Africa

Africa is somewhat triangular, with its base towards Asia and its apex pointing southward. It is bounded northwards by the Mediterranean Sea, and at its east side by the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, while the Atlantic flows on its south-west side. In Africa is the largest desert in the world, the Great Desert of Sahara; it occupies nearly all the northern part, the southern has but few mountains of great extent, but from their elevation and the amount of waters brought down by rivers, it is supposed that the centre has very high table lands. At the north-western part is an extensive mountain system (the Atlas) covering with its branches nearly 500,000 square miles, and sending its slopes to bound the great Desert northwards.

Horrors of African Warfare

There appears to be a wild caprice amongst the institutions; if such they may be called, of all these tropical nations. In a neighbouring state to that of Abyssinia, the king, when appointed to the regal dignity, retires into an island, and is never again visible to the eyes of men but once--when his ministers come to strangle him; for it may not be that the proud monarch of Behr should die a natural death. No men, with this fatal exception, are ever allowed even to set foot upon the island, which is guarded by a band of Amazons. In another border country, called Habeesh, the monarch is dignified with the title of Tiger. He was formerly Malek of Shendy, when it was invaded by Ismael Pasha, and was even then designated by this fierce cognomen. Ismael, Mehemet Ali's second son, advanced through Nubia claiming tribute and submission from all the tribes Nemmir (which signifies Tiger), the king of Shendy, received him hospitably, as Mahmoud, our dragoman, informed us, and, when he was seated in his tent, waited on him to learn his pleasure. "My pleasure is," replied the invader, "that you forthwith furnish me with slaves, cattle, and money, to the value of 100,000 dollars."--"Pooh!" said Nemmir, "you jest; all my country could not produce what you require in one hundred moons."--"Ha! Wallah!" was the young Pasha's reply, and he struck the Tiger across the face with his pipe. If he had done so to his namesake of the jungle, the insult could not have roused fiercer feelings of revenge, but the human animal did not shew his wrath at once. "It is well," he replied; "let the Pasha rest; to-morrow he shall have nothing more to ask." The Egyptian, and the few Mameluke officers of his staff, were tranquilly smoking towards evening, entertained by some dancing-girls, whom the Tiger had sent to amuse them; when they observed that a huge pile of dried stalks of Indian corn was rising rapidly round the tent. "What means this?" inquired Ismael angrily; "am not I Pasha?"--"It is but forage for your highness's horses," replied the Nubian; "for, were your troops once arrived, the people would fear to approach the camp." Suddenly the space is filled with smoke, the tent-curtains shrivel up in flames, and the Pasha and his comrades find themselves encircled in what they well know is their funeral pyre. Vainly the invader implores mercy, and assures the Tiger of his warm regard for him and all his family; vainly he endeavours to break through the fiery fence that girds him round; a thousand spears bore him back into the flames, and the Tiger's triumphant yell and bitter mockery mingle with his dying screams. The Egyptians perished to a man. Nemmir escaped up the country, crowned with savage glory, and married the daughter of a king, who soon left him his successor, and the Tiger still defies the old Pasha's power. The latter, however, took a terrible revenge upon his people: he burnt all the inhabitants of the village nearest to the scene of his son's slaughter, and cut off the right hands of five hundred men besides. So much for African warfare.


AFRICA.

A large insular continent lying south of Europe, from which it is separated by the Mediterranean. Area, 11,512,480 square miles; extreme length, 4,330 miles; extreme breadth, 4,000 miles; coast line, only about 16,000 miles, there being few indentations, and a lack of good harbors.

Principal Countries

Name.Area,
Sq. Mls.
Population.Capitals.Pop.
Abyssinia 200,000 3,000,000 Gondar 7,000
Algeria 161,476 3,310,412 Algiers 70,747
Cape Colony 229,815 1,027,168 Cape Town 33,239
Congo Free State 1,056,200 27,000,000
Egypt 394,240 6,806,381 Cairo 368,108
Liberia 14,300 1,068,000 Monrovia 3,000
Madagascar 228,500 3,500,000 Tananarivo 100,000
Morocco 219,000 5,000,000 Marocco 50,000
Mozambique 38,000 ? 300,000 Mozambique ? 35,000
Natal 21,150 416,219 Pietermaritzburg 14,231
Nubia ? 35,000 ? 400,000 Dongola
Orange River Free State 70,000 133,518 Bloemfontein 2,567
Transvaal 114,360 750,000 Pretoria 4,440
Tunis 42,000 2,100,000 Tunis 120,000
Zanzibar 625 300,000 Zanzibar 90,000

Lengths of Rivers

Miles.Miles.
Congo 2,400 Orange 1,600
Niger 2,900 Senegal 1,000
Nile 5,100 Zambesi 1,800

Latest Reported Exports

Cape Colony:Madeira:
Ostrich Feathers $4,656,900 Wine $525,740
Angora Hair 1,359,020 Sugar 165,800
Diamonds 13,712,350 Bananas 9,680
Copper 2,270,565 Pineapples 2,110
Marocco:Sierra Leone:
Almonds $394,000 Cola Nuts 819,175 lbs.
Cattle 393,880 Gum Copal 452,196 "
Dates 27,480 Palm Oil 250,730 gals.
Eggs 156,210 Palm Kernels 21,624,681 lbs.
Gums 244,885 Ginger 1,277,635 "
Shoes 527,420 Rubber 1,084,219 "
Liberia:Egypt:
Ivory 1,116 lbs.Cotton $37,328,905
Coffee 250,136 "Rice 606,785
Rubber 133,119 "Sugar 1,971,590
Palm Oil 1,100,222 gals.Cottonseed 8,482,670

Map of Africa

Vegetable Life in the African Plains

T HE  facts actually ascertained in reference to the Flora of the plains of Central Africa, although as yet of a limited character, form as a whole too comprehensive a subject to be fully discussed in these pages. I must, therefore, confine myself to a rapid survey of the principal botanical features of the countries whose general features and physical aspect I have sketched in the preceding chapters.

Senegambia and Upper Guinea, on the west coast of Africa, form a  low table-land, situated upwards of 3000 feet above the sea-level, and furrowed by deep gorges, in whose rocky beds the rivers roll and foam, fed by the waters of numerous streams. Grassy savannahs and wide cultivated areas are here inhabited by a numerous population. Several travellers have explored these regions; but all have specially applied themselves to make known the colossal plants which flourish therein, and those, first and foremost, which have a particular interest, either from their Anak-like stature or the manifold uses of their products. I shall have occasion to speak of the arborescent species which, in this part of the Old Continent, blend in immense and impenetrable forests. But owing to this very circumstance we possess few details respecting the plants which clothe the vast plains of Senegambia and Upper Guinea. We only know that there, as everywhere, the great family of the Gramineæ is largely represented. In general these species far exceed in height the plants which make the wealth and glory of our English meads; and they chiefly belong to the tribe of Paniceæ. A legion of Cassias inhabit the low fresh hills of the Senegambian lands; and some are held in high estimation for their fruit, as the Cassia, or Senna, which is considered one of the most active purgatives. The species generally recognized as best adapted for medicinal purposes are those with oboval and those with obtuse leaves—Cassia obovata  and Cassia obtusifolia. The former is a perennial herbaceous plant, from one to two feet high, with smooth egg-shaped leaves and racemes of yellow flowers; the latter differs only in the form of its leaves, which are short and broad, or obtuse.

Many of the cereals are cultivated in Senegambia on a very large scale; but they differ wholly from those which engage the attention of the European agriculturist. Barley will not grow even on the most elevated plateaux, on account of the constant and excessive heat. It is true that it will germinate; but it develops so rapidly that it passes through all the phases of its vegetation in the space of a few weeks, and yields but impoverished ears empty of grains; it is useless to the people of Senegambia except as forage. But, on the  other hand, there are numerous Gramineæ adapted to hot regions, which the natives cultivate for their uses. Among others I may name the Tocussa and the Coracan (Eleasine Tocussa  and E. Corocana ), with their curved digitate spikes and productive seeds; the Pennicellaria spicata, or Guinea Corn, a very tall grass, somewhat resembling maize, whose long cylindrical culms or blades bear each a multitude of white round grains, which, ground into meal, form very savoury cakes, as you may read in Mungo Park's Travels; and the DurraDouraIndian Millet, or Sorgho Grass  (Sorghum ), a coarse, strong, broad-leaved grass, four to eight feet high, with a round grain a little larger than mustard seed; it is the principal corn-plant of Africa, and exceedingly nutritious, the natives employing it in the preparation of a favourite dish named Kouskoussou.

The cereals most widely cultivated in Senegal include the Colonial Millet (Oplismenus colonus ); the Abyssinian Meadow Grass (Poa Abyssinica ), called “Teff” in Abyssinia, whose seeds are used for making bread, and whose blades yield an abundant herbage; Rice (Oryza sativa ), and different varieties of maize. Leguminous plants appear wanting in Senegal. Their absence is probably due to the same causes as those which we have indicated as affecting the growth of barley. Cabbages and the different salads grow, in fact, with a rapidity which prevents them from maturing; they flower in two or three weeks after being sown. The inhabitants consequently resort to those alimentary species which belong to hot countries, and which can only be obtained in Europe at an enormous expense and by artificial means. Among the plants with edible roots are various kinds of Yams (such as the Dioscorea alata ); Batatas (Convolvulus Batatas ); and the Manioc or Manihot (Jatropha Manihot ),[99] better known as Cassava, which, although in itself a deadly poison, is easily deprived by heat of its noxious properties, and when roasted or boiled becomes a nutritious and highly savoury food. It yields the valuable farinaceous material of Tapioca. Its leaves are cooling and healing; from its seeds an excellent oil is procured; and the juice which drops  from its root serves for empoisoning arrows. Good and evil are both strangely mixed in this important plant.

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VEGETABLE LIFE IN THE AFRICAN PLAINS.

1. Guinea Corn (Pennicillaria spicata).   3. Manihot (Jatropha Manihot).   5. Screw Pine (Pandanus candelabrum).
2. Sorgho Grass (Sorghum cernuum).        4. Yam (Dioscorea alata).   6. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum).

 
VEGETABLE LIFE IN THE AFRICAN PLAINS. 
1. Guinea Corn (Pennicillaria spicata ). 3. Manihot (Jatropha Manihot ). 5. Screw Pine (Pandanus candelabrum ).
2. Sorgho Grass (Sorghum cernuum ).4. Yam (Dioscorea alata ).6. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum ).

The Corchorus olitorius,[100] an annual cultivated in Egypt as a potherb, is largely grown in Senegal for the tenacious fibres of its root and the oily juices of its seeds. The Black Pepper (Piper nigrum ) of India and the Sunda Isles we find perfectly acclimatized in this part of Africa, and it flourishes even in a wild state. Finally, the Coffee-tree (Coffea Arabica ), the Cocoa (Theobroma Cacao ), Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria ), and the Cocos oleracea, are among the cultivated plants of Senegambia.

In northern Guinea and the Gaboon, recently made famous by Du Chaillu's discovery of the gorilla, Savannahs and cultivated districts are intermingled, though their flora is still imperfectly known. A great number of grasses adorn the fresh and humid prairies, and sedges and reeds abound, while, on the river-banks, in shady nooks, flourish some of the Screw-pine tribe,[101] notably the Pandanus Candelabrum, a highly curious plant, which attracts one's attention by its mode of vegetation, its graceful ribbon-like foliage, and its small fragrant flowers. Thatching and cordage are obtained from the fibrous leaves; the fruit resembles a richly-coloured pine-apple, but is insipid to the taste.

The Savannahs of the neighbouring provinces, and especially those of the Gold Coast, are in general sparsely inhabited, nor are those on the banks of the Niger an exception; man shrinks from a region which the deadly malaria seems to claim as its own. The flora is very poor, consisting chiefly of aquatic grasses, with blades of moderate height, and leaves of comparatively little succulence. The herbaceous plants, suitable for food or industrial uses, which are most frequently met with in Guinea and the Gaboon, resemble those already described as belonging also to Senegambia. But there are many different Arums, such as the Caladium segmium  and Colocasia mucronatum, properly known as Taro, Tara, or Tayo, and employed in making granulate sugar from the stem of the former, and in boiling or roasting for food  the rhizomæ of the latter; Tobacco; the ox-heart Annona, a plant sometimes cultivated in Europe, where it never fructifies, though its aromatic fruits are its most valuable product, and are highly esteemed by the Africans,—these “Custard Apples” resembling thick cream, and being eaten, like cream, with a spoon; the Banana,[102] with its gigantic foliage—precious “Musa Sapientum “—valuable not only to “wise men,” but foolish men, as a substitute for wheat or the breadfruit tree, and gratifying the savage with a succulent and nutritious food. Forty or fifty banana plants will flourish in a square space of one thousand feet, and an acre of ground will yield sufficient provision for fifty men. That area of land which, sown with wheat, would feed only one man, will nourish five-and-twenty if planted with bananas.

I must not forget the Pistachios,[103] which flourish spontaneously in the vast plains of Central Africa, and the highly valuable Sugar Cane (Saccharum officinarum ), which, like the Cotton Plant, has rendered inestimable services to man, and yet has been the origin of unutterable crime and misery, promoting by its cultivation the accursed slave-trade. The Vine (Vitis vinifera ) is cultivated in a few districts. Among the herbaceous or sub-frutescent plants peculiar to this region, and which enjoy a certain reputation on account of the utility of their products, I may name the following:—

The Calebash Nutmeg (Monodora myristica ), one of the Annonaceæ, remarkable for its withered fruits, which, when rasped like its seeds, furnish a condiment deservedly esteemed by the natives; Guinea Pepper (Uvaria Æthiopica ), whose properties are well known and appreciated in this part of Western Africa; and finally, one of the Cucurbitaceæ, the Telfairia pedata, whose seeds enclose a very oleaginous substance.

To the east, in Nigritia or the Soudan, the country is nearly level, although situated at an elevation of 1200 to 1300 feet above the sea. The vegetation here is very scanty; yet the copious tropical rains favour the growth of plants suitable for the provender of cattle; pastures are abundant, and formed by the principal Grasses (Panicum  Setaria, and the like), the Sedges, Rushes, &c. These meads are clothed with verdure for three or four months of the year, and much frequented by the shepherds who dwell in the vicinity of Lake Tchad.

Still further eastward, if we continue our wanderings, we plunge into the warm regions of Darfour and Kordofan. Here the country is cast in bold outlines; numerous lofty mountain-chains are intersected by narrow valleys and smooth expanses of meadow-land. All that portion of Kordofan which lies west of the White Nile is a Prairie some thirty-five miles long by twenty-eight broad, stretching towards the rising sun, and relieved by small patches of shrubs of the family Leguminosæ, especially the Mimosa, with its graceful shrinking foliage, which shudders at the lightest touch, and its spherical rose-hued or snow-white blossoms.

These meadow-lands suffer from excessive aridity; it is only with an arduous struggle that a few grasses resist the dryness which almost constantly prevails; and frequently, as is the case in other parts of Western Africa, the inhabitants can only procure water for their needs by sinking wells of extraordinary depth. Less arid, the southern part of Kordofan is better clothed with vegetation; the country is more broken, and increases in picturesqueness of aspect as we approach the neighbourhood of Mount Tegeler. Sennaar, which is traversed by the Blue Nile, is far from offering an equally luxuriant vegetation: along the river extends a vast belt of meadow, generally barren, or only blessed with a few herbaceous plants, a few Leguminosæ, with deeply-buried roots; and its aspect, therefore, is one of great gloom. The landscape wants

“The glory in the grass, and the splendour in the flower”

which appeal so potently to the sensibilities of the poet. Nor does the scenery improve as we ascend the Sennaar to the Lake of Zana, situated to the south-east, for though the rich black soil of the Kulla valley nourishes a profuse vegetation, it is the vegetation peculiar to the marsh and the swamp; the wind rushes through thick sedges, and whispering reeds, and waving grasses. On the northern borders  of the lake the pasturages are fresh and green, and a man might easily lurk unseen among their gigantic Gramineæ, the Panicas and the Setarias. Still keeping our faces eastward, like the Ghebirs of ancient Iran, we perceive that Abyssinia is divided into two parts by the River Tacazze, an affluent of the Nile; the western being called Amhora, and the eastern Tigré. Owing to its peculiar geographical configuration and the elevation of its mountains, Abyssinia rejoices in a wholly special Flora. In the Semen, west of the Tacazze, there is a mountain lifting its crest above the limit of perpetual snow, or to an altitude of 14,000 feet. Up to a height of 6500 feet its slopes are thickly carpeted with fresh and fragrant sward, and the air throbs with the music of a hundred streams which flow from the perennial fountains of ice and snow.

In the Tigré the country is not fertile, nor is it well populated. Its geological features are interesting, for we meet everywhere with isolated masses of limestone, arranged generally in horizontal strata of various extent, and bearing indisputable traces of a vast volcanic labour. On the coast of the Red Sea, the oriental slopes only present at their base a few scattered thickets chiefly composed of thorny shrubs and the Leguminosæ. We meet also with various kinds of Aloes and Euphorbiaceæ (Spurge-Worts), as the Euphorbia neriifoliaEuphorbia grandidens, and Euphorbia Abyssinica. It is said that King Juba II., of Mauritania, discovered the plant growing on Mount Atlas, wrote a short treatise on its virtues, and named it after his physician Euphorbos (about the end of the first century B.C.) The root, generally speaking, is aperient, and the milky juice useful in cases of rheumatism and cramp.

The plains of Tigré present a beautiful appearance with the variety of flowers that bloom among the grass; including a kind of scarlet aloe, which is to be met with almost everywhere in Tigré, and appears, like our gorse, to flower at all seasons, forming a graceful object in the foreground. The many varieties of mimosas, too, with their different-coloured blossoms—pink, yellow, and white—appear to be spread over the whole face of the country, whether rock or plain, hill or valley. “When in blossom,” says an English traveller,[104] “many of them emit a fragrance so powerful as to render the whole neighbourhood more odorous than a perfumer's shop. The jessamine is seen in profusion in many parts, but principally on the hills; and there is also a beautiful parasitical creeper (an æschynanthus), which grows, like the mistletoe, from the bark of other trees. It has a bright dark-green fleshy leaf, with brilliant scarlet flowers.”

The same traveller describes a tree called the dima,[105] which, though not very solid as food, adds much to the flavour of the cuisine. It has a large greenish shell, some nine inches long; inside of it lie a number of seeds, and attached to them by fibres a quantity of yellowish-white cakey powder, having a sweetish acid taste, and when mixed with water forming an agreeable beverage, somewhat resembling lemonade. The Abyssinians mix with it red pepper and salt, and eat it as a relish with their bread. When the tree reaches a certain size, its trunk almost always becomes hollow; and then it frequently contains a store of wild honey, which may easily be obtained by means of a small axe and fire.

More to the south, in the Shoa, we meet with an almost analogous vegetation: the Socotrine Aloes (Aloe socotrina ), which supplies our Pharmacopœia with an active cathartic, is particularly abundant. The Celastrus edulis,[106] a small branching shrub whose leaves possess very similar properties to those of the Tea-plant, and are employed for the same purpose by the Abyssinians, is widely cultivated. The Arabs distil from them a stimulating drink called Kat. Nor should I forget the Cousso, or Casso, named after its discoverer Brayera anthelmintica,[107] an infusion of whose bark or leaves forms one of the most powerful vermifuges in the world; and the Musa ensete, a magnificent banana, with gigantic leaves and nerves of a vivid red, which now flourishes in our European plantations.

Among the cultivated plants may be included most of those which  I have noticed under the head of Senegambia; while, owing to the considerable elevation of the mountains, we find many others which belong to cool and temperate climates—such, for example, as rye and barley. The Sugar Cane, the Pomegranate, and numerous Aurantiaceæ, as, for example, the Citron and the Orange, have been likewise introduced into this part of Southern Africa.

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Vegetable Life in South Africa.
1. Mesembryanthemum inflexum.   2. Hottentot's Fig (Mes. edule).   3. Euphorbia neriifolia.
4. Euphorbia grandidens.             5. Stapelia hirsuta. 
Vegetable Life in South Africa.
1. Mesembryanthemum inflexum. 2. Hottentot's Fig (Mes. edule ).3. Euphorbia neriifolia.
4. Euphorbia grandidens.      5. Stapelia hirsuta.

From the coast of Aden, where almost complete sterility prevails prior to the rainy season—from the coast of Aden to Cape Guardafui, situated at the easternmost point of Africa, the traveller encounters a constant succession of mountains or elevated table-lands, haunted by the shepherds of the Somali tribes,—a people notorious for their brigandage. Respecting the coast of Ajan we know but little, except that its arid and sandy soil supports a scanty vegetation of stunted plants. The Zanguebar coast is not more familiar to the botanist, and is mainly covered with marshes.

But the littoral of Western Africa is gifted with a flora as luxuriant as it is varied. According to Dr. Welwitsch, who has explored this region, previously almost a terra incognita  to Europeans, “the special feature in the neighbourhood of Benguela is the abundance of parasitical Lorunthaceæ, or mistletoe, on the thickets of the thorny Mimosa, to which are attached those Roccellæ (or Archils), the Roccella tinctoria  and R. fuciformis, that yield so brilliant a lilac dye. In the gardens of Benguela the vegetables of Europe are most successfully cultivated, as well as a great number of fruit trees belonging both to tropical and temperate climes: citron and orange, the olive, the cashew-nut, the anana, the fig, the vine, the pomegranate, the elais-palm, the banana, the anona, and the corrossol. The vine bears grapes twice every year, and the crop on each occasion is abundant and of fine flavour. The gardens in the vicinity of Mossamèdes, between the fifteenth and sixteenth parallels of south latitude, exhibit a curious medley of vegetables on every side, where you may see flourishing side by side the banana and the potato, manioc and wheat, sugar-cane and flax, barley, and every kind of Spanish potato.”

A few miles from Cape Negro the coast rises for from 300 to 350 feet above the sea-level, forming a continuous plateau, where the flora, though meagre when compared with that a little further to the north, offers nevertheless to the traveller some objects of the highest interest. It was here that Dr. Welwitsch met with the strange plant which, in commemoration of its intrepid discoverer, Sir William Hooker named Welwitschia,[108] but which the natives call Tumboa. “In its youth its two original cotyledonary leaves appear to grow considerably, and extend horizontally in opposite directions, raised but little above the surface of the sand, whilst the intervening stock thickens and hardens, assuming an obconical shape, flat at the top, and rapidly tapering below into the descending root. As years go  on, the original pair of leaves, having attained their full size, and a hard, tough, fibrous consistence, do not die away, but gradually split up into shreds; the woody mass which bears them rises very little higher, but increases horizontally both above and below the insertion of the leaves, so as to clasp their base in a deep marginal slit or cavity; and from the upper side, at the base of the leaf, several short flowering stalks are annually developed. These are erect, dichotomously branched jointed stems, rising from six inches to a foot in height, and bearing a pair of small opposite scales at each fork or joint, each branch being terminated by an oblong cone, under the scales of which are the flowers and seeds. The result is, that the country is studded with these misshapen table-like or anvil-like masses of wood, whose flat tops, pitted with the scars of old flowering stems, never rise above a foot from the ground, but vary, according to age, in a horizontal diameter of from a few inches to five or six feet—those of about eighteen inches diameter being supposed to be already above a hundred years old.”[109]

These fantastic monstrous shapes were found by Dr. Welwitsch, with their deeply-embedded roots, on the dry plateau of the Benguela coast, in 15° 40´ south latitude. Herr Montein met with it in a perfectly similar situation on quartzose soil, in the neighbourhood of the Nicolas River, 14° 20´ south latitude; and Mr. Baines and Mr. Anderson, in Dawaraland, between 22° and 23° south latitude, in the neighbourhood of Whalefish Bay, and in a district where never a drop of rain falls. We may therefore place the habitat  of this remarkable plant between the 14th and 23rd parallels of south latitude. The crown, when divested of its leaves, bears a close resemblance to a fungus.

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Vegetable Life of Cape Colony.

1. Aloe verrucosa.   2. Aloe soccotrina.   3. Aloe ciliaris.   4. Aloe arborescens.
5. Aloe plicatilis.                6. Gladiolus blandus. 
Vegetable Life of Cape Colony. 
1. Aloe verrucosa.   2. Aloe soccotrina.   3. Aloe ciliaris.   4. Aloe arborescens.
5. Aloe plicatilis.                6. Gladiolus blandus.

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Vegetable Life of Cape Colony.

1. Helichrysum fruticosum.   2. Erica Cavendishiana.   3. Protea longifolia.   4. Todea Africana. 
Vegetable Life of Cape Colony.
1. Helichrysum fruticosum. 2. Erica Cavendishiana. 3. Protea longifolia. 4. Todea Africana.

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Vegetable Life of Cape Colony.

1. Pelargonium hederæfolium (Ivy-leaved Geranium).   2. Oxalis rosacea (Wood-Sorrel).
3. Pelargonium glaucum.   4. Pelargonium zonale (Zone-leaved Geranium).
5. Pelargonium tricuspidatum. 
Vegetable Life of Cape Colony. 
1. Pelargonium hederæfolium (Ivy-leaved Geranium). 2. Oxalis rosacea (Wood-Sorrel).
3. Pelargonium glaucum.  4. Pelargonium zonale (Zone-leaved Geranium).
5. Pelargonium tricuspidatum.

If we now approach the Cape of Good Hope—the Cabo del Tormentoso, or “Cape of Storms,” of the early navigators—we shall observe a characteristic vegetation peculiar to a solid or stony soil, sometimes hilly, but generally dry. It is in the desolate and barren steppes situated within the confines of Caffraria that those splendid  herbaceous bulbous plants display their beauties, which are now familiar to our English gardens under the names of Gladiolus, Oxalis, Ixia, and Tulbaya. To those magnificent ornaments of the floral world we must add some less known plants, remarkable in other respects; such as the Mollugo cerviana, which, with a few Ficoideæ, form the almost exclusive nourishment of the herbivorous animals belonging to these countries. The Gramineæ are rare in the plains of Cape Colony, but, on the other hand, they contain a number of oleaginous plants included in divers families. Here, for instance, are those singular Compositæ, whose stems so closely resemble waxen tapers; several Ficoideæ, of which some species—as, notably, the Mesembryanthemum edule, or Hottentot's Fig, distributed over the interior of Southern Africa, and the Mesembryanthemum tuberosum —are  eagerly sought by the Hottentots, Caffres, and natives generally, who eat the fruits of the former and the roots of the latter; the Stapelia hirsuta, or Carrion Plant, and several others of the same genus, whose carrion-smelling flowers are singularly handsome, though their odour is most offensive; a great number of aloes, particularly the Aloe verrucosaA. ciliarisA. plicatilis, and A. arborescens, each distinguished by a strange wayward boldness of form and figure; and, finally, those larger Euphorbias of which I have already spoken, and which yield a white milky juice that hardens on exposure to the air. It is mainly on the slopes or stony hills of the Cape that we meet with numerous and remarkable species of the Immortelles, with their white, yellow, or lilac, and satin-smooth flowers. The woody Immortelle  (Helichrysum fruticosum ) is one of those peculiar to the Cape districts. It is in analogous but more sandy localities that those graceful little shrubs, with varied corollas, flourish, which are so popular in England under the name of Ericas, and which frequently exhibit the highest beauty of form and colour. In the engraving is figured the exquisite Erica Cavendishiana, a deservedly great favourite in our English conservatories. There, too, the traveller delightedly examines the almost interminable succession of Pelargoniums, or Geraniums, rich in clusters of delicate bloom, and in exquisitely green foliage. What a blank would their absence leave in our blossomy parterres! Here and there he notes dense coppices of the  Arduinia spinosa, the Lycium Afrum, the Euclæa ondulata, whose berries are eaten by the Hottentots; several species of Rhus,[110] among others the Rhus lucidum ; and, finally, a great number of the strange fantastic Proteaceæ, with their hard dry evergreen leaves and curiously beautiful flowers. At the foot of the mountains, in the countries bordering on Caffraria, different Cycadaceæ are found, especially the Zamia and Encephalartus, an elegant plant with a short spherical trunk, surmounted by a crown of long rigid palmated leaves. The natives prepare with their pith a species of cake which they eat instead of bread. Ferns are not numerous at the Cape; the most remarkable, undoubtedly, is the Todea Africana. The hills and meadows of this part of South Africa do not always exhibit so marked an aridity; rivers and streams refresh the soil, and there, where the current is not too swift nor the depth too great, grows the beautiful Calla  of Ethiopia, a species of Aroidea, whose snow-white fragrant flowers resemble a large horn in shape; the Aponogeton distachyum, another aquatic plant, with white flowers and floating leaves, is not less common in similar positions; then on the banks, in fresh and shady nooks of greenery, thrives the Strelitzia reginæ, a gorgeous-flowered genus of Musaceæ, named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen of George III. The foliage of this magnificent plant consists of long-stalked leaves sheathing at the base, arising from a contracted stem, the flower stalk encircled below by the sheath of the leaf-stalk; while from its upper portion springs a large bract or spathe placed obliquely, within which lie the flowers, resplendent in orange and purple.

In the Desert of Kalahari exists an abundant and varied vegetation. According to Dr. Livingstone, it is an immense plain which nourishes a prodigious quantity of herbaceous plants, generally of very small elevation, and besprinkled at intervals with thickets of bushy shrubs. The herbs which are enabled to withstand the prolonged droughts of these arid localities are species with tuberous roots, creeping or spindle-like, and deeply buried in the ground. The Citrullus vulgaris  and C. amarus  are found in enormous quantities. Dr. Livingstone speaks of another individual of the gourd tribe, probably a kind of Cucumis, whose fruits colour red when ripe, and which has sometimes a sweet and sometimes a bitter flavour. In these vast regions, where a desolating aridity prevails, the rivers and streams dry up for a great portion of the year, and the soil of their bed, generally black and loamy, is rapidly covered with a profuse vegetation, composed in great part of grasses and rush-plants.

The banks of the rivers Mokolo and Zouga, and the shores of Lake Ngami, are covered with herbs and small thorny stunted bushes, including the Acacia detinens. In the south of Africa the soil is so dry that only plants of a fleshy consistency can endure the heat; elsewhere, in more temperate climes, these latter plants are also very abundant, but the surrounding herbage destroys them. Among those which grow there in great numbers I may name the Ficoideæ, and particularly the Mesembryanthemum inflexum, which is very widely spread, and whose stems and leaves are eaten by herbivorous animals. This plant, says Dr. Livingstone, is so useful that it is cultivated by the Dutch Boers on an extensive scale. On his northward route towards Linianty, this illustrious traveller fell in with meadows of such rank fertility that its herbage frequently rose above his vehicles. The natives, designated Makalatos, show some agricultural taste and skill, and cultivate durra, maize, two kinds of beans, arachides, pumpkins, and the like. Everywhere, along the banks of the Gambye and the Liba, he met with exceptionally fertile land, where the grasses attained an unusual development. On the Liba bloomed wide verdurous plains, consisting of plants with dazzling corollas and gramineæ of tall stature. Owing to the burning heats which blight these districts, herbaceous plants are developed with extraordinary rapidity.

In the rainy season the Liba meadows are covered, like our own, with an immense variety of mushrooms, some nutritious, others poisonous. The former are much relished by the natives. One of  the most common, and one of the finest flavour, is found, says Dr. Livingstone, on all the ant-hills; it is completely white, very good even when eaten raw, and about eight inches in diameter. There is another of a brilliant red or superb blue, but it is poisonous.

The banks of the Quilo, like those of the Quango, are endowed with a most luxurious vegetation; the same is the case with the banks of the Zambesi. Everywhere spreads a gigantic and abundant herbage. In the environs of the small town of Cassanga, the natives cultivate manioc, potatoes, haricots, tomatoes, &c. There are found also bananas and guava plants, and probably all the legumes and fruit trees recognized by Dr. Welwitsch at Benguela, which lies nearly under the same latitude. From the table-land of Cassanga you may survey nearly the whole of the valley watered by the Quango. It is a gently undulating plain, covered with herbs, and sown with great woods. The coffee-tree was formerly cultivated in the province of Tété, but has been abandoned; cassias, however, flourish, and indigo. Among the cultivated plants of Tété Livingstone, moreover, mentions some species which are not yet botanically distinguished—such as the Loatsa (Pennisetum typhoideum ), and several of the bean tribe, one of which grows underground like the arachides.


[99] Order, Euphorbiaceæ.

[100] Order, Tiliaceæ.

[101] Order. Pandanaceæ.

[102] Order, Musaceæ.

[103] Order, Anacardiaceæ.

[104] Mansfield Parkyns, “Life in Abyssinia,” i. 226, 227.

[105] Adansonia digitata, a species of Baobab (Order, Stercubaceæ).

[106] Order, Celastraceæ.

[107] Order, Rosaceæ.

[108] Order, Gnetaceæ.

[109] Brande, “Dictionary of Science, Literature, and Art,” iii. 1018, 1019.

[110] Order, Anacardiaceæ.