At the far end of the house stands another piece of rockwork, another little cascade, and more marvels than I can touch upon. In fact, there are several which would demand all the space at my disposition, but, happily, one reigns supreme. This is a Cattleya Mossiae, the pendant of the Catasetum, by very far the largest orchid of any kind that was ever brought to Europe. For some years Mr. Sander, so to speak, hovered round it, employing his shrewdest and most diplomatic agents. For this was not a forest specimen. It grew upon a high tree beside an Indian’s hut, near Caraccas, and belonged to him as absolutely as the fruit in his compound. His great-grandfather, indeed, had “planted” it, so he declared, but this is highly improbable. The giant has embraced two stems of the tree, and covers them both so thickly that the bare ends of wood at top alone betray its secret; for it was sawn off, of course, above and below. I took the dimensions as accurately as may be, with an object so irregular and prickly. It measures—the solid bulk of it, leaves not counted—as nearly as possible five feet in height and four thick—one plant, observe, pulsating through its thousand limbs from one heart; at least, I mark no spot where the circulation has been checked by accident or disease, and the pseudo-bulbs beyond have been obliged to start an independent existence.
In speaking of Loelia elegans, I said that those Brazilian islanders who have lost it might find solace could they see its happiness in exile. The gentle reader thought this an extravagant figure of speech, no doubt, but it is not wholly fanciful. Indians of Tropical America cherish a fine orchid to the degree that in many cases no sum, and no offer of valuables, will tempt them to part with it. Ownership is distinctly recognized when the specimen grows near a village. The root of this feeling, whether superstition or taste, sense of beauty, rivalry in magnificence of church displays, I have not been able to trace. It runs very strong in Costa Rica, where the influence of the aborigines is scarcely perceptible, and there, at least, the latter motive is sufficient explanation. Glorious beyond all our fancy can conceive, must be the show in those lonely forest churches, which no European visits save the “collector,” on a feast day. Mr. Roezl, whose name is so familiar to botanists, left a description of the scene that time he first beheld the Flor de Majo. The church was hung with garlands of it, he says, and such emotions seized him at the view that he choked. The statement is quite credible. Those who see that wonder now, prepared for its transcendent glory, find no words to express their feeling: imagine an enthusiast beholding it for the first time, unwarned, unsuspecting that earth can show such a sample of the flowers that bloomed in Eden! And not a single branch, but garlands of it! Mr. Roezl proceeds to speak of bouquets of Masdevallia Harryana three feet across, and so forth. The natives showed him “gardens” devoted to this species, for the ornament of their church; it was not cultivated, of course, but evidently planted. They were acres in extent.