Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/782

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THE Canary Islands have appealed to the world under various aspects. The ancients idealized them, mediævals fought over them, and moderns are analyzing them. The fire-tried rocks, crevasselike gorges, and confused mountain masses make a fascinating field for geologists; curious Coleoptera attract the entomologists; hills, valleys, and shores abound in interesting plants; the climate and meteorological conditions have been the study of many doctors.

One's first view of Grand Canary is most disappointing. The "Fortunate Islands" of Lucian—abounding in luscious fruits, covered with luxuriant forests, where the sun always shines, and Nature, unaided, liberally supplies all needs—are a mental picture which is sadly shattered by the reality. The low coast is buried in shifting sand blown across from the African desert. Behind it are bleak hills colored a dreary gray by drought-loving euphorbias. We wonder where the materials for such glowing descriptions as Humboldt's, Leclerq's, Edwardes's, and Berthelot's are hidden.

Closer acquaintance banishes our doubts, and we soon learn to love this land of crags, and find from hilltop, in valley, and on seashore views unsurpassed by the oft-sung beauties of Switzerland or Norway.

The flora of the islands was studied thoroughly sixty years ago by Webb and Berthelot, who with indefatigable zeal scoured peak and plain. But they were unable to visit personally two of the islands (Gomera and Hierro), and spent only a short time on Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. The results of their studies of the phanerogams were published in three large volumes with fine plates—now out of print and very difficult to obtain. Since that time various botanists have spent longer or (usually) shorter intervals on the islands, but no other extensive work has been undertaken, and doubtless many plants, either undiscovered by these pioneers or introduced since their time, or reported by them from only isolated localities, remain to be studied; and the scattered results of the different investigators should be incorporated into a complete botany of the archipelago.

The flora of the archipelago includes, according to a recent publication, twelve hundred and twenty-six species of vascular plants; four hundred and fourteen of these are found nowhere else in the world, or only in Madeira, the Azores, or the Cape Verd Islands. These three island groups together with the Canaries constitute the so-called "Atlantic Islands"; all are of volcanic origin and have many