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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/438

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

croached upon, some have passed into the exclusive possession of the "first churches," some into the exclusive possession of the townships, and some are said to be still owned jointly by township and church. Where the towns have come into possession they have frequently given the charge of the commons to village or township improvement associations. Only a few of the rural townships have acquired new public open spaces in recent years. In Manchester public rights in certain sea beaches have been established and a long strip of roadside woodland has been deeded to the town in trust. In Sheffield a beautiful pine grove is held in trust for the public by five trustees. Georgetown has laid out nine small spaces 'within forty years. In the cities of the State the General Park Act, passed in 1882, has borne excellent fruit.

 

Sanitary and Climatic Influence of Forests.—Concerning the sanitary and climatic relations of forests, Mr. B. E. Fernow concludes, after a discussion of the subject, that the influence claimed for them in promoting greater purity of the air through the greater production of oxygen and ozone does not seem to be sufficient; that the protection they afford against sun and wind and consequent absence of extreme conditions may be considered a favorable factor; and that the soil conditions of the forest, which are unfavorable to the production and existence of pathogenic microbes, especially those of the cholera and yellow fever, and the comparative absence of wind and dust, in which such microbes are carried into the air, may be considered as constituting the principal claim for the hygienic significance of the forest. We may summarize, he says, by saying that the position of the forest as a climatic factor is still uncertain, at least as to its practical and quantitative importance, but that its relation to water and soil conditions is well established. As a climatic factor the forest of the plain appears to be of more importance than that of the mountains, where the more potent influence of elevation obscures and reduces to insignificance the influence of their cover. As a regulator of water conditions the forest of the mountains is the important factor; and since this influence makes itself felt far distant from, the location of the forest, the claim for the attention of government and for statesmanlike policy with reference to this factor of national welfare may be considered as well founded. Every civilized government must in time own or control the forest cover of the mountains, in order to secure desirable forest conditions.

 

The Scrub Lands of Australia.—The London Times's correspondent, in his little book on Queensland, mentions the "lawyer vine" as the worst obstacle which the clearer of land in that country has to encounter. It is a kind of palm that grows in feathery tufts along a pliant stalk, and festoons itself as a creeper upon other trees. From beneath the tufts of leaves the vine throws down trailing suckers as thick as stout cords, armed with sets of sharp red barbs. These suckers sometimes throw themselves from tree to tree across a road that has not been lately used, and make it as impassable to horses as so many strands of barbed wire. When the vines escape from the undergrowth of wild ginger and tree-fern and stinging bush that fringes the scrub and coil themselves in loose loops upon the ground, they become dangerous traps for man and horse. In the jungle, where they weave themselves in and out of the upright growths, they form a net that at times defies every means of destruction but fire. The work of clearing ground thus encumbered is not light. In some districts it is done by Chinamen. They are not allowed to own freehold land in the colony, but scrub land is often leased to them to clear and use for a certain number of years. The ground, when it is cleared, is extraordinarily rich, and they appear to recoup themselves for their labor with the first crops they grow upon their leaseholds. The owner afterward has it in his power to resume his land, and the Chinaman passes on to clear and use the scrub. In this way the Chinese are employed as a sort of self-acting machine for the opening of the country. They devote themselves principally to the cultivation of fruit. A walk round a Chinese garden is an instructive botanical excursion, so many and strange are the edible varieties of fruit to which one is introduced. Spices, too, and flowers flourish under the care of the Chinamen, and the