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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/69

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59
THE AGE OF TREES.

Sergeant Newdigate; and one tree of his planting was thirteen feet round when Evelyn measured it eighty-one years afterward. A comparison of the statistics of growth, as above collected with reference to the oak, indicates with respect to most trees a more rapid rate than is commonly supposed. Let us test the claims of some of the oldest limes. The Swiss used often to commemorate a victory by planting a lime-tree, so that it may be true that the lime still in the square of Fribourg was planted on the day of their victory over Charles the Bold at Morat in 1476. A youth, they say, bore it as a twig into the town, and arriving breathless and exhausted from the battle had only strength to utter the word "Victory!" before he fell down dead. But this tree was only thirteen feet nine inches in 1831, i. e., three hundred and fifty-five years afterward, and it would be extraordinary if a lime had not attained in that period greater bulk than even an oak might have reached in a century. The large lime at Neustadt, in W├╝rtemberg, mentioned by Evelyn as having its boughs supported by columns of stone, was twenty-seven feet when he wrote (1664), and in 1837 it was fifty-four, so that within a period of one hundred and seventy-three years it had gained as much as twenty-seven feet. Consequently, making allowance for diminished growth, we may fairly assume that two hundred years would have been more than enough for the attainment of the circumference of the first twenty-seven feet which it had reached in the time of Evelyn. No English lime appears to have reached such dimensions as would imply a growth of more than three centuries, though the lime at Depeham, near Norwich, which was forty-six feet when Sir Thomas Browne sent his account of it to Evelyn, sufficiently dispels the legend that all limes in this country have come from two plants brought over by Sir John Spelman, who introduced the manufacture of paper into England from Germany, and to whom Queen Elizabeth granted the manor of Portbridge.

It would be natural to expect the greatest longevity in indigenous trees, and, though it has been much disputed what kinds are native to the English soil, etymology alone would indicate that the following trees were of Roman importation: the elm (idmus), the plane (platanus), the poplar (populus), the box (uxus), the chestnut (castanea). The yew, on the contrary, is probably indigenous, though its opponents find some reason for their skepticism in the fact that its larger specimens are chiefly found in church-yards and artificial plantations. In favor of its claim is the fact that its pretensions to longevity seem to be better founded than those of any other English tree, not even excluding the oak. A yew that was dug up from a bog in Queen's County was proved by its rings to have been five hundred and forty-five years of age; yet for the last three hundred years of its life it had grown so slowly that near the circumference one hundred rings were traceable within an inch. Some great and sudden change for the worse