The lady in whose garden I first found these caterpillars lived on the hill of Saint Theresa, and, instead of blinds, had her windows shaded with creeping-plants trained across and across them. Through the spaces left one could see the bay of Rio with its endless islands, strange Sugarloaf mountain, and many of the same odd form seeming to mimic it in the distance. The quivering haze and blueness of the whole scene was indescribably lovely, and the little terrace below was crowded with bright flowers. Daturas, bananas, cypress and palm-trees gave form to the foreground, whilst the orange Bignonia venusta, the blue petræa, bougainvillea, and rhynchospermum climbed over both trees and balustrades in great masses, the latter helping the gardenias, carnations, and jasmines to scent the air almost too deliciously. It was a small paradise, and though my friend grumbled at the nine long years of bad health and discomfort she had spent there, she will miss all this abundant beauty when she returns to foggy old England.
On that expedition I met, for the first time, Mr. Gordon and his daughter, who asked me to come and see them in Minas Geraes, to which they were returning in about three weeks. I liked their looks and manner of asking me, and it seemed like a grand opportunity to see something of the country, so I said I would come for a fortnight, at which they laughed, and with reason, for I stayed eight months !
In the fresh clearings I saw many new and gorgeous flowers, as well as some old friends, including the graceful plant of North Italy, with which the wine of Padua and Verona is coloured. [Phytolacca decandra. Ed.] How did it get to the two places so far apart ? I longed more and more for some intelligent botanical companion to answer my many questions.
Did I not paint ?–and wander and wonder at everything ? Every rock bore a botanical collection fit to furnish any hot-house in England.
Recollections of a Happy Life, Marianne North
In search of Marianne
Paraty and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 2014