Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/19

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

when exposed to moisture, and was formerly much used by the Indians for canoes. It has been a favorite material for fence and gate posts, and posts are now to be seen which have been in the ground from fifty to a hundred years, and show hardly any signs of decay. It promises to be a very valuable tree for railway-ties, and some of our railway companies, especially in the West, are planting it extensively on this account. It is also an excellent wood for the uses of the carpenter and the cabinet-maker. It resembles in color and texture the chestnut, is easily worked, and takes a fine polish. The rapidity of its growth in good soil is astonishing. A specimen from a tree which grew in Nebraska, and shows but four annual layers of growth, measured nine and three quarters inches in circumference, and the growth of the first two years was already turned to heart-wood. The tree is easily propagated from seed, and will grow anywhere south of the forty-second parallel. Specimens of it are to be found as far north as the middle of Massachusetts, and along the sea-coast as far as Maine. Wherever it can be established it will prove not only one of our most beautiful but one of our most useful woods. There are two species of catalpa indigenous* to the United States; the Speciosa, flowering three weeks earlier than the other, a native of the South, is the hardier of the two, and preferable for planting.

As showing how practical men regard the catalpa and the ailantus, we may state that the Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad have made a contract with Messrs. Douglas, of Waukegan, to plant for them in Kansas several hundred acres of these trees. A Boston capitalist has also contracted for the planting in the same way of five hundred and sixty acres of prairie-land in Eastern Kansas. The plantation is to consist of three hundred acres of the catalpa, two hundred acres of ailantus, not less than twenty-seven hundred and twenty trees to the acre, and sixty acres are to be held as an experimental ground to be planted with several varieties of trees to be selected by Professor Sargent. What is even more noteworthy, the Iron Mountain Railroad Company, whose road runs for hundreds of miles through a heavily timbered country, have made a similar contract for planting near Charleston, Missouri, one hundred acres of the catalpa as an experiment. This they do because, while they own some of the finest white-oak timber on the continent, catalpa ties have stood on their road for twelve years entirely unaffected by decay, and the demand for ties and for posts of this wood far exceeds the present supply. It is estimated that the new railroads built in the treeless States in 1879 required over ten million ties.

The Australian eucalyptus, or blue-gum, though an Australian tree, makes itself at home in California. It is a tree of astonishingly rapid growth, yet, like the ailantus and catalpa, it produces heavy, solid wood. In a plantation of it in Alameda County, California, in seven years from planting the trees were generally ten inches in diameter