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It will be seen from the preceding table, that the summer warmth is prolonged to the month of November, which month is 30.15 warmer at Santa Cruz than April. Penzance is the mildest part of England, there the mean temperature of November is only 45° or 259.40 below that of Santa Cruz.
The houses of the nobility and gentry are built after the Moorish style, which is pre-eminently suitable to warm climates; they form a hollow square which is frequently filled with orange trees, oleanders with their rose-pink flowers, or bananas whose delicately green leaves throw around a delicious shade. The lower part of the houses contains stores for wine, &c., or offices; above is an open balcony leading to the reception rooms and bed chambers; the whole crowned by a high square tower (“mirador”) with a flat roof: those of the Villa de Orotava overlook two extinct volcanoes, an enchanting valley under a high state of cultivation, bearing the vine, oranges, lemons, and various tropical fruits, with the sea in front, bounded on the west by an almost vertical cliff, or crater flank, called Tigayga, above which are various mountains, from 9,000 to 10,000 feet high, crowned over all by the white cone of the majestic Peak, towering to the elevation of 12,200 feet. These flat-roofed towers are a great source of enjoyment to the gentlemen of the island, who assemble on them in the cool of the evening, to chat, smoke their cigars, and sometimes to have rival games of flying kites, of which they are extremely fond.
Vegetation assumes here her fairest forms; the south side of the island is in most parts arid and burnt up, but on the north side it is adorned with many of the vegetable forms which add so much beauty to the tropical regions. From the elevated plains of pumice, called the “cumbre,” which crown the top of the entire island at an elevation of about 6,000 feet above the sea, one may plainly distinguish five distinct zones of vegetation, which are as marked as if they had been planted by the hand of man.
The first region, which may be termed that of the vines, extends nearly 1,500 feet above the sea, and although you occasionally find vines 500 or 600 feet higher, yet the grapes are not considered fit for making wine. In this region are found all the fruits of Southern Europe : date-palm, Papaya, Banana, sugar-cane, the various tribes of Cucurbitæ ; in the botanical garden near Orotava there is the coffee-tree, cinnamon-tree (Laurus cinnamomum), and the breadfruit tree (Artocarpus incisa): the Arum Colocasia is very common, it produces a species of arrowroot; the Palma Christi, or castor-oil plant, and the Spanish carnation (Poinciana pulcherrima) are hedgeweeds. Some of the arborescent Euphorbiæ are peculiar: the Euphorbia Canariensis is in bushes ten to twelve feet high and twenty in diameter; it is found at various elevations, but it thrives best below 2,000 feet; when this plant is wounded, it exudes a white milky juice, which is very acrid and caustic; when inspissated it is employed instead of cantharides by the natives, formerly it was used considerably in England as a cathartic, emetic, errhine, and rubefacient when properly diluted, but its internal use is now discontinued in medicine. At the upper part of this zone, immense plants of the Cacalia Kleinii thrive with much luxuriance. That extraordinary tree the dragon tree (Dracæna draco) grows only in this zone; it produces a fine scarlet gum, called by the old Arabian physicians“ dragon's blood.” In a garden in the Villa de Orotava is a renowned dragon tree, supposed to be many thousand years old: when the Spaniards arrived at Orotava in 1493 the trunk was then hollow. It is about 60 feet high and 49 in circumference near the ground, and 35 feet at 6 feet from the surface. Humboldt made it only 45 feet in circumference, but he must have measured it higher up; I once cleared the ground round the trunk and found it 49 feet. Many years ago a large arm was blown down by a storm; the present proprietor has very properly taken measures to preserve the tree, by supporting it with props and masonry.
During many centuries this zone gave employment to the greatest part of the population of the island in the cultivation of the vine, but some years ago the grapes became diseased, which produced much distress among the poor; fortunately, they took to cultivating the cochineal insect on the Cactus cochinellifera and Opuntia vulgaris. It was raised with great success on the south side of the island, whose arid and parched surface appeared at first to be particularly favourable to it, as it yielded occasionally a profit of 451. per acre; but it proved a very precarious industry, for although the female insect prefers a high temperature, yet it is killed by a high radiation. Fortunately, the vines have recovered from their disease, and the cochineal trade has fallen off in importance.
The second zone of plants, extending from 2,000 to 3,400 feet above the sea, may be properly called the region of laurels; by the natives it is termed “Alta Verde," — Green Mount. This region exhibits thick woods of Canarian oak (Quercus Canariensis), Laurus nobilis, L. indica, and L. fotens, two sorts of chestnut trees, a wild olive (Olea excelsa), some heaths, such as the Erica arborea and E. scoparia; masses of daphne, yellow St. John's wort, some species of the Sideroxylon, several trees of the myrtle species, round which was entwined the Canarian ivy (Hedera Canariensis). There is found in great abundance in this zone, as well as at an elevation of more than 9,000 feet, a very beautiful leguminous plant, called by the natives“ Codeso ” (Codonocarpus frankenoides); it has composite leaves of a light-green colour, a woody stem, and branches out like a tree; it makes an excellent fire for the traveller, and when burnt, gives out a strong aromatic smell. In the lower part of the zone are large bushes of two or three species of Hypericums, but only one (the H. Canariense) is indigenous ; this luxuriant plant is found also in the lower zone. The Campanula and Chrysanthemum show themselves wherever the ground of this zone is covered with moss.
The third zone, which is generally enveloped in clouds towards the evening, extends to 5,400 feet above the sea. It may be considered as the true region of the arborescent ferns and that beautiful and useful tree, the Canarian pine, which will be in a few years swept away by the woodman's axe. Where this has been done on the north-west side of the island, they have, as might have been expected, suffered much from drought. The pine is mingled with a juniper tree, called the Juniperus oxycedrus, and wherever there was a spring of water, it was surrounded by seven or eight species of ferns, but only two of them were peculiar to the island,—the Asplenium Canariense and the Trichomanes Canariense; the Arbutus is very luxuriant, but it flourishes equally well in the upper part of the second zone.
The fourth zone may be said to extend to the elevation of 7,000 feet; in this division, the vegetation is much mixed with that of the upper part of the lower zone, such as the Canarian pine, juniper, and large flowery bushes of Retama, the Spanish name for two species of mountain broom (Spartium monospermum and Spartium nubigenum).
The fifth and upper zone consists of plains of pumice, whose parched and barren aspect is only occasionally relieved by detached bushes of Retama and “ Codeso,” whose dry and pale-green leaves gain a scanty nourishment amid the scorching heat of the sun. Even at the foot of the Peak, at an elevation of 8,957 feet, with a radiation sometimes of 180°, and a depression of 54° of the wet-bulb thermometer, a lilac-coloured violet is found (Viola cheiranthefolia), and the Scrophularia glabiata and some lichens on the Peak near the Ice Cave, at an elevation of 11,098 feet.
When I mention these different zones, or bands of vegetation, it must not be thought that they appear so very distinct as you pass through them, as in fact they are much blended, particularly at the verge of every zone. As I was in the habit of passing through three of the belts of vegetation three or four times a week, I paid great attention to their lines of demarcation, which I endeavoured to ascertain in the following manner: I ascended some commanding position, and noted the peculiar vegetation from one salient point to another, as far as I could see, which I measured afterwards with a barometer. At first, I attempted to measure the elevation above the sea of the last tree in every zone, but it was attended with so many difficulties that I abandoned the plan.
In the “ Cumbre,” or plains of pumice, which are at an elevation
and the Cave, at hon these dif they appentuch blenhebit of passerelle
of from 6,500 feet to the foot of the Peak, which is 7,817 feet, are several caves in the lower cliffs, containing bodies of the Guanches, or aborigines of Teneriffe. They were preserved in a manner very similar to that adopted by the ancient Egyptians. The internal cavities were filled with odoriferous gums, and the body was enveloped in the skins of goats, which had preserved in some degree their suppleness. Round the necks of some bodies I found in a cave in the Cañadas del Pico, 7,700 feet above the sea, were necklaces composed of small discs of baked clay, of different degrees of thickness. The necklaces are very similar in size and material to those I have seen round the necks of the preserved bodies of the ancient Indians of Peru, who employed them as numerical signs, and to record dates and events. One round the neck of a body discovered near Arica, in Peru, was almost identical with those I have seen round the necks of the embalmed Guanches.
The history of the Guanches is involved in the greatest obscurity ; probably, they were a branch of the great Lybian stock. Plutarch calls the Canaries the Fortunate Isles, and it is conjectured that they were the site of the fabulous gardens of the Hesperides. Although the Canaries were visited by the Phænicians, they were lost to the world for nearly fourteen centuries, from the time of Juba, a few years before the birth of Christ, till the year 1330, when a French ship was driven on one of the islands. From that time various expeditions attempted their conquest; the principal one was headed by Jean de Bethencourt, a Norman noble, who landed in 1400, but was ultimately obliged to retire. The Spaniards ultimately reduced Teneriffe and the other islands in 1493. At the time of the conquest, the island was governed by seven independent chiefs, whose manners and customs differed considerably, although their domains were only separated by walls of loose stones. About a century after the conquest, this singular people became utterly extinct. It is said that numbers retired to caves in the mountains, and starved themselves to death, but there is no doubt that disease and misery caused them to melt rapidly away. In the library of the convent where I was residing, there was a manuscript journal, which had been kept by a friar who had attended the last expedition of the Spaniards; it gives a most interesting and affecting account of the extreme humanity and bravery of the poor islanders.
Birds are in great variety ; but I must not omit to mention the far-famed canary-bird (Fringilla Canaria); when I saw it first in its native woods, I could scarcely recognize it as the same species as our domestic yellow warbler, so much is the latter altered by domestication and repeated crosses. The native bird is grey on the wings, the belly is green, and the back a very dark grey ; it builds on bushy trees or high shrubs; the nest is composed of moss, roots,
feathers, &c.; it lays from four to six pale-blue eggs, and sometimes batches six times in a season. It pairs in February, and moults in August and September. I was surprised to find that each flock has a different song; at first I thought that I had been mistaken, but the natives confirmed my observation. The note is between that of the skylark and nightingale. The natives assert that it is very difficult to rear, and generally dies in a couple of years if kept in a cage, though they do not appear to suffer from confinement, as they commence singing directly they are caged.
There is another indigenous linnet (Fringilla teydensis) which I have seen at the foot of the Peak; the tinto negro is said to be peculiar to the island, but it is found also in the island of Madeira. Hawks, kites, the red-legged partridge, and other species of Tetraonidæ are numerous.
The fish are of considerable variety. From its peculiar position the island is visited by many migratory shoals, and its fauna thus combines all the fishes of the coast of Africa, of the Mediterranean, and of the West Indies. The bream is found in large numbers between the coast of Africa and the Canaries, and when salted forms a considerable article of export. The tunny is of large size, and is esteemed when pickled. Some varieties of the Cephalopoda, particularly the Octopus, are eaten by the lower orders, and considered a luxury. Another sort, commonly known as the rocksquid, has a body not larger than a man's fist, yet its arms are four feet long.
As soon as I was strong enough to support much fatigue, I determined to visit the top of the Peak, or “Teyde,” as the natives formerly called it. My native friends begged me not to make the attempt, as the cold at that time of the year would be insupportable. But I considered such an opinion erroneous; I had made repeated excursions on foot to an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet above the sea, and once to 8,000 feet, when I suffered more from enormous radiation than from cold. In September the temperature in the shade, at 8,000 feet, was 40° F., while the black-bulb thermometer rose to 196', or close to boiling point at that elevation.
The inhabitants are supplied with ice (or rather snow) by men who go up to the foot of the Peak for it during the winter months ; and in the summer, to the Cueva de Hielo, ice-cave, which is 3,281 feet higher up. From the nature of their employment, I thought they would be the best men to accompany me, therefore I engaged the head man and his sons. We got up without danger to the Cueva de Hielo, when they refused to proceed any farther, under the plea that we could not pass the night on the snow without a tent or any extra clothing, therefore I was reluctantly obliged to return.
In February, I agreed with a couple of men to accompany me