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.
Among your "Editorial Notes," in the December number, 1878, "Profits of Forest Culture," you present the results of Mr. Rich'd S. Fay's experiment with the Larch, and high price obtained for railroad sleepers. You say, that, "The Larch is profitable, but it is far less profitable than many other kinds of trees would be." Allow me to enumerate some of the qualities of the Larch, and its uses besides for posts, telegraph poles, and railroad sleepers, gleaned from writers on the subject.
It appears that the quality of Larch timber, does not depend so much upon the maturity of the tree, and the slowness of its growth, as that of the Pine; as a fishing boat, built of Larch, only forty years old, has been found to last three times as long as one of the best Norway Pine. It is not so buoyant, however, nor so elastic; and as it does not dry so completely as Pine, boards of it are more apt to warp. It is, however, much more tough and compact; and what are very valuable properties, it approaches nearly to being proof, not only against water, but against fire. If the external timbers, and the principal beams of houses, were made of Larch, fires would not only be less frequent, but, they would be far less destructive; for, before Larch beams be even completely charred on the surface, a beam of Pine, or of dry Oak, will be in a blaze beyond the ordinary means of extinguishment. Larch, however, is heavier to transport and elevate, and also much harder to work than Pine; and as these circumstances are all against the profits of the contractor, or builder, (or its scarcity), jointly prevents the more general use of this most safe and durable timber.
"The Venetian houses constructed of it, show no symptoms of decay; and the complete preservation of some of the finest paintings of the great Masters of Italy, is, in some respects, owing to the panels of Larch, on which they are executed. The objects for which Larch timber seems preferable to every other, are chiefly these: gates, palings, posts of all kinds, that are inserted either in the earth, or in the water, wooden buildings, many agricultural implements, cottage furniture, bridges and gangways, carriages for transporting stones, and all hard and rough materials, barrows for builders, and road makers, lighters, fenders, and embanking piles, lock and clock gates for canals and harbors, coal and lime wagons, vessels for carrying lime, pit-props, and hop poles of the smaller thinnings." This writer continues: "For all these purposes, and many minor ones, Larch would come considerably cheaper than any timber now in use; and would, in the average of them, last at least thrice as long. The saving to the public would thus be immense; and the lands upon which an abundant supply might be raised in every county, are at present, lying idle".
I was not aware that, "The Larch was evidently chosen at a time when it was thought very important that Scotch forestry should be the model for American forestry." It does seem slightly critical on Mr. Fay, and Prof. Sargent, who deserve much praise, as you admit. I simply desire to see no detriment cast in the way of such encouragement to forestry, by lessening the value of the Larch.
The common Ash, Fraxinus excelsior, is one of the most valuable trees, which grows on various soils, and of rapid growth. In elasticity, it is far superior to the oak, and it is not so liable to be broken by a cross strain. Nothing is superior for agricultural implements, and for all sorts of poles, ladders, long handles, and other purposes which require strength and elasticity combined with comparative lightness. Maple, in the lathe, is easily turned, eligible for saddle-trees, wooden dishes, founder's patterns, and many other articles, both of furniture and machinery. It is not apt to warp, either with variations of heat or moisture. Our Native and European Lime or Linden, also beautiful for shade as are the Maples, though a soft and weak timber is valuable for many purposes. Thus we might enumerate other trees for forestry, worthy a place; but my object was simply to do justice to the Larch, without detracting from others that may seem "more profitable than the Larch".
[We do not understand Mr. Stauffer to give his views of the value of the Larch from any American knowledge of American grown timber, but that he is still holding up to us the results of Scotch or European forestry as a model for American experience. - Ed. G. M].