This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A note in the Monthly for May, having reference to the Cercidiphyllum, serves as a suggestion that a few words respecting its natural habitat, and value both for ornamental and timber purposes, may not be untimely; and I am the more inclined to offer what little I can, since I fully believe the tree will not only prove perfectly hardy in Massachusetts, but will be valuable for shade and also as a source of timber.
The Cercidiphyllum Japonicum, (Katsura) is found sparingly in the mountain ranges of Nippon, and abundantly in the forests of Yengo, where its true home appears to be. So far as my observations have extended, it is but rarely found growing on bottom lands, or where there is a large accumulation of moisture, but it delights in the well-drained and gentle slopes of foot hills, along the base of which it forms a narrow belt, its zone of distribution, with reference to altitude, being slight, since it does not appear to thrive on the higher and more completely drained slopes.
It is very common in the larger trees for the trunk to divide from two to five times, at a distance of eight or ten feet from the ground. Two trees of very common size, were measured at a distance of three feet from the ground, and in each case found to have a circumference of twenty-seven feet. The common height appears to be between eighty and one hundred feet.
The foliage is small, graceful and compact, while the tree as a whole, forms a stately and most beautiful object. The flowers are so inconspicuous as to be of no value for ornamental purposes, while the fruit, consisting of small pods about three-fourths of an inch in length, would be no serious objection to the tree as an object of ornament, on account of its diminutive size, while any objection might arise on this account, could be easily overcome by taking care to select only the staminate trees for planting.
That there will be little or no difficulty in establishing the tree in Massachusetts, seems very probable. Comparing the meterological record taken at Amherst, Massachusetts, for eleven years from 1867 - '77 inclusive, with the record taken at Sapporo, for the years 1877-'78, we find but slight difference in the climates so far as temperature and humidity are concerned, and though a comparison of an equal number of years might show somewhat greater differences, it appears safe to venture the assertion that, in the mean annual temperature and humidity of Amherst and Sapporo, there is no essential difference.
Amherst, for eleven years.
Sapporo, for two years,*
A possible difficulty might be encountered in accustoming the tree to the sudden and often severe changes incident to the climate of New England, since the changes peculiar to Hokkaido weather are more gradual and much less severe. Doubtless any such difficulty could be overcome by giving the tree a certain amount of protection; or, raised from seed, it might adapt itself readily to the climate.
Respecting its special value for timber, but little can be said as the result of experimental determination, and the question of durability can only be decided at some future time. The wood is light both in color and weight, strong and easily worked. The grain is rather close. For fine indoor work and the manufacture of furniture, the Japanese employ it very extensively, while the Ainos consider it one of the best of woods for the construction of " dug-out " canoes, both on account of its lightness and strength, while they can also find an abundance of trees in which the trunk is perfectly straight and free from branches, for a distance of twenty feet from the ground.
It seems quite probable, from the uses made of the wood, that it must be of durable quality; and that it will prove a valuable acquisition to the ornamental and timber resources of America, there seems but little doubt.