Page images

burn immediately after it is cut; and its shade ess injurious to grass than that of most other trees.

In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1791, there is a long account of a scheme by Mr. Ebenezer Jessup for growing locust trees for the use of the royal navy. It is there proposed, that an act of parliament be obtained, apportioning about 10,000 acres in the New Forest, and in the Forest of Dean, to be set apart for growing locust trees, live oak (Quércus virens), and white oak (Quercus álba), for the use of the royal navy. The distance at which Mr. Jessup proposes to plant these trees is 161 ft., so that he calculates an acre will produce 160 trees of about 14 ton each. The locust, he says, will be fit for ship-building in 25 or 30 years, the live oak in 40 years, and the white oak in 60 years, from the time of planting. He states that stakes made of the locust wood have stood exposed to the weather, to his certain knowledge, for 80 or 100 years before they began to decay; and that the live oak and the white oak, though they do not attain so large a size as the British oak, produce a more durable timber. He recommends the locust tree to be planted in poor soil, but the oaks“ in good rich land." In order to save government any considerable expense,” he proposes to prepare the soil, and take care of the trees afterwards, by the out-pensioners of Chelsea, who are to be sent in relays every six months, and to dwell in houses built for their accommodation in central parts of the forest; every house to have a piece of ground allotted to it for a garden, &c. &c. (Gent. Mag., vol. Ixi. p. 699.) In February, 1793, (30me Pluviose, an 2,) the National Convention decreed that an impression of L'Annuaire du Cultivateur should be struck off, and distributed in the departments, the Committee of Public Instruction thinking it worthy of a place among the elementary books intended for the use of the national schools. In this work, every day in the year is marked by one or more natural productions, or their attendant phenomena; and the 6th of May (14me Prairial) was consecrated to the Robinia Pseud-Acàcia, and a notice given of its appearance, propagation, culture, and uses.

A Letter on the Acacia, by Dr. Pulteney, was published in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1801, p. 1098., in which, quoting from Ray, he says the leaves are highly grateful to cattle, and that treatises have been written to recommend the cultivation of the tree for its young shoots as forage. Governor Pownall, in Young's Annals of Agriculture, vol. viii., states that several gentlemen in America have informed him, that, in the neighbourhood of New York, posts for rail-fencing made of the locust tree stood “wet and dry, next the ground,” better than any other timber posts in common use; and almost as well as posts of the swamp cedar (the deciduous cypress). This gentleman remarks that the locust wood which is used in America for ship-building, trer ils, and posts, has commonly been grown in barren, sandy, or light soils; and that in England, where it is generally planted in rich soils, and in sheltered situations, the tree may, probably, outgrow its strength ; and thus the branches may become so brittle as to be easily broken by the winds; while the wood will be less hard and tenacious, and, in all probability, much less durable than in America. He therefore recommends planting the locust, in England, only on poor soils, when it is intended to employ the timber for useful purposes.

In the Recreations of Agriculture for 1802, there is a paper on the uses of the Robinia Pseud-Acàcia in fencing, in which it is recommended as a hedge plant on poor, gravelly, sandy soils. Its young twigs are said to be covered with a kind of thorn that renders them terrible to animals of all sorts; and, consequently, locust hedges can require no protection from cattle when young. The writer appears to have forgotten, or, perhaps, not to have known, that cattle are said to be remarkably fond of the shoots both in America and France. He recommends training each plant to a single shoot, in order that, after a certain time, the hedge may be cut down, and the plants which have composed it may be used for hop-poles, for posts and rails, and for other rustic purposes. Such hedges, he says, are common in Germany: the writer


adds, that, though seeds may be procured in the neighbourhood of London, yet that the best mode is to import them from North America; sending the order for that purpose in the month of June, and being particularly careful to get seeds of that year, because two years' old seeds will not grow. (Recreations in Agriculture, vol. vi. p. 560.) In France, in the year 1803, a work, entitled Lettre sur le Robinier, was published in Paris by M. François de Neufchâteau, containing the essence of all that had been previously published on the subject in France, supported by the republication of many previously written tracts, or extracts from them. A translation of M. François's work occupies the first 156 pages of Withers's Treatise on the Acacia ; and, with a notice of the article by Adanson, in the French Encyclopædia, and another by Miller, editor of the Journal des Forêts, dated 1830, forms a very interesting history of the tree in France, from its first introduction into that country to the present time. The result of all that has been said in favour of the acacia in France, according to Miller, is, that it is generally employed in that country to decorate pleasure-grounds; but he is not aware that there are any forest plantations of acacia, for the express purpose of raising timber for carpenter's work, and ship timber.” (Withers's Treatise, p. 278.).

In the year 1823, an extraordinary sensation was excited in Britain respecting this tree by Cobbett. This writer while in America, from 1817 to 1819, chiefly occupied himself in farming and gardening in Long Island, near New York; and, during that period, as he tells us in his Woodlands ($ 326.), "was convinced that nothing in the timber way could be so great a benefit as the general cultivation of this tree.” He adds: “ Thus thinking, I brought home à parcel of the seeds with me in 1819, but I had no means of sowing it till 1823. I then began sowing it, but upon a very small scale. I sold the plants ; and since that time I have sold altogether more than a million of them”! He elsewhere states, in the same work ($ 380.), that he sold one year's transplanted plants at 10s. per 100. He had a large kitchen-garden behind his house at Kensington, which he turned into a nursery; and he also grew trees extensively on his farm at Barnes, in Surrey. He imported American tree seeds, and grafts of fruit trees: and he strongly recommended all of these to the British public, in his Political Register, and in the Woodlands, which was published, in numbers, from 1825 to 1828. In these works, he more especially directed attention to the locust tree, urging, in his clear and forcible manner, the immense importance of this tree in ship-building; and he was the means of many thousands of it being planted in the southern and middle districts of England, and even as far north as Durham. The name of locust, as applied to this tree, was, before Cobbett's time, almost unknown in England, and many persons, in consequence, thought it was a new tree. Hence, while quantities of plants of Robínia Pseud-Acàcia stood unasked for in the nurseries, the locust, which every one believed could only be had genuine from Mr. Cobbett, could not be grown by him in sufficient quantities to supply the demand. Cobbett imported the seeds in tons; but, when he ran short of the real American ones, he procured them, as well as young plants, from the London nurseries. This we state on the authority of the late Mr. William Malcolm of the Kensington Nursery, who sold him both seeds and plants. We do not say that there was anything wrong in Cobbett's doing this; but, had the public known that locust seeds and locust plants were so easily to be procured, it is probable that the locust mania would never have attained the height it did. We have ourselves, several times, accompanied planters to Cobbett's nursery to procure trees; and went once with a gentleman who had purchased a large estate in South Wales, who bought some thousands of locust plants to send to it. When he mentioned to us his intention, we told him that he might purchase the plants at half the price in the Bristol Nursery; and that, from the comparative shortness of the distance, he would not only save a considerable expense in carriage, but that the plants would be in a much fresher state, and, consequently, more likely to grow when they arrived at his place. No arguments of ours, however, were of any avail; and Cobbett's locust

trees were decidedly preferred, at any cost, to Miller's robinias. A notice of Cobbett's nursery, and of the various trees that he cultivated in it, will be found in his Woodlands, and in the Gardener's Magazine, vol. iii. p. 363. At present, the rage for planting the locust has altogether subsided; but the great importance of the tree in ship-building, and for supplying fuel, hop-poles, sticks for peas, and similar purposes, is about to be illustrated by an enthusiastic admirer of it, W. Withers, Esq., of Holt, Norfolk, author of a Memoir addressed to the Society of Arts, on the Planting and Rearing of Forest Trees, &c. &c. This gentleman has liberally and kindly sent us the proof sheets, as far as printed (to p.320.), of his Treatise on the Growth, Qualities, and Uses of the Acacia Tree, &c., with liberty to make whatever use of them we choose. Mr. Withers commences by giving a translation of the Lettre sur le Robinier, &c.,of M. François de Neufchâteau, (12mo, Paris, 1803,) before-mentioned; and abstracts from the Pièces relatives à la Culture et aux Usages de cet Arbre, which M. François had appended to his work. He then gives extracts from the writings of MM. F. C. Medicus and André Michaux on the subject; and, nest, notices on the acacia by British writers. These form the first part of his work. The second consists of original communications, comprising various letters from noblemen and gentlemen in different parts of the country, who have planted the locust, who have large trees of it, or who have applied it to different parposes. The facts collected in this part of the work are confirmatory of the rapid growth of the tree in favourable soils and situations; and of the suitableness and durability of its timber for trenails, posts, and fencing, and also for axletrees of timber carriages; but they afford no evidence either of the tree producing a great bulk of timber, or of its timber being applicable to the general purposes of construction. Only one of the writers mentions acacia boards or planks; and, though some of them recommend the wood for hop-poles, there is no evidence given of the length of time that these poles will last. Some useful experiments, by different contributors, are detailed, showing the rate of growth of the tree, and the strength and elasticity of the timber, which will be hereafter noticed.

In France and the south of Germany, we are informed by Baudrillart, in the Dictionnaire des Eaux et des Forêts, the locust was at first received with enthusiasm as an ornamental tree; but was afterwards rejected, because it was discovered that its leaves appeared late in the season, its branches were brittle, its prickles disagreeable; and, above all, that it would not bear the shears. It was for a long time almost forgotten, till after the introduction of the modern style of gardening, when a reaction in its favour took place, and it was preferred to all other trees on account of the rapidity of its growth, and was found, also, to be a useful tree, particularly for fuel. In France, Baudrillart continues, many authors have written on the locust, and most of them have greatly exaggerated its merits. Among those who have determined its real merits best, he thinks, are M. Bosc, Professor of Naturalisation in the Jardin des Plantes; M. Mallet, Conservator of Forests at Poitiers; and the younger Michaux. These authors, he continues, while they pointed out the advantages of cultivating the locust, have, at the same time, shown the evils that must arise from exaggerating its merits. Thus, he says that M. François wrote in favour of planting this tree in particular soils and situations; but others recommended it to be planted every where; and, in consequence of its not succeeding in unsuitable soils, a third class of writers recommend the planting of the tree to be discontinued altogether. As an example of want of success in cultivating the locust, he refers to the heaths of Gondreville, where the tree has been planted extensively in a white sand, in which, though the Pinus marítima and sylvéstris and the birch thrive, it failed altogether, except on the banks of ditches. M. Baudrillart mentions several other cases, in which large tracts of country have been ploughed, and sown broad-cast with locust seed; and where the seeds came up, but the plants never did any good, owing to the lightness and sterility of the soil. Even in the Bois de Boulogne, where locust trees, when planted


among masses of other trees, grew rapidly for five or six years, far exceeding in height the birch, the perfumed cherry, the chestnut, the yew, and the common sallow, planted with them, they disappeared entirely after a certain number of years; the other trees mentioned having become more vigorous, and choked them. Locusts, not planted among masses of other trees, but by themselves, in a single row, exposed to the air on every side, succeed much better; because it is found from experience that they require a great deal of light and air for their leaves and branches, and a great deal of surface soil for their widely spreading creeping roots. M. Mallet had no better success in the Forest of Mareuil, in the department of Vienne, where the soil is moist and aquatic; nor in the Forest of Chatellerault, where it is dry and sandy. M. Baudrillart concludes by repeating what Michaux has stated; viz. that it is only in a favourable climate, and in a good soil, that the tree attains a great size, even in its native country. In France, and particularly in the neighbourhood of Paris, the tree is seldom seen of a greater height than 50 ft.

or 60 ft. In Germany, the tree thrives in the middle states, attaining considerable height even at Berlin and Munich. In Sweden and Denmark, in favourable situations, it seems to grow nearly as high as it does in France.

In America, the locust has been planted here and there about farm-houses, and along fences; and, since the forests were in a great measure destroyed in the war of independence, many persons have cultivated the tree for its timber, and have supplied trenails, from the larger trees, to the shipwrights of New York. These plantations seldom exceed the extent of 20 or 30 acres in one place, though several agricultural societies have offered premiums for their encouragement. Though the locust tree, in its natural habitats, has never been known to be attacked by any insect, yet, about the beginning of the present century, the plantations of this tree in the United States were generally attacked by a winged insect, which deposited its eggs in the bark ; and the caterpillars produced from them penetrated into the centre of the trunk of the tree, mining it in every direction, so that the trunk became completely perforated, and was easily broken over by the wind. In consequence of the discouragement given by this circumstance to planting the locust in America, and the constant consumption in that country of the timber afforded by the indigenous trees, Michaux thinks that the time may come when the locust tree will be more abundant in Europe than in America. This insect is probably the Cossus robíniæ of Peck. (See Kirby and Spence's Introduction to Entomology, vol. iii. p. 223.) It does not appear, that, in America, a rich soil injures the tree, as has been alleged by Gov. Pownall (see p. 615 ); for Michaux says that, where it attains the largest size, and produces the best timber, in Kentucky and West Tennessee, the land, when cleared, will yield from 30 to 60 bushels of maize an acre, for several years in succession, without manure. In America, on the same land where the oak, the hickory, the beech, the chestnut, and the elm attain a large size, the locust does not exceed 40 ft. or 45 ft. in height. This speaks volumes against its value for general cultivation as a timber tree.

Properties and Uses. A cubic foot of locust wood, newly cut, weighs 63lb. 3oz.; half-dry, 56 lb. 4 oz.; and, when quite dry, only 48 lb. 4 oz. According to M. Hartig, its value for fuel, when compared with that of the beech, is as Iž to 15. For duration, this author places it immediately after the oak, before the larch and the Scotch pine. According to Barlow (Withers's Treatise, p. 256.), the strength of acacia timber, as compared with fine English oak, is as 1867 to 1672; the strength of ash being as 2026 ; beech, 1556 ; elm, 1013; Riga fir, 1108; Madeira larch, 1000 ; Norway spar (spruce fir), 1474; and teak, 2462. From some experiments made at Brest in 1823, and communicated by Dr. Bowring to Mr. Withers, the weight of acacia was found to be one sixth greater than that of oak; its strength as 1427 to 820; and its elasticity as 21 to 9. By experiments made in the yard of the Royal Naval College, communicated to Mr. Withers by Dr. Inman (Treatise, p. 265.), it appears that the lateral strength of the acacia in resisting fracture is greater than that of the oak in the proportion of 1 to 0:75. From all these experiments, how

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ever different the results, it may safely be concluded, that sound acacia wood is heavier, harder, stronger, more rigid, more elastic, and tougher, than that of the best English oak; and, consequently, that it is more fit than oak for trenails. The late Lord King, who had some large locust trees on his estate at Ockham Court, gives the following opinion of the strength and durability of the timber. He says, “ It endures as posts longer than oak or any other wood, except yew; but it is not as well known that it never breaks to any strain : I can give you an instance in proof of this. We are in the habit of using a machine called, with us, the hoisters, for bringing home large trees without any other tackle. The axletree is always made of the best ash; and yet mine never lasted more than two years, without being broken with the strain of lifting trees from the ground, occasioned by the sudden force when the pole turns over. About 25 years ago, my carpenter put in an acacia axle, which lasted 11 years, and then was as sound as it was the first day; but, as the wheels were worn out, the carpenter thought it best to put in another acacia axle, as some of the pin-holes were a little worn; and I believe that axletree now remains in use." (Withers's Treatise , p. 283.) At Goodwood, in Sussex, there are a great many acacia trees in the plantations, which were planted in the days of Collinson and Miller. The timber has been chiefly used for out-door fences; and, after standing 30 years, is yet perfectly sound. It is there considered much superior to the oak, for its strength and durability. (Ibid., p. 290.) At Cheam, in Surrey, on the estate of A. Palmer, Esq., there are acacia posts which have stood 30 years, and are quite sound; and trees which, after having been 14 years planted, are large enough for making such posts. (Ibid., p. 289.). In the various communi

. cations to Mr. Withers, there is no evidence of the durability of the locust as hop-poles, notwithstanding all that Cobbett has said on the subject. One writer speaks of trying the young trees in that capacity; and another says that he found that the locust, when about the size of a stake, did not possess more durability than stakes of the oak or the beech, of the same dimensions. The sap-wood of the acacia, this writer adds, appears to be equally as rapid in decay as that of the oak. (Ibid., p. 249.) The truth is, as Lord King and Lord Stanhope observe to Mr. Withers (Ibid., 591. and 292.), the acacia is a branchy-headed tree, both when young and old; and is neither calculated to produce straight poles in the former state, nor much timber in the latter.

In America, according to Michaux, the greatest consumption of locust wood is for posts; which, if the tree is felled in winter, when the circulation of the sap is suspended, and the posts are allowed to become perfectly dry before they are set, are estimated to last 40 years. This duration, however, varies exceedingly, according to the soil and situation in which the trees have grown; those having the heart-wood red lasting twice as long as those in which it is white. Michaux has remarked that, if the trunks of the locust trees grown in the north of Pennsylvania exceed 15 in. in diameter, when they are cut down and split open, they are frequently found to be decayed at the heart; but that this is not the case with trees that have grown farther south : which shows that poor soil and a cold climate are not suf. ficient, as Governor Pownall seems to allege (see p. 615.), to make the tree produce good timber. The American shipwrights use as much locust wood as they can procure; finding it as durable as the live oak, and the red cedar; with the advantage of being stronger than the former, and lighter than the latter. It is difficult, however, to procure locust wood of sufficient size for ship-building; for, even in those districts where the tree thrives best, nine tenths of the trunks do not exceed 1 ft. in diameter, and from 30 ft. to 40 ft. in height. The wood is used for trenails in all the seaports of the middle states, to the exclusion of every other kind of timber. Instead of decaying, it acquires an extraordinary degree of hardness with time. In 1819, these trenails were 10 dollars a thousand at Philadelphia ; and from 50,000 to 100,000 of them were annually exported to England.


« PreviousContinue »