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growth of the young shoots, leaves, flowers and all, is completed in about three or four weeks. When the leaves first unfold, they are clothed with a copious cotton-like down, which falls off when they have attained their full size and development.
The growth of the Horse-chestnut is slow, for a soft-wooded tree, when the trees are young: after five or six years, however, it advances with more rapidity, and in twenty years forms a beautiful and massy tree. It prefers a strong, rich, loamy soil, and is easily raised from the large nuts, which are produced in great abundance.
There are several species of Horse-chestnut, but the common one, (Æsculus Hippocastanum,) is incomparably the finest. The American sorts are the following: (Esculus Ohioensis,) or Ohio Buckeye, as it is called in the western states; a small sized tree, with palmated leaves consisting of five leaflets, and pretty bright yellow flowers, with red stamens. The fruit is about half the size of the exotic species. The Red-flowered Horse-chestnut, (Esculus rubicunda,) is a small tree with scarlet flowers; and the Smooth-leaved (E. glabra,) has pale yellow flowers. All the foregoing have prickly fruit. Besides these are two small Horse-chestnuts with smooth fruit, which thence properly belong to the genus Pavia, viz: the Yellow-flowered Pavia, (P. lutea,) of Virginia and the southern states; and the Red-flowered, (P. rubra,) with pretty clusters of reddish flowers; both these have leaves resembling those of the Horse-chestnut, except in being divided into five leaflets, instead of seven. There are some other species, which are, however, rather shrubs than trees.
THE BIRCH TREE. Betula.
Nat. Ord. Betulaceæ.
Lin. Syst. Monacia, Polyandria.
The Birch trees are common inhabitants of the forests of all cold and elevated countries. They are remarkable for their smooth, silvery-white, or reddish coloured stems, delicate and pliant spray, and small, light foliage. There is no deciduous tree which will endure a more rigorous climate, or grow at a greater elevation above the level of the sea. It is found growing in Greenland and Kamtschatka, as far north as the 58th and 60th degree of latitude, and on the Alps in Switzerland, according to that learned botanist, M. DeCandolle, at the elevation of 4,400 feet. It is undoubtedly the most useful tree of northern climates. Not only are cattle and sheep sometimes fed upon the leaves, but the Laplander constructs his hut of the branches; the Russian forms the bark into shoes, baskets, and cordage for harnessing his reindeer; and the inhabitants of Northern Siberia, in times of scarcity, grind it to mix with their oatmeal for food. In this country the birch is no less useful. The North American Indian, and all who are obliged to travel the wild, unfrequented portions of British America,—who have to pass over rapids, and make their way through the wilderness from river to river,-find the canoe made of the birch bark, the lightest, the most durable, and convenient vessel, for these in the world.*
*The following interesting description of their manufacture, we quote from Michaux. "The most important purpose to which the Canoe birch is applied, and one in which its place is supplied by no other tree, is the construction of canoes. To procure proper pieces, the largest and smoothest trunks are selected; in the spring, two circular incisions are made several feet apart, and two longitudinal
The wood of our Black birch is by far the finest; and, as it assumes a beautiful rosy colour when polished, and is next in texture to the wild Cherry tree, it is considerably esteemd among cabinet-makers in the eastern states, for chairs, tables and bedsteads.
In Europe, the sap of the birch is collected in the spring, in the same manner as that of the maple in this country, boiled with sugar and hops, and fermented with the aid of yeast. The product of the fermentation is called birch wine, and is described as being a remarkably pleasant and healthy beverage.
Though perhaps too common in some districts of our country to be properly regarded as an ornamental tree, yet in others, where it is less so, the birch will doubtless be esteemed as it deserves. With us it is a great favourite; and we regard it as a very elegant and graceful tree, not less on account of the silvery white bark of several species, than from the extreme delicacy of the spray, and the pleasing lightness and airiness of the foliage. In all the species, the branches have a tendency to form those graceful curves, which contribute so much to the beauty of trees; but the European Weeping birch is peculiarly pleasing as it grows
ones, on opposite sides of the tree: after which, by introducing a wedge, the bark is easily detached. These plates are usually ten or twelve feet long, and two feet nine inches broad. To form canoes, they are stitched together with fibrous roots of the white spruce, about the size of a quill, which are deprived of the bark, split, and suppled in water. The seams are coated with resin of the Balm of Gilead. Great use is made of these canoes by the savages, and the French Canadian in their long journies through the interior of the country: they are light, and are very easily transported on the shoulders from one lake to another, which is called the portage. A canoe calculated for four persons, with their baggage, weighs from forty to fifty pounds; and some of them are made to carry fifteen passengers.
old, on that account. It is this variety which Coleridge
And Bernard Barton, speaking of our native species, says,
"See the beautiful Birch tree fling
Its glossy leaf, and its silvery stem;
The American sorts, and particularly the Black birch, start into leaf very early in the spring, and their tender green is agreeable to the eye at that season; while the swelling buds, and young foliage in many kinds, give out a delicous, though faint perfume. Even the blossoms, which hang like little brown tassels from the drooping branches, are interesting to the lover of nature.
"The fragrant birch above him hung
And many a vernal blossom sprung,
Nothing can well be prettier, seen from the windows of the drawing-room, than a large group of trees, whose depth and distance is made up by the heavy and deep masses of the ash, oak, and maple, and the portions nearest the eye or the lawn terminated by a few birches, with their sparkling white stems, and delicate, airy drooping foliage. Our White birch, being a small tree, is very handsome in such situations, and
offers the most pleasing variety to the eye, when seen in connexion with other foliage. Several kinds, as the Yellow and the Black birches, are really stately trees, and form fine groups by themselves. Indeed, most beautiful and varied masses might be formed by collecting together all the different kinds, with their characteristic barks, branches, and foliage.
As an additional recommendation, many of these trees grow on the thinnest and most indifferent soils, whether moist or dry; and in cold, bleak, and exposed situations, as well as in warm and sheltered places.
We shall enumerate the different kinds, as follows:The Canoe birch, Boleau à Canot, of the French Canadians, (B. papyracea,) sometimes also called the Paper birch, is according to Michaux, most common in the forests of the eastern states, north of latitude 43°, and in the Canadas. There it attains its largest size, sometimes seventy feet in height, and three in diameter. Its branches are slender, flexible, covered with a shining brown bark, dotted with white; and on trees of moderate size, the bark of the trunk is of a brilliant white: it is often used for roofing houses, for the manufacture of baskets, boxes, etc., besides its most important use for canoes, as already mentioned. The leaves, borne on petioles four or five lines long, are of a middling size, oval, unequally denticulated, smooth, and of a dark green colour.
The White birch, (B. populifolia,) is a tree of much smaller size, generally from twenty to thirty-five feet in height: it is found in New-York and the other middle states, as well as at the north. The trunk, like the foregoing, is covered with silvery bark; the branches are slender, and generally drooping when the tree attains considerable size. The leaves are smooth on both surfaces, heart-shaped at the