This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
We find the following notice of this beautiful tree in a late number of the Gardeners' Chronicle. It is perfectly at home in the climate of Rochester: -
"In the scramble after noyelties there is a risk that one of the most valuable of the exotic Coniferous trees grown in Europe may be forgotten. It would be interesting to know what proportion the sale of the Ginko Tree, or Salisburia adiantifolia, bears to that of such plants as Taxodium sempervirens. "We suspect that the demand for it is almost nothing, judging from the very few places in which it was ever seen. And yet it is a noble tree, of singular as well as beautiful aspect, as hardy as a Poplar, and, when old, of gigantic stature. Its only fault is being deciduous. Here and there large trees may be met with, looking in mid-winter like vigorous Pear trees. But to growers in general the plant is scarcely known.
An interesting account of the tree as it now exists near Montpellier, for which we are indebted to M. Charles Martins, has drawn attention once more to the peculiarities of Salisburia, and we hasten to avail ourselves of some of his facts.
In Japan, of which it is a native, as well as of some of the coldest parts of China, it is looked upon as a kind of Walnut, and acquires very considerable dimensions. A specimen, growing by a Pagoda in the neighborhood of Pekin, is recorded by the Russian traveler Bunge to measure thirteen yards in circumference, and to have a prodigious stature. In the Botanic Garden of Pisa is one about twenty-five yards high, and a yard in diameter at its base; and near Montpellier grows another, of which the following is the history, abridged from M. Martins report.
In the year 1788 Baoussonet, who was then in London, sent to Prof Gouan, of Montpellier, a plant of this species, for which he was indebted to Sir Joseph Banes. In 1812, twenty-four years after being planted, the tree flowered. At that time it was nine and a half yards high. In June, 18S5, it was rather more than seventeen and a half yards high. On the 7th December, 1853, its stature was determined by careful measurement to be nineteen and three-quarter yards, or a trifle more. From this it appears that it lengthened on an average not quite a foot annually; but it in reality grew nearly three times as fast in the first forty-seven years as in the last eighteen.
The spread of the branches was rather more than seven and three-quarter yards in 1812, 11 3/4 in 1835, and 14 ½ in 1853.
The diameter just above the roots increased at the following rate: - In 1788 it was 3 millimetres (1 year old); in 1812 it was 239 millimetres (29 years old); in 1835 it was 605 millimetres (47 years old); in 1853 it was 887 millimetres (65 years old).
In another case, in the Garden of Plants at Montpellier, a Salisburia gained in 58 years a diameter of 672 millimetres.
The annual growth of the first in diameter is thus seen to have been about 13.64 millimetres; that of the second to have been about 11.6.
In comparing this rate of growth with what has been observed in other Conifers, M. Martins records some very interesting facts. In the Botanic Garden of Montpellier, within a hundred yards of the last named Salisburia, grew a noble Spruce, which had been planted in 1688. Circumstances led to the removal of the tree when 160 years old. A round of the butt having been preserved, showed that its diameter had increased thus: - When 24 years old its diameter was 152 millemetres; when 47, it was 272; when 58, it was 316; when 65, it was 350. It therefore had not grown half so fast as the first Salisburia mentioned above.
The Scotch Pine (Pinus Sylvestris) affords similar means of comparison. We here translate M. Martins literally: - ' In every latitude comprehended between 49° and 70° K.. that is to say, from Haguenau on the lower Rhine, as far as Kaafiord in Lapland, the annual layers of the Scotch Fir diminish in thickness from the center to the circumference. This decrease is rapid, in proportion as the trees are more and more northern. As a term of comparison, I give below, in millimetres, the mean thickness of the layers, up to 100 years, of a large number of Pines observed at Kaafiord, in Finmark, (lat 70°); at Pello, in Lapland (lat. 67°); Geffle, in Sweden (lat 61°); Halle, in Germany (lat. 51°); and Haguenau, in France (lat. 49°). At Kaafiord the mean annual thickness of the layers of wood is 0.0009m.; at Pello, 0.0011; at Geffle, 0.0018; at Halle, 0.0019; at Haguenau, 0.0032. The mean thickness of the two Salisburias above referred to being 0.0065 m., it is clear that they grow much more rapidly than the Scotch Fir, even in Haguenau, in the climate of Alsace. It would be a great mistake to suppose that there is no parallel between the growth of the Scotch Fir in the north of Europe and that of Salis-baria at Montpellier. In reality, it is in the middle of Sweden that Scotch Fir attains its greatest magnitude.
Near Geffle and Upsal, the tree becomes colossal, because it finds itself in a climate that suits it The summer is, however, too short to enable the annual layers of wood to gain great thickness, and in winter, vegetation is totally suspended.' .
Thus, facts seem to show that Salisburia deserves to be much more generally cultivated than it is. According to M. Martins, and others, the wood is dense and strong - not unlike that of the Orange tree, and by no means resinous; and when the female trees have a male branch grafted upon them, which is easily done, they produce their fleshy fruit in abundance, which, if not of value for useful purposes, have, at least, the merit of being ornamental.