The Chagres Forest:

There is nothing in the world comparable to the forests of the Chagres river. No description that I have ever conveys an idea of the splendid overplus of vegetable life within the tropics. The river, broad, and with a soft current of the sweetest waters I ever drank, winds between walls of foliage that rise from its very surface. All the gorgeous growths of an eternal summer are so mingled in one impenetrable mass, that the eye is bewildered.

From the rank jungle of canes, and gigantic lilies, and the thickets of strange shrubs that line the water, rise the trunks of the mango, the ceiba, the cocoa, the sycamore, and the superb palm. Plantains take root in the banks binding the soil, with their leaves shaken and split into immense plumes by the wind and rain. The zafote, with a fruit the size of a man's head, the gourd-tree, and other vegetable wonders, attract the eye on all sides. Blossoms of crimson, purple, and yellow, of a form and magnitude unknown in the north, are mingled with the leaves; and flocks of paroquets and brilliant butterflies circle through the air like blossoms blown away. Sometimes a spike of scarlet flowers is thrust forth, like the tongue of a serpent, from the heart of some convolution of unfolding leaves, and often creepers and parasites drop trails and streamers of fragrance from boughs that shoot half way across the river.

Every turn of the stream only disclosed another and more magnificent vista of leaf, bough, and blossom. All outline of the landscape is lost under this deluge of vegetation. No trace of the soil is to be seen; lowland and highland are the same; a mountain is but a higher swell of the mass of verdure. As on the ocean you have a sense rather than a perception of beauty. The clear sharp lines of our scenery at home are here wanting. What shape the land would be if cleared, you can not tell. You gaze upon the scene before you with a never-sated delight, till your brain aches with the sensation, and you close your eyes, overwhelmed with the thought that all these wonders have been from the beginning - that year after year takes away no leaf or blossom that is not replaced, but the sublime mystery of growth and decay is renewed forever.

By Bayard Taylor