IN tropical countries, where the sun's rays fall directly upon the earth, "and every beam is heat," are found many wonderful plants and trees. Not the least interesting among these is the banana.

The picture on this page gives a very good representation of this tree, though it is really no tree at all, only a great overgrown herb. Its trunk is not unlike a cornstalk, the stem of one leaf shooting up, sheathed by the outside of another leaf, for fifteen or twenty feet. At the top grows a tuft of light green leaves, which travelers tell us are about ten feet, long, and from one to two feet broad. These are so delicate that a very light wind is sufficient to tear them from the edge to the midrib.

A strong footstalk shoots up between the leaves, bending over to one side with its heavy weight of blossoms. After a time the fruit appears, and looks somewhat like a full grown, yellow cucumber.

In the picture may be seen a cluster of the ripe fruit, such as one often sees hanging up before the' shop windows in the city. One stalk frequently contains a hundred or more bananas.

From the size of the plant one might suppose that it was years in growing to such great height, but it really takes only eight or ten months. As soon as the plant has produced its fruit, it withers and dies. The seed scarcely ever ripens; the new plant springs from the roots of the old one, and before the year is out, the new banana tree is half grown.

The fruit is nutritious, and in both the West and East India islands, where this plant is most abundant, it forms the principal food of the natives.

They also keep many of their domestic animals upon this fruit. The natives eat the tops of the young plants, and make wine Of the juices in the trunk. Although this plant grows in its greatest luxuriance in tropical countries, yet it is raised to a considerable extent in the warmer States of our own sunny South.

The banana requires very little tending; all that has to be done is to keep the weeds out of the field. One traveler has calculated that four thousand pounds of bananas can be grown in the same space of ground that it takes to raise thirty-three pounds of wheat or ninety-nine pounds of potatoes.

So the people are not obliged to work hard to get a plenty of good food. Yet this is not so great a blessing as might be supposed; for unless called into exercise by a necessity for exertion, man's best powers lie dormant; and so we find that the natives of these warm countries, where nature has done so much for 'the support of man, are in intelligence but little above the animals of their own wild jungles.

We may well be thankful that in the colder climate of our temperate zone, the higher and better faculties of mind are necessarily called into action in providing for our temporal wants.





W. E. L.