Page:The fairy tales of science.djvu/277

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The wax-bearing palm is called the pashiuba, and its peculiar form, were it remarkable for nothing else, would entitle it to a place among our wonderful plants. Its slender stem shoots up to the height of some fifty or sixty feet, and is strangely supported by a tall open cone of roots.

"But what most strikes attention in this tree, and renders it so peculiar, is, that the roots are almost entirely above ground. They spring out from the stem, each one at a higher point than the last, and extend diagonally downwards till they approach the ground, when they often divide into many rootlets, each of which secures itself in the soil. As fresh ones spring out from the stem, those below become rotten and die off; and it is not an uncommon thing to see a lofty tree supported entirely by three or four roots, so that a person may walk erect beneath them, or stand with a tree seventy feet high growing immediately over his head. In the forests where these trees grow, numbers of young plants of every age may be seen, all miniature copies of their parents, except that they seldom possess more than three legs, which give them a strange and almost ludicrous appearance."[1]

These aerial roots are not peculiar to the pashiuba palm. In the mangrove, a wonderful plant that grows on the sea-shore in tropical countries, the trunk springs from the union of a number of slender arches formed by the roots, whose extremi-

  1. Wallace’s "Palms of the Amazon."