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(From the First Edition)
THE region covered by this Work is unequalled by any of the same size on the globe, not only for the thrilling and important events of human history of which it has been the theatre, but for its unique geological structure, its great diversity of surface and climate, and its remarkable fauna and flora. It is the meeting point of three continents, since Asia Minor must be regarded, from the standpoint of its Natural History, as belonging to Europe rather than Asia, and as such, a link of connection between them all. It is marked geographically by two mountain systems parallel to one-another, and to the coast, and extending from the Taurus to the latitude of Râs-Muhammad.
The northernmost chain of the western system, Gavur-Dagh (N. Amanus), extends from the valley of the Ak-Su, near Mar'ash, southward to the valley of the lower Orontes. Its loftiest peak is about 8000 feet (2400 m.) high. From the mouth of the Orontes to the Nahr-ul-Kabîr extends the Nusairy chain. A spur of this chain, Mount Cassius, rises abruptly from the sea just south of the mouth of the river, and attains a height of 6400 feet (1950 m.) The rest of the chain lies a little more inland, occasionally approaching the sea. Its highest summits hardly reach 4000 feet (1200 m.). From the Nahr-ul-Kabîr to the Kâsimiyyah (the lower Leontes) stretches the noble chain of.Lebanon, the highest peak of which is not less than 10200 feet (3100 m.) above the sea. From the Kâsimiyyah to the Dabbat-ur-Ramlah is a series of chains of hills and mountains of which Jabal-Jarmak in Galilee is 3934 feet high. Summits nearly as high overlook Hebron, and the plateau of the Tîh. Dabbat-ur-Ramlah, a broad plain of shifting sands, separates the Tîh from the rugged, bald, igneous chain of Sinai. The bold headland of Râs-Muhammad, at the junction of the Gulfs of 'Akabah and Suez, ends, the long mountain system nearly 700 miles from its starting point.
The parallel system commences at the north by a chain of low hills, ,extending from Kapu-Tcham, near Mar'ash, southward to Sûf-Dagh and Kurd-Dagh, and Jabal-Bil'âs and al-Jabal-ul-Abyad in the Syrian Desert, and sinks into the broad plain between Hums and Antilebanon, "the entering in of Hamath." Antilebanon rises south of this plain, and trends parallel to Lebanon, varying in height from 4000 to 8700 feet (1200 to 2650 m.), and ends in the grand mass of Hermon, which dominates northern and eastern Palestine and the Damascus plateau from a height of 9400 feet (2875 m.). A break of about 40 miles occurs between Hermon and the mountains of. Gilead. This interval is occupied by the plain of ul- Jawhin. This great lava plateau has been formed by the eruptions of the -numerous volcanic cones which diversify its surface. It is bounded eastward by an isolated volcanic chain, the Jabal-ud-Drûz (Alsadamus), the "hill -of Bashan." This chain trends north and south, parallel to the main systems, and appears as if set back from them to a distance of about forty miles. The outpour of lava from its craters has contributed its share to the formation of the fertile wheat fields of Bashan. Its highest cone, ul-Kulayb, is 5400 feet (1650 m.) above the sea. The main range, broken as above shown by the plain of ul-Jawlân, is continued in the mountains of Gilead, and Moab, which rise from Soo to 1000 feet (150-300 m.) above the trans-Jordan plateau, and from 3000 to 4000 feet (900- 1200 m.) above the Mediterranean. From the latitude of the southern end of the Dead Sea this range is continuous with that of western Arabia. Its highest peak, Mt. Hor, is 4800 ft. (1500 m.) above theMediterranean, and 61oo (1850 m.) above the Dead Sea.
Between these two great mountain systems is a cleft, beginning in the valley of the northern affluent of the Orontes, a few hundred feet above the sea level, and extending up the Orontes valley to C¦lesyria, where it attains an altitude of over 4000 feet, and then, following the Leontes qnd the Jordan, sinks at the Dead Sea to a level nearly 1300 feet (394 m.) below the Mediterranean. From the Dead Sea it rises in the 'Arabah to a height of 600 to 700 feet above the Red Sea, and then sinks again to the sea level, and is continued southward on the floor of the Gulf of 'Akabah. These grand features of the physical geography of the country are shown in detail on the map which accompanies this sketch.
Skirting the eastern mountain system are the great plains, which extend eastward to the Euphrates and Persia. A large part of these plains is arable and many of them are exceedingly fertile. But all of them are coterminous with the Syrian Desert. South of the latitude of the Dead Sea mountains and plains alike are desert.
The flora of Amanus, while closely approximated to that of the Taurus, contains a considerable number of plants peculiar to itself. The Nusairy chain has little to distinguish its flora from that of the lower zones of Lebanon. Lebanon, however, from its isolated position, and the considerable height of its alpine summits, has a large and exceedingly interesting flora, containing an unusually large proportion of peculiar species. A noteworthy feature of its alpine region is the almost complete absence of Arctic species. The warm period which succeeded the cold has almost obliterated the glacial plants. Their place has been taken by a highly specialized local flora. The flora of western Palestine is closely allied to that of the foot hills of Lebanon, but as we enter the Tîh it becomes more similar to that of Sinai and the Egyptian deserts, which is Arabian and north African. The flora of Kurd-Dagh does not differ very greatly from that of Amanus. But that of the desert chains between Aleppo and Hums is rich in peculiar species. There can be no doubt that further exploration will result in many new discoveries in this little worked part of our field. Antilebanon, while having much in common, with Lebanon, has a much poorer flora, and fewer distinctive plants- The chains. of Gilead and Moab differ markedly from those of western Palestine, and every journey illustrates the botanical riches awaiting the explorer into those little known regions. The flora of the Dead Sea chasm has a number of immigrants from the tropical regions of India, Arabia, and Ethiopia. That of the tablelands and plains contains a large number of plants not found elsewhere in our district, but, for the most part, widely disseminated over the same plains outside of our limits.
The very large number of species found in a country so limited is to be accounted for by its microcosmic character. Within an area Of 50000 square miles (130000 sq. Km.) is found a strip of sea coast, sharing the climatic conditions of the Mediterranean littoral. The western range of hills and mountains, receiving the air from the sea, saturated with moisture, precipitates it in a rainfall of about 36 inches (915 mm.) on the coast, and perhaps 50 (1270 mm.) on the upper zones of Lebanon. These mountains are channeled into deep valleys, some with a general east and west trend, and others north and south, each having a different exposure, an arrangement eminently favorable to the growth of a great variety of species. The air, from which so much moisture has been precipitated, passes over to the parallel chains, which abstract from it a large part of its remaining moisture. The rainfall of the second range is probably not more than half that of the first, while that of the eastern plateau is still less, probably not more than 10 to 12 inches. As a natural result of this physical conformation, the flora of the maritime watershed of the coast range differs considerably from that of its much steeper eastern declivities, and still more from that of the inland range, which again differs strikingly from that of the eastern plateau. The deep chasm of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, with its tropical climate, adds to the variety and numbers of species. The deserts, although useless for agriculture, have a large and most interesting flora, differing almost totally from that of all the other, regions. Finally the very considerable difference of latitude, nearly ten degrees to less than two of longitude, has its full share in enriching thenumber and diversity of forms. As a result of these conditions the district covered by our work contains 126 families of phaenogams and acrogens, 850 genera, and about 3500 species. The significance of these figures will appear if we recall that our region is only about as large as England, or as the State of New York.
The author acknowledges the assistance of the late Messrs. BOISSIER of Geneva and BLANCHE of Syria, and of Messrs. BARBEY and AUTRAN Of Geneva, and BAKER of Kew, in the determination of doubtful plants, and especially in the diagnosis of new species. He is also greatly indebted to Mrs. SHEPARD of Aintâb, and Rev. H. E. Fox, M.A., of London, for valuable collections of plants of Syria and Palestine, and to Professors PORTER and DAY, of Beirût, the genial companions, who have shared with him the fatigues and perils of his journeys, and aided his studies by their advice and criticism.
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