This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
By James Veitch & Sons. Published by the authors, Exotic Nurseries, Chelsea, London, England. This is a general review of the whole order of Coniferae, with a synopsis of the hardy kinds cultivated in Great Britain, with their place and use in horticulture.
In naming plants, every botanist knows how much aid is derived from a correct answer to the question: When, where and by whom was the first plant found? Now, as regards conifers few are in a better position to give the personal histories of many kinds than the authors of this book, for no single firm has done so much towards introducing them as they. Indeed the personal histories of the kinds which they give here, is among the great attractions of the work. We have had numerous works on the coniferae during the last quarter of a century, but the personal histories alone would render this work valuable, and give it a distinct field of its own. We did not know till we read it here that Jeffrey - after whom Pinus Jeffreyi was named - did not return to the old world after his employment as seed collector on the Pacific coast. The last that was heard of him was that he joined the expedition, which, under Lieutenant Ives, we suppose explored the Gila and Colorado rivers.
In regard to the treatment of the work, it is enough to say that the numberless disputed points are treated here very judiciously.
In regard to nomenclature, it is no secret that the best botanists, as private letters would attest, yet feel "bothered" as to the limits of species and genera, and it is by no means improbable that the end of change in the names of coniferae has not yet been reached. The Veitches do not attempt to alter existing nursery names, but they honestly give the correct state of the case, and leave that which is right to work its own way. For instance, as regards our Mammoth tree, they always use "Wellingtonia gigantea," in referring to it. But in the history of the plant, they show that Dr. Lindley, who named it, was mistaken, in his belief of its distinctness from Sequoia, that " Sequoia has priority of designation, and must be retained," and that "the name Wellingtonia has lost ground everywhere except in England." In a like manner with Thuja gigantea, called in England Thuja Lobbii, and Libocedrus decurrens, known there as Thuju Craigiana. Though still employing these terms in the general treatment of the subject, the history of the genuine name is correctly given.
But here, as elsewhere, we find no small amount of worry and doubt as to what is meant when common names are used. Both Pinus inops and Pinus Banksiana are spoken of as " scrub pine." Of course the authors had to follow American works, on which they would have a right to depend. But it must not be forgotten that very often these names given as common names are not common. Indeed they are often invented by the authors of the works, who, while giving the botanical characters, seem to think they must make a "common" name, but which generally the community repudiates, and makes one for itself when its own good humor insists that it shall do so without the slightest regard to the common name made for it by the botanists. It is just so with Pinus Banksiana. In Michigan where, if anywhere, it is at home, its common name is "Jack Pine," and the common name of "Scrub Pine," made in advance by the botanist, is common no where that we know of. In speaking of the "Yellow Pine," it is fortunate our authors told us they mean Pinus mitis.
But though Pinus mitis is sometimes called "Yellow Pine," it is much better known in some parts as " Spruce Pine," and in others as "Bull Pine," than anywhere as " Yellow." While Pinus palustris, P. taeda and even Pinus rigida is more often called " Yellow Pine " than P. mitis is.
When speaking of "Yellow Cedar," they tack this on to Thuja gigantea, but this, even allowing for all the difficulty and confusion which these uncommon common names make, must surely be wrong. The name is given by the settlers to the Cupressus Nutkaensis from its peculiar yellow green during the winter and early spring, and this yellow tinge is still more marked when it comes into blossom; then the tree seems to be covered with golden yellow dots. If we are mistaken in this we shall begin to doubt whether we know anything about American coniferae; which doubt, however, in the midst of so much confusion and difference of opinion, we are often almost ready to entertain. If the Thuja gigantea is not yellow cedar, of course much of the popular account referred to this plant under this name, leads necessarily to great disappointment and serious loss to forestry planters.
Our authors are not responsible for all this trouble. Indeed it is wonderful, with all the existing confusion, that they have been able to steer so judiciously through them all, and to produce such a truly superb work. It is one which does credit to progress, and will be indispensable to every person who has an intelligent interest in coniferous trees.