Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Amazon Rain Forest in 1920

Old-growth, tropical forests of Brazil in the early 1900s


The following description of the Amazon rain forest is quoted from a 1920 geography textbook. I don't know if the authors had ever traveled to the Brazilian tropics -- probably not -- but they did write quite vividly about the "feel" of the forest there.

The Amazon forest is a good type of the tropical forest, where plants, encouraged by the heat and dampness, grow luxuriantly in the rich soil. Not only is the rainfall heavy, but evaporation is checked by the dense vegetation, so that the forest reeks with moisture. Therefore, at night, when the temperature falls, such heavy dews collect that the plants are wet, as by a rain.

In these woods, there is an occasional giant tree reaching to a height of from one hundred and eighty to two hundred feet, and with a circumference of from twenty to forty feet. The lower limbs may be as much as a hundred feet from the ground.

Between these giant trees are smaller ones struggling to rise out of the somber shade ito the sunlight. There are also many shrubs, bushes, ferns, and vines, the latter twining about the tree trunks, or hanging over the lower limbs.

The woods present much the same appearance throughout the year. There is no time when all the trees send forth their leaves and blossoms; nor is there a time when all the leaves change color and fall to the ground. Some of the trees blossom throughout the year; others have their blossoms at regular seasons; thus flowers and fruits my be seen at all times of the year.

In such a forest there is dense gloom and silence, broken now and then by the crash of a falling tree, or the sorrowful notes of birds, or the howling of monkeys, or perchance, the shrill scream of an animal which has fallen a prey to the boa.

Some of the trees of the forest produce fruits and nuts, others valuable timber or dyewoods. In fact, the word Brazil comes from the name of a dyewood found in the Amazon forests. Another valuable plant is the vanilla, whose beans are of value in making perfumes and flavoring extracts. Many of the Indians near the rivers make long journeys into the forest to collect the products, both for their own use and for shipment down the Amazon.

Source: World Geographies: Second Book (pp. 267-268) by Ralph S. Tarr and Frank M. McMurry. Copyrighted in 1920 and published by the MacMillan Company, New York, in 1922,

1 comments -- please add yours:

Steven Alexander said...

You're right, Genevieve, the authors never set foot in the Amazon forest, so it seems. A lot of erroneous information. The Hollywood approach to things.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is gnetz51@gmail.com