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.
It was among the earliest efforts of our much-loved Downing to awaken the attention of rural improvers to the peculiar and varied beauties, and the excellent adaptability, of our native forest trees in ornamental planting; and with the aid of other pioneers in improvement, succeeded in rescuing many noble sons of the forest from the obscurity of their native ranges, which now are often the familiar and grateful objects of many a quiet door-yard, or the graceful or picturesque ornaments of the more extended and artistic pleasure-ground.
It is a most happy circumstance - thanks to Nature's timely forethought and unbounded store - that different localities are blest with so many different species, widely dissimilar in their characteristics of form and habits of growth. As a general rule in the selection of forest trees for rural embellishment, those belonging to our own locality are not only more easily obtained, but are better adapted to our wants than those from remote parts, being natural to the place: they harmonize with the landscape better. It is far more satisfactory, too, to have our own familiar friends about us than the strange faces of foreigners. Their beauties are unborrowed, they are inherent; their forms and vestments of green belong to their native haunts, and in a certain proper sense, are "not transferable." Yet the beauty of variety leads us to sprinkle in, sparingly, the trees and plants of other parts and other climes.
In the Western States, the Bur-Oak is one of our finest forest trees. It is always found skirting the small rich prairies of Michigan and Indiana, and often in groups, sometimes swelling into groves and broken belts in their midst; but it is found still more plentifully on alluvial soils of a peculiar character and richness, which are always designated as " Bur-Oak plains" or "Bur-Oak openings." No person having a spark of natural beauty within him, would fail to notice this remarkable tree. It is picturesque in the highest degree, and yet is so graceful that it peculiarly bents and adorns its own native, level plains and prairies. Some specimens are as regular and free-growing as a European Linden, while others are as irregular and gnarled as the most ardent lover of the picturesque could desire. Within view of my grounds, an aged monarch of the Bur-Oak family stands in the middle of a lane, with arms stretching twenty-five feet each way, a trunk three feet in diameter, and is about thirty feet high.
This is the most noble and venerable individual it is my fortune to know.
During summer, the bark of the newly-formed wood of the young tree is of a rich buff color, and contrasts most charmingly with the dark green of the long, glossy leaves, and the dark, rough bark of the old wood. The half-graceful and half-picturesque character of this tree united to the other qualities named, makes it a remarkable and attractive object on a lawn, or where growing wild on prairie or plain.
It is, indeed, a singular circumstance, that this fine tree has not been more extensively introduced into pleasure-grounds and parks; for place it where you may, it will at once give a prominent individual character to the place, or to any portion of the grounds. It produces seed in wonderful profusion, bo that I have known trees three inches in diameter, bear a peck of acorns. A tree of such properties, of so much " availability," ought to be spread far and wide.