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.
(Intended for the Pennsylvania Fruit Growers' Society, but received too late for reading).
Having some years since been complimented by the vote of your excellent society with the privileges of honorary membership, and holding also perhaps a birth-right membership in every good undertaking in the dear old State of Pennsylvania, your fellow comes before you in this way as some compensation for the inability to enjoy a personal intercourse with his good friends of the Pennsylvania Fruit Growers' Society.
Like ourselves in the State of Ohio, so you in the parent State have advanced, in practice if not in name, from a pomological society to one which considers other and more general topics related to horticulture. Thus the functions of your committee are to look after the trees, arboriculture or sylvaeculture, and it is to be supposed that your attention will not be confined exclusively to those trees which yield orchard fruits, hut may embrace also those which are simply ornamental, with foliage and flowers, or those which have their claims upon our respect founded upon their many values as the source of our timber supplies.
It is with trees that present themselves as candidates for our favor in both these latter catego-lies, that your attention is now solicited. You are asked to consider a tree that has long been familiar to you on account of its showy inflorescence, and of another very nearly allied to it which has still more showy flowers and a superior habit, making a more beautiful object in the lawn or on the avenue, and also constituting a more noble tree in the forest and providing a most valuable material as lumber, which, like that of its congener, with which you are familiar, is of a more durable character. Besides being light, sufficiently strong, and also of great beauty for joinery, cabinetware, furniture, and inside finish of your houses, it is equally enduring, perhaps more so.
You may already have guessed that the tree to be introduced will be the Catalpa bignonoides, which will be alluded to more particularly in its Western form, described and named in 1853 as the variety speciosa, on account of its very showy inflorescence. This may not be so familiar to my Eastern friends, who will now be so good as to allow it the honor of a formal presentation and of a brief audience.
We have two catalpas, both native, an Eastern and a Western form. Our Western tree has a wide habitat, stretching, according to Michaux and Nuttall, (neither of whom, however, seem ever to have differentiated it as our Western tree planters have learned to do), from Vincennes, Indiana, to southern Illinois; the western low lands of Kentucky and Tennessee, to the swampy lands of south-eastern Missouri and the adjoining region of Arkansas, and on most of the lower tributaries of the Mississippi. This tree was accidentally or purposely introduced into Ohio, and into at least two different and widely separated localities. At first it was only known as the catalpa, and meanwhile the Eastern or the normal, the specific form, had been widely distributed by the nurserymen and others all along either side of the 40th parallel until it had transcended the father of waters. Here both trees were planted together, and here it was that the superior hardiness of our Western tree was first observed and made public by Suel. Foster, of Muscatine, Iowa, on whose grounds the crucial test of such a Winter as that of 1855 and 1856 was made, with the escape of the speciosa and the destruction of the species.
The speciosa has stood for years on the high exposed bluffs of the Missouri at Omaha, Nebraska, and has been planted at various places on the open plains of that State where the species is apt to be killed more or less every Winter.
In a few words the differentiation or diagnosis of the variety may be presented to you. Pos-sibily this newly appreciated tree may already have found its way among you, though trees like men, are apt to follow the star of the empire in another and opposite direction. Newly appreciated is the word, but it was most highly appreciated in the early part of the century by the French settlers on the Wabash, and long before them by the Indians who utilized it as the favorite material for the construction of their canoes, some of which were clear three feet wide between the gunwales and proportionally long, perhaps thirty to forty feet. The observant Gen. Harrison, afterwards President, when acting as governor of the North-west Territory, fully appreciated the Shavanon Tree of the Indians and used it. Some posts of his planting were in good condition when removed after having done service in a fence during forty years. Some of them were re-set in another fence, and others which have been chopped off for kindling, are said to have their stumps still sound in the soil of the river bottoms subject to overflow; though since the}' were planted large trees have sprung up beside them having a diameter of three feet.
Near the old gubernatorial mansion at Vincennes are catalpa trees probably of Harrison's own planting, one of which recently measured is three feet in diameter, with a tall, erect stem bearing its top branches fifty feet above the ground, and having branch-width of equal breadth. This is called the Treaty Tree, under which he may have cemented the compact with Te-cum-the, which has been followed by the peace and prosperity of a wide extent of country, now the great States of Indiana and Illinois. The verification of this is left to the historians.
Though a great admirer of this tree, the governor knew it only as the catalpa, without botani-cally observing it, and so it was reported to Mr. Nuttall, who, in his Genera, pp. 10, on the governor's authority, gives this region "an indubitable habitat," for up to 1830 that distinguished botanist and extensive traveler had never seen the tree in a state of nature, as he tells us he then did "on the banks of the Chattahoochee, near Columbus, Georgia." Sylva Americana.
On leaving his office, Governor Harrison brought the Catalpa with him to his farm at North Bend, on part of winch this memoir is now being written. The tree has been spread about the neighborhood, and has became already naturalized, though on yery different soil from that of its native habitat. Some of the trees have been cut, dressed and planted as gate posts. Though taken at midsummer, July 2d, full of sap, and immediately planted (1852), they are to-day firm and sound.
But to the differentiation. Supposing you familiar with the species, it may be said of the variety speciosa that the tree is taller, straighter, less branched, more symmetrical, more hardy then the species. The bark, snug, compact, moderately furrowed, and not disposed to flake oft as it does in the species. The flowers, more abundant, larger, of a purer white. The fruit, usually longer sometimes, but not often exceeding two feet; larger and generally distinctly grained the entire length, cylindrical and not elliptical on a cross-section like the species. The seeds present the surest and safest distinguishing mark of all these, as the coma is spread and less pointed, the tissue soft and silky, and they are larger.
My dear sir, and gentlemen, hoping that all this may not be considered the vaporing of an enthusiast but, as it is the earnest effort to advance the noble study of our arboreal treasures and the contribution of one deeply interested in sylvaeculture, he remains yours in the sentiment e sylvis ad sylvas nuncio.