the fairchilds in venezuela - Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden



the fairchilds in venezuela - Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
(Continued jrom January)
We had left Maracay with some quite
explicit directions as to how to find a
certain patio in the old and picturesque
town of Valencia where there grew a
yellow-fruited species of Annona. We
thought we had found the house but "No
hay aqui; no hay ninguno arboles in este
patio," said the maid when she answered
Box' ring. Check! But across the street
was a music store, so I went in and asked
if in this city of 30 odd thousand there
was not someone who knew something
about plants.
The pretty girl at the desk called the
"Oh yes, there is Sr. d'Hequert. He
knows everything about plants, I'll call
him up. What is your name please?" He
returned from the telephone smiling.
"He says he will be delighted to see
you; he has read your books and knows
all about you."
Then came a chase about the town to
find his dry goods store. Behind his desk
in the manager's office we found one of
those delightful people who, instead of
squandering his spare hours, had studied
the plants of his region and become
familiar wtih most of them and delighted
to spend evenings reading books about
them, or identifying specimens he had
gathered on his trips. It has been my
luck to meet few more charming men
than Sr. Jose Saer d'Hequert.
On the way home we spent half an
hour throwing sticks up into the branches
of a Lonchocarpus tree by the railroad
track which was completely covered with
masses of purple flowers. If the seeds we
found grow, there may be in the parks
here some day a shade tree under which
picnic parties will delight to sit and eat
lunch and talk—and perhaps at times
admire the canopy of purple that shades
Our last memory of Vene2uela is of
the goodbye lunch party given us by the
Minister of Agriculture in the clubhouse
at El Junquito. Two days later we were
swept down the winding road to the air-
port at La Guaira and soon our plane
was over Maracaibo, the dusty, barren
spot from which billions of dollars worth
of petroleum have been sucked for our
We went to Barranquilla, bound for
Bogota and Villavicencio and our daughter Nancy Bell's family, but there beckoned to Marian that old town of Cartagena which was built, or at least begun,
in the time of Philip the Second of Spain.
She never could resist an old town and I,
too, have a liking for them. Besides, we
found that we could make the 140 kilometers by car and that there were palms
of different kinds along the way. In fact,
one day the hotel had served what they
called a "Sorbete de Coroso," a delicatelyflavored drink made of the fruit of a
palm neither of us had heard of until we
visited the market and saw the fruits for
But, ye Gods! Never in all my life
have I seen so spiny a palm and to make
matters worse it is a cluster palm, making
patches twenty or so feet across of impenetrable masses of spines and spiny
leaves and stems.
Our car turned out to be a rickety one
and our driver a mere boy. Four times the
car stalled and Marian had to take the
wheel while the boy worked up the compression. Darkness overtook us, so we
stopped for an "arroz con polio" at a
picturesque but dirty place beside the
road. We got in late to a new and fashionable hotel a la Miami Beach, where,
to relieve the monotonous shore line
the management had planted—can you
guess it?—Casuarinas!
This was not what we had come all
this distance for, so the next day we
changed to the Hotel Plaza Bolivar in
the heart of the old town. From our balcony we looked down into the tops of
over twenty-three great royal palms where
black birds were nesting and below them
children came and went to school and
looked up at the bronze equestrian statue
(Continued on Page 7)
The Fairchilds
(Continued from Page 6)
of the great Liberator, Bolivar. It was
one of the most charmingly planted
plazas we had seen anywhere. Around it
were old buildings with tiled roofs mellow with age. The narrow streets with
overhanging balconies, the great walls
that completely surround the city, the
churches and the church bells all charmed
And then one afternoon we were
awakened from our siesta by a strange
ominous roar of voices. We went out on
our balcony and saw a mob of men surging down the narrow street that edged
the plaza. They carried two huge red
flags and women ran alongside them,
We went down to the lobby where the
manager and a few guests were standing
—stunned by it all.
"We don't know what it means. They
say Guitan, the leader of the Left wing
of the Liberal party has been shot. They
are burning the newspaper offices here.
They say things are terrible in Bogota."
Just then we heard shots and saw a
huge column of smoke and people began
running towards us across the plaza.
"Lock the doors and don't let anyone
in or out" said the manager, and to us,
"I think you had better go up to your
For about an hour all was quiet, then
we heard that terrible roar again, coming
from the opposite direction.
From our balcony we saw marines
come running, and a machine gun was
set up in the middle of the street, facing
the oncoming mob. Armed marines were
in front of it and then we saw two,
young, unarmed naval officers appear and
walk quietly up to the mob, talking to
the people and putting their hands gently
on some of the leading men's shoulders.
And in a short time the excitement was
all over, the mob evaporated, and only
the armed guards at every corner and the
seven o'clock curfew made us realize how
close we had been to real trouble.
We had to give up all idea of seeing
Nancy Bell and her family; indeed it was
several days before we knew that they
were all right.
We were marooned for ten days in
Cartagena before the road to Barranquilla was safe or planes had begun to
take passengers. But we did get out of
the city in a few days to do some collecting in the lowlands where, I imagine,
many interesting trees and shrubs adapted
to Florida conditions exist. Three palms
and the strange "monkey cup" tree are
samples which may distinguish themselves in time in the Garden.
The thatch palm we got must be the
fastest growing palm in the world—if we
can believe the farmer who collected the
seed for us. He took us back of his little
adobe house and showed us a palm three
feet high which he declared grew from a
seed he had planted only four months
before! Our chauffeur, who knew the
man, shook his head.
So, after all, a political uprising need
not necessarily stop one from collecting
Invitations have been issued by the
Board of Managers to "Four Botanical
Monday Mornings" to be held at the
Estate of Colonel and Mrs. Robert H.
Montgomery, with consultants on hand
to tell members about the various things
they are seeing. At this writing the series
apparently will be a sell-out.
The program as given is:
Monday, January 31st
Palms, Cycads, Ficus, Vines, Flowering
Monday, February 7th
Hammock, Grove, Lowland and Lake
Plantings, Bamboo.
Monday, February 14th
Tropical Flower Arrangements.
Monday, February 21st
Orchids and Foliage Plants;
Their Culture and Growing Notes.

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