A Phytogeographic Study of Brazil, by P. H. Rolfs.


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P. H, Rolls

It gives great pleasure to be here and to mest

you young fllonws. I wmagntulate you that you are

at the threshold of a new era; mountains of rubbish

have been cleared oAtrtfl M way. Ninlty per cent of

what I was taught in AniaiA Husbandry fifty yearn ago

had to be unlearamed., I believe it was Josh Billing

who said: "I'd rather not k w uch MU to know so

S many things that are not so.

How I eonry you the future, that .i i I or@ you.

At no time in the tast fifty years ham there been sudi

a wealth of opportunity for the young-man, figuratively

speaking, a whole new world lies before yout a be explored

.Literally. millions of highly educated young people. have

-2- il

leisure and time to *tudy forced en the*. We older

fellows wore *e buoy aoumulatimg wealth and knowledge

that there was no ti n to see where v o wre going. We

have provided for you this heritage of comfort, wealth

amd knowledge. It is yours. It is your stepping stone

to greater and more brilliant achievement.

I wish to devote about fifteen minutes to a generalisM

discussion of Brasil. The photographer that follow will

give you a more concrete and correct idea of Braeil than

anything that hee been published. They portray what would

require many hours of reading.

Vy daughter Miss 1RoAf, and I spent twelve year

"locating, organizing and conducting a modern Agricultural

College for the State of Iinau Gorais". After twelve years


mervioes, we epent nine and a half months voyaging In

Argeniine, Paraguay, Uruguay and seventeen of the twenty

Brailiuan States. Our travel was by dug-out canoe, sail-

boat, steamboat, automobile, railways steamship when

%avoidable, and by airplane when oaur objective could

be more economically attained. We spoke Portuguese

fluently so went where we pleased.

The site I selected for the College war some seventy

kilometerm from the nearest English speaking family. The

unquestioned success attained by the institution munt

be credited largely to the latgli Mrs., Iolfe and my daughter

Clarissa. I Just smiled and looked wice, but felt other-

wise *.-"

This sketchy outline is unavoidable, as I shall

disillusion you, in seos respects, and contradict, in part


or as a whole, almost everything uritte regarding

Brasili ; Ergiuh during the last fifteen yearn.

EXTENT. Brasil is ten per cent larger than the 48

United States; 80 % of it in the latitudinal torrid

zone; embraces nearly oneshalf of South Amerisa; has

47 million inhabitants (1935 estimate); about one-half

the total population of South America.

MIHAS GERAIS. The moat pepulou state in Brail

population eight snd a half million; about 85 % that

of Pennsylvania; eighty percent rural. Fifth Ina sie

among the Brasilian states; witb about seven time the

area of Pennasylvania; equal to Germany or France;

larger than Italy. Exceeded in size and population only

by Argentine.


Your Prof. Rhoad, in four years, built up the best

teaching department of Animal Husbandry in any Agricultural

College in Brasil.

I often irritate my torwr colleagues by telling them

that in seven year the attendance at the Minas Agricul-

tural College was a hundred per sent greater than in te

Florida Agricultural College after forty years.

There are three important factors that determine

plant regions; Agriculture. A). Temperature, 3). Altitude

C). Humidity.

A),. TEPERATURE. Citrus fruits are produced for export

Sm Rio Grande do Sul, the southern most state. We also saw

Marsh Seodless grapefruit and pineapple oranges growing oan

the Tapaj6s, an affluent of the Amason. In other words, mo


far as temperature is ooneramed, oitrus may be grown la

very state we visited. There is.j h Wor a araw O

4utIL ftve b nn.ir==t ho l surprisingly little change in

the general aspect of the forests where altitude and

humidity remain the sam4. Thb a will be evident when we

study the photograpbs of tbhe rain f omte, taken thousands

of miles apart.

B)K, ALTITUDE. ft%$gjVaries anywhere from "a level

up to 2800 meters, nearly ten thousand feet. The culmiaa-

ting peaks, Pioctda Bandeira snd Itatiay., are only a short

dkej==japy from the coast; one is a day's Journey north-

ward and the other a day's journey southward from Rio do

Janeiro. The mountain ranges run mare or less parallel to

the coast. Brasil contains geologically the oldest part

of South Ameriea Cprobably of the Western lHemispher).

It looks as if the South Amerioan aoutinsnt" had been

eroded almost to the backbone. Back of these %###

mountain ranges, only 100 to 300 kilometers from the coast,

lies the great interior plateau; eultinatiag at about

1200 meters (4,000 fooeet), a thousand kilometers into the

interior from Rio do Janeiro.

In the southernmost states Rio Grando d* Sul, we

ascended to Caxian to see the great vins producing eoe-

tion. Deciduous fruittluxuriate. We saw an Iabe b

vineyard 4 year old, vines 25-30 centimeters (10

to 12 inches) in diameter. Another vineyard, thirty years

old, of a European variety, grafted on Isabel. The morning

we left COxias, hoar frost covered the entire landscape.

This was in midwinter, during June, Snowfall is expected


everyj nearly as far north au the State of

Sio Paulo. The Tropie of Capricorn crosses that state.

By October we had Journied as far as Frortaleua, on the

northern coast, within four degrees of the Equator. We

bought freshly picked Concord grapes ripened on the

highlands of that States Ceard.

So much for altitudes; none of it high when compared

with the Andes or our Rocky mountains, but high enough to

produce a temperate-zone-temperature over an enormous

region. None known how extem ive; it ham never been or

pletely explored. Certainly more than fifteen times the

size of Pennsylvonia. A southern portion of this plateau

is a glaciated region touching the coastal mountains at the

latitude of Sao Paulo and stretching in a north westerly

direction, far north of the latitude of Rio. The surface

is planed down as smooth as Illinois and Iowa. I was

told that this glaciation was co-ineident with that of

South Africa and antedated our glacial period.

C). HUMITDITY. A well distributed rainfall thruout

the year is more conducive to plant growth, agriculture,

than a periodic rainy season, even tho the pneodic

reglonAmay have a much heavier annual rainfall. The region

to the south of Sio Paulo has no well defined rainy season.

From Rio northward, in the zone ef the trade winds, there

is a clearly defined rainy and dry season. The rainy

season begins in Spptaber or October, and reaches its

maximum about January, then gradually diminishing until

about April. As we travel northward, the advent of the

rainy season is retarded. TheArainfall In Brasil varies

anywhere from zere to 1000 ceontimeters (o to 200 inches).

-^4- 10

In the southern area of the trade winds, the

maximum number of rains per day ocour from 3 to 7 P.V.

In the North-East, at 2 to 4 P. M. Here appointments

are made for before and after the rain. We of South

Brasil twit the northeastener eon correcting his watch

to accord with the beginning of the afternoon rain.

Aside from these general. features, there are local

geographical features, mountains for example& which

greatly disturb the local picture. As the moisture Ladeoa

air encounters the mountains, it is thrust upward into

the cooler stratum and precipitation secure. As the

dried air passes to the interior, it absorbs moisture

which is again precipitated as it again rims and sots

a cold stratum. Thus in passing over repeated sorras

Owe encounter areas of heavier and lighter rainfall.


Continuing in the path of this repeated drying out

of the trade winds, wuich hit the continent at, we will

way, Bahia, and travel inland for 1000 to 2000 kilromters,

in a northwesterly direction* all the tine looslig altitude

and approaching the Equator* ve roeah a condition where the

rainy season i only a week's duration and precipitation

reduced to some twenty eontimeters. Two or three years

amy pasc without any rain. In other words, we arrive

at the Cantinga and Sertlo, an ar a 10 or 15 times that of

Penns ylvania.

Another perturbing factor in that when the air

passes to the interior it becomes warmed and rices, thus

sucking in water laden air from the ocean, causing heavy

precipitation the northern bonier. Henee the W"'k

csut coastal foreits froa the Amazon to the (fea. 7t4 i

continuous belt, nor of a uniform width.

In the Upper Amazon valley another humidity element

enters the picture. The warmed tropical air passing

ever the Amazon basin absorbs a greet deal of moisture.

The rotation of the earth gives this air a general

north-westerly drift. When this encounters the Andean

System, heavy precipitation occur. I have seen records

of 500 centimeters (200 inches) at Mlanoss; a thousand

mile. up the Amazon; the limit of %j/% navigation for

ocean liners. I have been told of 400 inches of rainfall

and 400 rainy days in a year !


Misconception s.
/X). That Brauil, as its name implisa, is one

vast tropical forest. It is not. My guesh is that not

more than 10 % of its area is covered with merchantable

timber, Yet Brasil is so vast, that no other nation has

an equal. area of tropical forest.

The pioneer botanists and geoligiuts were obliged to

travel by water. They saw the marvelouu forests and not

the hinterland. The text boota writers used t 5e5Aplai

their imagination. We, poor children, got third hand


The waters of magazine articles often exaggerate .

For example; a writer in a recent number of the Brailian-

Azwrican said that one-half of Brasil was covered with

forest. Magazine editors edit according to what text-books

taught them. You are different; yau are here because

you want to know. I am here because I went you to get

a "close-up".

2). That dense forests and jungle have to be

cleaned off before farming can be done. Farming man be

and is bein tens on lands that were no more timbered than

were Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. The great coffee produ-

cing area is outside of the tropical forest region. Yet

Braail produces one-half of the world's coffee supply. So

much indeed that sowe years Brasil has burned train loads

of coffee to keep it off of the world's market.

3). That fatto Grosso, a vast interior state, more

extensive than Mew England and toe Middle States anmiMd, is

a vast forest, as the neame implies. It is another one of

those mis-nomers. In At occurs the culmination of the


plateau, about 4000 feet.

Theodore Roosevelt explored a part of it. Fleming

searched for Fawaett in a portion; H. Vfon Leutzelburg

botanized in a portion; Davis and other Presbyterian

missionaries have outposts among the Indians. It is a

vast cattle region. Tbs-mti- outlet is by the Paran&

and Paraguay Rivera.

If you want something sensational and scientifi-

cally untrustworthy read "Creen Hell". I mention it

because it is a best seller and frequently quoted.)

4), That traveling in the back country is

dangerous and fraught with hardships. UMrs. Chase, a

botanist in our National 5kmzmz crossed from railhead

in t/gIW4 Matto flrosso, into Bolivia and back by


herself. Other North American women have traveled almost

anywhere they pleased. Miss Rolls end I spent a week at

Iguass& near the boundary between Paraguay, Argentine and

Brasil, where criminals aan tit evade police officers

of any one or another country.

As f&r hardship, my daughter end I are rather hardy

specimens; we can live on food for a day or a week, that

is the regular diet of the native population. In short,

these stories of dangers and hardships are mainly for

literary dran.g.

My stories of great snakes, fierce Jaguars, and

ferocious Indians, I am reserving for those who must be

treated to mental cocktails.

5). That Brasil contains only tropical speaies:-

PARANA PINE. Another misnomer, not a pine at all,

a Araucaria, should have become extinct a million or so

years ago. Forests occur only on the highlands of the four

southernmost states of Brasil. Freezes and enowfall are

expected every year in this region.

The only forest that appeals to the North Amerioan

lumberman. We saw millions of feet of lumber in yard

at Tree Barras, State of Santa Catharina, operated by tim

late R. H. Mead a North American.

Foresters estimate that about one third of Brasil's

lumber is in the Paranh pine forests, over a hundred billion

board feet.

6). That Brasil is an unfit habitat for the white

man. Prof. Ellsworti Huntington of Tale University in his

"The Human Habitat", proves t abis own satisfaction that-
p./ in-"
vio civiliSation wrthy of the nem can persist outside of

the 7/&Y tmperate mane. That only the north temperate

zone has foci for irridiating the highest type; Europe

several foci and North America one fost,- New England. Oh,

you provincialist :

That reminds me, forty six years ago, when I was

biddinmy ftftand and mentor Dr. J. H. PFammel, of the

Iowa Igricultural College, "'!uufyJ he warned me that I

must not remain in Florida for more than a year. That hne

tropical climate made white men lazy. It did, after

46 years I am still living in Florida. 0 you provincials :


I. Iy tentative estimate on the phytological areas

in Brasil is:

1. Rich tropical forest 10 %

2. Araucaria forests 5

3. Wooded country, timber unsuited for lumberingP
15 ?

4. Agreste, grasses dominant 30 %

5. Gaatinga (cactus prominent and sertai4, 20 %

6. knexplored, but not tropical forests 20 %

II. THE PEPLE. I have purposely avoided saying anythkq

about them on about the government. It would take an hour

to present a clear picture of the government and another

hour to understand somewhat clearly the Brasilian of today.

III. Brasil could easily *uovide food and susteneasme

for 300 million people; more easily than can the United

States and Canada support 150 million. A year's labor in

Uines Gerais is twice as productive as a year's labor in



IV. FINALLY. I want to felicitate you young

fellows for the marvelous present. You and millions of

other, highly educated young people have plenty of time

to think.

I would not ezohmgs the experience of the past four

decades for four centuries in Cathay.

The next four decodes should bring to you a far

richer experience.

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