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.
"A subscriber, J. S." near Crosswicks, N. J., "about to commence the cultivation of raspberries for market," asks, "What is the best kind for the purpose, and whether the best kind for market is hardy or requires any special treatment?"
[So far no better kind for the purpose indicated has been found than the Philadelphia. It is the only kind not needing any special treatment, though somewhat inferior in quality to others which have to be covered by earth in winter. Ed. G. M.]
Do Persimmons change by Grafting? - E. H. C, Shepherdstown, Pa., says: "Your advice to a correspondent in regard to propagating the persimmon has suggested this question.
"More than twenty years ago I procured grafts from an adjoining county of a large and almost seedless variety, and grafted them on a non-bearer. The result has been large, fine fruit but very seedy. I have heard of similar 'freaks' in grafting this fruit. Who can tell more about it?"
[This is an extremely interesting fact, and W. Glover, of Orangeburgh, S. C. Under date of Dec. 21, 1875, he says: " About 24 years ago I planted six acorns of the cork tree. All germinated, but grew slowly, as the soil was barren, and the location exposed them to the sun. They were not cared for; but wishing to test their adaptation to our climate, after four or five years I removed two of them to a more favorable soil, and where they enjoyed the shade of a house. Since their removal the trees have advanced in height and increased in diameter. My trees are about twenty feet high, and thirty-one inches in circumference - and nineteen inches at five feet from the ground. The leaf resembles that of the live-oak, but the branches are not so extended. My trees have never yet borne any acorns. I am satisfied that the tree can be successfully cultivated here. I enclose pieces of the bark."
All this is satisfactory and to the point. The specimens of the bark no one can mistake; they are true cork. (Specimens were shown.)
We come now to the facts of European cultivation, and give presently a few particulars from Michaux, and the exhaustive account of that expounder of botanical matters, Loudon, in his great work, the Arboretum Brittanicum. As long ago as 1845 I visited one of the largest cork trees in the world, at Ham House, England, which was planted by Dr. Fothergill, and is still in tolerable condition, not having ever been stripped. I have taken pains since to examine single trees in various parts of Italy, especially at Isola Bella in lake Como, one of the Borromean isles, where the Quercus suber flourishes admirably alongside of the Camphor tree, and many botanical curiosities I have rarely met with elsewhere.
"Aye be planting, Jock," applies emphatically to our America. Suppose at the Bevolution in 1776 every member of Congress from the South had planted only a peck of cork tree acorns! Would we not bless every "signer" and his memory, for his forethought. Suppose we try the experiment in 1877, and record the names of our patriotic cork men.
Let us see now what Michaux and Loudon say. Taking the first authority and condensing his information we find that The cork oak grows naturally in the Southern parte of France, in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the States of Barbary, which are comprised between the 44th and 35th degrees of latitude; that it rarely exceeds forty feet in height and three feet in diameter. (The trees already mentioned as growing in South Carolina are 23 and 20 feet high, attained in a little more than 20 years.)
Its leaves are evergreen, but the greater part of them fall and are renewed in the spring; they are ovate, thick, slightly toothed, of a light green on the upper surface, and glaucous underneath. The acorns are rather large, oval, and half enclosed in a conical cup, and being of a sweetish taste, are eagerly devoured by swine.
The wood is hard, compact and heavy, but less durable than the common European oak, particularly when exposed to humidity. The worth of the tree resides in its bark, which begins to be taken off at the age of twenty-five years. The first growth is of little value; in ten years it is renewed, but the second product, though less cracked than the first, is not thick enough for bottle corks. It is not till the tree is forty-five or fifty years old that the bark possesses all the qualities requisite for good corks, and from that period it is collected once in eight or ten years. Its thickness is owing to the extraordinary swelling of the cellular tissue. It is better fitted than any other substance for the use to which it is appropriated, as its elasticity exactly adapts it to the neck of the bottle, and its impenetrable structure refuses exit to the fluid.
Had my edition of Michaux's great work been deferred till this date, (it was published in 1857,) and two editions issued, I should have added that gutta percha and gum elastic have been tried with some success with a view of superseding cork, but the heavier cost and imperfect adaptability are so great that as long as the true cork is obtainable all substitutes yet tried will be found greatly inferior. It may here be added that a vast portion of the cork imported in America is refuse, declined by European users. The best is taken by the champagne bottlers abroad. The bottled wines of this country are remarkable for their inferior corkage, and Mathews would have found very often a difficulty in taking drawings of them.
July and August are the seasons for gathering cork. Two opposite longitudinal incisions are made through the whole length of the trunk of the tree, and two others, transverse to the first, at the extremities; the bark is then detached by inserting a hatchet-handle like a wedge. Great care must be taken not to wound the alburnum, as the bark is never renewed upon the injured parts. After being scraped, the bark is heated on its convex side and laden with stones, to flatten it and render it easier of transportation. It should be from fifteen to twenty inches thick.
Michaux, who is an authority, asserts that this tree would be an important acquisition to the United States, and would grow wherever the live-oak subsists. This region may be said to commence about the latitude of Fortress Monroe, Virginia, and extends to the Gulf of Mexico. In much of this region land is only worth, say, from one to three and five dollars the acre. If a man was desirous of founding a family, he should plant these acres, or some of them, with cork, walnut, locust, larch, catalpa, and other trees; if he selects his land with judgment, his children and grand-children can and will supply the great demand which is to come for railroad ties, furniture, car builders, and the thousand artificers who are always demanding more wood. The bark of the cork tree will always be in demand. We have quotations every week of the Quercitron used by tanners; it is within the possibilities that quotations of cork oak bark will hereafter be made at one hundred times the value of the "tanners' bark." Though the time for receiving returns for planting cork seems a long one, let us remember that the black oak has taken quite as many years to produce its bark, and that when stripped the tanners' bark is never renewed.
Both outer and inner bark, according to Loudon, abound in tannin, and the former contains a peculiar principle called suberine, and an acid called the suberic. The wood of the tree is stated to weigh 84 lbs. per cubic foot, but is never found of sufficient size to be of much consequence; its outer bark was applied to useful purposes even in the time of the Romans. Pliny speaks of a buckler lined with cork, and the Roman women lined their shoes with it; both Greeks and Romans appear to have used it occasionally for stoppers to vessels, but it was not extensively employed for this purpose till the 17th century, when glass bottles began to be generally introduced. Besides the above uses, bungs are made of it, and it is employed by fishermen for buoying their nets, in the construction of life-boats, so-called life-jackets, etc. The Venetian ladies employed it for their high-heeled shoes, and the poor people of Spain lay planks of it by their bed-side to tread on, as rugs are employed. Sometimes the insides of houses built of stone are lined with this bark, which renders them very warm, and corrects the moisture of the air.
Bee-hives are also made of the bark of young trees; even furniture of the lightest kind is made of cork.
If we add to its compressibility and elasticity, that it is the best non-conductor, flexible, its adaptability to life-preservers either in the form of boats, its imperviousness to liquids, and its great durability, we have an article readily produced, of the utmost importance, and well worthy of cultivation in our country; its commerce extends throughout the civilized world.
Recent efforts have been made with cork shaved thin to adapt it for the soldiers' knapsacks, belts, and even his canteen, the object being lightness and dryness; and it is understood these efforts have been successful. Who can say that the huge trunks now employed may not be made of slabs of cork?
When the cork tree has attained the age of about 15 or 20 years the bark is removed for the first time, but the first bark is found to be cracked, and is therefore only fit for burning or being employed in tanning.
The largest cork tree is in England, says the same valued authority just quoted, in Devonshire, at an elevation of 450 feet above the level of the sea, in a soil of fine rich red loam, on a substratum of stone conglomerate. It is only three miles from the sea, and is exposed to the sea breeze from the east, a situation not unlike the long reach of our eastern Florida coast.
Byron has alluded to this tree thus:
"The cork trees hoar that crown the shaggy steep;" and Southey speaks, in Roderick, the Last of the Goths, of "The cork tree's furrowed rind, its ritts and swells."
In conclusion, this Centennial period is a very proper one to inquire what we can do for the next hundred years. For one thing, I would say, plant cork acorns, and don't depend upon Patent Office or Agricultural Bureau for encouragement.
Since all the parade of government patronage was made, we have obtained California, with a climate in places no doubt admirably adapted to the Evergreen or live oak and the cork oak. Whether it will succeed there is a question to be decided, and how far irrigation will be required remains for the future to ascertain. Doubtless there are situations wherein both these important aids to civilization will flourish. We recommend a trial; and if acorns are wanted Messrs. Vilmorin, Andrieux & Co., Quai de la Message-rie, Paris, will gladly supply them in any needed quantity.
Parties reading this article will confer a favor on the public by communicating to the editor any further facts in relation to the growth of these trees in the United States. I may add that I have succeeded in getting part of a trunk that grew in South Carolina, for the Centennial Exhibition.
Since this was penned my friend D. Landreth, Esq., suggests that the limit of Fortress Monroe is not sufficiently far South. Even in the south of England, though the bark is true cork, as it is in South Carolina, the trees are never turned to account by stripping. It is probable that a warmer latitude is necessary to perfect the bark for commerce.