Horticulture in Jamaica and Cuba.

Material Information

Horticulture in Jamaica and Cuba.
Series Title:
Writings and Speeches 1891-1920
Rolfs, Peter Henry
Rolfs, Peter Henry
Physical Location:
Articles, Speeches and Other Writings
72. Horticulture in Jamaica and Cuba.


Subjects / Keywords:
Rolfs, P. H. (Peter Henry), 1865-1944 ( fast )
Jamaica ( fast )
Cuba ( fast )
University of Florida ( fast )
Horticulture ( fast )
Horticultura ( qlsp )
manuscripts (documents) ( aat )


Draft of an address given by P. H. Rolfs about horticulture in Jamaica and Cuba.
Proyecto de una dirección dada por P. H. Rolfs sobre la horticultura en Jamaica y Cuba.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida Archives
Rights Management:
Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier:

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Horticulture in Jamrica and Cuba.


The Position.

In discussing this subject it would be well for us

to get clearly into our minds the exact location of the three provinces

we are interesting ourselves: tonight. Florida reaches from esat to

west through a distance approxir.:;-ttely of 400 miles anl from north to

south through a distance of fully equal extent. When we compare the

magnificent t of coast line,we are still further impressed with

the magnitude of this vast territory. It has a greater coast line than

all the other Atlantic States combined. She has a greater coast line th

than all the other Gulf StatE-s cnr-1bined. Her coast line is greater tha

that of California,though her size is only about one fifth that of

nwkarn k iWhile not one of the .at tef in the Union,she ets

4age considerable above the ave-.::,.. 'he stretches through abrut 7

degrees of latitude from north to south. rees the southernmost point If

.r,,oe Co. ,re-ac :i;: nearly to 2;- .ircoth latitude. In extent we have

55,000 :;ies An area considerably.greater than some of the

smaller nations of Europe.

Immediately south of the sout1;c.r-1n extremity of located

the island of Cuba. The extent of Cuba fro m east to west is given at

al:r.ut 00 .dles..It is somewhat less ,than. this. The srtt Itsm:E

t=ass the island is somewhat variable ,t cug ex feeding 100 miles si

-r -ias.. The entire area is 'placcE at tbout 51,000 square miles.

This makes tearte e somewhat Ja than the State of Fla. While

the isl::rd stretches for a considerable distance from east to west it

does not stretch through any consider-::- le distance from north to south
^T ^te ^^ ^&- i e^^f^ ^ Lti.^^ 9?^ 4. tern th- i
/ThE ffitern end of-the island Ieirn located slightly of Fla,and

the eastern end is almost directly south of the City of New York.
3,-,^^- / 1. <- L' le ^S^-- A. 0^- a- C- 14^-j
Towv.rd the esatern end of Cu'a and 90 mnles south of it is

located the island of Jamaica. The length of this island is approxi-

rately 100 miles I% its greatest breadth about 60 It contains approx

imItely 4,000 squjrec ilesor about on.- idmh the size of Fla. The

conirnex area of Cuba and Jamaica bei.' less than that of. Fla.


As noted before Jamaica contains an area of about 4,000 square

miles:ccomparing this with portions of the country with which we are

more familiar we find that 1 v

Crowded within this little island are beautiful harbors fertile valleys

and magnificent mountains rising to a height of 5,000 ft. With all the

variation ai- altitude ,located in a climate tf perpetual summer,we find

corresponding variation of scenery and climate.

Climatic Conditions.

Rainy Belt.

This island rises peaefefthy from the bosom of the oceean. 4We

are told by the old navigators that the deepest soundings ever made any

where in the; world were made immediately south of Jamaica. As one ap-

proaches the island in a vessel one se -s the land rising abruptly from

the sea and the color of the water indicates that its depth is some-

thing imnense.ioi Thee h nT6UUftn-i -

d t Fr FiI et th e LVj -8it-i' tghe ra'a wIndIsat as a barrier to the

__ *__ _1 I ** li r < i


conveyance of moisture.across -th: island., The trade winds laden with

i1oisture striking the-motintairs are forced upward into a cooler atmos-

phere and the moisture is precipitated in the form of heavy rains. We

find in the island on the north and east sides an area which receives

an annual rainfall of over 180 inchesand' Port Antonio. is credited wih

having 200 rainy days in a year. While this may only be an exaggeratin

it seemed to us that there were 365 rainy days in a yealand that the

rain guages were constantly flooded ,so that the meteorologist was unabt

to account for the 50 per cent of precipitation.

Dry Belt.

Only 30 miles away across the island is Kingston. No rain'of

consequence had fallen for six months. In the north side of the island

we would walk through sticky yellow clay and on the south side of the

island the same day the air would be so filled with dense clouds of dut

constantly being ptiked upand whirled everywhere,filling the air,load-

ing vegetation and stifling the would be l sight seer. The ground was so

dry and baked that cultivation was practically impossible. Large crack


in the soil showed that deep down the conditions of drought were as

much felt as on the surf ace-.

-R th' P *e aanfnnnditi In some p~da

sr l the conditions of drought ale so excessive and occur a

so regularly that the Government of the island has e~ted Z ar for

holding water and conducts it there through pies from the loter and

better watered regions. In some of the Parishes where this has not beb

done the population and domestic animals are annually in danger of great



47 XAlonT g the coast region in various places in the south side

we find low level areas of varying size. The region about Kingston

seeing to be the most extensive and most densely populated. This area

becomes intensely dry during the winter and spring nonthsoso much so

that the orange trees do not flourish to the best advantage. Some of

the more hardy forms of tropical plants like the Jack fruit and Akee


flourish in this section. The mango is present and ripens fruit at

various times of the year. The mango or rig in na=fi during

July and Aug/' 1all quantities may be obtained any time of the year

from the markets.

Rainy Regions.

On the rainy side of the island the, 6 are mostly devoted
to Banana culture. Orange groves have been planted out in this district

but with heavy rainfalls occurrirg just before and during the ripening

period the groves have produced very little marketable fruit,

Higher Regions.

A considerable quantity of the island lies in a region having

an altitude of from a few hundred about 1500. The dry portions

of this region produces excellent pineapples. Fields of this fruit may

be seen from time to t~me at a lower altitude. The distribution of suc-

cessful pineapple growing is determined rather by the amount of moisture

or I had better state it in the negative,it is determined by the absene

of moisture. The illustration here shows what is said to be the second


pineapple field on the island. It belong' to a former resident of Eden

If it was not for the natural perverseness of man and his nat-

urally inheriting a part of "original sin' it would have been impossible

for him to htve strayed so far away from the beautiful and most select

^^ Aff^ j---
spot of our sacred-. story Like his ancient ancestor I fancy that our

friend has a lurking desire to get hack to his former beautiful posses-


In this altitude on the dry side of the island we also find

a considerable number of orange groves. While oranges are grown every

where and produced in great abundabcethere %q only a few orchards that

attain to the dignity of a grove. The greater part of the fruit is

produced by the natives who have from a dozen to two or three doven

scrawny trees planted about in various places in their yards.

Mountain Regions.

The mountain region is the most beautiful and picturesque.

While the mountains can not be said to attain the point of

what we might term granduer,the an ituresqueness are certainly

beyond description, he island dexotia ifs attention to internal

improve ntS instead of internal strife as her larger sister,Cuba.
-----W---e find beautiful driveways made up in the mnst substantial

way throughout the entire island. The portions of the mountains that

are too steep and difficult for good roads have been covered with bri-

dle paths. These mountain regions furnish such crops as cinchona.coffe9g

and cocoa) these mountains are also the haunts of the most beautiful

and magnificent tree ferns ; palms ard also everywhere found.

1 if

Products at the Markets.

While as a general thing an enumeration or a catalogue of

the fruits and vegetables found in one of the agricultural markets is

good,we can not say that would be at all true of such a list prepared

by the Horticultural Society. It emphasizes at least one point and

that is that a man's raising determines very largely what he is glinp

to eat. Good things tatte good to everybody but some of the good thing

taste better to those accustomed to eating them than to people who are

adopted to the particular country. I remember a particular lecture in

which Dr. Gooddale said some 15 years ago that if all the cultivated

grasses and products were to be obliterated in a single night it would

be but a few years until men domesticated the wild fotns that now pass;

unnoticed and: be able to fill every want that is now being satisfied.

or stating it in another way we have all about us plants that are not

being utilized which could be brought into cultovation and take the

place of nearly every fruit and vegetable now grown if the necessity

should arise. The Tropics are the homes of a prodigious amount of
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fruits and vegetables. While almost none of the fruits grown in the

tropics can be grown ih the temperate ;onesalmost every fruit and veg-

etable grown in the temperate can be grown *ith more or less success

in the tropics.

Bananas -



Tangerines kDancy)





Star Apples



Products at Markets.

Jack Fruit

Bread Fruit.



r 7
Mangoes (CPO )

Mangoes (srnal yellow'







Pigeon Pea.

Yams yela.

Yams white

Yams Anager"


Lima Heans

Peppers (six kinds'



Sweet Potato,

Sweet Potato slips



Indian Yams.


Spinach (a species of careless weed.

Cassava.,(several varieties of sweet.)

Egp lant.


By this time you will be asking about the extent of fruit

growing in Jamaica. In a certain sense we nust say that fruit growing

on an extensive scale in Jamaica seems to be conspicuous by its magnif-

icent failure. People ", have had the courage of their convictions

and have planted out large acreages. I am told by the best authority

that the United Fruit Co. and its predecessors planted out twenty two

different plantations with only one success. Whil6 the experience of

orange growers has not been quite so disastrous ,the gtoves visited

were anything but a beautiful sight from the standpoint of a Floridian.

This,however,does not mean that the island fails to export large quan-

tities of fruit. One small railway station in the Mand ville section

shipped out an average of three carloads day during the height of the

orange season. For this fruit the United Fruit Co.paid an average of

76 cents a barrel delivered at the rail*y, station ,which amounted to

about 38 cents per box. Some of these fruits were selling for-l8 cents

a hundred. One of the colored fruit women from whom I purchased some

Tangerines to eat out of hand ,told me very proudly that she was getting



the very high priceof 18 cents a hundred for this fruit and that the

tree was bearing the handsome crop of at least 400 oranges.. This

particular fruit woman had carried oranges upon her head for at least

six miles. Some of them even carry the fruit so far as nine and ten

miles. While these prices seem to be triflingly low the United Fruit

Co. have troubles enough of their own on hand to out down the apparent

ly handsome profit very materially as some of the members of the Florid

Horticultural Society can testify. It is not probable that any active

competitive agent will enter the field successfully #th free trade

between the island and other British possessions as will as the mother
country and steamers running regularly Asr] would seem that the United

Fruit Co. did not have a.complete monopoly of the market.

Of the population,only two and one half per cent are white,

the remainder are colored a:-n n;i-roes. 'i.-arly all of the fruit grown

with the exception of pineapples are seedlings,consequently it is a

fairy- land to the man who is interested in selecting peculiar and valu-
able varieties. The general ignorance that prevails in the rural dis-


trictr makes it a tedious job andr often exasperating Besides this

the United Fruit Co.does not look upon any of its employees with favor

who happens to cooperate with foreigners in securing scions or bud wood

of valuable fruit to be sent to America. One of their agents at least

was instructed that he must not do so again: This of course is somewhi

suspicious to an American.


I have already mentioned the size of Cuba is only sliigtly

less than that of Florida. Like in Jamaica they have a rainy belt,a

dry belt,mountain regions ,igh lands and low lands. In general the

contour of the country is decidedly broken. The mountain region occu-

pies a considerable portion of the island. This is practically of no

value for fruit and vegetable growing. Small fields of course can be

found that would make good fruit and vegetable farms but the difficulty

of getting the products to market make this a prohibitory factor. The

rainy belt can not be utilized for orange or pineapple culture. The

soil is of a close,compact nature inclined to be a atiff clayhowever,

I _


over such a vast area we will find considerable variety. Like in Ja-

maica the climate is of a much more local nature than in Blorida. On

one side of the isandi at Barracoa we find the rainfall too heavy for

pineapple and orange growing. On the other side of the island at San-

tiago it is again too dry to make cane plantations a decided success.

General Productiveness.

In general the island is a very fertile district This of

course is pointed out by the people who are inaerestedi in developing

the island as a point greatly in their favor,however,to the experienced

orange grower this point is not so well taken as it night be. He knows

very well that if the soil is fertile it is pretty sure to produce a

magnificent tree but a poor fruitof which no amount of or kind of fer-

tilizer,cultivation or non-cultivation can remedy. Ffom the foregoing

you will see that Cuba has to go through a series of years of careful

experiments to find the best regions for citrus culture,also to find

the varieties best adapted to the soil. We must also remember that

although the entire island is free from freezes it is by no means all

adapted to citrus and pineapple culture. At the present time we find

that carloads of vegetables are rotting in the fields,attacked by dis-

eases or other conditions make it unprofitable to put them on the mar-

ket, ~lthouoi the prices for these products are ranging high enough in

the United States to afford the Florida growers handsome returns on

their outlay. Aa an illustration of some of the gigantic failures that

have already been inaugurated ,we may cite the case of John Doenot to

be personal .n this matter,who l ith sonaefriends had several million dd

dollars of inheritance to invest in Cuban sugar plantation ventures.

The site was selected,the plantation set iutand a handsome sugar mill

put up at an expenditure of about two million.but when it came to thbe

eand grinding the amount of sugar was found to be excessively below the

normaland failure is staring them in the face at the very outset. This

difficulty may be remedied or it may not. Again some of the colonizing

shcemes were prospected v:itj a view of making noney out of the immi-

grants and after two or three years of toil add labor the Company

found that they had expended all the rdney they could put into this

schemeand the unhappy iranigraats found themselves unable to get their

products to the markets as was laid out for them in the schedule of the

original prospectors.

Cuba is a beautiful island with wonderful possibilities but

the prospective developers of the island have many lions to combat that

are no where along the road in Florida. We know already that Cuba will

be a strong competotor in the American markets for fruits and vegetable

raised in Florida and developments must come somewhat gradually. In th

mean time the conditions will so shape themselves that the rapidly in-

creasing population of the united States will be able to consume the

products offered. The consumption of fruit and vegetables in the Unitd

States has increased amazingly during thy last decade. While such prod

ucts were considered luxuries two decades ago they are now considered

an absolute necessity today.

_ C t I_ _I_


The products found in the various' ;':c'. iin Cub: 1 r. v.-

similar to those seen in Jamaica.







Palmetto Berries.


Sour Sops.




Avocadoed. (small ,oily)

Star Apples.



Pars ly/.


Yams. various "....














Smilax roots.

Lima Beans.


Carauchi. -.

... Ofy~ote.

..*ULY.I-~LL .-~U~IIC rr-.1. I i I L. -i X _I


It is somewhat amusing to us free ,frank and easy going Anericans to

find how suspicious the generality of Cubans are of our movements. I

'found it very difficult to trace out any particularly desirable fruits

I chanced to see in the markets. Of course ,the fruits are offered very

freely to every one but when it came to tracing these to the original

tree it was something quite different. All sorts of impediment. were

thrown in the way and not infrequently did an excursion prove fruitless

It was also difficult to make the Cubans understand that it was not

some motive back of "Las Americano"than merely running over the country

looking for fruits which they considered it was impossible to grow in


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