Letter (WCP3798.3715)



August 20th 1848

D[ea]r. Sir

No English Government vessels touching here, we send you by the "Windsor" from hence to Liverpool a box of dried specimens, principally palms, & we trust they will arrive in good order & prove acceptable. Comparatively few of the forest trees are in flower now or we sh[oul]d. have sent some specimens of woods. The wet season, (answering to our winter & spring), seems to be the time when most of the trees are in flower.

Sh[oul]d. you wish for living plants of any of the plants specimens now sent we shall be most happy to get them for you. There is a very curious palm here which you most probably know — It is called here the "Pasçisobá" [Paxiuba] — Its peculiarity consists in having its roots thrown out from the stem; apparently every year fresh ones are thrown out higher up & the old ones die off, so that a large tree is frequently seen standing on three legs so high that you may stand with 50 feet of stem perpendicular over your head as shewn in the sketch below. [a sketch of a palm's roots and part of the lower stem is inserted here]. Young plants of every height abound in the forest & all have the same [2] peculiarity of growth. The stem of this Palm too, unlike most others, increases in size with its age & is so smooth as to show no marks of the successive sets of leaves. Sh[oul]d you wish it we could send you an entire base of one [of] these palms for the Museum as well as living specimens.

I have been able to find very few orchids here though I have looked much for them; Araceae & Tillandsias which are excessively abundant appear to take their place.

Trees with buttresses to their trunks are very abundant & of very different species — some are Leguminosae— others apparently Bombaceae & no doubt some of other orders.

Ipomoeas, Solanums & Cassias are very plentiful in species about the city in the open grounds — Melastomas & Apocyneae in the woods — large leguminous forest trees are very abundant — There are white pink & yellow Ingas & many species of mimosas.

There is a curious genus of forest tree, the flowers of which consist of one involute petal bearing the numerous stamens, the unopened flowers of these trees are attractive to many[?] birds.

[3] Ferns are tolerably abundant in the forest — There are many minute species —There may probably be one hundred species altogether found near Pará.

We have hitherto found quite enough to do attending almost entirely to Insects only — We are now commencing also at Birds so that it will be quite impossible to find time to make any thing of a general collection of Plants.

Next week we are going to set out on an excursion up the River Tocantins & its western branch the Araguaya. We go with a gentleman here, who has been engaged in the Canada lumber trade & intends bringing down a cargo (raft) of the Cedar of the country if he finds it plentiful.

I fear I shall find no time to collect plants but sh[oul]d. I meet with any thing very curious I will endeavour to preserve it.

The "Masseranduba" [Massaranduba] or milk tree is one of the most interesting here —The milky juice of the tree is an excellent substitute for cream in tea or coffee, in both of which we have tried it —The timber wh[ich] is of very large size is very heavy & durable — The fruit is delicious, resembling that of the Sapota & Sapotilla —The milk is a very adhesive & lasting glue unaffected by moisture. The flower is not to be obtained till the rainy season — If you wish specimens of the flower[,] wood[,] milk &[c] let us know by the return of the Windsor which will be in about a month from the time you receive this, we shall be most happy to send them. [4] A letter for us must be sent to Messr Singlehurst & Co.2Liverpool.

We hope you will find the contents of the box worth £10 and the freight &c.

We find the climate here delightful—The Thermometer ranges from 76o to 88o but the heat is scarcely ever oppressive — The nights & mornings are invariably deliciously cool & agreeable — We have not yet more than two days together without rain, wh[ich]. is always in the afternoon or evening.

We are now in the beginning of the dry season or summer as they call it here.

There are 23 species of Palms here which have distinct native names and probably many others not so distinguished.

I remain | Yours Faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

To Sir W. J. Hooker3

P.S. I send the few dried plants (a few hundred specimens) principally ferns — you can perhaps dispose of them or allow what you consider them to be worth.

A. W.

The city of Pará (now Belém), the capital of the state of Pará, Brazil.
Shipping merchants trading in Brazil. Forwood, William Bower. 1920. Reminiscences of a Liverpool Shipowner, 1850-1920. Liverpool: H. Young. [p. 49]
Hooker, William Jackson (1785-1865). British botanist. Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 1841-1865.

Please cite as “WCP3798,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 19 April 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP3798