Wayside and Woodland Trees
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WAYSIDE AND WOODLAND TREES
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"Of all man's works of art, a cathedral is greatest. A vast and majestic tree is greater than that."
Henry Ward Beecher.
The purpose of this volume is not the addition of one more to the numerous treatises upon sylviculture or forestry, but to afford a straightforward means for the identification of our native trees and larger shrubs for the convenience of the rural rambler and Nature-lover. The list of British arborescent plants is a somewhat meagre one, but all that could be done in a pocket volume by way of supplementing it has been done—by adding some account of those exotics that have long been naturalized in our woods, and a few of more recent introduction that have already become conspicuous ornaments in many public and private parks.
In this edition forty-eight extra plates have been added, of
which twenty-four are in colours. The latter are in part reproductions
of water-colour studies of flowers and fruits, and partly
from photographs by a new method. For the black and white
plates, the photographs, it should be explained, have been taken
upon a novel plan in most cases. This consists in photographing
a deciduous tree in its summer glory, and returning to the
same spot in winter and photographing the same individual, so
that a striking comparison may be made between the summer
The figures in the text have all been expressly drawn for the work with a view to showing at a glance the general character of the foliage, and in most cases the flower and fruit.
The work is divided into two sections. Part I. including
those species that are generally considered to be indigenous
to the British Islands, with briefer notices of the introduced
species that are closely related to them. Part II. being devoted
to those of foreign origin, some of them introduced so long ago
that they are commonly regarded as native by those who are
There are two points of view from which to regard trees—the
mercantile and the æsthetic. The former is well exemplified in
Dumbiedyke's advice to Jock: "Jock, when ye hae naething else
to do, ye may be aye sticking in a tree; it will be growing, Jock,
when ye're sleeping." The canny Scot was thinking of the "unearned
increment" another generation might gather in, due
to the almost unceasing activity of the vegetable cells in the
manufacture of timber. The other view was expressed by "the
Autocrat of the Breakfast-table" in a letter to a friend: "Whenever
we plant a tree we are doing what we can to make our
planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those
who come after us, if not for ourselves." But, after all, it is the
trees that have been planted by Nature that give the greatest
pleasure apart from commercial considerations—the lonely
Pine, that grows in rugged grandeur on the edge of the escarpment
where its seed was planted in the crevice by the wind;
the Oak that grows outside the forest, where a squirrel or a jay
dropped the acorn, and where the young tree had room all its
life to throw out its arms as it would; the little cluster of Birches
that springs from the ferns and moss of the hillside. All trees
so grown develop an individuality that is not apparent in their
fellows of the timber forest; and however we may delight in
the peace and quiet of the forest, with its softened light and
cool fragrant air, we can there only regard the trees in a mass.
Nature and the timber-producer have different aims and pursue
different methods in the making of forests, though the latter
is not above taking a hint from the former occasionally. Nature
mixes her seeds and sows them broadcast over the land she
intends to turn into forest, that the more vigorous kinds may act
as nurses, sheltering and protecting the less robust. Then comes
the struggle for existence, with its final ending in the survival of
the fittest. In the mean time the mixed forest has given shelter
to an enormous population of smaller fry—plants, mammals,
birds, and insects—and has been a delightful recreation ground
for man. The timber-producer aims at so controlling the struggle
for existence that the survival of the fit is maintained from
start to finish. He plants his young trees in regular order,
putting in nurses at intervals and along the borders, intending
to cut them down when his purpose has been served. The timber
trees are allowed no elbow-room, the putting forth of lateral
branches is discouraged, but steady upward growth and the
production of "canopy" is abetted. His aim is to get these
timber-sticks as near alike as possible, free from individuality,
and with the minimum of difference in girth at top and bottom
of each pole. This means a thicker and longer balk of clean
timber when the tree is felled and squared. The continuous
canopy induces growth in the upward direction only, and discourages
the weeds and undergrowth that add to the charm of
the forest, but which unprofitably use up the wood-producing
elements in the soil. This plan contrasts strongly with the
views on planting formerly prevalent in this country, John
Evelyn, for example, making a special point of giving the Oak
room to stretch out its arms, "free from all incumbrances." But,
then, unlike the timber-producers, Evelyn had an eye for landscape
beauty, and giving an opportunity for the display of such
beauty. He says: "And if thus his Majesty's forests and chases
The greater the success of the forester, the more profound is the solemn stillness of the forest—and the more monotonous. In place of the natural forest, with its varied and teeming life, we have what Wordsworth called a timber factory. In the natural forest, with its mixture of many kinds of trees, the undergrowth of shrubs, and carpet of grass and weeds, the stronger trees spread out their arms in all directions, and fritter away (as the scientific forester would say) their wood-producing powers in making much firewood and little valuable timber. But the result is very beautiful, and the nature-lover can wander among it without tiring, and can study without exhausting its treasures. Emerson says: "In the woods is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years." To the scientific forester this is all waste land, and he pleads for the "higher culture" being applied to it. With every desire that the natural resources of our country should be properly developed, we do hope that he will not be entirely successful in his efforts, and that a few of the woods and wastes of Nature's own planting may be left for the recreation of the simple folk who have not yet taken to appraising the value of everything by the price it will fetch in the market.
The trees described in this volume are the really wild growths
that have lived a natural life; and though many of the photographs
are from planted trees, they are such as have been
allowed to grow as they would, and show the characteristic
branching of the species.
A few words on the life of a tree may be welcomed here by those readers who have not made a study of botany. Although the nurseryman makes use of suckers and cuttings for the quicker multiplication of certain species, every tree in its natural habitat produces seeds and is reproduced by them. The flowering of our forest trees is a phenomenon that does not as a rule attract attention, but their fruiting or seed-bearing becomes patent to all who visit the woods in autumn. A tree has lived many years before it is capable of producing seed. The seed-bearing age is different in each species; thus the Oak begins to bear when it is between sixty and seventy years old, the Ash between forty and fifty, the Birch and Sweet Chestnut at twenty-five years. Some produce seed every year after that period is reached, others every second, third, or fifth year; others, again, bear fitfully except at intervals of from six to nine years, when they produce an enormous crop. Most tree-seeds germinate in the spring following their maturity, but they are not all distributed when ripe. The Birch, the Elm, and the Aspen, for examples, retain their seeds until spring, and these germinate soon after they have been dispersed.
The seeds contain sufficient nutriment to feed the seedling
whilst it is developing it roots and first real leaves. We can, of
course, go further back in starting our observations of the life
progress of the monarch of the forest. We can dissect the
insignificant greenish flower of the Oak when the future seed
(acorn) is but a single cell, a tiny bag filled with protoplasm.
From that early stage to the period when the tree is first ripe
for conversion into timber we span a century and a half, equal
to two good human lives, and the Oak is but at the point where
a man attains his majority. The Oak is built up after the
fashion by which man attains to his full stature. It is a process
of multiplication of weak, minute cells, which become specialized
for distinct offices in the economy of the vegetable community
we call a tree. Some go to renew and enlarge the roots, others
This is very similar to what takes place in the human organism, where the nutriment taken in is used up in the production of new cells, which are differentiated into muscle-cells, bone-cells, epidermal-cells, and so forth, building up or renewing muscles or nerves, bones or arteries; but the mechanism of distribution is different, the heart-pump doing the work of capillary attraction and gravitation. The ancients believed in the Dryads, spirits that were imprisoned in trees, and whose life was coterminous with that of the tree; and it will be seen that they had stronger physical justification for their belief than they knew. Shakespeare relates how Sycorax, the witch-mother of Caliban, imprisoned Ariel in a tree; and Huxley finely tells us that "The plant is an animal confined in a wooden case; and Nature, like Sycorax, holds thousands of 'delicate Ariels' imprisoned in every oak. She is jealous of letting us know this; and among the higher and more conspicuous forms of plants reveals it only by such obscure manifestations as the shrinking of the Sensitive Plant, the sudden clasp of the Dionæa, or, still more slightly, by the phenomena of the cyclosis."
The tree, as we have indicated, gets its food from the air and
the soil. The rootlets have the power of dissolving the mineral
salts in the soil in which they ramify; some authorities believing
that they are materially helped in this respect—so far as organic
matter is concerned—by a fungus that invests them with a
The flowering of the trees varies so greatly that it can only be dealt with satisfactorily as each species is described. It may be stated, however, that all the true forest trees are wind-fertilized, and therefore have inconspicuous greenish blossoms. By true forest trees we mean those that alone or slightly mixed are capable of forming high forest. The smaller trees, such as Crab, Rowan, Cherry, Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Buckthorn, etc., belong more to the open woodland, to the common and the hedgerow. These, from their habitat, can be seen singly, and therefore can make use of the conspicuous flowers that are fertilized by insects.
The Oak (Quercus robur).
When good John Evelyn wrote his "Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees," he was greatly concerned lest our "wooden walls" should diminish in strength for want of a succession of stout Oaks in our woodlands, and therefore he put the Oak in the forefront of his discourse. To-day steel and teak have largely supplanted oak in the building of our navy, and our walls of defence are no longer of wood. Yet in spite of these changes, and the consequent reduction of the Oak's importance, we must still look upon it as the typical British tree, and, regardless of its place in botanical classifications, we shall follow the lead of our master and place it first on our list.
There is no necessity for entering upon a minute description
of the botanical characters of so well known a tree. The
sturdy, massive trunk, firm as a rock; the broad, rounded
outline of its head, caused by the downward sweeping extremities
of the wide-spreading lower limbs; the wavy outline of the
lobed leaves, and the equally distinct egg-and-cup-shaped fruit—these
are characters that cannot be confused with those
Full-grown oaks vary in height from sixty to one hundred
and thirty feet, the difference depending upon situation; the
The Oak flowers in April or May, and the blossoms are of two distinct forms—male and female. The males are in little clusters, which are borne at intervals along a hanging stalk, two or three inches in length. They are green, and therefore inconspicuous; but examined separately, they will be found to have a definite calyx, whose margin is cut into an uncertain number (4-7) of lobes. There are no petals, but attached to the sides of the calyx there are ten stamens. The female flowers are fewer, and will be found on short erect stalks above the male catkins. Each female flower consists of a calyx, invested by a number of overlapping scales, and enclosing an ovary with three styles. The ovary is divided into three cells, each containing two seed-eggs. An acorn should therefore contain six kernels, but, as a rule, only one of the seed-eggs develops, though occasionally an acorn contains two kernels. The overlapping scales at the base of the female flower become the rough cup that holds the acorn.
The Oak is subject to a considerable amount of variation,
probably due to differences of situation, soil, etc., and some
authors have sought to elevate certain of the varieties into
species by giving them distinctive names. It does not appear
to be certain, however, that these forms are at all constant,
and they are connected by intermediate forms that make the
identification of many individuals a matter of difficulty. In
one of these forms (sessiliflora) the stalk of the acorns connecting
them with the branch is very short, but the leaves
have a distinct footstalk, from half an inch to an inch long.
This form is more plentiful in the north and west, and is
conspicuous in the Forest of Dean. A second form, known
The Oak is most abundant on clay soils, but is at its best when growing in deep sandy loam, where there is also plenty of humus. Its roots in such soil strike down to a depth of five feet, and therefore it thrives in association with Beech, whose roots are much nearer the surface, and whose fallen leaves supply it with humus.
The Oak is more persistently attacked by insects than any other tree. One authority (Leunis) has tabulated the species that get their living mainly or entirely from their attacks on the foliage, timber, or bark, and they number about five hundred. With some species this warfare is waged on so extensive a scale, that in some years by early summer the Oaks are almost divested of their foliage, and a new crop of leaves becomes a necessity. But the reserve forces of the Oak are quite equal to this drain, and the tree does not appear to suffer, though a much less thorough attack would be serious to a Conifer. One of the worst of these Oak-spoilers—though it by no means restricts its energies to attacks on this tree—is the Mottled Umber Moth (Hibernia defoliaria), whose pretty caterpillars may be seen hanging by silken threads from the leafless twigs.
A striking Oak insect is the Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus),
which, in warm evenings in the south of England, may be
seen flying round the Oaks, the size and antler-like jaws of
the male arousing feelings of respect in the minds of those
who are not acquainted with its habits. The formidable
Perhaps the most interesting of the Oak's pensioners to the woodland rambler will be the varied forms of gall on different parts of the tree. There is the so-called Oak-apple, of uneven surface and spongy to the touch, which certain people still wear on May 29th, in honour of Charles II.; the well-rounded hard Bullet-gall of Cynips kollari, the Artichoke-gall of Cynips gemmæ, the Spangle-galls of Neuroterus lenticularis, so plentiful on the back of the leaf, and the Root-gall of Biorhiza aptera. All these galls are abnormal growths, due to the irritation set up by the Gall-wasps named, when they pierced the young tissues in order to lay their eggs in them. Where any of these galls are perforated it may be known that the Gall-wasp whose grub fed within has flown, but where there is no such perforation the grub is still within, feeding upon the flesh of the gall, or in the chrysalis stage, awaiting translation to the winged condition.
Several Oaks of foreign origin are also grown in our parks and open spaces; among them the Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) whose evergreen leathery leaves have toothed or plain edges, and occasionally the lower ones develop marginal spines, whence its name of Holm or Holly Oak. It is notable for retaining its lower branches, so that its appearance, as Loudon remarks, "even when fully grown, is that of an immense bush, rather than that of a timber tree." It is a native of Southern Europe and North Africa, and appears to have been introduced about the middle of the sixteenth century. It usually attains a height of from twenty to thirty feet, but occasionally specimens are seen up to sixty feet. It has a much thinner, more even bark than that of our native Oak, and of a black colour. The long brown acorns do not ripen until the second year.
The Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) is a much larger tree, attaining to similar heights to our British Oak, but easily distinguishable by its more pyramidal outline, and its attenuated leaves. The lance-shaped lobes of these are unequal, sharp, and angular; and the footless acorn-cups are covered with bristly or mossy-looking scales. The acorns, which are small and exceedingly bitter, rarely ripen till their second autumn. The whole tree—trunk, branches, and twigs—is of straighter growth than Quercus robur. It is a native of Southern Europe and the Levant, and was introduced about one hundred and seventy years ago.
The spring rambler in the woods may come upon a party of woodmen stripping young Oaks of their bark, or felling them, whilst cylinders of separated bark rest across poles in the process of drying. This is the industry of barking for the purpose of the tanner. When the Oaks in a coppice are about sixteen years old they are most suitable for this purpose, the bark then containing a larger percentage of tannin than at any other period. The operation is best performed in May, when the sap is in flow, and should be completed between the first swelling of the leaf-buds and the unrolling of the leaves. If the weather is cold and damp the bark will peel the better, provided there is an absence of north or east winds. Before the tree is cut down the bole is stripped, the first ring being taken from just above the roots to a height of two and a half feet above. When the tree is felled, it is cut into lengths and the bark stripped from them; then all branches that are an inch or more in diameter are peeled. The bark is piled to dry for a couple of weeks, and is then broken into small pieces and sent away in sacks.
It is not alone in the use of the bark that the tannic acid of
the Oak is made evident; it is to the presence of this that the
austerity of the acorn is due, and also the ink-producing
properties of certain Oak-galls. Everything connected with
Prior regards the name Oak (Anglo-Saxon ac) as originally belonging to the fruit, and only later transferred to the tree that produces it. The more obvious explanation (though we know that in etymological and other matters the obvious is not always the true interpretation) is, that acorn (ac-corn) signified the corn or fruit of the ac. Selby tells us that "During the Anglo-Saxon rule, and even for some time after the Conquest, Oak-forests were chiefly valued for the fattening of swine. Laws relating to pannage, or the fattening of hogs in the forest, were enacted during the Heptarchy; and by Ina's statutes, any person wantonly injuring or destroying an Oak-tree was mulcted in a fine varying according to size, or the quantity of mast it produced."
The Beech (Fagus sylvatica).
We speak of the Oak as the "Monarch of the Woods," and
to the Beech the title "Mother of Forests" has been given.
To the timber-merchant the Beech has little importance, but
the grower of timber freely acknowledges his heavy indebtedness
to this nursing mother, for, in the words of Professor
Gayer, the Bavarian forestry expert, "without Beech there can
no more be properly tended forests of broad-leaved genera, as
along with it would have to be given up many other valuable
timber-trees, whose production is only possible with the aid of
Beech." Quite apart from utilitarian considerations, we should
be very sorry to lose the Beech, with its towering, massive shaft
clad in smooth grey bark, its spreading roots above the soil,
and the dense shade of its fine foliage. Fortunately for the lover
of natural beauty, it is this luxuriant growth of leaves and the
shade it gives that are the redeeming virtues of the Beech
The Beech well grown attains a height of about 100 feet, and a girth of 20 feet. There was, until recently, a Beech in Norbury Park, Surrey, 160 feet in height. Its branches horizontally spreading gave it a head of enormous proportions. Hooker gives the diameter of the Knowle Beech as 352 feet, which means a circumference of about as many yards. It will grow in most upland places where the Oak thrives, though it does not need so deep a soil, and has a preference for land containing lime. Fresh mineral soils, rich in humus, are the best for it. In poor soils its growth is slow and its life is longer. It begins to bear mostly at about eighteen years of age, and thereafter gives good crops at intervals of three or five years.
In spring, just before the buds expand, the twigs of the
Beech have a very distinct appearance. They are long and
slender, placed alternately along the twig, and the brown
In the bud the leaf is folded fan-wise, and the folds run parallel with the nerves. They expand into an oval, smooth-faced leaf, with slightly scooped edges, and a most delicate fringe of short gossamer, which falls off later. These leaves Evelyn recommended as a stuffing for beds, declaring that if "gathered about the fall, and somewhat before they are much frost-bitten, [they] afford the best and easiest mattresses in the world to lay under our quilts instead of straw.... In Switzerland I have sometimes lain on them to my great refreshment." That last clause seems to imply that the authorities at home would not allow the introduction of new-fangled bed-stuffings, but remained true to straw. These leaves are rich in potash, and as they readily decay, they produce an admirable humus. In sheltered places the leaves, turned to a light ruddy-brown colour, are retained on the lower branches until cast off by the expansion of the new buds.
In early summer, whilst the leaves are still pellucid, the shade of a big Beech is particularly inviting. Later the leaves become opaque, and their glossy surfaces throw back the heat rays. Then the play of light upon the great mass of foliage is very fine; but when autumn has turned their deep green to orange and warm ruddy brown, and they catch the red rays of the westering sun, the tree appears to be turned into a blazing fire.
The Beech flowers in April or May. The blossoms are rather
more conspicuous than is the case with the Oak, for the male
The vitality of the Beech is so high that quite frequently the bole divides at its upper part into several trunks, which rise straight up, and each attains the dimensions of a complete tree. Often such a tree stands on a sandy bank, and seems in imminent danger of toppling over, but its uprightness secures it against strain, and the roots that it sent down the steep side of the bank have thickened into strong props. Many such trees may be found along the hollow lanes in the Greensand district of Surrey, and we have more than once sheltered from a storm under their roots.
We have already mentioned the value of the Beech as a nurse for other trees, and its frequent use for that purpose, but it should also be stated that it is a powerful competitor with other trees, and if these are left to fight their own battles unaided, the Beech will be the conqueror. Evelyn saw this more than two centuries ago, and pointed out that where mixed woods of Oak and Beech were left to themselves, they ultimately became pure Beech woods. The Beech appears to gain this advantage through rooting in the surface soil, and, exhausting it of food elements, suffers none to penetrate to the lower strata, where the Oak has its roots.
A number of insects feed upon the Beech, but they are mostly more beautiful or more singular than destructive. The Copper Beech, which is so effectively used for ornament in parks, is merely a sub-variety of the Common Beech, and all the examples in cultivation are believed to be "sports" from the purple variety, which itself was a natural sport discovered in a German wood little more than a hundred years ago.
The modern word Beech is derived from the Anglo-Saxon
boc, bece, beoce, which had very similar equivalents in all branches
The Birch (Betula alba).
"The Lady of the Woods," as Coleridge christened the Birch, is at once the most graceful, the hardiest, and the most ubiquitous of our forest trees. It grows throughout the length and breadth of our islands, and seems happy alike on a London common, in a suburban garden, or far up in the Scottish highlands (2500 feet). It penetrates farther north than any other tree, and its presence is a great boon to the natives of Lapland. It will grow where it is subjected to great heat, as well as where it must endure extreme cold, with its slender roots exploring the beds of peat, the rich humus of the old wood, or the raw soil of the mountain-side, where it has to cling to rocks and a few mosses. Given plenty of light, and it seems to care for little else. Though a mere shrub in the far north, with us the Birch has a trunk sometimes as tall as eighty, but more frequently fifty feet, and a girth of from two to three feet. In its first decade it increases in height at the rate of a foot and a half or two feet in a year; but, of course, there is little breadth to be built up at the same time. It reaches maturity in half a century, and before the other half is reached the Birch will have passed away.
The bark of the Birch is more enduring than its timber,
which may be partly due to its habit of casting off the outer
layer in shreds, like fine tissue-paper, from time to time. The
greater part of the bark is silvery white, which adds to the
apparent slenderness of the tree, and makes it conspicuous from
a long distance; for the attenuated and drooping branches,
dressed in small and loosely hung leaves, sway so constantly
About April the hanging catkins of the Birch, which were in evidence in the previous autumn, have matured and become dark crimson; the scales separate and expose the two stamens of each flower, which has a single sepal. The female flowers are in a short, more erect spike, which consists of overlapping scales (bracts), each containing two or three flowers. The flowers have neither petals nor sepals, each consisting merely of an ovary with two slender styles. After fertilization the female spike has developed into a little oblong cone. The minute nuts have a pair of delicate wings to each, and as they are set free from the cones they flutter on the breeze like a swarm of small flies. The moss that usually covers the ground beneath the Birch will be found in October to be thickly speckled with these fruits, which are something more than seeds, as they are commonly termed; they are really analogous to the acorn—a nut within a thin shell. The tree sometimes begins to produce seed when only fifteen years old; but, as a rule, it is ten years older before it bears, and thereafter it has a crop every year.
It is strange how so striking and graceful a tree could have been so persistently ignored by the old school of landscape painters, when one remembers with what good effect modern artists have utilized it. In this connection we need not apologize for quoting at length a description of the tree from the artist's point of view, because it also gives attention to those points one would like the rambler to notice. Mr. P. G. Hamerton in his Sylvan Year, says—
"The stem ... of the Silver Birch is one of the masterpieces
of Nature. Everything has been done to heighten its unrivalled
brilliance. The horizontal peeling of the bark, making dark
rings at irregular distances, the brown spots, the dark colour of
Linnæus named our common Birch Betula alba; but more than a century ago Ehrhart pointed out that there were two well-defined forms of the tree, which he proposed to separate as distinct species under the names of B. verrucosa and B. pubescens. Hooker regards the first of these as the typical form, for which he properly retains the Linnæan name. It is distinguished by having the base of the bole covered with coarse, rough, and blackish bark, the smooth leaves looking as though their base had been cut off, and the twigs warty. The B. pubescens of Ehrhart appears to be a variety of Fries' B. glutinosa, which Hooker treats as a sub-species of B. alba. The bark at its base is smooth and white, its downy leaves have a triangular base, and its twigs are free from warts. It sometimes assumes a bush-like form.
The Dwarf Birch (Betula nana) is a distinct species, which occurs locally in the mountainous parts of Northumberland and Scotland. It is not a tree, but a bush, only two or three feet in height. Its firm-textured, round leaves have scalloped margins and short footstalks.
The foliage of the Birch in autumn turns to a yellow hue. At
this period—and, indeed, for a month earlier—there may be
Birch-bark is used for tanning certain kinds of leather, and the peculiar odour of Russian leather is said to be due to the use of Birch in its preparation. The Birch agrees with the Beech in two respects—it is of little value for timber, but as a nurse to young timber-trees it is of considerable importance. Its name is from the Anglo-Saxon beorc, birce, and signifies the Bark-tree.
The Alder (Alnus glutinosa).
Although the Alder is abundant by riversides and in all low-lying
moist lands as far north as Caithness, it is not so generally
well known at sight as the Oak, the Beech, and the Birch. It is
a small tree ordinarily only thirty to forty feet in height, with a
girth from three to six feet, though occasionally it aspires to
seventy feet in height. This is when it is growing in moist loam,
upon which rain or floods have washed down good layers of
humus from woods at a higher elevation. If, with its roots thus
well cared for, its head is in a humid atmosphere, the Alder is in
happy case. If it has had the misfortune to get into a porous
The bark of the Alder is rough and black, and the wood soft.
Whilst the tree is alive its wood is white, but when cut and
exposed to the air it becomes red; finally, on drying, it changes to
a pinkish tint. As timber it has no great reputation, except for
piles or other submerged purposes, when it is said to be exceedingly
durable. It has also enjoyed a great reputation for
making the best charcoal for the gunpowder mills, and it is
largely used by the turner, the wood-carver, and the cabinet-
The flowering of the Alder is very similar to that of the Birch, but the male catkins have red scales, and each flower four stamens. The female spikes have the fleshy scales covered by red-brown bracts of a woody consistence, which persist after the fruit has dropped out of them. Seed is not produced until the Alder is twenty years old, and the crop is repeated almost every year after. The cones are ripe about October or November, when they scatter their fruit, but the empty ones persist in hanging to the branches throughout the winter in numbers sufficient to give the leafless tree a brown appearance from a little distance. The immature male catkins are in evidence at the same time.
There is a variety (incisa) of the Alder in which the leaves are so deeply toothed that they bear a close resemblance to those of the Hawthorn.
In some localities the tree is called the Howler and Aller, the latter word apparently the original name, for its Anglo-Saxon forms were ælr, alr, and aler.
The Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus).
The Hornbeam is frequently passed by as a Beech, to which
it has a very close superficial likeness, but a comparison of leaves,
flowers, or bole would at once make the differences obvious. It
is usually found in similar situations to the Beech, though it
does not ascend so far up the hills as that species. On dry, poor
soils it does not attain its full proportions and may only be classed
as a small tree; but when growing on low ground, in rich loam
The leaves are less symmetrical than those of Beech, and are broader towards the base. They are of rougher texture, hairy on the underside, and their edges are doubly toothed. In autumn they turn yellow, then to ruddy gold, but a few days later they have settled into the rusty hue they retain throughout the winter, in those cases where they remain on the tree until spring.
The wood is exceedingly tough, and not to be worked up with ease, but it is considered to make admirable fuel. Evelyn says, "It burns like a candle." There are those who say that the name Hornbeam has reference to the tough or hornlike character of its beams; others declare that in the days when bullocks were yoked to the plough the yoke was made of this wood, as being fitted by its toughness to stand the strain, and as it was attached to the horns, it became the horn-beam. A third theory is that the name was derived from Ornus, the Manna-ash, with which early botanists confused it, but with all respect to the authority of Dr. Prior, who favours it, we prefer to stand on the first suggestion, with old John Gerarde, who says ("Herball," 1633): "In time it waxeth so hard that the toughnesse and hardnesse of it may be rather compared to horn than unto wood, and therefore it was called Hornbeam or hardbeam." The carpenter is not pleased who has hornbeam to work up, for his tools lose their edge far too quickly for his labour to be profitable. Evelyn tells us that it was called by some the Horse-beech, from the resemblance of the leaves.
The two kinds of catkins are similar and cylindrical, but
whilst the male is pendulous from the beginning, the female is
The Hornbeam's title to be considered indigenous has had some doubts thrown upon it because there are some records of specimens having been introduced during the fifteenth century, but that is not sufficient ground upon which to deny nationality. We have known persons to bring home from distant parts as treasures wild plants and ferns that were growing within a mile of their own homes. It appears to be a real native of the southern and midland counties of England, and of Wales. A line drawn across the map from North Wales to Norfolk roughly marks the limit; north of that line the Hornbeam appears to have been planted, as also in Ireland.
The Hazel (Corylus avellana).
It is rarely that the Hazel is allowed in this country to develop into a tree; as a rule it is a shrub, forming undergrowth in wood or copse, or part of a hedge. As it is cut down with the copse or hedge, it cannot form a standard of any size. But that the Hazel left alone will develop into a small tree is shown by an example in Eastwell Park, Kent, whose height a few years ago was thirty feet, with a circumference of three feet round the bole. As soon as the nuts are formed the bush is easily identified by all, so that a description of its character is hardly necessary. The large, roundish, heart-shaped leaves are arranged alternately in two rows along the straight downy shoots. Their margins are doubly toothed, and when in the bud they are plaited, the folds being parallel to the midrib. Soon after the buds open, many of the leaves assume a purplish tint for a while; in autumn they turn brown, and finally pale to yellow.
Before the leaves appear the Hazel is rendered conspicuous by
the male catkins, which are familiar to country children under the
name of Lamb's-tails. These may be seen in an undeveloped condition
in the autumn, when the nuts are being sought. A cluster
of two or three hard, little, grey-green cylinders is all that may
The Hazel likes a good soil, and will not really flourish without it, though it will grow almost anywhere, except where the moisture is stagnant. Its wood is said to be best when grown on a chalky subsoil. Of course, as timber, the Hazel does not count, but its tough and pliant rods and staves are valuable for many small uses, such as the making of hoops for casks, walking-sticks, and—divining-rods! The bark is smooth and brown.
The Barcelona nut, imported so largely in winter, is only a variety of the Hazel; as also the Cob and the Filbert, so largely cultivated in Kent. The name is the Anglo-Saxon hæsl, or hæsel, and signifies a baton of authority, from the use of its rods in driving cattle and slaves.
The Lime (Tilia platyphyllos).
Those persons who obtain their ideas of trees mainly from the specimens they can see in suburban roads and gardens are in danger of getting quite a false impression of the Lime. It is a long suffering, good-tempered tree, and like human individuals of similar temperament, is subjected to shameful treatment. The suburban gardener who has a row of Limes to trim uses the saw, and amputates every arm close up to the shoulder, so that when the season of budding and burgeoning arrives the row of Limes will look like an upward extension in green of the brick wall. Such are the atrocities upon which Suburbia has to base its ideas of one of the most imposing of trees.
The Large-leaved Lime, growing in park-land or meadow,
with its roots deep in good light loam, and its head eighty or
There are three kinds of Lime in general cultivation in this country, but the differences between them are not great. They are the Large-leaved (Tilia platyphyllos), the Small-leaved (T. parvifolia), and the Intermediate or Common Lime (T. vulgaris). The last-named is generally admitted to be an introduced kind, and it is the one most commonly planted. Respecting the claims of the other two to rank as natives, there has been some difference of opinion among authorities. The Small-leaved Lime, which does not occur in woods north of Cumberland, was regarded by Borrer as a true indigene, but H. C. Watson considered its claims as open to doubt, though he had no such doubt of the Large-leaved Lime, which is only growing really wild in the woods of Herefordshire, Radnorshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire.
All our Limes have similar straight tall stems, clad in smooth bark, and with a similar habit of growth. They are trees that demand genial climatic conditions for their proper development, and in consequence they do not put forth their leaves until May. The period of their leafy glory is comparatively short, for they are among the trees that lose their leaves earliest in autumn, after having been for a few days transmuted into gold. The leaf of the Lime is heart-shaped, with one of the basal lobes larger than the other, and the edges cut into saw-like teeth. There are slight differences in those of the three species, which will be indicated below.
In its floral arrangements the Lime differs from the trees
previously mentioned in that it has distinct sepals and petals,
an abundance of honey, and strong, sweet fragrance as of
The flowers are succeeded by globose little fruits, each about
For the purposes to which large timber is usually put, the light white wood of the Lime is not highly esteemed, not being considered of sufficient durability; yet it serves for many smaller uses, where its lightness and fine grain are strong recommendations. It must not be forgotten that the wonderful carvings of Grinling Gibbons were executed in this wood. It is largely used by the makers of musical instruments; and, as every one knows, it is from the inner bark of the Lime that those useful bast mats, which are imported from Russia in such large numbers, are made. Probably owing to its lightness, again, the wood was used in old times for making bucklers. The question of its value as timber is probably never taken into account when it is planted in this country, where its ornamental appearance as an avenue or shade-tree is its great recommendation. It is one of the long-lived trees, its full life-period being certainly five centuries. Those in St. James's Park are popularly supposed to have been planted, at the suggestion of John Evelyn, somewhere about the year 1660. There is a fine Lime avenue in Bushey Park, probably planted by Dutch William.
Deer and cattle are fond of the foliage and young shoots if they can get at them. Numerous insects exhibit a like partiality; of these the caterpillar of the large and handsome Lime Hawk-moth (Smerinthus tiliæ) is the most characteristic.
The differences between the three species may be briefly
Small-leaved Lime (Tilia parvifolia). Does not attain the large proportions of the others. Leaves about two inches across, smooth; on the lower surface the axils of the nerves are glaucous and downy, with hairy patches between nerves. Fruit thin-shelled and brittle, downy, and very faintly ribbed. The upper leaves show a tendency to lobing.
Large-leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos). Bark rougher. Twigs hairy. Leaves larger (four inches) and rougher, downy beneath, axils of the nerves woolly. Fruit of more oval shape, woody and strongly ribbed when ripe.
Common Lime (Tilia vulgaris). Intermediate between the others. Leaves larger than those of T. parvifolia, smaller than those of T. platyphyllos; downy in axils beneath. Twigs smooth. Fruit woody, but without ribs.
The name Lime was originally Linde, a form which, with the addition of n, is in use to-day. Chaucer and other English writers spell it Line and Lyne, and the transition from this form to that commonly used to-day has been effected by changing the n to m. Originally it meant pliant, and had reference to the useful bast from which cordage and other flexible things were made.
The Wych Elm (Ulmus montana).
Of the two species of Elms commonly grown in these islands
this alone is a native, though the Common or Small-leaved
Elm (Ulmus campestris) was introduced from the Continent by
the Romans, so that it has had time to get itself widely distributed
over our country. Other names for the Wych Elm are
Mountain Elm, Scots Elm, and Witch Hazel—the last-named
being now more generally applied to an American plant, the
Hamamelis. The philologists appear to be uncertain as to the
origin and meaning of Wych, but it seems most probably a form
The names montana, campestris, and Mountain Elm must not be allowed to mislead us as to the habits of the two species, for though the Wych Elm is known to reach an altitude of 3300 feet in the Alps, here it ascends only to 1300 feet (Yorks.), whilst Ulmus campestris, which might be understood to be less a hill-climber, grows at an elevation of 1500 feet in Derbyshire. As a matter of fact, both species are much fonder of valleys than of mountains.
The Wych Elm forms a trunk of large size, from 80 to 120 feet or more in height, with a girth of 50 feet, and covered with rough bark that is often corky. Its long slender branches spread widely with a downward tendency, the downy forking twigs bearing their leaves in a straight row along each side. The leaves are somewhat oval in general form, but the two sides of the midrib are unequal in size and shape. Their edges are doubly or trebly toothed, and the surfaces are rough and harsh to the touch. The hairs that cover the strong ribs on the under surface serve for the protection of the breathing pores from dust. On leaves of the pendulous form of this tree, grown in the London parks and gardens, these hairs will be found to be quite black with the soot particles gathered from the air. Trees need carbon, but in this gross form they are too often suffocated by it.
In March or April the brownish flowers are produced in
bunches from the sides of the branches. They are a quarter of
an inch long, bell-shaped, their edges cut into lobes, and finely
fringed. The ovary, with its two awl-shaped styles, is surrounded
by four or five stamens with purple anthers. They
appear in March or April, before the leaf-buds have opened,
The Elm most frequently seen is the Small-leaved Elm
Campestris often attains a greater height with its straighter
trunk than montana, but its girth is not so great, seldom
being more than twenty feet. Its dark wood is harder and
finer grained than that produced by the native tree. Its
favour as a hedgerow tree is probably due to the fact that
it gives shade which is not obnoxious to the growth of grass.
Among the insects that feed upon the Elm's foliage, the
most noteworthy is the caterpillar of the fine Large Tortoiseshell
Butterfly (Vanessa polychloros). I have already mentioned
the relationship subsisting between Elms and Nettles, and it
is a point worth noting that nearly all our native species of
Vanessa feed in the larval state upon the leaves of the Nettle.
In London parks and squares the Elms are much infested
In October the leaves, which have for some time assumed a very dull dark-green tint, suddenly turn to orange, then fade to pale yellow, and fall in showers.
The name Elm was derived from the Latin Ulmus, and appears to indicate an instrument of punishment—probably from its rods having been used to belabour slaves. Prior remarks that the word is "nearly identical in all the Germanic and Scandinavian dialects, but does not find its root in any of them. It plays through all the vowels ... but stands isolated as a foreign word which they have adopted." This "playing through the vowels" may be thus illustrated—Alm, Ælm, and Elm (Anglo-Saxon and English); Ilme, Olm, and Ulme, in various German dialects.
The Ash (Fraxinus excelsior).
So commanding, yet at the same time so light and graceful,
does a well-grown Ash appear, that Gilpin called it the "Venus
of the Woods." This may appear to some to be rather too
close an approach to the "Lady of the Woods" (Birch), but in
our opinion it well expresses the characteristics of the two.
They are both exceedingly graceful, but the beauty of the
Birch is that of the nymph, whilst that of the Ash is the
combined grace and strength of the goddess. I have said
"a well-grown" Ash, a phrase by which the timberman would
understand a tree that had been hemmed in so closely by
other trees that it has had no chance of developing as a tree,
but only as a straight stout stick of wood, from eighty to one
hundred feet long. My well-grown Ash is in a meadow,
Before the reign of iron and steel was quite so universal,
Ash timber was in demand for many uses where the metals
have now supplanted it. It was then far more widely grown
as a hedgerow tree than is now the case. Selby laments the
neglect of this former custom, which kept up a supply of
It must not be supposed from the foregoing remarks that the Ash is confined to the lowlands. In Yorkshire it is found growing at an elevation of 1350 feet; in Mid-Germany it grows as far up as 3500 feet, and in the Alpine districts 500 feet higher still. It has a preference for the northern and eastern sides of hills, where the atmosphere is moist and cool, and the soil deep and porous, for it loves free and not stagnant moisture for its roots.
The bark of both trunk and branches is pale grey, and some look to this as the origin of the tree's English name. On examining the leafless branches in early spring, two things strike the observer—the blackness of the big opposite leaf-buds, and the stoutness of the twigs. This latter fact is due to the great size of the leaves they have to support, which implies a considerable strain in wind or rain. What are generally regarded as the leaves of the Ash are only leaflets, though they are equal in size to the leaves of most of our trees. The largest of the leaflets are about three inches in length, and there are from four to seven—mostly six—pairs, and an odd terminal one, to each leaf. They are lance-shaped, with toothed edges. The leaves are late in appearing, but, like Charles Lamb and his office-hours, they make up for it by an early departure.
The flowers of the Ash are very poor affairs, for they have
Much of the Ash-wood in use for carriage-poles, oars, axe and hammer shafts, and similar purposes where only small diameters are needed, are obtained from Ash-coppice, which rapidly produces well-developed poles. So strong and elastic is the Ash timber when taken from young trees, that it is claimed it will bear a greater strain than any other European timber of equal thickness. The Ash is not one of the long-lived trees, its natural span being about two hundred years, but its wood is regarded as best between the ages of thirty and sixty years.
Cattle and horses are fond of Ash leaves, which were formerly
much used for fodder, and still are in some districts;
but it is said that to indulge cows in this food is fatal to
The origin of the name Ash is uncertain, though many fanciful suggestions have been made in explanation of its meaning. Its Anglo-Saxon form was æsc, a word used by the same people for spear, but that was because their spear-shafts were made of Ash-wood.
The Maple (Acer campestre).
There are a number of Maples in cultivation, but only
three of them are commonly met with in the open, and of
these one alone is a native. This is the Small-leaved, Common,
or Field Maple (Acer campestre), a small tree that attains a
height of twenty or thirty feet in the tall hedgerow or in
the wood, but is most familiar as a mere bush or as a constituent
of the low field-hedge. It does not grow to any
The leaves vary greatly in size, those growing on a tree being much larger than those produced by a bush. They range from two to four inches in diameter, and are always in pairs—springing from the sides of the branch exactly opposite to each other. The general form of the leaf is kidney-shaped, but it is cut up into five lobes, which are more or less toothed. They are downy when young, of a deep green colour, but too frequently this is disguised by a thick layer of road-dust. In October they turn to a rich yellow, and the Maple is then prominent even in a distant view, for the bright colour of the foliage makes the tree stand out prominently, in strong contrast with the still deep green of the Oaks or Firs beyond.
The Maples are among the trees that have complete flowers, although in this case they happen to be greenish yellow. They are about a quarter of an inch across, have narrow sepals and narrower petals, eight stamens, and a two-lobed flattened ovary, that develops into the pair of broad-winged "keys," or samaras. These are individually much like those of the Ash, but unsymmetrical and curved, half an inch long, with their bases joined together. Sometimes in late summer these "keys" take on a colouring of deep crimson, previous to turning brown as they ripen. As a rule the contained seeds take eighteen months to germinate, though a few may start growth the first spring.
The Common Maple is thought to be indigenous only from the county of Durham to the southern coast, and in Ireland. In Scotland it is only an introduced plant that has become naturalized.
The Great Maple, Sycamore, or False Plane (Acer pseudo-platanus)
is not a native tree, but it appears to have been
introduced from the Continent as far back as the fifteenth
century, so that it has had time during the intervening centuries
to get well established among us, and by means of its
Its name of False Plane is due to the Scots calling it the
The Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) is a tree of much more recent (1683) introduction from the Continent. Its height is from thirty to sixty feet, and its early growth is very rapid. The leaves are even larger than those of Sycamore, of similar shape, but the lobes are only slightly toothed. The clusters of bright yellow flowers are almost erect; the tree does not produce seed until it is between forty and fifty years old.
The Maple was the Mapel-treow or Mapulder of the Anglo-Saxons; it was originally the Celtic mapwl, and the name indicated those knotty excrescences on the trunk from which the cabinet-maker got the mottled wood that was so highly prized in early times for the making of bowls and table-tops, for which fabulous prices have been paid.
The Poplars (Populus).
Almost everybody who has an elementary acquaintance with trees knows a Poplar at sight, the foliage being so very distinct from that of other trees. But the distinctions between the several species are not so immediately obvious. Five kinds of Poplar are commonly grown in this country, of which only two are regarded as distinct indigenous species. These are the White Poplar (Populus alba), and the Aspen (P. tremula). A third indigenous form, the Grey Poplar (P. canescens), is thought to be either a sub-species of P. alba, or a hybrid between that species and P. tremula. Then of common introduced species we have the Black Poplar (Populus nigra), and the Lombardy Poplar (P. fastigiata).
The Poplars (Populus) and the Willows (Salix) together
constitute the Natural Order Salicineæ. The two genera
agree broadly in the construction and arrangement of their
flowers in catkins, but whereas the Poplars have broad leaves
and drooping catkins, the Willows, with few exceptions, have
long slender leaves and erect catkins. The sexes are not
only in distinct flowers, but on separate trees—what botanists
describe by the term diœcious. The males appear to be far
more numerous than the females. In the popular sense there
are no flowers, for there are neither sepals nor petals, each
set of sexual organs being protected merely by a scale. The
catkins containing these flowers usually appear before the
leaves. As there is nothing to attract insects to the work,
the trees have to rely upon the wind for conveying the pollen
to the female trees. The first three species described below
have from four to twelve stamens; P. nigra and P. fastigiata
have from twelve to twenty stamens. The Poplars share the
love of the Willows for moist places. They are found more
frequently in gardens and hedgerows than in woods. Their
The White Poplar, or Abele (Populus alba), grows into a
large tree, something between sixty and a hundred feet high,
covered with smooth grey bark. Its branches spread horizontally,
and its broad heart-shaped leaves, which vary from an
inch to three inches long, are hung on long slender foot-stalks.
The Grey Poplar (Populus canescens), which is thought to be indigenous only in the south-eastern parts of England, is not so tall a tree as P. alba, though it sometimes attains to eighty or ninety feet, with a circumference between ten and twenty-four feet. Its life extends to about a century, but its wood—which does not split when nails are driven through thin boards of it—is considered best between fifty and sixty years of age. The leaves on the branches are shaped like those of P. alba, but their under sides are either coated with grey down or are quite smooth; those of the suckers have their margins cut into angles and teeth. The female flowers mostly have four wedge-shaped purple stigmas (sometimes two), which are cleft into four at their extremities.
The Aspen or Asp (Populus tremula) does not attain either
The Black Poplar (Populus nigra) appears to be so called
not by reason of any blackness of leaf or bark, but because of
the absence of any white or grey down on the underside of
its leaves. Its bark is grey, like that of the species already
mentioned, but readily distinguished from them by the great
swellings and nodosities that mar the symmetry of its trunk.
It is a tree of erect growth, fifty to sixty feet in height, with
horizontal branches, and leaves that vary in shape from
triangular and rhombic to almost circular, and in width from
an inch to four inches. They have rounded teeth on the
margins, which are at first also fringed, and in their young
state the underside is silky. The flowers in the catkins of
this and the next species are not so densely packed. Those of
the male are two or three inches in length, and dark red in
colour; their abundance before the tree has put out its leaves
makes the male tree a conspicuous object. The female catkins
The Lombardy Poplar (Populus fastigiata) is no more a native of Italy than of England. Its home is in the Taurus and the Himalayas, whence it has spread into Persia. Introduced into Southern Europe, it has become specially abundant along the rivers of Lombardy, and so in France and England it bears the name of that country. Lord Rochford introduced it to England from Turin in 1758. Its leaves are like those of the Black Poplar, but its branches, instead of spreading, all grow straight upwards, so that the fastigiate or spire shape of the tree is produced—a shape only found otherwise among coniferous trees, particularly in the Cypress, the Juniper and the Irish Yew. It is its form, great height (100 to 150 feet), and rapidity of growth that have led to its wide use here as an ornamental tree—in many cases as a mere vegetable hoarding to shut out some offensive view. Its growth is extremely rapid, especially during its first score of years, when it will attain a height of sixty feet or more, provided it be grown in good, moist (but not marshy) soil. Its wood is, of course, of little value, and is chiefly used for making boxes and packing-cases, where its lightness, combined with toughness and cheapness, is an advantage. The bark is rough and deeply furrowed, unlike the other species, and the trunk is twisted. Like the Black Poplar, it has smooth shoots, and the unopened buds are sticky. It is propagated in this country by suckers and cuttings. It is said that the first trees introduced were so obtained, and that they were all from male trees; consequently, that we have no female trees here, and seed production is impossible. If the female grows here, it is certainly very scarce. The bark has been used for tanning.
The Black Italian Poplar (Populus monilifera) is another misnamed tree, for it is a native of North America, though introduced to England from the Continent in 1772 by Dr. John Hope. It has the distinction of being considered the most rapid-growing even of the Poplars. Loudon gives its rate of growth in the neighbourhood of London as between thirty and forty feet in seven years! Even in Scotland (where it has been largely planted as a substitute for Larch, since the partial failure of that tree) it attains a height of 120 feet in sixty years, when planted along the river banks. It is probably only a variety of P. nigra, which it resembles in most points, but is larger, and of very erect growth.
The Tacamahac or Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera) is another importation from North America, introduced in 1692. In its native country it grows to a height of eighty feet, but here forty or fifty feet is more usual. Its leaves are of more slender form than those of the other Poplars, egg-shaped, with a near approach to being lance-shaped. Their edges are toothed, their upper surface dark green and smooth, the underside whitish with cotton. The distinctive character of the tree is the fragrance of its foliage, which scents the air on moist evenings, and makes the Tacamahac a desirable tree to plant near the water, where alone it attains any moderate size.
The Willows (Salix).
There is not in the whole of the British flora another genus of
plants that presents such difficulties of identification as the genus
Salix. Even so hardened a botanist as Sir J. D. Hooker, in
reviewing the tangle of species, varieties (natural and cultivated),
and hybrids, is so far stirred from his ordinary composure that
he stigmatizes it as a "troublesome genus." When Sir Joseph
chose that mild adjective he was at Kew surrounded by the
national herbaria and with nicely labelled living plants at hand
In their natural condition Willows are graceful and picturesque, but a large number of the examples met with in our rambles have been so altered for commercial reasons as to be more grotesque than beautiful. It is not the timber-man who is responsible this time, for a pollard Willow, though it produces a shock-head of long slender shoots, suitable for basket-rods, lets in moisture at the top of the bole, and the wood is more or less decayed and worthless. Only four of our native Willows can be regarded as timber trees. These are the White Willow, the Crack Willow, the Bedford Willow, and the Sallow. Like the Poplars, their growth is very rapid, and their wood is consequently light, but it has the advantage of Poplar-wood in being tougher, and therefore serving for purposes where Poplar is of no value. In the present day the growers of straight-boled Willows find their best market among the makers of cricket-bats. A good deal of it is also cut into thin strips for plaiting into chip-hats and hand-baskets. The Osier is grown in extensive riverside beds for the production of long pliant shoots for the basket-weavers; though many of the so-called Osier-rods are really stool-shoots from Willows that have been pollarded, or whose leading shoot has never been allowed to grow. On those parts of our coast where the crab and lobster fishery is pursued, a regular supply of such shoots for weaving into "pots" and "hullies" is a necessity, and a "withy bed" will usually be found on some valley stream near, or on a damp terrace halfway up the cliffs.
The bark of the tree Willows has long been known to be rich in an alkaloid called salicine, which has tonic and astringent properties, and has often been used instead of quinine, though it is not nearly so powerful as the Peruvian drug. The bark is also used for tanning.
The association of the Willow with sadness is very old, but there does not appear to be any satisfactory reason for it—certainly to contemplate a naturally-grown Willow that grows on the edge of a limpid stream, in which its graceful shoots and slender leaves are reflected, does not suggest sad thoughts to the average healthy mind. The association is chiefly with maidens forsaken by their false lovers, as indicated by Shakespeare when he makes Desdemona say—
"My mother had a maid called Barbara:
She was in love; and he she loved proved mad,
And did forsake her; she had a song of 'Willow';
An old thing 'twas, but it expressed her fortune,
And she died singing it."
The Crack Willow or Withy (Salix fragilis) is one of the two
most considerable of our tree Willows. In good soil it will in
twenty years attain nearly its full height, which is eighty or ninety
feet. Its bole sometimes has a girth of twenty feet. Its smooth,
polished shoots afford the best ready means of distinguishing it, for
instead of their base pointing to the centre of the trunk as in other
trees, they grow obliquely, so that the shoots frequently cross each
other. They are both tough and pliant, but if struck at the base
they readily break off. This character explains the names Crack
Willow and fragilis. The leaves are lance-shaped, three to six
inches long, smooth, with glandular teeth, pale or glaucous on
the underside, and with half-heart-shaped stipules, which, however,
are soon cast off. As we have already indicated under the
head of Poplars, the male and female catkins of the Willows are
borne by different trees. In the case of the Crack Willow, the
male catkins are an inch or two long, proportionately stout, each
The Bedford Willow (S. russelliana) is believed to be a hybrid
between S. fragilis and S. alba. It grows to a height of fifty
feet, with a girth of twelve feet. The leaves are more slender
The White Willow (Salix alba) is so called from the appearance
of the leaves as the light is reflected from their silky surfaces,
which are alike above and below. It is a tree from sixty to
eighty feet high, with a girth of twenty feet, covered with thick
and deeply fissured bark. The leaves are from two to four inches
long, of a narrow elliptical shape. In the typical form the twigs
are olive-coloured, but in the variety vitellina (known as the
Golden Willow) these are yellow or reddish. In the variety
cærulea the old leaves become quite smooth above, but retain
The Almond-leaved or French Willow (Salix triandra) is a small tree about twenty feet high, distinguished by its bark being thrown off in flakes. Its slender lance-shaped leaves are smooth green above and glaucous beneath, two to four inches long, and with half-heart-shaped stipules. The male flowers offer another distinguishing mark in their stamens being three in number. Its habitats are the banks of rivers and streams, and in Osier-beds. It is extensively grown on account of the long, straight shoots produced from the stump when the tree is cut down, which are of great use in wicker-work.
The Bay-leaved Willow (Salix pentandra) is met with either
as a small upright tree about twenty feet high, or as a shrub
eight feet high. Its oval or elliptical leaves are rich green,
smooth and sticky on the upper surface, and give out a pleasant
fragrance like those of the Bay-tree; they vary from an inch to
four inches long, and they may or may not bear stipules, but
if these are present they will be egg-shaped or oblong. The
stamens are normally five in each flower, but they vary up to
twelve. This is reputed to be of all our Willows the latest to
flower. A line drawn through York, Worcester, and North
Wales will give roughly its southward range as a native species.
South of that line it has been planted; north of it to the Scottish
The Sallow (Salix caprea) is the only other species that can
properly be considered as a tree, as it attains to a height of
thirty feet, though fifteen to twenty feet is a more common
measurement. Its usually egg-shaped leaves vary from almost
round to elliptical or lance-shaped, and from two to four
inches in length. In the typical form, which occurs chiefly in
woods, dry pastures, and hedgerows, they are broad, smooth,
and dull-green above, covered with soft white down beneath;
the stipules half-kidney-shaped. This is the earliest of all our
The Gray Sallow (Salix cinerea) is really a sub-species of S. caprea. It has a liking for moister places than the type, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that its growth in moister situations has brought about the differences by which it is separated from the parent form. These points are, briefly—the buds and twigs are downy, the leaves smaller and proportionately narrower, the upper surface downy, grey-green beneath; the anthers of the male pale yellow, the capsule of the female smaller.
The Eared Sallow (S. aurita) is probably also only another
form of S. caprea, distinguished by its small, bushlike proportions
(two to four feet high), long branches and red twigs; its
small wrinkled leaves, which are usually less than two inches
There are Willows of dwarf habit, some with long straggling branches and more or less prostrate stems, that grow upon heaths. Each has a name under which it has at some time or other been ranked as a distinct species, just as the forms of Bramble and Rose have been. The differences between them are minute, and of little interest save to the advanced scientific botanist, who with his dried specimens spread before him often detects subtle distinctions not apparent to the outdoor student of the living plant. For the purposes of those for whom this volume is intended they may be regarded as one.
Dwarf Silky Willow (Salix repens). It is a low bush from six to twelve inches high, the stem lying along the ground. Some of the branches straggle in the same fashion, but those which bear the flowers are more or less erect. The leaf-buds and the young leaves are silky, a condition that usually endures on the lower surface, and in some forms on the upper also. They are broadly or narrowly lance-shaped, varying in the different forms alluded to above; in size they range from a half to one and a half inches in length, and may have lance-shaped stipules, or none at all. The scales of the catkins are yellowish-green or purple, with dark tips. After they have shed their pollen the anthers turn black. One form or other of this species will be found in all parts of the British Islands where there are heaths or commons; in the Highlands it occurs as high as 2500 feet.
Another group of small Willows that form bushes (rarely a
small tree) have been united under two species—the Dark-leaved
Willow (Salix nigricans), and the Tea-leaved Willow
The Osier (Salix viminalis). Many of the foregoing Willows,
when cut down low and induced to send out long, slender shoots,
are known as Osiers, but only two species are botanically regarded
as Osiers—this and the Purple Osier (S. purpurea).
The present species may remain as a shrub or grow into a small
tree, thirty feet high, with long, straight branches, which are
silky when young, but afterwards become polished. The leaves
vary in length from four to ten inches, and are slenderly lance-
The Purple Osier (Salix purpurea). In all the other Willows mentioned the stamens, whatever their number, all have the filaments distinct from each other. In this species alone the filaments of the two stamens are more or less united. The Purple Osier gets its name from the red or purple bark which clothes the thin but tough twigs. It is a shrub, and grows from five to ten feet high. The leaves, which are rather thin in texture, are from three to six inches long, of slender-lance-shape, with toothed edges, smooth and glaucous on both sides, but especially beneath, somewhat hairy when young. They are almost opposite on the twigs, and when dried for the herbarium turn black. There are several varieties of this shrub, which were formerly honoured with specific rank.
There remains a group of several small species of very local occurrence, with which we can do little more here beyond naming them.
The Woolly Willow (Salix lanata) is a small shrub, two or three
feet high, with twisted branches, woolly twigs, and hairy black
buds. The broad egg-shaped or oblong leathery leaves are also
woolly, and two or three inches long. There are half-heart-shaped
stipules at the base of the very short leaf-stalk. It is an Alpine
plant, and is found about the mountain rills of Perth, Forfar,
Inverness, and Sutherland at elevations between 2000 and 2500
feet. Conspicuous in spring for its rich golden catkins. Sadler's
Willow (S. sadleri), of which only two or three specimens have
been found (in Glen Callater, 2500 feet), is probably a form of
The Lapland Willow (Salix lapponum) is of a similar proportion to the last-named, sometimes erect, sometimes trailing. Its leaves are more elliptic in shape, covered above with silky hairs and below with cottony filaments. In lanata the raised veins form a network pattern; in lapponum they are straight. The stipules at the base of the long foot-stalk are small or altogether wanting. Like the preceding species, it is restricted to Scotch Alpine rocks, at elevations between 2000 and 2700 feet.
The Whortle-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinites) is a small, wiry, creeping, or half-erect shrub, six inches to a foot high, with toothed, dark glossy leaves, an inch or less in length, whose net-veining shows on both sides. It is restricted to the Alpine parts of mid-Scotland, from 1000 to 2700 feet.
The Small Tree-Willow (Salix arbuscula) is a small shrub, whose stem creeps along the ground and roots as it goes, sending up more or less erect branches a foot or two high. The downy twigs are first yellow, then reddish-brown. The small leaves vary from egg-shaped to lance-shaped, and are shining above and glaucous beneath; toothed. In the Highlands of Aberdeen, Argyll, Dumfries, Forfar, and Perth, between 1000 and 2400 feet.
The Least Willow (Salix herbacea) is not so restricted in its range, for it is found in all parts of the United Kingdom where there are heights sufficiently Alpine (2000 to 4300 feet) for its tastes. It is only an inch or two high, and has consequently the distinction of being the smallest British shrub. It is not so herbaceous as it seems, or as its name implies, for its shrubby stem and branches creep along underground, sending up only short, scantly leaved twigs. The curled, roundish leaves do not exceed half an inch in length; they are net-veined, toothed, and shining. The catkins appear after the leaves.
The Net-leaved Willow (Salix reticulata) is another of the
Scotch Alpines. It is similar in habit to the last-named, but
The Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica), so conspicuous an ornament of riverside lawns, is an introduced species, whose slender branches hang downwards. It has large, lance-shaped, finely toothed leaves, smooth above and glaucous beneath. Further description of so well-known a tree is unnecessary. It attains a height of forty to fifty feet. The name babylonica was bestowed in the belief that its headquarters were on the banks of the Euphrates. It is now known to be a native of Japan, and other parts of Asia.
The name Willow is the Anglo-Saxon welig, indicating pliancy, willingness.
Our Native Conifers.
The British flora is singularly poor in coniferous plants,
the Scots Pine, the Yew, and the Juniper being our only
native species, and even of these some authorities will have it
that the Yew is not truly a Conifer at all; they place it in a
separate order—Taxaceæ. For our present purpose, however,
although the Yew does not produce cones, it will be convenient
to keep it in its old position. The principal feature distinguishing
all Conifers and their allies (Gymnosperms) from other flowering
plants (Angiosperms) is briefly this: Angiosperms have their
incipient seeds (ovules) enclosed in a carpel, through which a
shoot from the pollen grain has to penetrate in order to reach and
fertilize the ovule. In Gymnosperms the carpel takes the form of
a leaf or bract, upon which the naked ovule lies open to actual
In some of the groups (as the Yew, for example) the male or pollen-producing flowers are borne by a separate tree from that which bears the female or cone-producing flowers. In the Pines both sexes are found on the same tree; but throughout the order the pollen is carried by the wind. All the species are trees, or shrubs. They are among the most valuable of timber trees, and, in addition, yield a number of useful substances, such as pitch, tar, turpentine, etc. The leaves are always rigid, extremely narrow, and long in proportion: usually of the form that botanists term linear, with the two sides parallel. In the Yews these leaves spread out in two rows from opposite sides of the twigs; in the Pines they are in clusters of two, three, or five, seeming to be bound together at the base by a wisp of thin skin. The number of leaves in each bundle is often a help in distinguishing species.
The Yew (Taxus baccata) lacks the graceful proportions of
most of our trees, but it has for compensation a most obvious air
of strength and endurance. Who doubts, as he gazes at some
sombre Yew in the old churchyard, the story of the local
antiquarian, who tells him the tree has so stood for 2000 years. He
may, perhaps, mildly suggest that neither the church nor the
churchyard was in existence so far back, but even then the
antiquarian will probably have the last word by suggesting that
the grove of Yews of which this formed part was the church of
the past. Thousands see in cathedral aisles the reproduction in
stone of the pine-forest or the beech-wood. Standing before an
ancient Yew they may see whence came the idea for those
clustered columns. They actually exist in the bole of the Yew,
which presents the appearance not of a single trunk, but of
several trunks that have coalesced. This condition is due to the
Although the Yew is a large tree, it is by no means a tall tree: the height of full-grown Yews in this country ranging between fifteen and fifty feet, though they are said to attain a greater length in India. The bole of the Yew is short but massive, covered with a thin red bark, that flakes off in patches much after the manner of Plane-bark. Large specimens have a girth of from twenty-five to fifty feet—or even more. Such a circumference represents the growth of many centuries, for the annual growth-rings are very thin. It is this very slow growth that produces the hard, compact, and elastic wood that was so highly esteemed in the days of the long-bow. Not only is the timber elastic and strong, but it is exceedingly durable, so that it is said, "A post of Yew will outlast a post of iron." Its branches start from the trunk at only a few feet from the ground, and, taking an almost horizontal direction, throw out a great number of leafy twigs, which provide a dense and extensive shade. These leaves are leathery in texture, curved somewhat after the manner of a reaping-hook, shiny and dark above, pale and unpolished below.
We have already mentioned that the Yew is a diœcious tree—that
is, one whose male and female blossoms are borne on
separate trees—but the statement requires qualification to this
extent, that occasionally a tree will be found bearing a branch or
branches whose flowers are of the sex opposite to those covering
the greater part of the tree. The male catkin is almost round,
a quarter of an inch across, and contains about half a dozen
yellow anthers, the base surrounded by dry overlapping scales.
They may be found during February and March, in profusion on
the underside of the boughs. The female flower is much smaller,
and consists of a fleshy disk with a few scales at its base, and on
this stands a single seed-egg. After fertilization of the seed-egg
There are some lines in In Memoriam which many readers of Tennyson have found as obscure as the shade of the Yew where they were conceived. The poet is addressing a venerable churchyard Yew in these words:—
"Old warder of these buried bones,
And answering now my random stroke
With fruitful cloud and living smoke;
Dark Yew, that graspest at the stones
And dippest towards the dreamless dead,
To thee, too, comes the golden hour,
When flower is feeling after flower."
To any readers who have found a difficulty in understanding these lines, we would say: visit the Yew groves in February or March, when the male branches are thickly covered with their yellow flowers, and strike a branch with your stick. In response to the "random stroke" the pollen will fly off in a "fruitful cloud" or "living smoke," some of it to be caught by the minute female blossoms. This is the Yew-tree's "golden hour, when flower is feeling after flower."
In the pre-gunpowder era, so important was it to have a
sufficient supply of suitable wood for the making of the dreaded
English long-bow, that the culture of the Yew was made the
subject of a number of royal ordinances, which, of course, were
allowed to drop out of observance when the bow was displaced
by the firearm. And now when men plant Yews they are mostly
the ornamental varieties, such as the Irish or Florence Court
Yew, which originated as a wild sport on the mountains of
Fermanagh about a hundred and forty years ago. Evelyn, it
is true, revived the interest in the Yew as an ornamental tree,
and it is with regret we add that at his suggestion it was first
put to the base use called topiary work, which had hitherto been
restricted to Box and Juniper. Evelyn showed how much more
"He that in winter should behold some of our highest hills in Surry clad with whole woods of these two last sorts of trees [Box and Yew], for divers miles in circuit (as in those delicious groves of them, belonging to the Honourable, my Noble Friend, the late Sir Adam Brown, of Bechworth Castle), from Box Hill, might, without the least violence to his imagination, easily fancy himself transported into some new or enchanted country; for if in any spot in England,
Eternal spring and summer all the year."
Along the chalk range of which the celebrated Box Hill forms
part will be found many fine examples of the Yew, as at Cherkley
Court, near Leatherhead, where there is an actual Yew forest.
There was a monstrous Yew at Brabourne in Kent, in Evelyn's
time, for he tells us he measured it, and found its girth to be only
one inch short of fifty-nine feet. There are numerous giants of
the species still living in quiet country churchyards, where they
have probably served—as tradition states of those at Fountains
Abbey—as a shelter for the builders of the ancient church during
its erection. It is reputed to be the longest-lived of all trees,
and it is to be hoped that no hindrance will be put in the way of
these connections of the present with the far past living to their
full natural limit, whatever it may be. It is naturally a tree of the
uplands and lower hills, and shows a distinct preference for soils
that contain plenty of lime.
The Irish Yew (var. fastigiata), to which passing reference was made, differs from the type in having all its branches growing erectly, after the manner of a Lombardy Poplar, and in the leaves being scattered promiscuously over the branchlets instead of being in two regular rows. It attains a height of twenty to twenty-five feet.
The Juniper (Juniperus communis) is seldom more than a shrub a few feet in height, though it occasionally develops into a small tree from ten to twenty feet high, and with a girth of five feet. It has a fibrous red bark, which flakes off like that of the Yew. The leaves are shaped like a cobbler's awl, rigid, and end in sharp points. They have thickened margins, the concave upper sides are glaucous, and they are arranged round the branches in whorls of three. The male and female flowers are on separate trees. The male catkin may be known in May by its numerous anthers and pale yellow pollen. The female catkins will be found in the axils of the leaves, and resemble buds. The scales are fleshy, and after fertilization the upper ones slowly develop into the form of a berry, which has a few undeveloped scales at its base. They do not ripen until the following year, when they are blue-black, covered with a fine glaucous bloom. They have a pungent flavour, which is utilized in concocting gin, which indeed owes its name to this fact—the word being merely a contraction of genévrier, the French form of Juniper. The "berries" have long been known as a kidney stimulant—a fact which has been fully utilized as the justification of every gin-drinker. A beautiful little moth—Hypsilophus marginellus—may often be taken about the Juniper, upon which its caterpillar feeds.
To appreciate the variety of forms assumed by the Juniper
according to the elevation at which it grows, it should be seen
on slopes like those of the North Downs in Surrey—one portion
of the range at Mickleham is named Juniper Hill. In the
valleys it may be found as a small shapely tree, higher up the
The Virginian Juniper (Juniperus virginiana), or "Red Cedar," as it is called on the American continent, is a much larger plant, which is frequently planted in our parks and gardens. It varies in habit, and may be low and spreading, bush-like, or tall and tapering, thirty to forty feet high. Its leaves are in threes, like those of our native species, but the three are united by their bases. It is with the red heart-wood of this tree that our "cedar" pencils are covered, large quantities of the timber of J. virginiana, and formerly of J. bermudiana, being imported for the purpose. The Virginian Juniper has been with us for many years. It is mentioned by Evelyn in his "Sylva" (1664), and is believed to have been introduced by him from North America.
The Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), commonly but incorrectly styled Scotch Fir, is the typical Pine-tree of Northern Europe, where (especially in Russia and Northern Germany) it constitutes huge forests. It is even said to cover far wider tracts of country than any other forest tree. Although there is evidence that in ancient days it was pretty widely distributed over Britain, to-day all those Pine-woods of Southern England are the results of planting, and it is only in a few places between Yorkshire and Sutherland, and in Ireland, that it can be regarded as truly wild and indigenous. Mr. John Nisbet points out that the term "pine-forest" is a bit of tautology, for the old German word forst was derived from foraha—now represented by föhre, a fire or pine—so that "pine-forest" is equivalent to "pine-pine." However, the etymologists will probably allow us to speak of Pine-woods, and we will try to remember that when we use the word forest it must always indicate an assemblage of Pine-trees.
In favourable soil, at a moderate elevation, the Scots Pine is a
fine tree a hundred feet high, with a rough-barked trunk, whose
girth is twelve feet. Under such conditions it develops a strong
tap-root, which goes deep; but where the soil is shallow or
otherwise unfavourable the tap-root is not developed. At great
elevations the upward growth is checked early, and it becomes
The leaves, which are in bundles of two, are from two to three
inches long, very slender, grooved above and convex beneath.
They remain on the tree for over two years, and in their
first season are of a glaucous hue, but in the second year this
changes to dark deep-green. Both male and female flowers are
borne by the same tree. The male catkins are individually
small (¼ inch), but are combined in spikes; this and the
abundant pale yellow pollen makes them conspicuous. The
female cones are somewhat egg-shaped, tapering to a point,
which is often curved. They are usually in clusters of three,
and grow to a length of two or three inches. The scales are
comparatively few, and their ends are thickened into an irregular
four-sided boss, at first ending in a little point. The seeds are
winged, and contained beneath the scales. They take about
eighteen months to ripen, when the scales separate in dry windy
weather, and allow the breeze to pick out the seeds and send
them flying through the air to a great distance. The pollen,
too, it should be noted, is of a form specially fitted for aerial
transport, each particle of pollen forming two connected spheres.
It is quite a common experience in May to find little heaps of
this pollen collected in hollows and at the margins of ponds in
the neighbourhood of Pine-woods; but, so difficult is it to get
people to understand the common facts of nature, that it is
generally regarded as evidence of a shower of brimstone having
fallen. It is not only the ignorant rustic who falls into this
error; judging from letters sent to the press by country parsons,
even the universities fail to prepare their alumni to deal with
Although the wood produced by the Scots Pine in this country
is not considered of the highest quality, the species is certainly
Other coniferous trees that have become more or less familiar in our plantations and parks will be found in the second division of this book.
The Holly (Ilex aquifolium).
The Holly must be regarded as one of our small trees,
although many specimens attain a height of forty or fifty feet,
with a girth of ten or twelve feet. It is well distributed throughout
our islands, ascending to a thousand feet, and it is probable that
no other tree is so well known, by its foliage at least, as the Holly,
or Holm, to give it its ancient name. The word Holm was incorporated
by some of our ancestors far back in the name
Holmsdale, which still attaches to the stretch of country at the
southern foot of the chalk hills in Surrey, and whose proud
motto is, "Never wonne, ne never shall." At the western end
"Is there under heaven a more glorious and refreshing object
of the kind, than an impregnable hedge of about four hundred feet
in length, nine feet high, and five in diameter, which I can show
in my now ruined gardens at Say's Court (thanks to the Czar of
The bark of the Holly is smooth and pale-grey in colour. Time out of mind it has been used in the preparation of a viscid substance known as birdlime, which, spread on twigs, holds the feet of small birds. Respecting the foliage of the Holly, there is little need to say anything, but for uniformity's sake we may note that the leaves are oval in shape, of a leathery consistence, with a firmer margin, running out into long sharp spines. It is a fact worthy of note that when the Holly has attained to a height of ten feet or so, it frequently clothes its upper branches in leaves that have no spines—a circumstance that Robert Southey sought to explain in his poem "The Holly-tree," on teleological grounds. His second verse, however, contains sufficient explanation of the fact it describes:—
"Below, a circling fence, its leaves are seen
Wrinkled and keen;
No grazing cattle through their prickly round
Can reach to wound;
But, as they grow where nothing is to fear,
Smooth and unarm'd the pointless leaves appear."
In some places the young shoots are gathered by the peasants, dried, bruised, and used as a winter cattle-food. No doubt, in the early history of the Holly, cattle found out its good qualities for themselves, and browsed upon the then-unarmed foliage. In self-defence the tree developed spines upon its leaves, and so kept its enemies at a respectful distance. Above the reach of these marauders the production of spines would be a useless waste of material.
The flowers of the Holly, though small, are conspicuous by
their great number and white colour. They are about a quarter
Most parts of the tree have had their uses in medicine; the leaves, for example, being said to have value as a febrifuge, and the berries as a purgative, or in large doses (6 to 8) as an emetic. The smooth bark of large Hollies is often attacked by one of the most striking of our native lichens—Graphis elegans—whose black fruiting portions look like a raised cuneiform inscription. The Holly is not greatly subject to the attacks of insects, but many of its leaves will be found to have been tunnelled between the upper and lower skins by the larva of a minute moth, one of the Leaf-miners. It also provides the pabulum for the caterpillar of the Holly-blue butterfly (Lycæna argiolus). The dead leaves may be examined for the minute Prickly Snail (Helix aculeata).
The wood of the Holly has an exceedingly fine grain, due to
its slow growth, and it is very hard and white. These qualities
make it valuable for many purposes, often as a substitute for
Box-wood, and, when dyed black, in lieu of Ebony.
The Spindle-tree (Euonymus europæus).
The Spindle is right on the borderland between trees and shrubs, for though it will grow into a tree twenty feet high, yet our hedgerow specimens are usually bushlike, and only ten or twelve feet high. Until the autumn the Spindle, we fear, is rarely recognized as such, but gets confused with Buckthorn and Dogwood. In October, however, its quaint fruits have changed to a pale crimson hue, which renders them the most conspicuous feature of a hedgerow—even of one plentifully decorated with scarlet hips and haws and bryony-berries. The unusual tint of the Spindle, and the fact that it swings on a slender stalk, at once mark it out from the rigid-stalked hips and haws.
The trunk of the Spindle is clothed in smooth grey bark. The twigs, which are in pairs, starting from opposite sides of a branch, are four-angled. The shining leaves vary from egg-shaped to lance-shaped, with finely-toothed edges. They are arranged in pairs, and in autumn they change to yellow and red. When bruised they give off a fœtid odour, the juice is acrid, and said to be poisonous—a charge which is laid against the bark, flowers, and seed as well. The small greenish-white flowers are borne in loose clusters, of the type known as cymes, from the axils of the leaves, and appear in May and June. Some contain both stamens and pistil, but others are either stamenate or pistillate. The calyx is cut into four or six parts, the petals and stamens agree with these parts in number, but the lobes of the stigma only range from three to five, corresponding with the cells of the ovary. The fruit is deeply lobed, and marked with grooves, indicating the lines of future division, when the lobes open and disclose the seeds, at first covered with their orange jackets, or arils, after the manner of the mace that encloses the nutmeg.
The hardness and toughness of Spindle-wood has long been
esteemed in the fashioning of small wares where these qualities
are essential, and the common name is a survival of the days
when spinning was the occupation of every woman. Then
spindles were in demand for winding the spun thread upon, and
no wood was more suitable than that of Euonymus for making
them. It shares with the Cornel (Cornus sanguinea) the name
Dogwood; it is also Skewerwood, Prickwood, and Pegwood,
all suggestive of uses to which it is or was applied. The young
shoots make a very fine charcoal for artists' use.
The Spindle is indigenous throughout our islands, but cannot be said to be generally common; it is rarer in Scotland and Ireland than in England.
Among the exotic species cultivated in our parks and gardens are the handsome variegated forms of the Evergreen Spindle (Euonymus japonicus) of China and Japan, and the Broad-leaved Spindle (E. latifolius) from Europe.
The Buckthorns (Rhamnus).
Our two native species of Buckthorn are shrubs of from five to ten feet in height. In this one respect they agree; in almost all others they differ. Both are Buckthorns in name, but the Breaking Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) is quite unarmed, whilst many of the branchlets of the Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus catharticus) are hardened into spines.
The Purging Buckthorn is distinguished by its stiff habit, and by some of the leaves being gathered into bundles at the ends of the shoots. The leaves are egg-shaped, with toothed edges, and of a yellowish-green tint, with short leaf-stalks. The yellowish-green flowers are very small, and will be found both singly and in clusters from the leaf-axils. There are a four-cleft calyx, four petals, four stamens, or four stigmas, for the sexes are usually on separate plants. The fruit is black, round, and about a quarter of an inch across, containing four stones. These so-called "berries" are ripe in September. Formerly they were much used as a purging medicine, but of so violent a character that their use has come to be discouraged, and the safer syrup of Buckthorn is prescribed instead. The juice of these berries is the raw material from which the artist's sap-green is prepared. It may be found in woods, thick hedgerows, and bushy places on commons southward of Westmoreland, showing a decided preference for chalky soils. In Ireland it only occurs rarely.
The Breaking Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) is also known
The Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) lays its eggs on the leaves of R. frangula, upon which the larva feeds. The name Buckthorn appears to be due to an ancient misunderstanding of the German name Buxdorn, which should have been translated Box-thorn.
Wild Plums (Prunus communis).
With the single exception of the Hazel, all our native fruit-trees are members of the extensive and beautiful Rose family. Before Roman invasions brought improved and cultivated varieties, our "rude forefathers" must have been glad to eat the Sloes, Crabs, and Wild Cherries that are now regarded as too terribly crude and austere, in an uncooked condition, for any stomach but that of the natural boy, which appears capable of surviving any ill-treatment. Some authors have regarded the Wild Plum and the Bullace as being specifically distinct from the Sloe and from each other; but the modern view is that their differences only entitle them to rank as sub-species of the Sloe, and as such they will be regarded here.
The Sloe or Blackthorn (Prunus communis) is the rigid
many-branched shrub, with stiletto-like tips, that luxuriates on
some of our commons and in our hedgerows. The blackish
bark that gives its name to the shrub forms a fine foil in March
or April for the pure white starry blossoms that brave the cold
blasts before the leaf-buds dare unfurl their coverings. In some
places—as in Cornwall, where it is the principal hedge plant,
and where cliffs, creeks, and river banks are bordered by it—these
bare black or purple stems are almost hidden by the
In the days of our youth it was a stock jibe against the grocer that most of his China tea had been grown on Blackthorn bushes not far from home, and with tea at five or six shillings a pound there may have been some basis of truth for the belief; but with the prices of to-day it may be presumed that Blackthorn leaves would cost the dealer at least as much as real tea-leaves from Assam and Darjeeling.
The Bullace (Prunus communis, sub-sp. insititia) differs from the Sloe in having brown bark, the branches straight and only a few of them ending in spines, the leaves larger, broader, more coarsely toothed, and downy on the underside. The flowers, too, have broader petals, and the fruit—which may be black or yellow—droops, and is between three-quarters and one inch in diameter. In many places where this grows it can only be regarded as an escape from cultivation.
The Wild Plum (Prunus communis, sub-sp. domestica) has
also brown bark, its branches straight, and not ending in spines.
The downiness noticed on the underside of the Bullace leaves
is here restricted to the ribs of the leaf. The fruit attains a
diameter of an inch or an inch and a half. Although found
It should be noted that the fruits of the Blackthorn and its sub-species are formed within the flower; so are those of the Cherries, to be next described, the ovary being botanically termed "superior," that is, above the base of the calyx and corolla, when the flower is in an erect position. This is a point of some importance when one seeks to understand the different formation of the fruit in so closely related a species as the Apple, in which the ovary is "inferior," or below the flower.
Wild Cherries (Prunus avium).
Nature has been comparatively lavish in the matter of Cherries, for she has bestowed three species upon the British Islands. For the cultivated Cherry it is said that we ought to thank the Romans, as for many other good things in the way of food. Pliny states that we had the Cherry in Britain by the middle of the first century A.D. Evelyn tells us that the Cherry orchards of Kent owe their origin to "the plain industry of one Richard Haines, a printer to Henry VIII.," by whom "the fields and environs of about thirty towns, in Kent only, were planted with fruit trees from Flanders, to the unusual benefit and general improvement of the county to this day." It is probable, however, that our own countrymen had already effected some improvement on the wild sorts by cultivation, for even in the woods some trees are found bearing fruit much larger and of better flavour than usual, and such would be selected for cultivation.
Our three natives are the Wild or Dwarf Cherry (Prunus
cerasus), the Gean (P. avium), and the Bird Cherry (P. padus).
The Gean (Prunus avium) is a tree that in suitable soils
attains a height of thirty or forty feet, with short, stout branches,
that take an upward direction. The leaves are large, broadly
oval, with sharp-toothed edges, and downy on the underside.
They always droop from the branches, and in spring they are
of a bronzy-brown tint, which afterwards changes to pale green.
Soon after the leaves have unfolded they are almost hidden
by the umbels of wide-open white flowers, which have soft,
heart-shaped petals, and whose anthers and stigmas mature
simultaneously. The firm-fleshed drupe is heart-shaped, black
The Dwarf or Wild Cherry (Prunus cerasus) is more bush-like
than tree-like, for it sends up a great number of suckers
around the main stem. The branches are slender and drooping.
The leaves, which are of similar shape to those of P. avium,
are smooth and deep blue-green in tint, with round-toothed
edges. The flowers are not so widely open as in the previous
species, but retain more of the cup-shape, whilst the notched
petals are firmer in consistence and oval in shape. The drupe
The Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) forms a tree from ten to twenty feet in height, with more elliptic leaves, which have their edges doubly cut into fine teeth. The flowers are not clustered in umbels, as in both the foregoing, but in a loose raceme from lateral spurs of new growth. The flowers are erect when they open, and the stigmas mature before the anthers, so that cross-fertilization is favoured in this species. After fertilization the flower droops, to be out of the way of the bees in their visits to the unfertilized blossoms. The petals in this species look as if their edges had been gnawed. The drupes are small, black, and very bitter, with a wrinkled stone. This is a northern species, coming not further south than Leicestershire and South Wales. All three species flower in late April or early May.
Cherry wood is strong, fine-grained, and of a red colour. It is easily worked, and susceptible of a high polish, so that it is in request by cabinet-makers, turners, and musical instrument makers.
The Wild Pear (Pyrus communis).
The Wild Pear is only to be found growing in the southern
half of Britain, its northward range not extending beyond
Yorkshire, and even in the south its claim to be regarded as a
true native has been contested. Mr. Hewett C. Watson regards
it as more probably a denizen, that is, a species originally
introduced by man, which has maintained its hold upon the
The Wild Pear, or Choke-pear, is a small tree, from twenty
to sixty feet in height, of somewhat pyramidal form. The twigs,
which are usually of a drooping tendency, are also much given
to ending in spines—a character scarcely apparent in the
cultivated tree. The leaves, too, of the wild tree are more
distinctly toothed than those of the Garden Pear. They are
oval in shape, with blunt-toothed edges, and downy on the
lower surface. Along the new shoots the leaves are arranged
alternately on opposite sides, but on shoots a year old they are
In speaking of the Wild Plums we directed attention to the fact that the ovary was within the flower; in the Pear (and the other members of the genus Pyrus) it is below the flower, hidden away in fact within the calyx-tube. When the flower opens it is ready for fertilization, but as the stamens of that flower are not yet mature this can only be accomplished by pollen brought by the bees from other flowers as they rifle the honey-glands. The effect of pollination is to cause special vegetative activity in the neighbourhood of the ovary, resulting in the thickening of the flesh of the calyx-tube around it, until it has become of the characteristic pear-shape, and an inch or two in length. A section of a pear or apple, taken lengthwise, will show a faint green outline of the ovary, and will demonstrate how much of the flesh is really belonging to the calyx-tube. The fruit of the Wild Pear is green until about November, when it turns yellow. It is of too harsh a character to be fit for eating.
A Pear formerly known as a variety (briggsii) of Pyrus communis is now regarded as a distinct species under the name of Pyrus cordata. It is found in Cornwall, and is distinguished by its more oval leaves being rounded at the base, and by its much smaller fruits being often globular.
The Pear is a long-lived tree, that grows singly or in small groups on dry plains. It attains a height of about fifty feet in thirty years, and its girth may then be three or four feet. The timber is fine-grained, strong and heavy, with a reddish tinge. Stained with black, it is used to counterfeit ebony.
The Wild Apple (Pyrus malus).
It is by no means an easy matter to decide whether the Crab-trees that grow along the hedgerows are truly wild or the offspring of orchard apples. In woods, away from gardens and orchards, there is less difficulty. Like the Pear, the Apple appears to have been the subject of cultural attention from very early times. This is proved by the philologists from the similarity of the equivalents for our word Apple in all the Celtic and Sclavonian languages, showing by their common origin that the fruit was of sufficient importance to have a distinctive name long before the separation of the peoples of Northern Europe. The name of Crab is of comparatively recent origin. Prior regards it as a form of the Lowland Scotch scrab, derived from Anglo-Saxon scrobb, a shrub, indicating that it is an Apple-bush rather than an Apple-tree.
The Wild Apple has not the pyramidal form of the Wild Pear, the branches spreading more widely when young and drooping when older, so that the head is rounded. In height it varies as a tree from twenty to thirty feet, though many examples of good age still retain the dimensions of a bush. Owing to the spreading character of the branches, the diameter of the head often exceeds the height of the tree. The bole has seldom any pretensions to symmetry, and is usually more or less crooked like the older branches. The brown bark is not very rough, though its numerous fissures and cracks give it a rugged appearance. Its wood, like that of the Pear, is hard and fine-grained, but, instead of having a reddish tinge, there is a tendency to brownness. The leaves vary in shape, but are more or less oblong, smooth above, sometimes downy on the lower surface when young, and with toothed edges.
The flowers are about the same size as those of the Wild Pear,
but their white petals are beautifully tinted and streaked with
The Wild Apple is found all over the United Kingdom as far north as the Clyde, and wherever it is known to occur it is worth a special visit in May, when all its crooked branches and straggling shoots are rendered beautiful by the abundance of delicately tinted and fragrant flowers. It is also far from being unattractive in the autumn, when the miniature apples hang from the boughs.
White Beam (Pyrus aria).
Owing to its very local occurrence, the White Beam, though widely distributed, is one of the less known of our trees and shrubs. It comes into both these categories according to the situation of its growth, for whilst in exposed mountainous localities a specimen of mature age may be no more than four or five feet high, and of bush-like growth, under the lee of a wood, and on a calcareous soil, it will be an erect and graceful tree of pyramidal form, whose apex is forty feet from the ground. In its early years growth is tolerably rapid, but at the age of ten it slackens pace, and after it has attained its majority its progress is very slow. Its wood is fine-grained, very hard, white, but inclining to yellow. The bark is smooth, and little subject to the cracks and fissures that mark the Apple-bark. The branches, except a few of the lowest, all have an upward tendency.
The leaves vary considerably in the several forms or sub-species,
but in the typical form they are a broad oval, with the edges
The sub-species latifolia (Pyrus rotundifolia of some botanists) has broader leaves, varying from oval-oblong to almost round, divided into wedge-shaped lobes, the cottony down beneath being grey rather than white, and the nerves less prominent on the underside. This form is found in Cornwall.
The sub-species scandica (also known as Pyrus intermedia) has the leaves less tough, more deeply divided into rounded or oblong lobes, and the grey cotton beneath of a looser character. This form is found in Scotland.
It should be noted that this species must not be called the White Beam-tree, for the word beam is the Saxon equivalent for tree. Other names for it include Hen-apple, Cumberland Hawthorn, Hoar Withy, Quick Beam, and Whipcrop.
The Wild Service (Pyrus torminalis) is a small tree of local occurrence, which does not extend further north than Lancashire. In general appearance it may be taken for the White Beam, but closer inspection will reveal the following differences. The leaves, which are cut into tapering lobes and coarsely toothed, are heart-shaped at the base; when young they are slightly downy beneath, but when mature they are smooth on both sides. Though the flowers are similar in size and colour to those of the White Beam, the fruit is smaller (one-third inch in diameter), less globular, and more like a large haw, though the colour is greenish-brown. The flowers appear in April and May, and the fruit, which is of a very dry, juiceless character, is ripe in November. In some localities these fruits are marketed, but they require to be kept like Medlars, until decay sets in, before they are fit to be eaten.
Mountain Ash, or Rowan (Pyrus aucuparia).
Little description of the Mountain Ash is needed, for in recent years it has come so much into favour that it is now one of the commonest of the trees planted in little suburban gardens and fore-courts. Its hardiness, its indifference to the character of the soil, the fact that other plants will grow beneath it, and the absence of need for pruning—all these points unite to make it suitable and popular for growth in restricted spaces. But the wood on the hillside is the natural home of the Mountain Ash, and in the Highlands its vertical range extends to 2600 feet above sea-level.
The Mountain Ash attains a height of from thirty to fifty feet,
and has a straight clean bole, clothed in smooth grey bark,
scarred horizontally as though it had been scored with a knife.
All the branches have an upward tendency, and the shoots
bear the long feathery leaves, whose division into six or eight
pairs of slender leaflets suggests the Ash, from which part of its
name has been borrowed. Gazing on this tree either in flower
or fruit, it would be quite unnecessary to explain that it is not
even remotely allied to Fraxinus excelsior, and that the
similarity of leaf-division is the only point of resemblance between
them. These leaflets have toothed edges, are paler on the
underside, and in a young condition the midrib and nerves
are hairy. The creamy-white fragrant flowers are like little
Hawthorn blossoms, though only half the size, and they appear
in dense clusters (cymes) in May or June. The fruit are
miniature apples, of the size of holly-berries, bright scarlet
without and yellow within. They ripen in September, and are
then a great attraction to thrushes, blackbirds, and their kind,
who rapidly strip the tree of them. Though this at first sight
may appear like frustrating the tree's object in producing fruit,
it is not really so, the attractive flesh being a mere bait to induce
the birds to pass the seeds through their intestines, and thus
In the south of Britain the Mountain Ash is chiefly grown as
underwood and used as a nurse for oaks and other timber trees,
which soon outgrow it and kill it; so that in the woods it is
The word Rowan is one of the most interesting of tree-names, and connects the still-existing superstitious practices of our northern counties, not only with the old Norsemen, but with the ancient Hindus who spoke the Sanskrit tongue. The word is spelled in many ways which connect it with the Old Norse runa, a charm, it being supposed to have power to ward off the effects of the evil eye. In earlier times runa was the Sanskrit appellation for a magician; rûn-stafas were staves cut from the Rowan-tree upon which runes were inscribed. Until quite recently the respect for its magical properties was shown in the north by fixing a branch of Rowan to the cattle-byre as a charm against the evil designs of witches, warlocks, and others of that kidney. In this connection we may quote also from Evelyn's "Sylva." He says: "Ale and beer brewed with these berries, being ripe, is an incomparable drink, familiar in Wales, where this tree is reputed so sacred that there is not a churchyard without one of them planted in it (as among us the Yew); so, on a certain day in the year, everybody religiously wears a cross made of the wood; and the tree is by some authors called Fraxinus Cambro-Britannica, reputed to be a preservative against fascinations and evil spirits; whence, perhaps, we call it witchen, the boughs being stuck about the house or the wood used for walking-staves."
Among the numerous names of the Mountain Ash are
Fowler's Service (or Servise, from Cerevisia, a fermented
drink), Cock-drunks, Hen-drunks (from the belief that fowls
were intoxicated by eating the "berries"), Quickbeam, White
Ash (from the colour of the flowers), Witch-wood, and Witchen.
The True Service (Pyrus sorbus) closely resembles the Mountain Ash in habit and foliage, but it is not a native of Britain, though it used to be claimed as such, on account of its growing in the more mountainous parts of Cornwall and in Wyre Forest, Worcestershire. The latter, however, is the only Service tree that could put in such a claim, for it grows—or grew?—far from habitations or cultivated land, and the presumption is that it has not owed its introduction to man. Still, "one swallow does not make a summer," and a solitary wild tree does not give the species a title to be reckoned as British. It is occasionally cultivated here, and its portrait, with a brief account of its points of difference from the Mountain Ash, may be useful. A comparison of the photographs from the boles of the two species will show a great difference: that of the Mountain Ash being smooth, whilst that of the Service is rugged. The leaf is similarly broken up into paired leaflets, but these are broader, and are downy on both upper and lower sides. The white flowers are as large as May-blossoms, and the fruits, which may be either apple-shaped or pear-shaped, are greenish-brown, with rusty specks, and four times the size of Rowan-berries. In winter, when there are neither leaves, flowers, nor fruits to help in the distinction, the bark may be taken in conjunction with the leaf-buds, which are green and smooth in this species, whilst those of the Mountain Ash are black and downy. The fruit may be eaten after it has begun to decay, as in the case of the Medlar.
Loudon describes the wood of the Service as the hardest
and heaviest of all the trees indigenous to Europe: fine-grained,
red-tinted, susceptible of a high polish, and much
We have already made reference to the meaning of the name Service. Another name—Sorb (from Latin sorbeo)—shows closer affinity for the fermented liquor indicated by Servise, for it means "drink down." A third name is Chequer-tree, which Dr. Prior tells us is an antique pronunciation of the word choker, in allusion to the unpalatable fruit, fit to choke one. Choke-pear, it will be remembered, is a synonym of the Wild Pear. Britten and Holland regard the name Chequer-tree as having no connection with choking, but an indication of the chequered or spotted appearance of the fruit.
The Medlar (Pyrus germanica) is a small tree, native of
Persia, Asia Minor, and Greece, and which is generally held to
occur wild in England and the Channel Islands only as an
escape from cultivation. The theory is that the tree was
introduced at some date prior to 1596—when we have record of
its being in cultivation here—and that the Medlar-trees growing
in the hedges of south and middle England are from seeds of
these cultivated trees, which have been sown by birds, or more
probably mammals who have eaten the fruit. The fact that it
is not found in woods is taken as evidence that it is non-indigenous.
Such evidence is not the most convincing, but it
is the best available. It should be noted, however, that the
agents credited with its distribution along our hedgerows have
free access to woods, and that if these places were favourable
to the growth of the Medlar, we should probably find it there,
whether indigenous or exotic. Much more conclusive, we think,
is its restricted distribution abroad, as already indicated. One
would not expect to find a tree whose nearest home is Greece,
In its wild condition the Medlar is a much-branched and
spiny tree, from ten to twenty feet high, in these respects
resembling the Hawthorn; but, like the Pear, it puts off its
defences when cultivated. Its leaves are large and undivided,
of an oblong-lance shape, downy beneath, and sometimes with
the edges very finely toothed. The solitary white flowers are
large—one and a half inches across—with a woolly calyx, whose
five tips expand into leafy growths. They appear in May or
Hawthorn (Cratægus oxyacantha).
Though distributed as a wild tree throughout the length and breadth of the British Islands, we are all more familiar with the Hawthorn as planted material in the construction of hedges, and this is a use to which it has been put ever since land was plotted out and enclosed. For the word is Anglo-Saxon (hægthorn), and signifies hedge-thorn. The man in the street would say without hesitation that Hawthorn means the thorn that produces Haws, but the philologist would tell him that it is only a modern and erroneous practice to apply the name of the hedge to the fruit of the hedge-thorn. It is also Whitethorn, to make the distinction between its light-grey bark and that of the Blackthorn; and May because of the period when it chiefly attracts attention.
Where the Hawthorn is allowed its natural growth, it
attains a height of forty feet, with a circumference between
three and ten feet. Such a tree is represented in our photograph.
On our commons, where in their youth the Hawthorns
have to submit to much mutilation from browsing animals,
their growth is spoiled; but though some of these never
become more than bushes tangled up with Blackthorn into
small thickets, there are others that form a distinct bole
and a round head of branches from ten to twenty feet high,
which in late May or (more frequently) early June look like
solid masses of snow. The characteristic of the tree which
makes it so valuable as fencing material is found in its
numerous branches, supporting a network of twigs so dense
that even a hand may not be pushed among them without
The well-known lobed leaves are very variable both in size
and shape, and the degree to which they are cut. They
are a favourite food with horses and oxen, who would demolish
the hedges that confine them to the fields but for
the spines which protect the older branches at least. The
white flowers are about three-quarters of an inch across,
borne in numerous corymbs. The pink anthers give relief
to the uniform whiteness of the petals. The flowers, though
The Hawthorn is said to live from a century to two centuries, growing very slowly after it has reached a height of about fifteen feet. Its wood is both hard and tough, and the name of the genus has reference to that fact, being derived from the Greek kratos, strength.
The Strawberry-tree (Arbutus unedo).
Not in the woods or by waysides in Great Britain will the
Strawberry-tree be found, though it may be seen in parks
and gardens; but in parts of the Emerald Isle it is native.
Killarney, Muckross, and Bantry are given by Hooker as its
Irish stations, but we have also found it in the woods at
Woodstock, Co. Kilkenny, in a situation where it seemed
unlikely such a tree would be planted. It does not attain a
large size—ordinarily about ten or twelve feet—though in
cultivation it may attain to twenty or even thirty feet. The
bark is rough and scaly, tinged with red, and twisted. The
leathery leaves are more or less oval, two or three inches
long, with toothed edges and hairy stalks. Although arranged
alternately on the shoots, they present the appearance at a
little distance of being clustered, rosette fashion, at the tips
of the twigs. The creamy-white flowers are clustered in
drooping racemes at the ends of the twigs, and are about
one-third of an inch across, bell-shaped. When the seed-eggs
It is perhaps unnecessary to add that, in spite of the name, there is no relationship existing between this tree and the Strawberry; nor is there more than a faint superficial resemblance between the fruits of the two plants. The Strawberry belongs to the great Rose family, whilst the nearest British connections of the Arbutus are the Bilberries and Heaths.
Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea).
Among the constituents of the broad hedgerow, and the
copse that borders many a country road, the Dogwood or Cornel
is apt to be overlooked as Privet, to which its similar, opposite
leaves and clusters of small white flowers bear a superficial
resemblance. It has a great variety of local names, though
it must be admitted that many of these show close connections
one with another. This, however, makes them not less interesting,
but indicates how ancient and general is the underlying
idea which has given rise to them. Dogwood had originally no
connection with dogs, but was the wood of which dags, goads,
and skewers were made, because, as the Latin Cornus signifies,
it was of horny hardness and toughness. When the etymology
got changed by the substitution of "o" for "a" in dag, it was
also called Dog-tree, Dog-berry, Dog-timber, and Houndberry-tree,
and to explain the name it was said that the bark made an
excellent wash for mangy dogs. Gatter, Gatten, Gaiter, Gaitre-berry,
are all from the Anglo-Saxon Gad-treow, or goad-tree;
But we must not overlook the shrub itself whilst considering
its wealth of names. It grows to a height of six or eight feet,
and is clothed with opposite oval leaves, which are smooth on
both surfaces. The honeyed flowers are produced in June or
July at the extremities of the branches in dense round cymes.
Individually they are small (one-third of an inch across), opaque
white, with four petals and four stamens, which mature concurrently
with the stigma. They give out an unpleasant
odour, which appears to render them more attractive to flies and
The Dogwood is widely distributed over Britain as far north as Westmoreland. It does not occur in Scotland, and is rare in Ireland. It would seem as though its place in North Britain was taken by a herbaceous species, the Dwarf Cornel (Cornus suecica), which grows upon Alpine moorlands from Yorkshire as far north as Sutherlandshire. The stems of this, which have as many inches to their stature as the shrub has feet, die down annually. Its minute flowers are purplish instead of white, and its smaller berries red.
Wayfaring-tree (Viburnum lantana).
The Wayfaring-tree has a number of names by which it is
known locally, but the one we have used is generally known,
though it may have the disadvantage of being a comparatively
modern one whose parentage is known to us. The origin of
most of these popular names is lost in the mists of antiquity.
John Gerarde, whose "Herbal" was published in 1597, noting
its fondness for roadside hedges and thickets, called it Wayfaring-tree,
or Wayfaringman's-tree. Thereupon Parkinson,
nearly half a century later, remarks: "Gerard calleth it in
English the Wayfaring tree, but I know no travailer doth take
either pleasure or profit by it more than by any other hedge
trees." Our own experience serves to prove that Wayfarers, as
a class, have improved since Parkinson's day, for we have
frequently been questioned in the Surrey chalk-districts, at
various seasons, respecting the bold plant; in winter showing
its large naked buds, all rough with starry hairs, which keep
off frost, as well as do the many scales and thick varnish of
Horse-chestnut buds; in summer the broad, hairy leaves, looking
Though it grows to a height of twenty feet in places, it can
never properly be called a tree. Its downy stems are never
very stout. They branch a good deal, and it should be noted
that the branches are always given off in pairs, a branch from
The local names for this shrub include Mealy-tree, Whipcrop, Cotton-tree, Cottoner, Coventree, Lithe-wort, Lithy-tree, Twist-wood, White-wood. Mealy-tree, Cotton-tree, Cottoner, and White-wood all have obvious reference to the appearance of the young shoots and leaves, due to the presence of the white hairs with which they are covered. Lithe-wort and Lithy-tree, also Twist-wood and Whipcrop, indicate the supple and elastic character of the branches, which are often used instead of Withy to bind up a bundle of sticks or vegetables, or to make a hoop for a gate-fastener. In Germany the shoots, when only a year old, are used in basket-weaving, and, when a year or two older, serve for pipe-stems.
The Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus).
Although the Guelder Rose and the Wayfaring-tree are very
closely related, the differences between them are so great that
there is little danger of any person with ordinary powers of
observation confusing them. The Guelder Rose does not grow
so tall as its congener, twelve feet being about the extreme
height to which it attains in a wild state, and ordinarily it is
several feet less. It is not so fond of dry soils, and is more
frequently found in the copse, where it is not subject to the
The name Guelder Rose is a strange case of transference from a cultivated to a wild plant: the var. sterilis, in which all the flowers are like the outer row in the normal cluster, was first cultivated in Gelderland; so Gerarde tells us that "it is called in Dutch, Gheldersche Roose; in English, Gelder's Rose." In the Cotswolds it is known as King's Crown, from the "King of the May" having been crowned with a chaplet of it. Another name for it is Water Elder, presumably given on account of the similar appearance of the flower-clusters in Viburnum and Sambucus.
The distribution of the Guelder Rose as a wild plant extends northwards to Caithness, although it is rare in Scotland. It occurs throughout Ireland.
The Elder (Sambucus nigra).
The Elder is more a tree of the wayside than of the woodland,
often of low bushy growth; but where it finds good loamy soil
with abundant moisture it attains a height of twenty feet. None
of our trees grows more rapidly in its earliest years, and any bit
of its living wood will readily take root, so that its presence in
the hedge is often due to planting for the purpose of rapidly
erecting a live screen. Its quickly grown juicy shoots soon
harden into a tube of tough wood with a core of pith which is
The stems are coated with a grey corky bark, and the
younger divisions of the branches show an angular section when
cut. When old, the wood becomes hard and heavy, and has
been used as a substitute for Box. The leaf is divided into five,
seven, or nine oval leaflets with toothed edges. The flower is of
the form that botanists describe as rotate, that is, the corolla
forms a very short tube, from the mouth of which five petal-like
lobes spread flat. This is a quarter of an inch broad, and
creamy-white in colour, giving out an odour which some persons
like, but which the writer considers offensive. Large numbers
of these small flowers are gathered into flat-topped cymes, five
or six inches in diameter. The primary stalks of these cymes
are five in number. The flowers are succeeded by small globular
berries, ultimately of a purple-black hue, and of mawkish flavour,
which are yet much sought after by country people for the making
of Elderberry wine, which they credit with marvellous medicinal
powers. In truth, the Elder still retains among rustic folk much
Occasionally one may find in the hedgerow an Elder with its leaflets deeply cut into very slender lobes, so that the leaf has resemblance to that of Fool's Parsley. This is an escape from cultivation—a garden variety (laciniata) known as the Cut-leaved or Parsley-leaved Elder.
The Box (Buxus sempervirens).
Though frequently to be met with in parks and ornamental grounds, there are only a few places in this country where the Box is really indigenous. These are in the counties of Surrey, Kent, Buckingham, and Gloucester. On the famous Box Hill, near Dorking, in Surrey, it may be seen attaining its proper proportions as a small tree, and in sufficient abundance to form groves covering a considerable area. It grows to a height of fifteen or twenty feet, with a girth of about twenty inches. Its slender branches are clothed with small, oblong, leathery leaves, which give out a peculiar and distinctive odour. They are about an inch in length, polished on the upper side, evergreen, and opposite.
The flowers may be looked for from January to May, and
will be found clustered between the leaf and the stem. These
are quite small and inconspicuous, of a whitish-green colour,
and the sexes are in separate flowers. The uppermost one in
the centre of each cluster is a female flower; the others are
males. The males consist of four petals, enclosing a rudimentary
ovary, from beneath which spring four stamens. The
sepals of the female flower vary in number, from four to twelve,
and enclose a rounded ovary with three styles, which are ripe
The growth of the tree is very slow, and, in consequence, the
grain of its wood is very fine. It is also very hard, and so
heavy that alone among native woods it will not float in water.
On account of its fine grain and hardness, it is in request by the
turner and mathematical instrument maker, and was formerly
largely used by the wood-engraver for "woodcuts." Since the
We have already given descriptions and illustrations of several exotic species in Part I., where it seemed more advantageous to the reader to include them with British species of the same genus; those now to be dealt with are in all cases members of genera not represented in our native Flora.
The Plane (Platanus orientalis).
In spite of the fact that the Plane is an exotic of comparatively
recent introduction, it seems in a fair way of being associated
in the future with London. It has taken with great
kindness to London life, in spite of the drawbacks of smoke,
fog, flagstones, and asphalt. Its leaves get thickly coated with
soot, which also turns its light-grey bark to black; but as the
upper surface of the leaves is smooth and firm, a shower of rain
washes them clean, and the rigid outer layer of bark is thrown
off by the expansion of the softer bark beneath. This is not
thrown off all at once, but in large and small flakes, which leave
a smooth yellow patch behind, temporarily free from soot contamination.
A variety of trees has been tried for street-planting,
but none has stood the trying conditions of London so well as
Two species are recognized—the Oriental Plane (Platanus
orientalis) and the Western Plane (P. occidentalis); but it
would probably be more accurate to regard them as geographical
varieties of one species, the points in which they differ being
small and not very important. Thus the leaves of the Oriental
Plane are described as being so much more deeply lobed than
those of the Western Plane that the former are botanically
described as palmate; but the two forms of leaf may often be
found on the same individual. The Western Plane, too, does
Planes normally rise to a height of something between seventy and ninety feet, and the trunk attains a circumference of from nine to twelve feet; but there is a record of a portly Plane whose waist measurement was forty feet! Many persons imagine because the leaves of the Plane resemble those of the Sycamore that the two are closely related; but this is not so, and a comparison of the flowers and fruit will show that they are not. The catkins of the Plane take the form of balls, in which male or female flowers are pressed together; and the fruits, instead of being winged samaras, are the rough balls that so closely resemble an old-fashioned form of button, that the tree is known in some parts of the United States as the Button-wood. (It is also known there as Sycamore and Cotton-tree.)
The Plane is supposed to have got its name Platanus from the Greek word platus (broad), in double allusion to the broad leaves and the ample shadow which the tree throws. These leaves are five-lobed, and, as already indicated, those of the Oriental species are much more deeply cut. Further distinction is found in the colour of the petiole or leaf-stalk, which is green in P. orientalis, and purplish-red in P. occidentalis, and in the larger and smoother seed-buttons of the latter. Instead of the leaves being attached to the stem in pairs, as we saw in the Sycamore, those of the Plane are alternate—that is to say, leaf number two of a series will be halfway between one and three, but on the opposite side of the shoot.
The outline of the tree is not so regular as in most others,
the leaves being gathered in heavy masses, with broad spaces
between, rather than equally distributed over the head. This
is, of course, due to the freedom with which the crooked arms
are flung about. The pale-brown wood is fine-grained, tough,
and hard, and is extensively used by pianoforte-makers, coach-
The Oriental Plane is popularly supposed to have been introduced to England from the Levant by Francis Bacon, but if Loudon's statement that it was "in British gardens before 1548" rests on good evidence, Bacon's claim is dismissed, for he was not "introduced" until 1561. It was nearly a hundred years later (1640) that the Occidental Plane was first brought from Virginia by the younger Tradescant, and planted in that remarkable garden of his father's in South Lambeth Road. The form that has done so well in London, and of which many fine examples are to be seen in the parks and squares, is a variety of the Oriental Plane, with leaves less deeply divided than those of the type, and therefore more nearly approaching the Occidental Plane in this respect. It is distinguished by the name of the Maple-leaved Plane (Platanus orientalis, var. acerifolia). It is this variety we have chosen as the subject for our photograph.
The Walnut (Juglans regia).
In the Golden Age, when man lived happily on a handful of
acorns, the gods fed upon walnuts, and so their name was Jovis
glans—the nuts of Jupiter—since contracted into Juglans.
Those who delight in obvious interpretations by appealing to
the modern meanings of words similar in construction may be
pardoned for supposing that Walnut-trees were formerly trained
against walls; but, like many other obvious interpretations, this
is wide of the mark. Some have gone back to the Anglo-Saxons
for help, and though the result arrived at is in all probability
the correct one, it is almost certain that the Anglo-Saxons knew
nothing of the matter, and would scarcely trouble to give a
name to something they had never seen. The Walnut is a
native of the Himalayas, the Hindu Kuh, Persia, Lebanon, and
That the new importation was fully appreciated in Europe for its fruit may be judged by the extent to which its cultivation had spread in Evelyn's day, for he tells us the trees abounded in Burgundy, where they stood in the midst of goodly wheat-lands. He says: "In several places betwixt Hanau and Frankfort in Germany no young farmer is permitted to marry a wife till he bring proof that he hath planted and is a father of such a stated number of [Walnut] trees, and the law is inviolably observed to this day, for the extraordinary benefit the tree affords the inhabitants."
The Walnut is a handsome tree, growing to a height of forty
to sixty feet, with a bole twenty feet or more in circumference,
and a huge spreading head. The bark is of a cool grey colour,
smooth when young, but as the tree matures deep longitudinal
furrows form, and it becomes very rugged. The twisted
branches take a direction more upward than horizontal, but
in early summer they are almost completely hidden by the
masses of large and handsome leaves of warm green colour and
The flowering of the Walnut is much on the plan of the Oak
and the Hazel, the sexes being in different flowers, but borne by
The old doggerel adage, "A dog and a wife and a walnut-tree, the more they are beaten the better they be," has reference to the manner of harvesting the ripe fruit. Evelyn says: "In Italy they arm the tops of long poles with nails and iron for the purpose [of loosening the fruit], and believe the beating improves the tree; which I no more believe than I do that discipline would reform a shrew." He expresses no opinion on the question of beating dogs.
Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa).
Until about the middle of the last century the Chestnut was
generally regarded as a genuine native of these islands. It is
true that botanists felt that so large and longevous a tree, if
native, should be found in the natural forests of this country, or
even forming pure forest. These things they did not find, but,
on the other hand, they were shown beams in ancient buildings,
including Westminster Abbey, which were believed to be Chestnut-wood,
and this evidence seemed to point to the fact that
Chestnut timber was grown much more plentifully in this country
at the period when these old buildings were erected. Dr.
Lindley, however, set the matter at rest by examination of the
reputed Chestnut beams in the roof of Westminster Abbey,
and proved that they were of Durmast Oak. A similar examination
of the timbers of the old Louvre in Paris, which were also
reputed to be Chestnut, gave a similar result. A comparison
of sections across the grain of Oak and Chestnut allows of no
possibility of mistake, and it is now known that whilst the wood
of young Chestnuts is tough and durable, that from old trees is
brittle and comparatively worthless, except for firewood, which
is exactly the opposite of Oak-wood. It is now generally agreed
that its real home is in Asia Minor and Greece, whence it was
In suitable situations the Chestnut is of larger proportions and greater length of life even than the Oak. In the South of England it will attain a height of from sixty to eighty feet in fifty or sixty years, and if growing in deep porous loam, free from carbonate of lime, and sheltered from strong winds and frosts, it builds up an erect massive column. Hamerton has said of such a tree: "His expression is that of sturdy strength; his trunk and limbs are built, not like those of Apollo, but like the trunk and limbs of Hercules." Under less suitable conditions the undivided trunk is little more than ten feet long; then it divides off into several huge limbs, and so the general character of the tree is altered, and it presents much the appearance of having been pollarded. The branches have a horizontal and downward habit of growth, the extremities of the lowest ones often being but little above the earth. The fine elliptical leaves are nine or ten inches in length, of a rich green, that is enhanced by the polished surface, which "brings up" the colour. Their edges are cut into long pointed teeth. Towards autumn they pale to light yellow, and then deepen into gold on their way to the final brown of the fallen leaf, which, by the way, is a great enricher of the soil where the Chestnut is grown.
The flowers, though individually small and inconspicuous, are
rather striking, from their association in cylindrical yellow catkins,
about six inches long, which hang from the axils of the leaves.
The upper part of this catkin consists of male flowers, each with
The young wood is covered with smooth brown bark, but later
this becomes grey, and its surface splits into longitudinal fissures,
which give a very distinctive character to the trunk. In older
trees the fissures and the alternating ridges have a slight spiral
twist, which gives the tree the appearance (shown in our third
photo) of having been wrenched round by some mighty force.
The average age of the Chestnut is about five hundred years,
but there have been in this country many old trees that were
much older, if any reliance could be placed in local tradition.
There was—we fear there is little of it still remaining—the great
Tortworth Chestnut in Lord Ducies' park at Tortworth Court.
In 1820 it was found to have a girth of fifty-two feet. Evelyn
refers to it in his "Sylva," and tells us that in the reign of
King Stephen it already bore the title of the Great Chestnut of
The name Chestnut appears to be a modification of the old Latin name Castanea, through the French form Chataigner. The Latin is said to be derived from Kastanum, a town in Thessaly, but it is more likely that the presence of Chestnut-trees gave a name to the town, as has happened so many times in our own country with various trees, the Chestnut included.
Horse Chestnut (Æsculus hippocastanum).
Our placing the Chestnut and the Horse Chestnut into juxtaposition must not be understood as a recognition of any relationship that may be implied in their names, but rather the reverse—to accentuate the differences that exist between them, and which have led botanists to separate them widely in all systems of classification. Although the fruits are sufficiently similar to have suggested the name Chestnut being applied to this, with a qualifying prefix, they have been produced by flowers of entirely different character. Evelyn tells us that the word Horse was added because of its virtues in "curing horses broken-winded and other cattle of coughs," a statement for which he was no doubt indebted to Parkinson (1640), who says, "Horse Chestnuts are given in the East Country, and so through all Turkie, unto Horses to cure them of the cough, shortnesse of winde, and such other diseases;" but seeing that, in this country at least, horses refuse to touch them, there can be little doubt that the name was given to indicate their inferiority to the Sweet Chestnut, and by a process only too well known to the student of early botanical literature, the name was afterwards held to be proof of their medicinal value to horses.
The Horse Chestnut is a native of the mountain regions
of Greece, Persia, and Northern India, and is believed to
have been introduced to Britain about 1550. It is not a tree
These brown buds, with their numerous wraps and liberal coating of varnish, afford considerable interest to the suburban dweller in early spring. He watches their gradual swelling, and the polish that comes upon them through the daily melting of their varnish under the influence of sunshine. Then the outer scales fall flat, the upper parts show green and loose; there is a perceptible lengthening of the shoot, which leaves a space between those outer wraps and the folded leaves. Next the leaflets separate and assume a horizontal position as they expand. Then probably there comes a frost, and next morning the leaflets are all hanging down, almost blackened, flaccid and dejected-looking. A warm southerly rain, followed by sunshine, reinvigorates them, and we see that the lengthening of the shoot has actually brought the incipient flower-spike clear into view. By about the second week in May the pyramid is clothed with bold handsome foliage, against which the conical spikes of white blossoms, tinged with crimson and dotted with yellow, stand out conspicuously.
The leaves are almost circular, but broken up, finger-fashion,
into seven toothed leaflets of different sizes, which appear to
have started as ovals, but the necessity for not overcrowding
The flowers consist of a bell-shaped calyx with five lobes,
supporting five separate petals, pure white in colour, but
splashed and dotted with crimson and yellow towards the
base of the upper ones, to indicate the way to the honey-glands.
There are seven curved stamens, and in their midst
The growth of the tree is very rapid, and consequently the
timber is soft and of no value where durability is required.
Still, its even grain and susceptibility to a high polish make
it useful for indoor wood, such as cabinet-making and flooring.
It is also used for making charcoal for the gunpowder mills.
Although Salvator Rosa and other landscape painters have
made such good use of the Sweet Chestnut pictorially, they
have utterly neglected the Horse Chestnut; and Hamerton
hints that the cause of this neglect is the artist's inability
to represent its large flowers and leaves by the landscape
painter's ordinary method of laying on masses of colour: this
requires drawing. The tree begins to produce fruit about its
twentieth year, and continues to do so nearly every year.
Its age is estimated as about two hundred years. The bark,
at first smooth, breaks into irregular scales and in old trees
The generic name Æsculus (from Latin esca, food) has no real connection with the tree, the ancients having given it to some species of Oak with edible acorns (vide Pliny), but by some unknown means it has become transferred to a tree whose fruit is far too bitter to be eaten by man.
The Red-flowered Horse Chestnut (Æsculus carnea) is a smaller and less vigorous tree. Its origin is unknown, but it is believed to be a garden hybrid that made its appearance about 1820.
The Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis).
The Bay is the true Laurel, of whose leaves and berries the wreaths were made in ancient days for poets and conquerors. Naturally it is more of a shrub than a tree, for though it often attains a height of sixty feet, it persists in sending up so many suckers that the tree-like character is lost. In cultivation, however, it is often grown on a single stem, as well as formed by cutting into arbours and arches. We call to mind a Cornish village, where a garden enclosure in its square (or "plestor," as Gilbert White would say) was surrounded by about a dozen Bays so grown. Bays grow abundantly in the gardens of South Cornwall, and we always connected their general cultivation with the pilchard fishery. Certainly, these trees in the plestor were very convenient in the autumn and winter, for the leaves are an essential ingredient in the proper composition of that seductive dish, marinated pilchards, to which they impart their peculiar aromatic flavour.
The Bay is a native of Southern Europe, whence it was
introduced at some date prior to 1562. Prior says the name is
the old Roman bacca (a berry), altered "by the usual omission
of 'c' between the two vowels," this plant having become the
The evergreen leaves are lance-shaped, without teeth, and arranged alternately on the branchlets. Not all the trees produce the berries, for the sexes are in distinct individuals, and all the white or yellowish four-parted flowers on one tree are stamen-bearing, whilst on another individual they all bear ovaries and no stamens. The berries, at first green, ultimately become of a dark purple hue. The flowers will be found in April or May; the ripe berries in October. The Bay is grown chiefly as a shrubbery ornament, and can only survive our winters out-of-doors in the South of England.
Laburnum (Laburnum vulgare).
Although the Laburnums of our parks and gardens have all come from seed, and themselves produce an abundance of it, we do not meet with wayside "escapes" as we might expect to do, having regard to the habit of the tree and the fact that it is comparatively indifferent respecting character of soil. Possibly a remark of Loudon's may explain this. He says that rabbits are exceedingly fond of the bark, and it may be that they destroy any young trees that are unprotected by palings or netting. The tree produces such a glorification of many an ordinary suburban road, when its flowering time comes round, that one would like to note its effect as a common object of the hillside and the woodland, against a background furnished by our more sober native trees.
The Laburnum is at home in the mountain forests of Central and Southern Europe, but there is no record of its introduction to Britain. We do know, however, that it has been with us for more than three centuries, for Gerarde, in his "Herbal," published 1597, refers to it as growing in his garden. It belongs to the great Pea and Bean family (Leguminosæ), and is very closely related to the Common Broom, whose solitary flowers those of the Laburnum's drooping racemes nearly resemble. Ordinarily it is only a low tree of about twenty feet in height, but in favourable situations it may attain to thirty feet or more. Some of the larger Laburnums, however, are of a distinct species (L. alpinus).
The pale round branches are clothed with leaves that are
divided into three oval-lance-shaped leaflets, covered on the
underside with silvery down. Both leaves and golden flowers
appear simultaneously in May, but from the fact that the latter
are gathered into numerous long pendulous racemes, their blaze
of colour makes the leaves almost invisible. Tennyson's description
of its flowering—"Laburnum, dropping wells of fire"
Laburnum is the old Latin name, which is thus rather fancifully
explained by Prior, "an adjective from L. labor, denoting
The Locust Tree (Robinia pseudacacia).
Although the Locust, or False Acacia, is little planted now, it is only paying the penalty for having had its merits enormously exaggerated; just as human reputations sometimes sink into oblivion after a season of popularity achieved by the persistent "booming" of influential friends. The friend in this case was William Cobbett, who, on his return from the United States, about 1820, preached salvation to the timber grower through the planting of Robinia; "nothing in the timber way could be so great a benefit as the general cultivation of this tree." So great was the demand thus created that Cobbett himself started a nursery for the propagation and supply of Robinias, and so great is the virtue of a name that people refused the Locust-trees that every nurseryman had in stock and wished to sell, and would be content with nothing but Cobbett's Robinias, which could not be produced fast enough for the demand! They thought it was an entirely new introduction, though it had been grown in this country as an ornamental tree for nearly two centuries! Its wood is hard, strong, and durable, but liable to crack, and of limited utility.
The Locust was introduced to Europe from North America early in the seventeenth century, and was then thought to be identical with the African Acacia. Linnæus named the genus in honour of Jean Robin, a French botanist, whose son, an official at the Jardin des Plantes, was the first to cultivate the tree in Europe.
It is a tree of light and graceful proportions, its branches
This was one of the first American trees introduced to
Europe, and its name of Locust came with it, the missionaries
believing it must be the tree upon whose fruit, with the addition
The Larch (Larix europæa).
An enormous number of exotic Coniferous trees are at the present time commonly grown in our parks and pleasure grounds, and even our woods show a considerable variety beyond the Scots Pine and Yew that Nature has alone given us as timber trees in this order. To attempt to give even a very brief account of all these in a pocket volume, in addition to almost the entire woody Flora indigenous to these islands, would be manifestly absurd. We can, however, deal with a few representative species of these exotics, and we give the Larch the first place by reason of its present plentifulness in extensive unmixed woods and plantations.
The Larch is naturally a tree of the mountains, and ascends
to a greater elevation even than the Spruce Fir. Unmixed
forests of Larch in the Bavarian Alps occur between 3000 and
6000 feet above sea-level, and on the central Swiss Alps it
ascends to nearly 7000 feet. A long winter of real cold is
necessary for its full development and the ripening of its wood,
and for that reason the timber of Larch grown in England is
inferior to that grown in its native countries, because our
winters are either short or mild, and neither gives the tree the
full rest it needs. It is a European tree, and was introduced—though
not in any numbers—to England at some date prior to
1629. For 150 years it appears to have been cultivated here
merely as an ornamental garden tree. Then attention was
called to its value as a timber tree, and the Society of Arts
offered gold medals for Larch planting and essays upon its
economic importance. Already (1728) the second Duke of
Atholl had begun those experiments in Larch growing for
The Larch is a lofty tree, with a very straight tapering trunk
The brown cones are egg-shaped, little more than an inch in
length, the scales with loose edges. The wood is very durable,
and it has the great recommendation of being fit for ordinary
use when the tree is only forty years old. It is most valuable
for those purposes where exposure to all weathers is a necessity,
for it endures constant change from wet to dry. Larch-bark is
Larch plantations sometimes present the appearance of death whilst they are still covered with foliage, but the leaves are yellow and twisted. This most frequently occurs in the case of trees between the ages of ten and fourteen years, and is due to the depredations of a leaf-mining caterpillar, which ultimately changes into a minute moth, the Larch-miner (Coleophora laricella). It feeds in the interior of the Larch-needles, and therefore is beyond the reach of destruction, except by felling and burning affected trees, to prevent the spread of the pest. Its ravages keep the tree in ill-health, and apparently prepare the way for the deadly attack of another small enemy, known as the Larch Canker—the fungus Peziza willkommii. Sickly trees are also liable to the attentions of a Wood-wasp (Sirex juvencus), whose appearance is usually the cause of a little terror in nervous persons. It has two pairs of smoky transparent wings, and its stout, straight, blue body terminates in a long slender point. Its large white grub spends two or three years tunnelling towards the heart of the tree and out to the bark again, but rarely attacks sound trees. It sometimes makes its appearance in a house from wood that has been used for building purposes.
The Silver Fir (Abies pectinata).
Evelyn has left on record the fact that a two-year-old
specimen of the Silver Fir was planted in Harefield Park,
near Uxbridge, in the year 1603, and this is usually regarded
as the date of its introduction to England, though the evidence
is by no means conclusive. Its home is in the mountain
regions of Central and Southern Europe. Its highest range
The leaves are flat and slender, not in bundles, as in the Scots Pine, but arranged along the branchlets in two or three dense ranks. They are dark, rich green above, about an inch long, and on the flattened underside there is a bluish-white stripe on each side of the midrib, which gives a silvery appearance to the foliage when upturned, as is usual on the fertile branches. These leaves endure from six to nine years. The flowers appear in May at the tips of the branches. The male flowers are about three-quarters of an inch long, and consist of two or three series of overlapping scales, enclosing the yellow stamens. The cones are cylindrical, with a blunt top, always erect, 6 to 8 inches long, and from 1¼ to 2 inches in diameter. On the back of each of the broad scales there is a long, slender, pointed bract, which extends beyond the scale and turns downward. At first these cones are green, then become reddish, and when mature are brown; but maturity is not reached until eighteen months after their appearance. The angular seeds are furnished with a broad wing twice their length. They are shed by the cones in the spring following their maturity, the scales falling at the same time and leaving the core of the cone on the tree.
As a rule, the tree does not produce fertile seeds until it is about forty years of age, but seedless cones are formed from its twentieth year. Although the flowers of both sexes are found on the same tree, it may be that for a series of years only cones are produced. Until the Silver Fir is about twelve years old its growth is slow, and its annual increase is only a few inches, but later it will be as many feet. During this early stage spring frosts often destroy the leader-shoot, but its place is taken by another shoot; and soon the symmetry of the tree is restored. If this occurs at a later stage, however, the tree bears evidence of it in a forked trunk. It is a deep-rooting species, with a branching tap-root, and succeeds best in an open soil that is moist without being wet.
The timber, which has an irregular grain, is strong, and does not warp; but it is soft, and not enduring where it is exposed to the weather. It is yellowish-white in colour, and is largely used for all interior work.
The Spruce Fir (Picea excelsa).
Although we are compelled to class the Spruce among introduced species, it can lay claim to have been one of the older forest trees of Britain, for the upper beds of the Tertiary formations contain abundant evidence that the Spruce was a native here when those strata were laid down. Of its modern introduction there is no record, but from mention of it by Turner in his "Names of Herbes in Greke, Latin, Englishe, etc.," we know that it was at some date anterior to the publication of that work (1548). It is widely distributed as a native tree throughout the continent of Europe, with the exception of Denmark and Holland. It is the principal forest tree on the elevated tracts of Germany and Switzerland, and on the central Alpine ranges it reaches an altitude of 6500 feet. It is an extremely variable tree, but we cannot here deal with the varieties beyond saying that two principal forms, different in habit and in timber, are outwardly distinguished by one having red, the other green, cones.
The Spruce Fir is a tall and graceful tree with tapering trunk,
120 to 150 feet in height, though in this country its more usual
stature, when full-grown, would be about 80 feet high, with a
bole circumference of about 9 feet. At first covered with
thin, smooth, warm-brown bark, in later life this breaks up into
irregular scales, thin layers of which are cast off. Instead of a
bushy crown, such as we see in the Silver Fir, the Spruce ends
in a delicate spire, so familiar in the Christmas-tree, which is a
Spruce Fir in the nursery stage. The branches are in very
The flowers are produced near the ends of last year's shoots,
those with stamens being borne singly or in clusters of two or
three. They are about three-quarters of an inch in length, and
of a yellow colour, tinged with pink. The cones, which hang
downwards, are almost cylindrical, about 5 inches long and 1½
inches in diameter. The pale brown scales are thin, and loosely
overlap. The seeds, of which there are two under each scale,
are very small, with a transparent brown wing, five times the
The tree is a shallow rooter, the roots going off horizontally in all directions a little below the surface, and becoming intimately matted with those of neighbouring trees. This surface-rooting often leads to disaster in plantations and forests of Spruce, for it is least able of all the firs to withstand a gale, which will sometimes make a broad avenue through the plantation by toppling the trees one against another.
The wood of the Spruce Fir, though light, is even grained, elastic, and durable, and the straightness of its stem makes it very valuable for all purposes where great length and straightness are required, as for the masts of small vessels, ladders, scaffolding, telegraph-poles; as well as for the varied uses the builder finds for its planks. It supplies resin and pitch, and most of the cheaper periodicals now issued largely owe their existence to the Spruce, for its fibres reduced to pulp are made into the paper upon which they are printed. Although its growth during the first few years is rather slow, progress during the next twenty-five years is tolerably rapid, being at the rate of two or three feet per year, if in a favourable situation, and on moist light soil. When grown in a wood the Spruce loses its lower branches early, but when given sufficient "elbow-room," these remain to a good old age, so that from spire to earth the graceful cone of bright green is continuous.
The name Spruce is from the German sprossen (a sprout), in allusion to the numerous short branchlets that are a characteristic of the tree.
The Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga douglasii).
Although the name of this tree in English and Latin might
reasonably lead one to suppose that David Douglas, the intrepid
botanical explorer, was the discoverer of it, that is not really so.
Under the most favourable natural conditions, as around Puget Sound and on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the Douglas Fir grows to a height of 300 feet, with a girth of 30 to 40 feet, but on the drier slopes of the Rocky Mountains it is not more than 100 feet high. In Colorado, forests of Douglas Fir are found at an elevation of 11,000 feet. The tree has not been sufficiently long established in this country to say what dimensions it will reach, though it appears to have taken kindly to Ireland and to Devon and Cornwall, where the rate of growth of young trees is about 30 inches per annum. There are plenty of trees in these islands, planted about the year 1834, which have reached or passed 100 feet, and there is no doubt that towards our western coasts this height will be greatly exceeded. Some of these trees have long since produced cones, and from their seeds many young trees have been raised.
The Douglas Fir is of pyramidal outline, with the lowest
branches bending to the ground under their weight of branchlets
and leaves; above, they spread horizontally, but the uppermost
are more or less ascending. The branchlets are given off mostly
The Douglas Fir produces excellent timber, and is a most valuable forest tree, not only on that account, but because of its adaptability to varying conditions of soil and climate. It is the most widely distributed of all American forest trees, and the area of its distribution is spread over thirty-two degrees of latitude, and from end to end of this range it has, in the words of Sargent, "to endure the fierce gales and long winters of the north, and the nearly perpetual sunshine of the Mexican Cordilleras; to thrive in the rain and fog which sweep almost continuously along the Pacific coast range, and on the arid mountain slopes of the interior, where for months every year rain never falls." It appears to thrive best where the air is humid and the soil well drained. It begins to bear cones about its twenty-fifth year. The straight tapering trunk is largely used for the masts and spars of ships, its suitability for this purpose being evident to all visitors to Kew who have gazed at the flag-staff set up in the arboretum. This pole is 159 feet long, with a circumference of 6 feet at the base, tapering to 2 feet 2 inches at the top, and weighing about 3 tons. It was brought from Vancouver Island, and an examination of its rings before it was set up showed that it represented the growth of about 250 years. The full life of the Douglas Fir is estimated to be about 750 years.
The Stone Pine (Pinus pinea).
Between the tall, graceful spire of the Douglas Fir and the
squat, heavy, umbrella-like head of the Stone Pine, there is an
enormous contrast. It must be confessed that the Stone Pine
is less beautiful than picturesque, a point that strongly commends
it to the landscape painter working in the countries bordering
The Austrian Pine (Pinus laricio).
What is known as the Austrian Pine is a variety of the Corsican or Larch Pine, and its botanical name correctly set out is Pinus laricio, var. austriaca. The name has reference to the fact that its chief home as an indigenous tree is in the southern provinces of the Austrian Empire. The range of the type and its varieties together includes Central and Southern Europe, and part of Western Asia. It is a comparatively recent addition to our sylva in both forms, for the type was introduced in 1759, in the belief that it was a maritime form of the Scots Pine, but the variety austriaca was first sent out by Lawson and Son, the Edinburgh nurserymen, in 1835.
The typical species (Corsican Pine) is a slender tree of
somewhat pyramidal form, growing to the height of 80 to 120
feet. The Austrian Pine, though a large tree, is of smaller
proportions—from 60 to 80 feet high—but with stouter and
The Austrian Pine is one of those that do well on poor soils, and takes kindly to chalk. From the density of its foliage, it makes a good shade and shelter tree. Its timber, though coarse in grain, is very durable, and useful for outside work.
Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani).
Made familiar, by name at least, from very early times by frequent references to it in the books of the Old Testament, it is rather strange that so hardy a tree was not one of the first of those introduced for ornament into Britain. It is true that local legends attaching to some old Cedars in this country credit them with having been planted in "the spacious times of great Elizabeth"—as the great Cedar at Whitton, Middlesex, blown down in 1779; but, on the other hand, we have the fact that no mention is made of the Cedar by John Evelyn in his "Sylva" (1664). This, it is true, is only negative evidence; but it is strong none the less, for it is not at all likely that so keen and pious an arboriculturist would have omitted mention of so noteworthy a tree had such been growing here when he wrote. There is reason to believe, however, that the still-existing Enfield Cedar was planted about the date of Evelyn's publication by Dr. Uvedale, master of the Enfield Grammar School.
The researches of Sir J. D. Hooker, subsequent to his memorable expedition to Lebanon and Taurus in 1860, established the specific identity of the three Cedars known as the Mount Atlas Cedar, the Cedar of Lebanon, and the Deodar. Though the arboriculturist still treats them as distinct species, they are scientifically regarded as geographical forms of one species. For convenience we here adopt the arboriculturist's view.
The Cedar varies greatly—no tree more so—in height and
The evergreen leaves last for three, four, or five years, and are of needle-shape, varying in length from a little less to a little more than an inch. They are produced in a similar manner to those of the Larch—in tufts that are arranged spirally round dwarf shoots, mostly on the upper side of the branchlets. The male flowers are to be found at the extremity of branchlets which, though six or seven years old, are very short, their development having been arrested. The solid, purple-brown cones are only three or four inches long, broad-topped, and with a diameter of about half the length; the scales thin and closely pressed together; they are at first greyish-green, tinged with pink. The development and maturity of these cones takes two or three seasons, and they remain on the tree for several years longer. The seeds are angular, with a wedge-shaped wing.
The trees do not produce cones until they are from twenty-five to thirty years old; but they may be a century old before producing either male or female flowers.
The trunk is covered with thick, rough, deeply fissured bark. On the branches the bark is smooth, and peels off in thin flakes. The Cedar, in its native habitat, produces admirable timber, but that of trees grown in our own country is described by Loudon as "reddish-white, light and spongy, easily worked, but very apt to shrink and warp, and by no means durable." For these reasons the tree is grown almost solely for ornament.
The name Cedar is supposed to be derived from the Arabic
kedroum, or kèdre (power), and has reference to its majestic
proportions and strong timber.
The Deodar, or Indian Cedar (Cedrus deodara).
Although, as we have indicated, the differences between the Cedar of Lebanon and the Cedar of Himalaya are not such as can be scientifically accepted as constituting specific distinctness, they are sufficient to at once strike the ordinary observer. In proportion to the height of the trunk, for example, the main branches are much shorter, the result being a more regular pyramidal outline, terminating in a light spire. The terminal shoots of the branches are longer, more slender, and quite pendulous. These differences, though really slight, transform the rather heavy majesty of the Cedar, as represented by C. libani, into one of graceful beauty. Although the experience of sixty years has sadly falsified the high hopes entertained as to the suitability of the Deodar for cultivation in this country as a timber tree, its value for ornamental purposes and in landscape gardening has not been impaired.
The headquarters of the Deodar are in the mountains of north-west India, where it forms forests at various altitudes above 3500 feet. Its vertical distribution, indeed, extends to a height of 12,000 feet, but its principal habitat lies between 6000 and 10,000 feet. Deodar timber produced in its native forests is exceedingly durable, being compact and even grained, not liable to warp or split, and standing the test of being alternately wet and dry. Loudon states that when a building, which had been erected by the Emperor Akbar in the latter part of the sixteenth century, was pulled down between 1820 and 1825, the Deodar timber used in its construction was found to be so sound that it was again used in building a house for Rajah Shah. And Brandis tells of very much more ancient bridges in Srunagar, whose piers are of Deodar wood, and appear to be as yet unaffected by decay.
It is to the Hon. W. L. Melville that we are indebted for the
introduction of the Deodar to Britain in 1831, and during the
There is no necessity for repeating the particulars already given respecting the Cedar of Lebanon, and which apply to the Deodar with such modifications as are indicated in the first paragraph above. Specimens grown where they have sufficient space for spreading out their long arms, retain their branches to the base of the trunk, and if these are cut off they can reproduce them. Several nursery varieties—with golden (aurea), silvery (argentea), or more intense green (viridis) foliage than the type—have appeared as a result of European cultivation.
Lawson's Cypress (Cupressus lawsoniana).
Lawson's Cypress belongs to that section of Conifers which
includes the Junipers and Thuias, and is a representative of the
North American Sylva. It is a native of South Oregon and
North California, where it is believed to have been first discovered
by Jeffrey, about 1852. Two years later seeds were received by
Messrs. Lawson, the Edinburgh nurserymen, from Mr. William
Murray, and from these seeds were raised the first young trees
of this species sent out by the firm. The name was bestowed
in honour of Mr. Charles Lawson, the then head of the firm,
and by this name it is generally known in Europe, but in the
United States it is the Port Orford Cypress. At Port Orford, on
the Oregon coast, according to Sargent, "it forms one of the
most prolific and beautiful coniferous forests of the continent,
unsurpassed in the variety and luxuriance of its undergrowth
of Rhododendrons, Vacciniums, Raspberries, Buckthorns, and
Ferns," and any one who has seen well-grown specimens in the
pleasure-grounds of this country can easily realize something of
the beauty of such a forest, though allowance has to be made
In its native home the Lawson Cypress attains a height
of between 120 and 150 feet, occasionally reaching 200 feet,
with a base circumference of 40 feet. The thick brown
bark splits into rounded scaly ridges. The short horizontal
branches divide a good deal towards their leafy extremities,
which are curved, and commonly drooping. The leaves are
little evergreen scales, which overlap, and being closely pressed
to the branchlet, completely clothe and hide it. They are bright
dark-green in colour, and endure for three or four years. The
male flowers are produced at the tips of short branchlets, formed
The Lawson Cypress produces a valuable wood, close-grained and strong, yet light. It is considered one of the most important timber trees of North America; but in this country it has been planted solely with a view to its ornamental qualities. Its perfect hardiness and its freedom of growth may, with longer experience than half a century affords, lead to its being regarded as a timber producer here also.
The Common Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) of the Mediterranean region and the East, of which poets have sung in all ages, has been cultivated in this country for at least three hundred and fifty years.
The Chili Pine (Araucaria imbricata).
The Chili Pine, or "Monkey Puzzle," is a familiar sight on
suburban lawns, where, however, it seldom attains a large size
or long retains health. The lower branches drop off, and the
upper ones become brown, as though scorched. But away from
the smoke-laden atmosphere and uncongenial soils, some handsome
and massive Araucarias may be seen rising from fair lawns,
with dense branches curving at their tips, and regularly disposed
in whorls from the dome-like head of the tree to the grass
at its base. Such was the magnificent specimen at Dropmore
that died in 1902, such is the fine tree at Woodstock, Co.
Kilkenny, which now presumably takes the position of eminence
in these islands hitherto held by the Dropmore example.
The Chili Pine is a native of Southern Chili, where it was
discovered by a Spaniard, Don F. Dendariarena, in 1780, as he
was prospecting for timber. About the same time two other
Spaniards, Drs. Ruiz and Pavon, were botanizing in Chili, and
came across the Araucaria, of which they sent herbarium specimens
to Europe. But in spite of this three-fold opportunity for
Spain, the actual introduction of the Araucaria to Europe must
be credited to Britain. Archibald Menzies, who accompanied
Captain Vancouver as botanist on his celebrated voyage, came
across the tree in Chili, and brought home both seeds and
The Araucaria forms extensive pure forests in the province of Arauco, from which it gets its name, and to whose inhabitants the seeds are a most important item of their food-supply. Not only do the trees in these forests lose their lower branches, but even those growing in the open plains of their native country have similarly bare trunks for nearly half their height. It is therefore a satisfaction to know that the finest specimens grown in this country have really surpassed those grown in their natural home. The height reached by old trees is from eighty to a hundred feet, with a trunk-girth of from sixteen to twenty-three feet. The tapering of this trunk is very slight, and a few of the stiff, spine-tipped leaves, with which its younger extremity is densely clothed, still remain attached in a dried-up condition far down the column. These leaves will have been observed to entirely cover the branches, not being restricted, as in most trees, to the newly formed branchlets and twigs. They are very hard, and endure for about fifteen years; are about an inch and a quarter long, and overlap, though their sharp-pointed ends turn away from the branch.
The cylindrical male flowers are four or five inches long, borne
singly or in small clusters. It was formerly supposed that the sexes
were on separate trees, but though many individuals only produce
flowers of one kind, this is by no means the general rule. The
female flowers are about four inches long, almost round in
shape, but broader at the base than above. They are covered
with long, narrow, overlapping scales, beneath which are found
the seeds when the flower has developed into the brown cone,
which is six inches in diameter. The scales are then easily
detached; in fact, when the seeds are ripe, the cone falls to
pieces. The seed is about an inch and a half long, enclosed
in a hard, thin shell.
The Chili Pine does not succeed in this country unless it is given pure air, sunshine, abundant moisture, and an open subsoil to carry it off. Yet it will grow to a very handsome tree if these conditions are observed. Very fine effects have been obtained in some places by planting an Araucaria grove. Such an avenue is in fine condition at Woodstock, Co. Kilkenny (running parallel with an avenue of Abies nobilis), every tree with its branches intact from turf to summit, and bearing fertile cones. There is a similar, but less perfectly preserved, Araucaria grove at Bicton in Devonshire.
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