Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 16
, iron pyrites.
A TALK ABOUT THE FORESTS OF THE NORTHWEST.
In the Northwest the forests are found almost exclusively on the mountains. Along the margins of streams there is usually a belt of timber a quarter of a mile in breadth; and on Puget Sound the timber reaches from the mountains down to this inland sea, the same as on the outer coast. On the Columbia this belt, even on the low grounds, is wide, and, as there is a range of highlands of considerable elevation extending from the mouth of this river to and beyond its passage through the Cascade Mountains, with only occasional depressions, there is a great body of timber within reach of tide-water.
The base of the Coast Mountains on the west comes within two to six miles of the sea, and frequent spurs reach quite to the beach, forming high promontories. From the coast to the eastern base of the Coast Mountains is a distance of from twenty to thirty miles. Allowing for the margin of level land toward the sea and for openings among the foot-hills on the eastern side, here is an immense body of forest lands extending the whole length of the State, from north to south.
Again, the Cascade Range has a base from east to west of about forty miles, including the foot-hills. All the west side of this range is densely wooded, making another great supply of timber. The east side, having an entirely different climate, does not support the same heavy growth of trees.
These forests furnish a most interesting study to the botanist. Beginning our observations on the coast, we find that near the sea we have, for the characteristic tree, the black spruce (Abies Menziesii ). It grows to a diameter of eight feet, and to a considerable height, though not the tallest of the spruces. Its branches commence about thirty feet from the ground, growing densely, while its leaves, unlike the other species, grow all round the twig. The foliage is dark green with a bluish cast. The bark is reddish and scaly, and the cones, which grow near the ends of the branches, are about two inches in length, and
purplish in color. In appearance it resembles the Norway spruce. It loves a moist climate and soil, growing on brackish marshes and inundated islands. The timber is used in making packing-boxes for fruit, as it has no strong flavor like the fir.
The Oregon cedar (Thuya gigantea ) grows very abundantly near the coast. This tree attains to a very great size, being often from twelve to fifteen feet in diameter, but is not so high as the spruce. The branches commence about twenty feet from the ground. Above this the wood is exceedingly knotty; but the lumber obtained from the clear portion of the trunk is highly valued for finishing work in buildings, as it is light and soft, and does not shrink or swell like spruce lumber. For shingles and rails it is also valuable, from its durability.
The Indians make canoes of the cedar nearly as light and elegant as the famous birch canoes of more northern tribes. Formerly they built houses of planks split out of cedar with no better implement than a stone axe and wedge. An axeman can split enough in two or three days to build himself a cabin. This tree is nearly allied to the arbor vitce, which it resembles in foliage, having its leaves in flat sprays that look as if they had been pressed. On the under side of the spray is a cluster of small cones. The bark is thin, and peels off in long strips which are used by the Indians to make matting, and a kind of cloth used for mantles to shed the rain. It is also used by them to roof their houses, make baskets, etc. Altogether, it is the most useful tree of the forest to the native.
Hemlock-spruce (Abies Canadensis ) is next in abundance near the coast. It grows much taller than the cedar, often to one hundred and fifty feet, and has a diameter of from six to eight feet. The color is lighter and the foliage finer than that which grows in the Atlantic States, and the appearance of the tree is very graceful and beautiful.
Another tree common to the coast is the Oregon yew ( Taxus brevifolia .). It is not very abundant, grows to a height of thirty feet, and flourishes best in damp woods and marshy situations. The wood is very tough, and used by the Indians for arrows. When much exposed to the sun, in open places, the foliage takes on a faded, reddish appearance. It bears a small, sweet, coral-red berry, of which the birds are very fond.
A few trees of the red fir ( Abies Dougla&sii ) occur in the Coast Mountains, but are not common ; also an occasional white spruce (Abies taxifolia ), and north of the Columbia small groves of a scrub-pine (P. contorta ) appear on sandy prairies near the sea- beach. It grows only about forty feet high, and has a diameter of two feet.
Of the broad-leaved, deciduous trees which grow near the coast, the white maple (Acer macrophyllum) is the most beautiful and useful. It grows and decays rapidly,—the mature tree attaining to the height of eighty feet, and a diameter of six feet; then decaying from the centre outward, lets its branches die and fall off, w T hile from the root other new trunks spring up and attain a considerable size in four or five years. The wood has a beautiful grain, and is valuable for cabinet manufactures, taking a high polish. The foliage is handsome, being very broad and of a light green. In the spring long racemes of yellow flowers give the tree a beautiful and ornamental appearance, which makes it sought for as a shade-tree.
The Oregon alder (Alnus Oregona ) is another cabinet-wood of considerable value. The tree grows to a height of sixty feet, with a diameter of two or three feet. It has a whitish-gray bark, and foliage much resembling the elm. On short stems, near the ends of the branches, are clusters of very small cones, not more than an inch in length. When grown in open places, with sufficient moisture, it is a graceful and beautiful tree.
Three species of poplar are found near the coast,—the cottonwood (Populus Monilifera ), the quaking asp, Populus Tremuloides, and the balsam-tree (or P. Angustifolia). They are found on the borders of streams and by the side of ponds or springs, but not so abundant near the coast as east of the Coast Mountains.
Along the banks of creeks and rivers grows one kind of willow (Salix Scouleriana ), about thirty feet in height, and not more than a foot in diameter, with broad, oval leaves; of very little value.
The vine-maple (A. Cireinatum ) is more a shrub than a tree, seldom growing more than six to twelve inches thick near the ground, and not more than twelve to twenty, rarely thirty, feet in height. It grows in prostrate thickets, in shaded places, twining back and forth and in every direction. The wo od being
very tough, it is almost impossible to get through them; and they form one of the most serious obstructions to surveying or hunting in the mountains. The leaf is parted in seven dentated points, and is of a light green. These bushes make a handsome thicket at any time from early spring to late autumn, being ornamented with small red flowers in spring and with brilliant scarlet leaves in autumn.
Another shrubby tree, which makes dense thickets in low or overflowed lands, is the Oregon crab-apple (Pyrus Rivularis). This really pretty tree grows in groves twenty feet in height, und so closely as with its tough, thorny branches to form impenetrable barriers against *any but the smaller animals of the forest. The fruit is small and good-flavored, growing in clusters. The tree is a good one to graft upon, being hardy and finegrained.
Another tree used to graft on is the wild cherry (Cerasus Mollis ), which closely resembles the cultivated kinds, except in its small and bitter fruit. In open places it becomes a branching, handsome shade-tree, but in damp ravines sometimes shoots up seventy feet high, having its foliage all near the top.
When we undertake to pierce the woods of the Coast Mountains, we find, in the first place, the ground covered as thickly as they can stand with trees from three to fourteen feet in diameter, and from seventy to three hundred feet in height. Wherever there is room made by deca}*, or fire, or tempest, springs up another thicker growth, of which the most fortu nately located will live, to the exclusion of the others. Every ravine, creek, margin, or springy piece of ground is densely covered with vine-maple, cotton-wood, or crab-apple.
As if these were not enough for the soil to support, every interstice is filled with shrubs, some tough and woody, others of the vining and thorny description. Of shrubs, the sallal (Gaultheria Shallon) is most abundant. It varies greatly in height, growing seven or eight feet tall near the coast, and only two or three in the forest. The stem is reddish, the leaves glossy, green, and oval, and the flower pink. Its fruit is a berry of which tfie Indians are very fond, tasting much like summer- apple. This shrub is an evergreen.
Three varieties of huckleberries belong to the same range,—
one, an evergreen, having fruit and flowers at the same time. This is the Vaccinium Ovatum , with leaves like a myrtle, and a black, rather sweet berry. The second has a very slender stalk, small, deciduous leaves, and small acid berries of a bright scarlet color. This is V. Ovalifolium. The third— V. Parvifolium — resembles more the huckleberry of the Eastern States, and bears a rather acid blueberry. In favored localities these are as fine as those varieties which grow in Massachusetts or Michigan. In addition to these is a kind of false huckleberry, bearing no fruit; and a species of barberry, resembling that found in New England.
Of gooseberries there are also three varieties, none of them producing very good fruit. They are Ribes Jjaxiflorum, Bracte- oseum , and Lacustre.
The salmon-berry ( Rubus Spectabilis ) is abundant on high banks and in openings in the forest. It resembles the yellow raspberry
Of plants that creep on'the ground there are several varieties, some of them remarkably pretty. Of wild roses, spircea, woodbine, mock-orange, thorn-bushes, and other familiar shrubs, there are plenty.
The devil’s walking-stick ( Echinophanax horridum ) is a shrub deserving of mention. It grows to the height of six feet, in a single, thorny, green stem, and bears at the top a bunch of broad leaves, resembling those of the white maple. When encountered in dark thickets it is sure to make itself felt, if not seen. Add to all that has gone before, great ferns,—from two to fourteen feet in height, with tough stems, and roots far in the ground,—and we have the earth pretty much covered from sun and light.
These are the productions, in general, of the most western forests of Oregon. When we try to penetrate such tropical jungles, we wonder that any animals of much size—like the elk, deer, bear, panther, and cougar—get through them. Nor do all these inhabit the thickest portions of the forest, but the elk, deer, and bear keep near the occasional small prairies which occur in the mountains, and about the edges of clearings among the foot-hills, except when driven by fear to hide in the dark recesses of the woods. In the fall of the year, whe n the acorn
crop is good in the valley between the Coast and Cascade Mountains, great numbers of the black bear are killed by the farmers who live near the mountains.
As this region just described is, so is the whole mountain system of West Oregon and Washington. Along the eastern slope of the Coast .Range, around Puget Sound, along the Columbia highlands above a point forty miles from its mouth, and on the western slope of the Cascades, the same luxuriance of growth prevails. Indeed, nearly all the trees enumerated—the black spruce and scrub-pine are exceptions—belong equally to the more eastern region. And the same of the shrubs.
But in this more eastern portion grow some trees that will not flourish in the soil and climate of the coast. Of these the most important is the red fir (Abies Douglassii). Very extensive forests of it inhabit the mountain-sides and Columbia Biver highlands. 1$'grows to a great height, its branches commencing fifty feet from the ground. The bark is thick and deeply furrowed, the leaves rather coarse, and the cone is distinguished from other species by having three-pointed bracts between the scales.
The red fir is more used for lumber than any other kind, though it is of a coarse grain and shrinks very much. It is tough and durable if kept dry. It is a very resinous wood, from which cause large tracts of it are burnt off every year. Yet it keeps fire so badly in the coals that there is little danger of the cinders carrying fire when buildings constructed of it are burned : it goes out before it alights.
The yellow fir (A. Grandis) is also a tree which does not like sea-air, and is very valuable for lumber. It is distinguishable at a distance by its superior height, often over three hundred feet, and by the short branches of the top, which give it a cylindrical shape. It is admirably adapted for masts and spars, being fine-grained, tough, and elastic. The best of lumber is made from this fir, and large quantities of it are exported from the Columbia Biver. The bark of the yellow fir is smoother and not so deeply furrowed as the red, and the oval cone is destitute of bracts.
The other species of fir are Abies concolor, called white fir in California, and found in the mountains south of the Three
Sisters; Abies nobilis , inhabiting the mountains at an elevation of three thousand to five thousand feet; Abies amabilis , or lovely fir, the most beautiful of its genus; and Abies sub-alpina , a mountain tree. The. hemlocks are the mountain hemlock, known as Abies Williamsonii and Pattoniana. Sitka cedar, Cu- pressus nutkaensis , is found at the base of Mount Hood; and Libocedrus decurrens, thick-barked cedar, from Santiam River southward.
Of foliaceous trees not found on the coast, is the oak ( Quercus garryana ), which does not attain a very great size, not growing more than fifty feet high, except in rich, alluvial lands, where it attains fine dimensions. Another and smaller scrub-oak (Quercus Kelloggii) is common, and the wood is good for axe- helves, hoops, and similar uses. The wood of the larger variety is used for making staves, and the bark for tanning.
Of all the trees growing along water-courses, the Oregon ash (.Fraxinus Oregona ) is the most beautiful. In size it compares closely with the white maple. Its foliage is of a light yellow- green, the leaves being a narrow oval. Like the maple, it has clusters of whitish-yellow flowers, which add greatly to its grace and delicacy of coloring. The wood is fine-grained, and is useful for manufacturing purposes.
A little back from the river, yet quite near it, we find the Oregon dogwood ( Cornus Nuttalii). It is a much handsomer tree than the dogwood of the Atlantic States, making, when in full flower and in favored situations, as fine a display of broad, silvery-white blossoms as the magnolia of the Southern States. As an ornamental tree it cannot be surpassed, having a fresh charm each season, from the white blossoms of spring to the pink leaves of late summer and the scarlet berries of autumn. Its ordinary height is thirty or forty feet, but in moist ravines and thick woods it stretches up towards the light until it is seventy feet high.
A very ornamental wild cherry, peculiar to Oregon—a species of choke-cherry—is found near water-courses. The flowers are arranged in cylindrical racemes of the length of three or four inches, are white, and very fragrant. It flowers early in the spring, at the same time with the service-berry, when the woody thickets along the rivers are gleaming with their s nowy sprays.
A broad-leaved evergreen is the arbutus (A. Menziesii ), commonly called laurel, which is found in the forests of the middle region from Puget Sound, north of the Columbia, to California and Mexico. In Spanish countries it is known as the madrono- tree. The trunk is from one foot to four feet in thickness, and when old is generally twisted. The bark undergoes a change of color annually; the old, dark, mahogany-colored bark scaling off, as the new, bright, cinnamon-colored one replaces it. The leaves are a long oval, of a bright, rich green, and glossy. It flowers in the spring, and bears scarlet berries in autumn resembling those of the mountain-ash. Altogether, it is one of the handsomest of American trees.
White oak, Quercus garryana , is common to all parts of West Oregon and Washington, but the Quercus Kelloggii , or black oak, is confined to the southern and middle counties of Oregon. Mountain-ash, Pyrus sambucifolia , a beautiful ornamental tree, is a native of the sub-alpine ranges. Chittim-wood Or bear- berry, Rhamnus purshiana , a shrubby tree growing in the valleys, furnishes a bark which is an article of commerce, being extensively used in the preparation of cathartic and tonic medicines.
A very peculiar and ornamental shrub is the holly-leaved barberry ( Berberis aquifolium ). It has rather a vining stalk, from two to eight feet high, with leaves shaped like holly leaves, but arranged in two rows, on stems of eight or ten ifiches in length. It is an evergreen, although it seems to cast off some of its foliage in the fall to renew it in the spring. While preparing to fall, the leaves take the most brilliant hues of any in the forest, and shine as if varnished. The fruit is a small cluster of very acid berries, of a dark, bluish purple, about the size of the wild grape, from which it takes its vulgar name of “ Oregon grape.”
In damp places away from the rivers grows the rose-colored spiraea ( S . Douglassii), in close thickets; it is commonly known as hardhack. Near such swamps are others of wild roses of several varieties, all beautiful.
I am not able to give-the names of all the numerous kinds of trees and shrubs which grow in close proximity in the forests of the Northwest, although I have been at some trouble to do so. Beginning at the river’s brink, we have willows, from the red cornel, whose crimson stems are so beautiful, to the coarse,
broad-leaved C. pubescens, ash, cotton-wood, and balsam-poplar. On the low ground are roses, crab-apple, buckthorn, wild cherry; a little higher, service-berry, wild cherry again, red-flowering currant, white spircea , mock-orange, honeysuckle, low blackberry, raspberry, dogwood, arbutus, barberry, snowberry, hazel, elder, and alder. Gradually mixing with these, as they leave the line of high water, begin the various firs, which will not grow with' their roots in water. As the forest increases in density the flowering shrubs disappear, to reappear at the first opening. The blue elder becomes a handsome tree forty feet in height in the Columbia region, and two other varieties, with red and yellow berries, are highly ornamental.
It would be impossible to exaggerate the heauty of such masses of luxuriant and flowering shrubbery covering the shores of the streams. Even the great walls of basalt which are frequently exposed along the Columbia are so overgrown with minute ferns, and vivid-green mosses and vines, as to be much more beautiful and picturesque than they are forbidding.
In the Southern Oregon forests one finds some trees and shrubs not found in the Wallamet division of Oregon, nor in that part of Washington drained towards the Columbia,—namely, the myrtle, Umbellularia Californica (oreodaphne ), a beautiful tree with glossy foliage, and one hundred feet in height \ Port Orford cedar, Cupressus lawsoniana (chamcecyparis ), one of the most valuable trees of commerce, growing two hundred feet high; redwood ( Sequoia semper Virens'), two hundred and fifty feet in height; nutmeg, resembling the myrtle, and found in the same habitat, bearing a smaller nut than that of commerce. In the southern valleys the live-oak ( Quercus chrysolepis ), chestnut-oak (Quercus densiflora) ; on the foot-hills of the Cascade Range, the chinquapin ( Castanopsis chrysophylla), sugar-pine ( Pinus lamber- tina), a magnificent tree, two hundred and fifty feet in height, bearing cones eighteen inches in length, and having a sweet and viscid sap, which when dry resembles sugar; and Pinus tuber - culata, a small tree found in patches. The flowering shrubs of Southern Oregon, not common to the Columbia and Wallamet regions, are the manzanita ( Arctostaphylos pungens), blue spiraea, found on the Umpqua and at Coos Bay, and the Rhododendron maximus, found there and also on the foot-hills of the Cascades.
It is a singular fact that this beautiful shrub reappears as far north as Port Townsend, while it avoids intermediate country in both Oregon and Washington.
On the east side of the Cascades and on the Blue Mountains, the trees not common to the whole State are the larch, or tamarack (. Larix occidentalism, used for lumber; Larix lyallii, a small larch; Pinus albicaulis, a mountain pine; Pinus monticola , or silver pine; mountain mahogany, Cercocarpus ledifolius ; Juni- perus occidentalism mountain juniper; and along the streams in East Oregon and Washington a small birch, Betula occidentalism the box-elder, and the sumach. Doubtless some few trees and many shrubs have escaped notice, but the omissions are unimportant. All that is here said of Oregon applies equally to Washington, where Puget Sound might be read for Columbia River, while the trees of the mountain ranges and sea-coast are the same in both States, with some local exceptions, such as that of the Port Orford cedar.
Washington contains more large bodies of timber standing on level ground than Oregon does. An immense extent of fir and cedar forest encircles the whole sound and borders all the rivers, besides that which is found on the foot-hills of the Caseado and Coast ranges. It is estimated that three-fourths of West Washington is covered with forest, a large proportion of which is the finest timber in the world, for size and durability. It is nothing unusual to find a piece of several thousand acres of fir, averaging three and a half feet in diameter at the stump, and standing two hundred feet without a limb, the top being seventy feet higher. Three hundred feet is not an extraordinary growth in Washington. It is estimated that the area of forest land in Oregon and Washington covers sixty-five thousand square miles. Not all of this timber is accessible, nor all of it valuable for market, and yet the quantity is immense that is marketable. Some day it will all be found fit for lumber-making, but at present only the largest and straightest trees are sawed up, and these in a very wasteful manner, a great deal being thrown away and burned up, except in East Washington, where, timber being scarce and the mills located in the mountains, slab and unmarketable lumber is cut up into firewood.
The mills of Oregon manufacture about one hundred and
seventy million feet of lumber annually; those of Puget Sound and the East 'Washington mills, one billion feet. Most of the Oregon production is consumed at home, while the Washington output is very largely exported.
The kinds of timber adapted to lumbering purposes are known as the red, white, and yellow fir, cedar, hemlock, and, in some localities, pine and larch. The red fir constitutes the great bulk of common lumber; the yellow fir is used where strength and elasticity are required, as in spars of vessels, piles, wharves, bridges, and house-building; and cedar for foundations of houses, fence-posts, and inside finishing of houses.
The cabinet-woods are maple, alder, and arbutus. There is oak for staves and other purposes ; but nothing that answers for wagon-making grows on these mountains. Hemlock becomes valuable as furnishing bark for tanning leather. Ash is used for some mechanical purposes, and makes excellent firewood.
The red fir, being very resinous, might be made valuable for its pitch. Oregon turpentine is of superior quality, but, owing to the high freights and high rates of labor on this coast, has not heretofore proved profitable as an export. It is common to find a deposit of dried pitch or resin in the trunks of large fir- trees—especially those that have grown on rocky soil—of one to two inches in thickness, either forming a layer quite round the heart of the tree or extending for fifty feet up through the tree in a square “ stick.”
Trees that have been destroyed by fire have their roots soaked full of black pitch or tar, and even the branches of growing trees drop little globules of clear white pitch on the ground. This wood makes excellent charcoal, in the burning of which a great deal of tar might be saved by providing for its being run off from the pit. There is also plenty of willow wood for making charcoal growing on all the bottom-lands. Fires are permitted to destroy much fine timber every year, settlers being unable to remove the heavy growth b}" any other means.