Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/204

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200 TEE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

with delicate ferns, and made a picture of exquisite beauty. Several showy orchids were occasionally met with, and a straw-colored rhodo- dendron (R. Salicifolium) was found in considerable numbers in one locality, A common and showy shrub of the upper forest was a species of Ixora, whose clusters of scarlet flowers were not unlike some of the Bouvardias which are sometimes grown in our greenhouses.

Ferns in great vairiety, ranging from tiny filmy ferns, looking like delicate mosses, to magnificent tree ferns, thirty or forty feet in height, abounded everywhere and furnished some interesting specimens.

As usual in the mountain forests of the tropics, epiphytic ferns are abundant, as well as striking species of epiphytic Lycopodiaceae. Be- sides the genus Lycopodium, represented by several species, the curious Psilotum flaccidum was occasionally seen. This plant, whose aflSnities are not quite clear, grows on the trunks of tree-ferns.

As evening fell the air fairly vibrated with the noise of innumerable insects — cicadas, grasshoppers and crickets, to which were added the pipings of tree toads and the bass booming of bull frogs. One felt curi- ously remote from all civilization, realizing that the nearest white man was miles away.

The weather was decidedly uncertain with a good deal of rain, and due no 'doubt largely to the moisture, the wet banks, the decaying logs and dead leaves and twigs on the ground, gleamed at night with an un- canny radiance. A little gully back of the bungalow glowed with this weird luminosity and would have made a fitting setting for some incan- tation scene. This phosphorescence, while not unknown in temperate regions, is very much more marked in the steaming tropical jungle.

A few days also were spent at the base of Santubong, the mountain lying on the opposite side of the delta of the Sarawak from Mattang, from which it differs much, in both its form and vegetation.

This striking mountain rises abruptly from the water, and although of no great height — barely three thousand feet — its steepness and fine contour make it a most imposing object.

A typical Malay fishing village lies at its base on the river side. On the seaward side is a broad beach interrupted at intervals by shelving ledges of rock and with here and there small patches of mangroves. Along the upper boundary of the beach is a belt of vegetation made up for the most part of a number of trees and shrubs characteristic of the Malayan " Strand forest."

The largest trees of this belt are Casuarinas, looking like straggling pines, and next in size is a species of Terminalia, a tree with the branches arranged in regular tiers and covered with big glossy leaves. Somewhat similar in appearance, but not closely related botanically, is Barringtonia, with big white flowers not unlike those of Eucalyptus, but very much larger, and beautiful dark green shining leaves. A yellow

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