Scientific American Supplement No. 360, November 25, 1882
Part 3 out of 3
well. He allowed his commercial instincts to be blunted by wine, and
sold to his guest the five plants for the sum of 25 guineas. Next
morning, when time for reflection came, the Englishman attempted to
regain one only of the plants for the same sum that the Frenchman had
given for all five, but without avail. The plants were conveyed to
France, where as each plant had cost about 40 crowns, _ecus_, the tree
got the name of _arbre a quarante ecus_. This is the story as given by
Loudon, who tells us that Andre Thouin used to relate the fact in his
lectures at the Jardin des Plantes, whether as an illustration of the
perfidy of Albion is not stated.
The tree is dioecious, bearing male catkins on one plant, female on
another. All the female trees in Europe are believed to have originated
from a tree near Geneva, of which Auguste Pyramus de Candolle secured
grafts, and distributed them throughout the Continent. Nevertheless, the
female tree is rarely met with, as compared with the male; but it is
quite possible that a tree which generally produces male flowers only
may sometimes bear female flowers only. We have no certain evidence of
this in the case of the Gingkgo, but it is a common enough occurrence in
other dioecious plants, and the occurrence of a fruiting specimen near
Philadelphia, as recently recorded by Mr. Meehan, may possibly be
attributed to this cause.
The tree of which we give a figure is growing at Broadlands, Hants, and
is about 40 feet in height, with a trunk that measures 7 feet in girth
at 3 feet from the ground, with a spread of branches measuring 45 feet.
These dimensions have been considerably exceeded in other cases. In 1837
a tree at Purser's Cross measured 60 feet and more in height. Loudon
himself had a small tree in his garden at Bayswater on which a female
branch was grafted. It is to be feared that this specimen has long since
We have already alluded to its deciduous character, in which it is
allied to the larch. It presents another point of resemblance both to
the larch and the cedar in the short spurs upon which both leaves and
male catkins are borne, but these contracted branches are mingled with
long extension shoots; there seems, however, no regular alternation
between the short and the long shoots, at any rate the _rationale_ of
their production is not understood, though in all probability a little
observation of the growing plant would soon clear the matter up.
The fruit is drupaceous, with a soft outer coat and a hard woody shell,
greatly resembling that of a Cycad, both externally and internally.
Whether the albumen contains the peculiar "corpuscles" common to Cycads
and Conifers, we do not for certain know, though from the presence of 2
to 3 embryos in one seed, as noted by Endlicher, we presume this is the
case. The interest of these corpuscles, it may be added, lies in the
proof of affinity they offer between Conifers and the higher Cryptogams,
such as ferns and lycopods--an affinity shown also in the peculiar
venation of the Gingkgo. Conifers are in some degree links between
ordinary flowering plants and the higher Cryptogams, and serve to
connect in genealogical sequence groups once considered quite distinct.
In germination the two fleshy cotyledons of the Gingkgo remain within
the shell, leaving the three-sided plumule to pass upward; the young
stem bears its leaves in threes.
We have no desire to enter further upon the botanical peculiarities of
this tree; enough if we have indicated in what its peculiar interest
consists. We have only to add that in gardens varieties exist some with
leaves more deeply cut than usual, others with leaves nearly entire, and
others with leaves of a golden-yellow color.--_Gardeners' Chronicle_.
[Illustration: THE MAIDENHAIR TREE IN THE GARDENS AT BROADLANDS.]
* * * * *
THE WOODS OF AMERICA.
A collection of woods without a parallel in the world is now being
prepared for exhibition by the Directors of the American Museum of
Natural History. Scattered about the third floor of the Arsenal, in
Central Park, lie 394 logs, some carefully wrapped in bagging,
some inclosed in rough wooden cases, and others partially sawn
longitudinally, horizontally, and diagonally. These logs represent all
but 26 of the varieties of trees indigenous to this country, and
nearly all have a greater or less economic or commercial value. The 26
varieties needed to complete the collection will arrive before winter
sets in, a number of specimens being now on their way to this city from
the groves of California. Mr. S. D. Dill and a number of assistants are
engaged in preparing the specimens for exhibition. The logs as they
reach the workroom are wrapped in bagging and inclosed in cases, this
method being used so that the bark, with its growth of lichens and
delicate exfoliations, shall not be injured while the logs are in
process of transportation from various parts of the country to this
city. The logs are each 6 feet in length, and each is the most perfect
specimen of its class that could be found by the experts employed in
making the collection. With the specimens of the trees come to the
museum also specimens of the foliage and the fruits and flowers of the
tree. These come from all parts of the Union--from Alaska on the north
to Texas on the south, from Maine on the east to California on the
west--and there is not a State or Territory in the Union which has not a
representative in this collection of logs. On arrival here the logs are
green, and the first thing in the way of treatment after their arrival
is to season them, a work requiring great care to prevent them from
"checking," as it is technically called, or "season cracking," as the
unscientific term the splitting of the wood in radiating lines during
the seasoning process. As is well known, the sap-wood of a tree seasons
much more quickly than does the heart of the wood. The prevention of
this splitting is very necessary in preparing these specimens for
exhibition, for when once the wood has split its value for dressing for
exhibition is gone. A new plan to prevent this destruction of specimens
is now being tried with some success under the direction of Prof.
Bickmore, superintendent of the museum. Into the base of the log and
alongside the heart a deep hole is bored with an auger. As the wood
seasons this hole permits of a pressure inward and so has in many
instances doubtless saved valuable specimens. One of the finest in the
collection, a specimen of the persimmon tree, some two feet in diameter,
has been ruined by the seasoning process. On one side there is a huge
crack, extending from the top to the bottom of the log, which looks as
though some amateur woodman had attempted to split it with an ax and
had made a poor job of it. The great shrinking of the sap-wood of the
persimmon tree makes the wood of but trifling value commercially.
It also has a discouraging effect upon collectors, as it is next to
impossible to cure a specimen, so that all but this one characteristic
of the wood can be shown to the public in a perfect form.
Before the logs become thoroughly seasoned, or their lines of growth at
all obliterated, a diagram of each is made, showing in accordance with
a regular scale the thickness of the bark, the sap-wood, and the heart.
There is also in this diagram a scale showing the growth of the tree
during each year of its life, these yearly growths being regularly
marked about the heart of the tree by move or less regular concentric
circles, the width of which grows smaller and smaller as the tree grows
older. In this connection attention may be called to a specimen in the
collection which is considered one of the most remarkable in the world.
It is not a native wood, but an importation, and the tree from which
this wonderful slab is cut is commonly known as the "Pride of India."
The heart of this particular tree was on the port side, and between it
and the bark there is very little sap-wood, not more than an inch.
On the starbord side, so to speak, the sap-wood has grown out in an
abnormal manner, and one of the lines indicative of a year's growth is
one and seven-eighths inches in width, the widest growth, many experts
who have seen the specimen say, that was ever recorded. The diagrams
referred to are to be kept for scientific uses, and the scheme of
exhibition includes these diagrams as a part of the whole.
After a log has become seasoned it is carefully sawed through the center
down about one-third of its length. A transverse cut is then made and
the semi-cylindrical section thus severed from the log is removed. The
upper end is then beveled. When a log is thus treated the inspector can
see the lower two-thirds presenting exactly the same appearance it did
when growing in the forest. The horizontal cut, through the sap-wood
and to the center of the heart, shows the life lines of the tree, and
carefully planed as are this portion, the perpendicular and the beveled
sections, the grain of the wood can thus be plainly seen. That these may
be made even more valuable to the architect and artisan, the right half
of this planed surface will be carefully polished, and the left half
left in the natural state. This portion of the scheme of treatment is
entirely in the interests of architects and artisans, and it is expected
by Prof. Bickmore that it will be the means of securing for some kinds
of trees, essentially of American growth, and which have been virtually
neglected, an important place in architecture and in ornamental
wood-work, and so give a commercial value to woods that are now of
comparatively little value.
Among the many curious specimens in the collection now being prepared
for exhibition, one which will excite the greatest curiosity is a
specimen of the honey locust, which was brought here from Missouri.
The bark is covered with a growth of thorns from one to four inches
in length, sharp as needles, and growing at irregular intervals. The
specimen arrived here in perfect condition, but, in order that it might
be transported without injury, it had to be suspended from the roof of
a box car, and thus make its trip from Southern Missouri to this city
without change. Another strange specimen in the novel collection is a
portion of the Yucca tree, an abnormal growth of the lily family. The
trunk, about 2 feet in diameter, is a spongy mass, not susceptible of
treatment to which the other specimens are subjected. Its bark is an
irregular stringy, knotted mass, with porcupine-quill-like leaves
springing out in place of the limbs that grow from all well-regulated
trees. One specimen of the yucca was sent to the museum two years ago,
and though the roots and top of the tree were sawn off, shoots sprang
out, and a number of the handsome flowers appeared. The tree was
supposed to be dead and thoroughly seasoned by this Fall, but now, when
the workmen are ready to prepare it for exhibition, it has shown new
life, new shoots have appeared, and two tufts of green now decorate the
otherwise dry and withered log, and the yucca promises to bloom again
before the winter is over. One of the most perfect specimens of the
Douglass spruce ever seen is in the collection, and is a decided
curiosity. It is a recent arrival from the Rocky Mountains. Its bark,
two inches or more in thickness, is perforated with holes reaching to
the-sap-wood. Many of these contain acorns, or the remains of acorns,
which have been stored there by provident woodpeckers, who dug the holes
in the bark and there stored their winter supply of food. The oldest
specimen in the collection is a section of the _Picea engelmanni_, a
species of spruce growing in the Rocky Mountains at a considerable
elevation above the sea. The specimen is 24 inches in diameter, and the
concentric circles show its age to be 410 years. The wood much resembles
the black spruce, and is the most valuable of the Rocky Mountain
growths. A specimen of the nut pine, whose nuts are used for food by the
Indians, is only 15 inches in diameter, and yet its life lines show its
age to be 369 years. The largest specimen yet received is a section of
the white ash, which is 46 inches in diameter and 182 years old. The
next largest specimen is a section of the _Platanus occidentalis_,
variously known in commerce as the sycamore, button-wood, or plane tree,
which is 42 inches in diameter and only 171 years of age. Specimens of
the redwood tree of California are now on their way to this city from
the Yosemite Valley. One specimen, though a small one, measures 5 feet
in diameter and shows the character of the wood. A specimen of
the enormous growths of this tree was not secured because of the
impossibility of transportation and the fact that there would be no room
in the museum for the storage of such a specimen, for the diameter of
the largest tree of the class is 45 feet and 8 inches, which represents
a circumference of about 110 feet. Then, too, the Californians object to
have the giant trees cut down for commercial, scientific, or any other
To accompany these specimens of the woods of America, Mr. Morris K.
Jesup, who has paid all the expense incurred in the collection of
specimens, is having prepared as an accompanying portion of the
exhibition water color drawings representing the actual size, color,
and appearance of the fruit, foliage, and flowers of the various trees.
Their commercial products, as far as they can be obtained, will also be
exhibited, as, for instance, in the case of the long-leaved pine, the
tar, resin, and pitch, for which it is especially valued. Then, too, in
an herbarium the fruits, leaves, and flowers are preserved as nearly as
possible in their natural state. When the collection is ready for public
view next spring it will be not only the largest, but the only complete
one of its kind in the country. There is nothing like it in the world,
as far as is known; certainly not in the royal museums of England,
France, or Germany.
Aside from the value of the collection, in a scientific way, it is
proposed to make it an adjunct to our educational system, which requires
that teachers shall instruct pupils as to the materials used for food
and clothing. The completeness of the exhibition will be of great
assistance also to landscape gardeners, as it will enable them to lay
out private and public parks so that the most striking effects of
foliage may be secured. The beauty of these effects can best be seen in
this country in our own Central Park, where there are more different
varieties and more combinations for foliage effects than in any other
area in the United States. To ascertain how these effects are obtained
one now has to go to much trouble to learn the names of the trees. With
this exhibition such information can be had merely by observation, for
the botanical and common names of each specimen will be attached to
it. It will also be of practical use in teaching the forester how to
cultivate trees as he would other crops. The rapid disappearance of
many valuable forest trees, with the increase in demand and decrease in
supply, will tend to make the collection valuable as a curiosity in
the not far distant future as representing the extinct trees of the
* * * * *
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papers heretofore published in the SUPPLEMENT, may be had gratis at this
* * * * *
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