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.
Within my recollection a large part of Southern Michigan, which is now in the form of arable land, has been cleared of timber. Our grandfathers, at great labor and expense, cut down, rolled into heaps, and burned the timber from* thousands of acres in New York, because they must have room for corn and wheat and meadow. Our fathers did and are still doing the same thing for Michigan. Educated in this way, brought up in the woods, where timber is too plenty, as a people, we have been taught to undervalue timber. There are now living, men who can see no beauty in a tree, except for the cords of wood or loads of lumber, or the hundreds of rails it will make. The lovely elm, with all its grace and beauty, well styled the queen of American trees, shades the border of his meadow, and is a nuisance. He cuts it down. Our large, grand old trees have not been saved, partially because of this lack of love for them. In many places it would be impossible to save them. They would not stand the storms alone when their fellow trees were cut away. In 100 or 200 years it is likely our successors will have and care for large samples of trees which have grown more stocky in exposed places.
One of the interesting things now to do is to save what we can and make a record of the size and position of any large trees in Michigan.
The largest hemlock I ever measured was at Hersey, in Oscela county. At the stump it was thirteen feet in circumference. I know there are larger specimens, and I am ready and anxious to record and publish the figures. At Hersey, also, I measured a black birch ten and a half feet in circumference. I hear of an arbor vitae white cedar about twelve feet in circumference on Cedar river. I hear of a buttonwood tree, four miles below Grand Rapids, thirty-three feet around. In Saginaw county I hear of a butternut tree three feet nine inches in diameter. I am anxiously waiting to get dimensions of more native trees.
The largest apple and largest pear trees I ever saw or heard of in Michigan are at Monroe. The pear tree is ten feet in circumference in the smallest place; the apple tree is ten feet in circumference six inches from the ground. Near Adrian is a weeping willow about four feet through, and a grape vine twelve or thirteen inches in diameter. In Branch county stand two trees, twelve feet apart, each about twelve inches through. They run up twelve feet, when one starts off horizontally and strikes the other, when they grow together in one body. I heard of a specimen, perhaps not now standing, two pines, about four feet apart, diameters twenty-six and twenty inches respectively. About sixteen feet from the ground they are joined by a pine six inches in diameter. Above the point 0f union the smaller tree becomes the largest. In Oakland county are twin beeches, much like the pine trees just mentioned.
On Little Salt river I hear of a white oak twenty-five feet in circumference. At Lansing we have tamaracks about nine feet around. In Lenawee, near Deerfield and on Little Prairie Ronde, I hear of sassafras trees six feet in circumference. At Grand Ledge and at Tecumseh are coffee trees four feet in circumference. At Adrian and near Kalamazoo are honey locusts about six feet in circumference. At Northport is a red cedar about nine feet around. In Otsego county there is a sugar maple said to be eighteen feet in circumference; one in Ionia county seventeen feet four inches around. At Clam Lake an old lumberman can furnish spars of pine 175 feet long and only two feet through at the butt. In Reading, Hillsdale county, I hear of a black walnut nine and a half feet in diameter. As a boy I remember one in Rollin, Lenawee county, which, I think, was equal to the one in Reading. In Dearborn I hear of a swamp oak twenty-three feet around, an American elm at Manistee twenty-four feet around. In Vevay, Ingham county, I learn of a white wood eighteen feet around.
In Farmington, Oakland county, I hear of an ailanthus thirty years old six feet three inches in circumference. In Flint I hear of an oak tree nearly three feet in diameter. About ten feet from the ground is a huge knot which is sound and goes nearly around the tree. The wart, or knot, strikes out nearly three feet each way from the tree.
Some trees prove of great value because of the peculiarity of the grain. If I am rightly informed, a walnut tree at Potterville sold for $1,000 as the wood was in beautiful waves. It was made into veneering. Doubtless many a valuable log has been destroyed by ignorant people not knowing its real worth.
A thorough survey of the State, with a full illustrated report of the forest trees and other plants, would be of great interest and value in many respects. Trees indicate soil. Massachusetts has a good report.
At the Agricultural College we have begun in a small way to raise some of our native trees, some foreign ones also, to see which will prove of most value for future generations to grow for profit. It may seem strange to hear of raising trees for timber in Michigan, but our people will soon begin to raise some kinds, and some of us will live to see it in all probability. So far as we can judge now our best trees to raise for timber are white ash, hickory, black walnut, white pine, white oak, European larch. An acre of timber raised, cultivated and properly cared for is of much more value than an acre of forest trees of the same species.
Considering the great prominence of Michigan forests when compared with any other states, it is well worth while for our citizens, through the Centennial, to show specimens of them, and also sections of some of our oldest cultivated trees, as fruit trees and ornamental trees, to show how fast they grow, to show how well they endure our climate. Of such, we are preparing to exhibit locust, catalpa, European larch, apple trees, cedars, maples, etc.