rock in the chapel. On perceiving their occupation, the expedition halted, not wishing to disturb their devotions; but these were instantly stopped when the visitors were descried, the devotees rising from their knees, and quitting the chapel. The priests then approached, and stood near the entrance of the chapel, waiting to learn the purpose of the invaders. They were addressed by an Indian interpreter, who, after saluting the venerable fathers in the oriental fashion, gave vent to a long harangue, which stated in a good many words what we may express by a very few. The principal visitor had recently arrived in Java, from the most distant regions of the earth, to examine the plants of the island, and more particularly to make himself acquainted with this venerable and most sacred tree. Their lord the prince, himself a real lineal descendant of the most noble and ancient race of Padjajarian kings, having therefore a hereditary right over the tree, on being acquainted with the visitor's intentions, had been pleased to vouchsafe his consent to the expedition, and had given orders that the visitor might cut with his own hand a few of the smallest branches of the sacred tree. It was also intimated that nothing would please the prince more than if the departed spirits who dwelt in the tree would suffer the visitor to remove a few of the precious flowers growing upon it.
This rather startling proposition was attentively listened to by the priests, who seemed puzzled to comprehend its entire import. They held an earnest conference together, and commenced pronouncing in a gentle whisper certain mysterious verses; after which kindling some rice chaff, they threw upon it a quantity of incense, the smoke of which went up in a dense cloud, and filled the tree with its sweet odours. Every eye was fixed upon the curling wreaths rolling from branch to branch; and when at length the whole mass of the foliage was enveloped in the cloud, the chief-priest, an aged, awful-looking person, stood forth, and after bidding the stranger welcome, proceeded to inform him of the result of their sacrifice. Never had the priests of this most holy tree beheld a better omen in the rise of the sweet-smelling vapours, and their dispersion through its branches, than on this happy occasion. The visit of the illustrious stranger was most agreeable to the spirits of the departed; they were most willing to grant his requests, and to give him many additional blessings; while those who with sacrilegious hands should presume to desecrate this holy tree, disease and evil should fall upon and utterly destroy. The great difficulty was thus removed: the full permission of the priests being gained, and the customary offering made at the shrine, the visitor proceeded to scramble in a most irreverent manner up the aged sides and lateral branches of the tree, the priests themselves urging several peasants who were at hand to ascend also, and assist the stranger in collecting what he required. On ascending, words can scarcely describe the scene which presented itself. The tree was clothed all over with elegant flowers and parasitic plants. Orchids, in a multitude of species; crawled up its withered branches, and flung down flowers, and roots, and leaves, in one waving mass of fantastic fragrance and elegance. Lichens scaled up the wooden cliffs, and ferns of many species grew up from the dark hollows, while loranths sucked the vital juices, and scrophulariads covered the branches in a patchwork of brilliant hues. The tree was, in fact, a garden in the air; the rain of ages had washed down into its cavities, dead leaves and decaying material, and thus a rich vegetable mould existed in them, which was highly fitted for, and gave exuberant nourishment to the host of plants which, in some inexplicable manner, had found their way thither. After remaining in the tree for some time, and fearing to exhaust the patience of the priests, the visitor descended, together with his delighted coadjutors, bringing down with them a large collection of Howers from this parterre of nature-if the phrase is not too violent—and even then perceiving, to their regret, that fully half the species had not been gathered by them.