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.
No branch of agricultural industry is of greater importance than the forest in all its appliances. In most of the States the question now is not how the woodlands shall be most speedily cleared of the trees, but by what management shall the necessary calls for wood in its different uses be most economically answered, with the smallest inroad upon the standing timber? Even in our new States a good "wood lot" is often considered the most valuable on the farm.
Two questions are involved in the preservation of these forests: How may the uses of building material and fuel be economized 9 How far may the products of the forest be increased, and improved in quality, by proper management ?
With the greatly improved modes of generating heat for domestic and manufacturing uses, not more than half the amount of fuel is required now that was consumed ten years ago. Iron and glass are displacing wood for the frames and finishings of buildings, water craft, carriages, furniture, and many other branches of art. Iron and glass are fast gaining ground where strength is more needed than bulk, and where durability is an important consideration.
I do not now wish to discuss the economies of wood after it has been taken from the forest How much and what quality of wood may be taken from woodland, consistent with the least deterioration of the permanent value of the forest, is a question that more immediately concerns the land owner. The oak is the most valuable of all our woods. It is the most generally diffused, and it is put to the greatest number of good uses. It is well known that the most valuable timber is that which has attained its growth with most light and air. The wagon-maker takes care to combine toughness and durability, by selecting his wood from trees of "second growth," or from trees of first growth that from infancy have stood alone or far apart. Acting on this hint, we would cull out first such of the oaks as are unsound, giving those that are left more light and air. It is a fact in vegetable physiology, that motion facilitates circulation, and that young trees confined to stakes do not form their bodies so rapidly as when left to the moving influences of the breeze. The thinning should be carefully effected too; for the sudden exposure of the body of a tree to the light, after it has been shielded for centuries from the rays of the sun, is frequently fatal to it.
The growth of a tree that has always been closely hemmed in, and guarded by its fellows, has a form so different from one of the same species that has sprung up and come to maturity in the open ground, that the identity would scarcely be recognized. Thus, the black walnut in the forest is a tall, naked shaft, with often but a few short branches at its top; while in the open field it grows low, round, and spreading. I have often recommended the whitewood for the avenue, or as a very fit tree for private grounds, and have almost as often been asked if that tall, naked tree, out of which so much lumber is made, could be beautiful. Here let me say that the very general ignorance which exists of the difference in the beauty of pent up forest trees and those that have had full exposure, is the great reason why ornamental trees for transplanting are so seldom chosen from many of the more common forest varieties. How often does the woodman's axe itch for contact with the tall, naked column of the white ash, whose tempting softness is destined to be unfelt until he shall have disposed of some harder but less valuable tree.
As a lawn tree, that white ash becomes short and round, close and symmetrical.
The experiments of hundreds, in attempts to develop the sylvan beauties of wildwood, have failed from sudden and indiscriminate thinning. I have seen the fruits of it on my own ground. A narrow belt of forest, composed of oak, linden, hickory, and elm, was left a few years ago on the front of a sloping field. Noble old oaks some of them were while standing in the thick forest. I have hoped that exposure to the light would force them to throw out branches from their naked bodies, and that some of these days a pretty grove would be the result, as many more sound trees of a younger growth were left as body guards to shield their stems. These younger have done their duty well; but the old ones struggle on from year to year, and refuse to be comforted by the youthful family around them. Some of them have thrown out a few weakly branches, but as many more look as if beginning to decay. I shall, after all, look to the second growth for my permanent and most beautiful shades. The difficulty in my case was that the wood was too suddenly thinned.
Two-thirds of the large trees had been cut out of the belt nearly at once, judging from the appearance of the stumps, and all the trees on either side.
Owners of wood lots do not attach sufficient importance to their nut-bearing trees. It will not be very many years before the hickory, black walnut, and chestnut, will hare become so scarce as to possess a value, for the fruit they might produce, quite exceeding that of most orchard trees. But a small portion of the hickory trees in forests where this is the prevailing tree, bear well, if at all. The good bearers should be saved and cherished. There is so much difference, too, in the quality of the nuts - nearly as much as in the fruit of a seedling apple orchard - that great care should be taken in selecting the trees to be spared the axe. Some claim to be able to judge of the character of the nut by the number of leaflets in a leaf. I do not know how far this test may be relied on.
In forest labor there is quite too little attention paid to the fact that some trees are impatient of removal, and that such should be cherished on their natal soil. The hickory, for instance, is very difficult to transplant. Indeed, I do not recollect ever to have seen one, of the common size for street planting, live long after removal. We should act upon the hint, and encourage it to give us the greatest possible beauty in the place where it germinated. Few of our western farmers realize that they have been guilty of any great barbarity, when they have "cleared " their last field without having left a hickory upon the farm. With this tree, utility and beauty go so hand in hand, that such wanton destruction is quite inexcusable. For beauty and thrift, there are few round-headed trees equalling the hickory.