con sume’, use entirely; exhaust.
cul ti va’tion, attending to the growth of plants.
ex’ports, the products of a country which are sold to other countries
trans por ta’tion, carrying.
o’val, shaped like an egg.
prin’ci pal, chief; that which is most important.
es’ti mat ed, stated in regard to quantity.
se lect’ed, chosen; picked out.
ter’mi nates, comes to an end.
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Those who have not visited tropical countries, can scarcely imagine the wonders of their vegetation. There is nothing in the northern half of the United States, with which to compare the richness of the vegetable growth of the tropics.
In the Southern States of our Union, as well as in Mexico and Central America, there are found many of the same plants and trees that grow in countries lying still nearer the equator.
The various kinds of fruits which grow in these countries, form a very large portion of the exports. Among those that are most commonly sent to us, are bananas, oranges, lemons, dates, cocoa-nuts, and figs.
In countries where the banana grows most abundantly, no article of food which the natives can obtain, requires so little trouble in its cultivation.
One has only to set out a few banana sprouts, and await the result. In a short time, a juicy stem shoots up to the height of fifteen or twenty feet.
It is formed of nothing more than a number of leaf stalks rolled one over the other, and grows sometimes to a thickness of two feet.
Two gigantic leaves grow out from the top, ten feet long and two feet broad. They are so very thin and tender that a light wind splits them into ribbons.
From the center of the leaves a very strong stalk rises up, which supports the cluster of bananas. There are sometimes over one hundred bananas to a single stalk.
A cluster of ripe bananas will weigh from sixty to seventy pounds, and represents a large amount of food. When a stalk has produced and ripened its fruit, it begins to wither and soon dies.
In a very short time, however, new sprouts spring up from the old root, and ere long the native has another cluster. So rapidly do they follow each other, that one cluster is scarcely consumed before another one is ready to ripen.
Bananas ripened on the stalk will not bear transportation to any great distance; therefore, when selected for export, the clusters are cut off while the bananas are very green.
Another valuable fruit of the tropics is the date. This fruit grows on a tree called the date-palm, that is found in both Asia and Africa.
The date-palm is a majestic tree, rising to the height of sixty feet or more, without branches, and with a trunk of uniform thickness throughout its entire length.