Bay-Tree, or Lauras, L. is an elegant tree, of which there are ten species ; but none of these being indigenous, we shall in this place give an account of those only, which may perhaps in this country be cultivated with advantage ; namely,
1. The Laurus nobilis, L. or Evergreen Bay, is a native of Italy, with an upright trunk, branching out on every side. It may be propagated, either by layers, or by the berries. When the former are transplanted, in a dry season, they require to be constantly watered. To raise this tree from the berries, they ought to hang till about January, before they are gathered, and to be sown shortly afterwards, in a fine mould. They should be guarded from black frosts while young, by placing furze bushes between the drills. Haxbury asserts, that species. thrives exceedingly well on the hottest gravelly lands ; and, after having overcome the hardships of transplanting, it will grow in such situations remarkably fast, and attain a considerable size. The dark-green leaves of this tree afford, by distillation, a very useful oil, which is employed, both in medicine, and as a culinary spice. The fragrant, but bitter berries, also yield an essential oil, and in a much greater proportion: it has sometimes been used with advantage in nervous and paralytic affections. With the foliage of this beautiful tree, which, among the ancients, was consecrated to Apollo, they crowned their poets and heroes.
2. The Laurus aepstlvalis, or Deciduous Bay, a native of North America. It rises with an upright stem, covered with a purplish bark, and has oblong, oval, deciduous leaves.
3. The Laurus Benzo'e, L. or Benjamin-Tree, which grows fif-teen or twenty feet high : and
4. The Sassafras ; both species are also natives of America. They may be cultivated by the seed, preserved in sand, and sown early in spring, one inch deep, in large pots. They require a soil taken from a rich pasture, with the sward, at least one year before it is used. Nothing more than weeding will be necessary; which must be constantly practised during the summer. About the middle of March, the pots should be taken up, and placed in a good hot-bed ; soon after ' which the buds will appear. Weeding and watering should still be attended to; and at the approach of cold weather, in autumn, they should be sheltered under a frame, and replaced in the hot-beds, in the ensuing spring. After having been thus managed for three years, they should be taken out of the pots, and planted in the nursery-ground, where they may remain till strong enough to be finally transplanted. Such plants may also be increased by layers, but very slowly, as three or four years will elapse, before they take proper root. The young twigs should be
' laid in the ground in autumn; and, by twisting a wire around the bud so as to stop, in some degree, the circulation of the sap, and stripping off a little of the bark with a knife, it has been found that they speedily acquire firm roots.
Evelyn asserts, that he has seen bay-trees near thirty feet high, and almost two feet in diameter: and I Ianbury ranges the bay among his forest-trees.
Professor Kalms, in his travels through America, informs us, that the bark of the species called Sassafras is used by the women of Pennsylvania, for dyeing worsted of a permanent and beautiful orange-colour, which is not affected by the rays of the sun. They make use of urine instead of alum, in pre-paring this dye, which is boiled in brass vessels : the wood is employed for posts of inclosures, because it is found to last a long time in the ground; but, when exposed to the air and rain, there is scarcely any timber more subject to be destroyed by worms. The same writer informs us, that the Sassafras root is frequently peeled, and put into beer, while brewing; and also into brandy. A decoction of the root in water, drunk every morning, has, according to him, been used with success in the dropsy.
4. The Laurus Cinnamomum, L. or Cinnamon-Tree, is a native of Ceylon ; has a large branchy root, which is hard and white, without smell: its trunk grows to the height of twenty feet, or upwards, and, together with its numerous branches, is covered with a bark, which is first green, but turns red before it arrives at perfe6tion. The leaf is longer and narrower than the common bay-tree : when first unfolded, it is of a flame colour, but gradually changes to a deep green, on the upper surface, and becomes lighter on the lower. The flowers are small, white, and grow in large bunches; they impartant agreeable odour, similar to that of the lily of the valley. The fruit is shaped like an acorn, but of a smaller size.
With respect to the culture, or propagation of this valuable tree, in its native place, we possess no particular account; but it is now become of importance to us, since it has been introduced into our colonies.
According to the account given by Dr. Wright, its propagation js very easy, and its culture requires but little care. Dr. Dancer asserts, that the tree puts out numerous side-branches, with a dense foliage, from the very bottom of the trunk: this furnishes an opportunity of obtaining a sufficiency of layers, and facilitating the growth of the tree, which does not perfect its seeds in any quantity under six or seven years, when it becomes abundantly loaded. It seems to delight in a loose-, moist soil, and to require a southern aspect: the trees thus planted, flourish better than others which grow in loam, and are not so much exposed to the sun. When healthy, it is reared from layers of a pretty quick growth, attaining, in eight years, the height of fifteen or twenty feet.
The cinnamon-tree, with other valuable plants, was taken in a French ship by Admiral Rodney, in the last war, and presented to the Assembly of Jamaica. From this parent-tree, several hundred of young plants are already produced, and transplanted in different parts of the island; in all of which it thrives luxuriantly, and will soon be a valuable addition to our commerce. In this country, it requires to be treated like other greenhouse plants, or rather as a stove-plant.
The best cinnamon bark taken from the trees growing in Jamaica, is that from the branch, of about an inch in diameter ; as the larger ones do not yield so good a spice. It is the inner rind that constitutes the cinnamon, from which the two external coats must be separated.
Cinnamon, though more retentive of its properties than any of the other spices, yet requires to be excluded from the air and moisture. The leaves of this tree, whether fresh or dried, are strongly aromatic, and afford a good substitute for the bark, both in cookery and medicine. In distillation, they yield a fragrant spirituous water, and an essential oil when reduced to powder, they form a good perfume.
5. The Laurus Cassia, L. or Base Cinnamon, has lanceolated leaves, triple nerved. The bar this species is imported from different parts of the East Indies, and from China. It resembles cinnamon more in its aromatic flavour than in external appearance; as it is thicker and coarser: it farther differs from it, in being weaker, abounding more with a viscid mucilaginous matter, and being less astringent ; as likewise by its breaking short and smooth; while the cinnamon breaks fibrous and splintery.
0'. The Laurus Camphora, L. or Camphor-Tree, grows wild in the western woods of Japan, and in the adjacent isles. The root of this tree smells stronger of camphor than any other part, and yields it in greater abundance. This is another of the captured plants presented to the inhabitants of Jamaica ; and, if cultivated with care, will also be a beneficial ac-quisition.
The Abbe Grosier informs us, that in China this tree grows to above 150 feet. high, and more than forty yards in circumference. The camphor is obtained by lopping the branches, which the Chinese chop very small, steep in spring Water for three days, and afterwards , rify the sap by boiling.
7. The Laurus Persca, L. or the Alligator pear-tree, is another spe-cies of the bay, which is generally cultivated in the West Indies. It rises to a considerable height, with a straight trunk ; the bark is of a greyish colour ; the leaves of a beautiful green. Its fruit is pear-shaped , and from one to two pounds weight. It affords an agreeable article of diet to the negroes, and •with a little salt and a plantain, furnishes a nourishing repast.— When the pear is ripe, its pulp is harder than butter ; and from its similarity in taste to that animal oil, it is called vegetable marrow.
There are several other species of the bay-tree, which we shall not enumerate, as they are of inferior value, and consequently less interesting.