This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Professor Gray has steadily combated the popular notion that these trees are several thousand years old. Mr. J. G. Lemmon, one of the most esteemed of California botanists, has recently sent a long account of a visit to the trees, to the Pacific Rural Press, from which we take the following extracts:
"The stump of the very large tree which was bored off with pump augers in 1852 to form the floor of a house, affords a fine opportunity for counting, since it is so evenly smoothed off; but still more time is necessary to do it accurately than most observers allow themselves. This tree should certainly be considered a fair sample of the oldest of the present generation, for it is one of the largest ever seen. Its circuit at base is 97 feet by my tape line, held at one end by a Puritan and master builder from Boston. Longest diameter without bark, five feet above the base, 24 feet 10 inches. Shortest diameter, 22 feet eight inches. The bark averages 18 inches in thickness, making the entire longest diameter of the tree at five feet above base, over 27 feet. A few other trees are met with measuring as much or more at base, but they are generally swollen outward, and hollow like the shaft of a light house. This monster tree was as straight and sound as a candle, hence it was undoubtedly the largest perfect tree ever yet seen.
I spent nearly a day counting the rings of this stump, and of the butt cut of the tree lying near it. I counted carefully both ways, putting in pins to mark the place of hundreds. The stump being a little irregular in consequence of its near roots, I counted in three places along three equidistant rays. The first count was 1,260 rings, the second count was 1,258 rings, and the third count was 1,261 rings - average age, 1,260 years. Counting on the butt, cut 24 feet from the base, the rings were of course a few less, 1,242 in number, but all very plainly discernible, and presenting exact uniformity in their decrease in thickness from heart to bark. I availed of this uniformity of decrease by establishing, after many counts of different trees, a rule for determining the mean number of rings to the linear foot, and fixing the locality on a cut across these trees where the rings are of average thickness. That point is just one-third of the distance from the bark to the heart. At the heart the grains are often three-eighths of an inch thick, at the bark as thin as paper.
The average, as determined by countings of all the logs in the grove which have been cut across, some half dozen or more, clearly established the rule that the rings of average width are found one-third of the way from the bark to the heart. This rule proved very useful afterward in estimating age of broken trunks.
As late as February last the writer saw a speci men of Sequoia in the Central Pacific railroad collection at San Francisco for the Centennial exhibition, which was sent from the Calaveras Mammoth Grove, and is marked " four thousand years old."
Now I firmly believe with Dr. Gray that this is an " over-statement," and, as I said, I am glad that it is such. Let India with her banian tree which by the way is a mass of trunks, not a single one - take the palm for growth of 4,000 years; let African baobab trees reach back still nearer to the Garden of Eden; let Palestine boast of her cedars of Lebanon growing since Moses' time, and let Australia present upon every exploration by the close observer, trees of undeterminable ancient origin; all these trees of the old world almost, without exception, are slow-growing, fine-grained, stunted, gnarled, decrepit, unsightly old relics of past ages - only interesting because of their great age.
The famous baobab, Adansonia digitata, is the largest in circuit at base of any tree yet known, but it is only 70 to 80 feet high. The cedar of Lebanon, with annual layers, so fine that a lens is necessary to distinguish them, is similar in shape, the trunk an abruptly tapering spike.
Now all observers admit that the California Big Trees, with their vast straight-fluted columns, 200 to 300 feet high, and their immense crowns of finely divided, evergreen branches, are the most symmetrical and magnificent in form, the tallest and actually the largest in dimensions of any yet known in all the world. How satisfying to the pride of a true American, to reflect upon the inference derived from this comparatively new fact - formerly a most unwelcome one to the thoughtless, insomuch that loyal Californians prove their loyalty by declaring their belief in the great age of the Big Trees; hence the warfare to which Dr. Gray refers, and the great but pardonable assistance given to the erring side by eminent writers through their praiseworthy love of country.
But Science always searches for the truth. Sooner or later the facts will come to be believed, and they are always best. And the truth, in this case so long repressed, is most welcome, because it gives foundation for the most reasonable and enthusiastic loyalty. Why, these grand giant trees are mere vigorous saplings yet, only 1,200 to 1,500 years old! Ages hence full-grown trees may be seen 50 feet in diameter and 1,000 feet high, only limited by the proximity of brother trees and the depth of the valleys where found. We can't expect them to be so unneighborly as to choke their brothers to death, nor to rise above the leveling winds that sweep over the canons of the Sierra. So let the old world pride itself upon old things, old nations, old creeds, old arts, old customs, old monuments; we of America rejoice that this, a new, unfinished world, with young yet colossal vegetable growths, strange yet beautiful animal forms, modern yet matchless peoples, adolescent yet full-fruit-bearing institutions, unprecedented yet unimaginable destinies!
"For still the new transcends the old, In deeds and wonders manifold."
Cocoanut Palm (Cocos nucifera, Lin.) is very widely distributed between the tropics, generally affecting the neighborhood of the sea, and especially abundant in India and the Pacific Islands, where its tall and cylindrical trunk, from 60 to 100 feet in height, crowned with many gracefully waving feather-like leaves, fringes every islet and forms one of the most striking beauties of the scenery.
Almost every part of the tree, as in a few others of the palm tribe, is applied to important uses. The wood, imported into Europe under the name of porcupine wood, is employed for building purposes, the construction of chairs and fancy articles. From the leaves, besides their general use as a thatch and in hut-making, baskets and screens are made, while those young and tender are cooked and eaten. Of the well known nutritious fruit, the cocoanut, several bunches of a dozen or more are borne by each tree. From the shell of the mature nut, various useful or ornamental vessels, spoons, etc., are cut and carved, and from the fibrous rind or husk which envelopes it is prepared the "coir" of commerce, so extensively used in the manufacture of mats, carpets, brushes, cables, bags, etc. The fibre is prepared from the husk by steeping and beating.
• From the kernel, boiled and bruised or grated, is obtained the cocoanut oil largely employed in the manufacture of excellent candles, and also of soap. Of this oil, in 1870, 197,788 cwts. were imported. - Pharmaceidical Journal.