The chief beauty of Ceylon is her TREES.
I will mention a few of the beautiful, curious, and useful trees of this delightful island. The tree for which Ceylon is celebrated, is the CINNAMON tree. For sixty miles along the shore, there are cinnamon groves, and the sweet scent may be perceived far off upon the seas. If you were to see a cinnamon-tree, you might mistake it for a laurel;—a tree so often found in English gardens. The cinnamon-trees are never allowed to grow tall, because it is only the upper branches which are much prized for their bark. The little children of Ceylon may often be seen sitting in the shade, peeling off the bark with their knives; and this bark is afterwards sent to England to flavor puddings, and to mix with medicine.
There are also groves of cocoa-nut trees on the shores of Ceylon. A few of these trees are a little fortune to a poor man; for he can eat the fruit, build his house with the wood, roof it with the leaves, make cups of the shell, and use the oil of the kernel instead of candles.
The JACK-TREE bears a larger fruit than any other in the world;—as large as a horse’s head,—and so heavy that a woman can only carry one upon her head to market.. This large fruit does not hang on the tree by a stalk, but grows out of the trunk, or the great branches. This is well arranged, for so large a fruit would be too heavy for a stalk, and might fall off, and hurt the heads of those sitting beneath its shade. The outside of this fruit is like a horse-chestnut, green, and prickly; the inside is yellow, and is full of kernels, like beans. The wood is like mahogany,—hard and handsome.
But there is a tree in Ceylon, still more curious than the jack-tree. It is the TALPOT-TREE. This is a very tall tree, and its top is covered by a cluster of round leaves, each leaf so large, that it would do for a carpet, for a common-sized room; and one single LEAF, cut it in three-cornered pieces, will make a TENT! When cut up, the leaves are used for fans and books. But this tree bears no fruit till just before it dies,—that is till it is fifty years old: THEN—an enormous bud is seen, rearing its huge head in the midst of the crown of leaves;—the bud bursts with a loud noise, and a yellow flower appears,—a flower so large, that it would fill a room! The flower turns into fruit. THAT SAME YEAR THE TREE DIES!
PEOPLE.—And who are the people who live in this beautiful land?
In the flat part of the island, towards the north, the people resemble the Hindoos, and speak and think like them; and they are called Tamuls.
But among the mountains of the south a different kind of people live, called the Cingalese. They do not speak the Tamul language, nor do they follow the Hindoo religion. They follow the Buddhist religion. You know this is the religion of the greater part of the nations. Ceylon is full of the temples of Buddha. In each temple there is an inner dark room, very large, where Buddha’s image is kept,—a great image that almost fills the room.