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.
On my arrival at Hakodate, in the end of May, I at once proceeded to investigate the neighboring districts. The weather, however, proved so unfavorable that I was for some time unable to collect specimens.
The first plants that struck me as most remarkable were the Azaleas and Diervillas, which were growing on Hakodate Head in great profusion, and with their pink and scarlet flowers produced a magnificent effect. Amongst other flowering trees and shrubs I observed more particularly the common Pear (Pyrus communis), the double flowering wild Cherry (Primus pseudo cera-sus), a wild Plum (Primus), and a shrub looking like a wild Apple (Japanese "sansashi,") which I afterwards found to produce clusters of small red fruit, very likely a Pyrus toringo. Of the latter a great number were collected at the time (although I recommended that this operation should be deferred until the proper season for removal had arrived), and in consequence nearly the whole of them perished.
Another most remarkable climbing shrub, the "Kokuwa," a species of Actinidia, I found in flower on an excursion to Hakodate Head, the only time I saw it in that condition; unfortunately the specimens which I then collected were lost through the inclemency of the weather. I was fortunate enough to secure afterwards specimens in fruit which I preserved carefully. In the Appendix 3, I refer more fully to this valuable fruit.
The only large timber trees I saw were Cryp-tomeria japonica, evidently planted there, and the absence of all native timber trees, with the exception of a few small oaks, struck me as very remarkable.
Among the herbaceous plants I must mention Plaucidium palmatum, a beautiful Ranuncula-ceous plant, also found in the mountains of "Nikko," and never yet introduced into foreign gardens. The Lily of the Valley, covering many acres of meadows, was the most charming sight I ever beheld. I also "found in the hills several varieties of Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum). In some places where water collects frequently, I found a fine Arum, bearing flowers more than 12 inches long, resembling the Calla Ethiopica, but of larger size, which would form a valuable acquisition for our ponds; as it will no doubt prove hardy there, because I found it growing in company with Caltha palustris, a plant which is so very common in our northern latitudes. For many of the spring plants, which make their appearance soon after the snow leaves the ground, I was too late, or else no doubt I should have had a rich harvest. I remarked some good looking grasses in the neighborhood of Hakodate, but as they were not in flower at that time, I had no opportunity of ascertaining their value for the purpose of feeding cattle, horses, etc.
The small white clover is seen growing in many places, not, however, I think, indigenous, but probably escaped from cultivation during former attempts to introduce foreign farming into the Island of Yesso.
Ferns are very abundant on the hills, and amongst them I remarked as growing very luxuriantly the Adiantum pedatum, a kind of Maidenhair fern commonly grown with us in hothouses. It is seen in large patches under the shade of shrubs, the effect when young and producing pink fronds on black stalks is very pretty. Asplenium, Polypodium and Pteris are also abundant.
In sea-weeds, the bay of Hakodate is very rich, and I secured a great collection during my stay there. They are now in course of preparation by the students at the farm.
Nanai, the farm of the Kaitakushi, within ten miles of Hakodate, I visited for several days on my journey to the west coast. Here I saw the first good sized trees, although not frequent. They consisted of Horse-chestnut, edible Chestnut, Walnut, Magnolias, beautifully leaved Maples (Acer palmatum), Alder, Birch, and an Ash. There is no remarkable vegetation on the road to Nanai. The farm itself presents no features of any consequence beyond the fine range of buildings for the purpose of stock-breeding, and I found very little to repay my researches there. The few thousand fruit trees planted there seemed to do better than those I had seen growing in Hakodate, and are as yet free from the attacks of the butterflies, which are so disastrous to the trees in the latter locality. The orchard and nursery are not planned as well as they might be, but only a radical change in the laying out could remedy this defect.
On my way to Volcano Bay, going through the mountains at.an elevation of about 1000 feet above the level of the sea, I found a beautiful climbing shrub, called by the Japanese, Matatabi, which I recognized as Actinidia polygama. At first sight the points of the leaves appear to represent the flowers; and are often mistaken for them by casual observers. On close inspection, however, the flowers are under the branches, resembling those of the Tea shrub. They are sweet scented, ami belong to the same family as Tea and Camellia. (?Ed.) The appearance of the shrub is elegant, and would well repay introduction into our shrubberies. It is more frequently found growing in company with and climbing on Magnolia hypoleuca, which grows there to a size of 2 to 3 feet in diameter, and to the height of at least 60 feet. A very remarkable tree, and valued much for the sake of the timber it yields, is the Japanese katsura, the scientific name of which is Cercidiphyllum Japonicum, only lately classified under the family of Magnoliaceae. There are recorded two species in this country of which I only found one. It grows to a large size, and attains a height of afVer a 100 feet, with a diameter measuring sometimes 6 to 8 feet.
The vegetation becomes more dense in the mountains, presenting no new features, but descending towards Volcano Bay, the growth of the trees gradually diminished on account of the pumice of the extinct volcano.
My destination being Sappora, and the road skirting the sea-shore, at first little of interest occurred in the way of plants as far as Osha-manbe, from whence, again entering the interior, the vegetation was more profuse, caused by the increase of the depth of the soil, and the neighborhood of fresh water ponds, which counteracts the fatal influence of sea-air. In the ponds a diminutive water-lily (Nymphaea teragona) is found, the undeveloped leaf-buds of which are considered a great delicacy by the Japanese, and eaten by them with vinegar. The leaf-buds present a peculiar appearance, being covered with a mucilage resembling fish spawn. The flowers are white, like a small Nymphssa. Leaving the sea-shore we struck and followed the valley towards Kuromatsunai. The valley is remarkable for its rich growth of plants, Maple, Alder, Chestnut, deciduous Oak and Ash, forming the principal timber trees; less frequent are Birch, Elm and Aralia. The undergrowth is composed of a close growing Arundinaria, which is commonly called Bamboo grass, and gives a favorite food for horses and deer.
Among climbing shrubs I more particularly remarked the magnificent Schizophragma hydrangoides, which I do not think has as yet been introduced into foreign gardens, but which I dare to point out as one of the future leading novelties for our parks. The general appearance of this creeper is striking, and with its white sterile flowers resembles much a white Clematis at a distance, although it is a true Hydrangea; the rich green tint of its foliage is one of its great attractions. Among other climbing plants, I found Euony-mus radicans a plant now well known, which covered the trunks of trees in the same manner as Ivy, and is evergreen like its rival. Taxus cuspidata is frequently found in shady places, and is the only Conifer growing in these districts. The soil here is black mould, the substratum of which is a dark brown loam.
The Japanese had several settlements here, and seemed to do well. They cultivated various grains and vegetables, especially wheat, which grows here of superior quality: barley, millet and buckwheat are ALso produced in small quantities, but must be remunerative to the growers as their general appearance leaves an impression of their doing well. Lilium Thunbergianum was here cultivated to a great extent, in company with Dioscorea batatas, for the sake of their edible bulbous roots. The settlers are all Japanese; very few Ainos are met with here, but these do not represent a fair type of this singular people, as they are entirely dependent on the good will of the Japanese settlers. Their huts and their way of living cannot be compared in any way with those of the same tribe living at what may be considered their head-quarters.
On the pretty stream, on which Kuromatsunai is situated, I found on the stones a singular Lily, which is new to cultivation, named by Professor Gray, Lilium medeoloides, from, the collections in 1862. It is a singular Lily, and resembles much a Fritillaria; and is called by the Japanese, "Kuruma yuri," on account of its leaves being verticillate - "kuruma," wheel - "yuri," Lily. It bears flowers, .generally single, with petals much recurved, of a scarlet color. There was nothing of any marked interest beyond what I had observed hitherto, until I reached Otashuta, excepting magnificent trees of Magnolia hypo-leuca, which, being in flower, presented a beautiful appearance.
The formation of the ground from Otashuta by Iwanai and Tomari to Otarunai seems to me not very favorable for agricultural purposes, if I may judge from the general vegetation. At Iwanai there is a plain of some extent, but even there, although the position of the ground seems to be favorable, nothing but plants growing on a soil of a poor description could be seen, such as the Pteris aquilina (Brake fern) a few shrubby Oaks and others. The young shoots of the Brake fern, Jap. " Warabi," are much prized by the natives as an article of food; the fronds are gathered when still undeveloped and used in soups, etc.
It struck me that sheep would thrive well in this valley, as I have seen similar grounds used for that purpose in the north of Germany, at a latitude of about the same degree.
At Tomari, going up to the coal mine at Kayanoma, I discovered the Hydrangea spicata, remarkable in its appearance on account of the large spikes of white flowers, entirely different from any Hydrangea I ever saw; another Hydrangea, I fell in with, was of a beautiful sky-blue color, not shrubby like the former, and of a much smaller size, growing in shady situations. It is as far as I can ascertain, Hydrangea acuminata of Siebold and Zuccarini. Among the rocks I observed two different kinds of Clubmoss, growing side by side, like those well known in America, and always used by the bouquet makers of New York and other large towns in the United States.
A fern called Lomaria Japonica is frequent here, and makes a very pretty effect with its variously and delicately tinted fronds; they consist of the sterile ones growing close to the ground, eight or ten in number, out of the centre of which two or three fertile fronds rise perpendicularly.
Shakotan is a place famous for the production of a peculiar kind of Bamboo (Arundo), used by the Japanese for stems of pipes and writing brushes. The place where the reeds grow is situated five miles up the stream from the village. It grows abundantly round the stream, and no traveller, who stops at this place, leaves without securing some of the peculiarly colored reeds. The coloring the Japanese frequently declare to be characters of their own language, written as they believe by their gods.
In the hills near Otanunai there is a fern growing with variegated fronds. Variegated fronds among ferns are very unusual, especially in northern latitudes.
At Sapporo, which I reached the 28th of July, I remained for about two weeks. As it is the Capital of the Island, I thought it important to gain a knowledge of the plants and trees which are more frequently to be met with there. The town is situated in a large plain under a range of mountains, and the soil consists of a deep yellow loam, covered in most places with about a foot of rich black mould, which I had no doubt, judging from the vegetation, might be easily worked to produce rich crops of grain, fruits and vegetables.
Leaving the forest towards Yubuts we struck several rivers running in an easterly direction and found large numbers of the Lilium tigrinum, the bulbs of which are a favorite vegetable with Japanese. A Lychnis, with much laciniated petals and of a bright red color grows here among the grass; it looked so handsome that I collected a number of living plants. Yubuts is situated on the sea-shore, and vegetation naturally becomes less varied. A large leaved creeping Rubus (Raspberry), bearing clusters of large red fruit grows everywhere in the neighborhood. The fruit at first sight looks very tempting, but has little flavor to recommend its cultivation.
Following the coast on our way to Akkehi I found little of interest until I reached Sara. The sandy levels on the sea-shore are frequently covered with a wild rose, Rosa rugosa. It has large dark-green leaves and single purple flowers measuring 3 inches in diameter, and bears a red round fruit which is much relished by Ainoes and Japanese. If preserved in sugar they would make a fine desert fruit. Vitis labrusca, the wild grape, is also found growing near the sea-shore. It has long dark-green leaves which are of light-brown color underneath, and bears bunches of fruit which are dark-blue when ripe. The growth of the vine is not as luxuriant as it is in the woods near Sapporo and other places, but this can be accounted for by the soil which here is of a much poorer description. Small oaks with an undergrowth of Lespedeza (a leguminous plant), much prized by the Japanese and often mentioned in their poems under the name of Hagi, and a grass, Eulalia Japonica, growing about 5 feet high together with an Artemisia, are all I remarked. The latter three are cut together and made into hay, which is used by the natives for feeding their horses in winter.
A pretty looking fern is growing on the branches of the oak trees.
Near Saru is one of the head-quarters of the Ainoes, consisting of seven villages with a population of about five hundred inhabitants. Their occupation is principally fishing and hunting; but I found some traces of agriculture, or rather garden culture, along the banks of the river on the good rich soil. Millet and beans formed the principal crops. Wild Hops grow frequently in this soil; the specimens I saw looked very much like foreign ones, and I think would improve by cultivation. Foreign hops imported there would certainly succeed well if the Ainoes could be induced after proper instruction to devote themselves to this profitable article of commerce. Of all the localities I have seen during my stay in Hokkaido, none seems, in my opinion, more favorable to the cultivation of hardy foreign fruit as far as both position and soil are concerned.
I was much surprised to find even in this remote locality some small traces of ornamental gardening. These gardens are only found at the government stations, and planted by officials in former years. The plants consisted principally of those growing in the neighboring mountains, such as Rhododendron, small firs, and the dwarf growing Taxus cuspidata, which is often trained into different shapes. In some of these gardens I even found some of the favorite trees imported from Yedo, the Plum Cherry, Pine, Cryptomeria, and among herbaceous plants the Chrysanthemum was most conspicuous.
On the road to Urakawa I met with an apparently leafless Orchid. It had pink flowers at the time, but I could not ascertain from my travelling companions whether it ever made leaves, nor could I find any traces of them. At the same place I found a number of Lilies which were pointed out to me as the "black Lily;" unfortunately the flower had already passed, and I had no opportunity of identifying this plant. Mr. Lyman, who started earlier for the east coast, had seen it in flower, and tells me that the flower is of a dark-blue color. The plant which generally goes under the name of "black Lily," in Yedo, and of which I have seen drawings, differs materially in the structure of the leaves, and I am inclined to think that the Yesso Lily is a species as yet unknown. I therefore collected a large number of bulbs to be sent to Yedo, in order to see whether it really is a novelty or not.
Here I had to leave behind the artist who had been attached to our expedition; he fell sick and had to return; a great disappointment to me, as I had counted upon him to preserve in drawings such plants as I was unable to preserve by drying. I am all the more sorry as he gave proofs of considerable ability, although he took a long time over the few drawings which he really finished.
From here the road becomes almost impassable for travellers on horseback. It is nothing but a path, and never seems to have been laid out or repaired properly, and even becomes dangerous in some parts. Gradually ascending the mountains at Samani the vegetation becomes alpine, and coniferous trees which I had to my great surprise seen very little of up to this time formed the forest to a great extent. Abies Yezo-ensis with a pine which I believe to be Larix Kaempferi, but which for want of cones I could not well determine. The undergrowth was formed of a large leaved Rhododendron, and Zanthoxylon; the fruit of the latter is used by Japanese as a medicine. The seeds have a peculiar flavor.
In the moss underneath the fir trees a small Orchid, a Goodyera is found growing; also the handsome creeping blue Campanumsea (Genti-anea?) is to be met here in the clearings.
Monotropa uniflora, a species of Ericacese is found growing here among stones near rapid flowing streams under the shade of trees. It is parasitical on the roots of trees, has a scaly stem about 8 inches high, bearing only one flower of a whitish pink color. It resembles much a Monotropa which grows in North America, and is called there commonly "Indian pipe." It is very curious that the Japanese also have a similar name for it, viz.: "Gankubiso," meaning herb like the bowl of a pipe.
Descending towards the seashore, a pink and a white Scabiosa, in company with a Platycodon (Campanulacese), is growing in sunny places. Approaching the vicinity of the seabeach, the rocks are studded here and there with a small Compositea, of which the flowers are sometimes red and sometimes white. I also noticed several different kinds of Sedum and Saxifraga. From here we ascended again the mountains where I found some trees I had not seen before. Foremost among them is Styrax abassia, a tree peculiar to the Japanese islands, with large round leaves and clusters of fine white flowers. It grows about 15 feet high, and has a smooth light red bark. A Carpinus, with flowers like those of a Hop, almost three inches long, was in full bloom. Kalopanax richinifolium (mig.), a large species of Aralia, which is often found in the forests, attains here its greatest size. It is a handsome tree,- especially when in flower, and has almost a tropical appearance. The trunk sometimes has a diameter of from three to four feet, and as the wood is easily worked it is used for various purposes, especially by Ainos for their canoes, which are made by hollowing out a portion of a trunk about 20 feet long.
The Japanese name is Sen noki, or Harigini. The Ainos call it"Yoshi-ni."
Clerodendron trichotomum, a shrub with large leaves and racemes of white flowers relieved by a red calyx, grows here with great vigor, although I did not expect to find it so far north. It is really a handsome shrub, and would form a valuable addition to foreign parks, as it is perfectly hardy here. A pink-flowering Andromeda, which I had not seen before, grows in patches in stony ground. A pretty flowering herbaceous plant with blue flowers, which I believe to be a Ly-simachia, frequently occurs here; and the beautiful Primula Japonica I found for the first time in its wild state on the sides of small mountain streams. Four years ago this plant was introduced into England, and on account of its elegant habit has spread through foreign gardens with great rapidity, and promises to be one of the leading plants for open air cultivation. The mountains rise here to about three thousand feet, and those facing the sea are generally scantily supplied with vegetation, while those more inland are covered with thick forest up to their summit. On the former Birch and Alder of small size are met with, and also small Oak. A species of Arundo, a favorite food of the deer, covers large spaces of the open ground.
The deer are said to collect here in large numbers during the winter season, and are killed by the natives for the sake of their skins. I was informed that no less than thirty thousand deer were killed last winter at Hore-idzumi, where large plains covered with this reed occur.
Following the road, we had again to descend to the seashore, and on the way we passed through most luxuriant vegetation. There must be a considerable amount of moisture in this neighborhood, as I found no less than three different ferns growing on trees. Hydrangea, Actinidia, Euonymus and the wild grape grow luxuriantly, and give the forest almost a sub-tropical appearance.
From Berufune to Kusuri the road leads through a plain about a hundred feet above the level of the sea. This plain is much intersected by small rivers, on the banks of which a gigantic umbelliferous plant was in flower, a species of Angelica, similar in -habit to those found so frequently in Siberia. They often attain a height of 15 feet, with a hollow stem of at least 6 inches in diameter; some of the white umbels measured 18 inches across. Apparently it has a preference for moist localities, as I only found it growing in places where water is abundant. It is the largest representative of this widely-spread family that I have ever seen.
Polygonum mspidatum is frequently met growing in company with these umbelliferous plants. It is a beautiful species, of tall growth, whose fertile flowers, which are of a light pink color and produced in large clusters, have a very good effect, and would form a valuable addition to park scenery in Europe or America. It sometimes grows to a height of 10 feet, and the stems are often used by Ainos as walking-sticks, probably because they are hollow, light and comparatively strong. This plant belongs to the buckwheat family, another remarkable instance of the size herbaceous plants sometimes attain to under favorable circumstances. The plains contain very little of interest, excepting a number of vigorously growing Aconitum, the roots of which are used by the Ainos for poisoning their arrows in order to kill wild beasts. They make a decoction of the root, and soak in it their arrow-heads, which they use in traps for catching bear and deer. Gentiana Buergeri, which grows sometimes to the height of three feet, is very frequent, and has a magnificent effect with its clusters of blue flowers. At Ohotsunai, two small Vacciniums, one with red, the other with black berries,.occur abundantly. A greenish white Lichen grows between them, of which the deer are said to be fond in winter.
Several rivers run here into the sea, and the plains through which they run would afford good opportunity for cultivation. The soil is a rich loam, and of a dark brownish color. The black Lily mentioned before grows at Kusuri in quite large quantities.
From here to Akkeshi the road leads through mountains of not very great elevation. The deciduous trees give way here to Conifers. They were represented by the Tode and the Yeso Matsu before mentioned, with an undergrowth of Taxus cuspidata called by the Ainos " Unco." It is held in great estimation by them, as they use the tough wood for making their bows. A great deal of moisture must collect in "these districts, as a white Lichen is met with everywhere hanging from the trees. Here I found a wild Raspberry and a red Currant covered with fruit, of which the bears are said to be very fond. The Raspberries favorably compare with those cultivated in foreign countries. The Currant grows about 10 feet high, has large leaves and bears large red fruit, which is rather sour. A shrub which I think to be Philadelphus coronarius was past flowering, and I only saw it in fruit, and was therefore doubtful as to its identity. An Actinidia, with red leaves which seem to differ materially from the two kinds already mentioned, I only met in this neigborhood. Around Akkeshi, on the foot of the hills, a Rubus resembling a Blackberry, except in the color of its fruit, which is red, grows among the shrubs. The flavor although sweet leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Wild Strawberries grow abundantly here, and are said to be of fine flavor. As they were past bearing on my arrival I had no opportunity of testing their merits. The leaves look much like those of the European wild Strawberry.
Opposite Akkeshi there are two islands, which I visited, but I found nothing different from the mainland; in fact they were too near and too small to have a flora of their own.
It was my intention to proceed as far as Nemoro, but the Japanese objected, because they said that the frost would interfere with our investigations, and I was reluctantly compelled to return to Sapporo by the same road.
I left Akkeshi on the 28th of September, taking with me from the different stations on the road the plants which I had collected.
At Chitose I met again with Lilium medeo-loides, and as it is scarce in other places I procured a large supply of it.
I reached Sapporo, with' all the plants I had collected, on the 28th of September, and after making an additional collection of trees and seeds in that neighborhood, to be forwarded to Tokio, I started for Ishcari.
This road leads through a fertile and well-wooded country. On the road well-cultivated farms are seen, and the wood is composed of a great variety of beautiful timber trees. It is difficult to say which tree is the most abundant, but near Shinoro the Chestnut and the Walnut are decidedly the most prominent. In the woods around Ishcari, Maples are found more abundant. They are generally large trees, but I noticed one of smaller growth with leaves colored dark blood red, which had a magnificent effect. All the trees already mentioned, such as Magnolia, Tilia, Aralia, Quercus, etc, seem to flourish and do well here.
The "Kokuwa," a fruit which had been described to me as a great delicacy, I here had an opportunity of tasting for the first time. It has a peculiarity of not being eatable before it has had a certain amount of frost. Its flavor is delicate, and resembles the taste of a fig combined with that of the grape. If taken in large quantities it acts as an astringent medicine. A number of fruits were gathered and preserved in sugar, which I believe have been sent to Tokio.
On the 5th of October I returned via Sapporo, Tomakomai and Horobets to Tokarumui, and collected on the road all the living plants which I had observed before, but which at that season could not be removed.
At Tokarumui I was especially fortunate in securing a great variety of trees and shrubs. Among other shrubs I found a Lindera, always employed in Japan for making toothpicks, which are a household necessity in this country. Cler-odendron trichotomiim grows here to an enormous size, sometimes attaining a diameter of one foot and a height of thirty feet. Sanshio (Zanthoxylon) also grows to good sized trees of about the same dimensions. I am convinced that this place is very rich in its vegetation, and it would repay a closer investigation another season.
I returned to Tokio on the 26th of October, leaving the plants in charge of the Japanese officers who accompanied me. The plants have now reached Tokio. The living ones are planted in the gardens at Aoyama, and the dried collection is undergoing classification.