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publication of the “Sylva Americana,” than to all other causes together. This work has been faithfully and elegantly translated by our accomplished countryman, Augustus L. Hillhouse. But the style in which the book is printed, both in the original and the translation, and more especially the number and beauty of its colored plates, have rendered it of necessity very expensive, and it consequently has found but few purchasers; a fact the more to be regretted as it was published at the cost of the author, who, we are informed by Mr. Hillhouse, has executed this work at a price ill becoming the modest fortune of a man of letters.
Its descriptions may be found in a much cheaper form in the valuable work, by our fellow-citizen, Daniel J. Browne, the title of which we have placed at the head of this article. Mr. Browne's is a very useful work, executed with great neatness and in a type easily read, and containing, within a very reasonable compass, much authentic information on a most interesting subject. Much originality could not be expected, at the present day, in any treatise on such topics ; but Mr. Browne certainly deserves great credit for the extensive research and sound judgment with which he has selected his materials from the best sources, and the agreeable manner in which he has disposed them.
The work is divided into three parts. The first is a treatise on Dendrology, or the structure and growth of trees generally. This portion of the work is of a more scientific and less popular cast than the rest, and may seem at the first view little likely to interest the mere general reader. It is, however, succinct and clear, and will well repay an attentive perusal. The anatomy and physiology of trees are subjects which have been till lately very imperfectly developed, and which we fear receive even now little attention from any class of persons except prosessed botanists. To become thoroughly versed in these sciences, as in most others, would require the labor of years, but some knowledge of their leading general principles must be deemed essential to any well-educated American, by all who reflect for a moment on the extent and importance of our forests ; and we know not where such knowledge could be more cheaply and conveniently procured than from our author. The next and longest portion of the volume consists in descriptions of the different species of the forest trees of this country, accompanied by neat and distinct engravings. These descriptions are taken principally, if not wholly, from the Sylva of Michaux ; but Mr. Browne has certainly rendered an important public service by placing the valuable information, contained in that rare and splendid book, within the reach of the community generally.
The work concludes with a treatise on the rearing and management of trees. This part abounds in minute and practical directions, which are for the most part sanctioned, to the best of our knowledge, by the precepts and practice of the highest authorities. In short, the volume is one of the best horticultural publications which has issued from the American press; and we cannot but regard its appearance, and that of other valuable productions on the same topics, as highly seasonable at the present period.
If this country has been highly distinguished in any respect by the bounty of nature, it is in the number and variety of its trees. If we were compelled to describe the territory of the United States in a few words, we could not do it more philosophically than in the language of Volney, who represents it as one vast forest, diversified by occasional cultivated intervals. With the exception of some of the prairies of the Valley of the Mississippi, we are not aware that there is any considerable section within our present States, which was originally destitute of wood. Beyond the immediate vicinity of our large towns, we find every stream thickly shaded by overhanging branches, and every mountain, with the exception of a few of the highest, covered with a leafy screen of all varieties of slade, from its base to its summit.
The progress of population and of improvement, astonishing as it has been, has been insufficient to efface to any degree this distinguishing feature of American scenery; and the striking picture, drawn by one of our own poets, of the native aspect of the country, has not yet lost its general resemblance.
“ Then all this youthful paradise around,
And all the broad and boundless mainland lay
The extent of our woods is not more remarkable, than the various kinds of trees which compose them. It is stated by Michaux, that in the United States there are one hundred and forty species of forest trees, which attain to a greater height than thirty feet, while in France there are only eighteen of the same description. Of the solid advantages which we derive from this abundant variety, we shall say nothing at present. It needs only a cursory glance, to perceive how much it enhances the beauty of our natural scenery. “I was never tired,” says an intelligent English traveller, « of the forest scenery of America, although I passed through it from day to day. The endless diversity of foliage always prevents it from being monotonous.” The variety of shape and tints in their green foliage is not, however, the chief distinction of our woods over those of the old world. They surpass them far more in the rich and various hues of their autumnal leaves. This, if not the most striking, is certainly the most unique feature of an American landscape. What natural scenery can surpass in
. beauty that presented by one of our forests to our view, in one of the brilliant and serene afternoons of our Indian summer, when the trees are clothed with a tapestry of the richest gold and purple and scarlet; resembling and almost rivalling the most gorgeous hues of our autumnal sunsets !
It is not the mere variety of coloring, which is the peculiar characteristic of our fading leaves. This variety exists also in European woods, though to a less extent; for, as has been already stated, their catalogue of forest trees is far more scanty than ours.
But their leaves, in divesting themselves of their summer green, lay aside also all their brilliancy, and assume a complexion proverbially dull and faded. It is a peculiarity, on the contrary, of many of our forest trees, that their leaves, in changing their hue, lose little or nothing of their brightness, and that their autumnal dress is not only far richer, but scarcely less lively, than their freshest June liveries.
This circumstance is generally ascribed to some peculiarity in our climate, and especially to the manner in which the cold weather makes its first approaches. But this manner varies almost every year, and yet our trees exbibit annually the same splendid changes. For this, as well as for other reasons, we are inclined to think, that the peculiarity is not in the climate, but in the trees themselves, and that it is one of those shades of difference, which distinguish in almost every instance the plants of America from their kindred species in the old world. A transplanted American maple, for instance, would probably undergo the same splendid transmutations in an English park as in its native forest. This supposition has been formed on much consideration, and is besides sanctioned by the opinion of an eminent English botanist, who has resided in this country for several years,
We have observed that scarcely any considerable portion of this country is entirely devoid of magnificent forest trees. But whatever striking instances of the truth of this remark we may find in New England, and more especially in Vermont and Maine, it must be admitted that he who would behold sylvan scenery on its most magnificent scale, should cross the Alleghanies, and visit the great Valley of the Mississippi. Here he will find vast tracts, into which the axe of the woodman has never penetrated. These are covered with a coat of vegetable mould, exceeding in many places the depth of our richest soils. We find accordingly a luxuriance of vegetation, to which nothing in our own State affords a parallel. It is true that with us there is here and there a gigantic elm or buttonwood, which might take rank with the noblest specimens of western growth. But in travelling in Kentucky or Indiana, we find trees, at every step, of six or seven feet in diameter; so that most of our woods, compared as a whole with theirs, seem to be but as the product of yesterday. Every plant appears to partake of this gigantic character. Thus the wild grape vine, which with us rarely grows larger than a stout walking-stick, in our Western States sometimes surpasses in diameter the body of a full-grown man. This fact we have verified by actual admeasurement.
The majesty of our western forests is not a little increased by the circumstance that they are generally free from undergrowth. The banks of the upper Mississippi especially are covered with trees of the largest size, shooting up to a lofty height from the smooth levels or gentle swells of the green prairies beneath, like the oaks in the finest parks of England. So tastefully are these trees grouped by the hand of nature, and so entirely clear is the green prairie grass from undergrowth, that the spectator can hardly avoid imagining, that he is looking not at a new country, but at one which was once
peopled by a highly-cultivated community, who have been long since swept away with every vestige of their wealth and refinement, except their stately groves and verdant lawns.
We have thus far spoken of our forests merely as a predominant and magnificent feature of American scenery. But it is scarcely necessary to say, that they have other claims to our attention, of a far more solid character. It is to our forests that we have been indebted for two hundred years for our fuel and our shelter. How much of the progress of New England at least, since its first settlement by our forefathers, has been owing to the liberality of Nature in this particular! Whatever were the calamities, in other respects, of those much-enduring men, they were at least exempted from the extreme and probably fatal suffering, to which they would have been subjected in a thinly-wooded region. Had the aborigines possessed that determined and unsparing hostility to large trees, which seems to have actuated many of their successors, it is probable that these northern settlements would never have had a being.
One of the most remarkable of the forest trees of the United States is the White Pine, called in England the Weymouth pine, and known by botanists as the Pinus Strobus. This tree must be familiar to many of our readers in various ways, as it abounds in our neighbourhood, and as its branches are more frequently employed than those of any other tree, for the decoration of our Catholic and Episcopal churches. It may be distinguished at first sight from every other evergreen growing in this State, by the lightness and delicacy of its foliage, as well as by its less formal mode of growih. On a closer view, it is found to differ from all other pines or spruces here or elsewhere, in being what is called five-leaved, that is, in putting forth its leaves in sheaths each containing five. The leaves of all evergreen trees, except the pine family, are without a sheath, and those of other pines grow in sheaths containing two or three. This tree is certainly the most majestic in the country, when it reaches its full growth in our forests. Though it does not spread in a graceful sheaf like the elm, nor rise up in a regular spire like the fir, it more than compensates for the want of these beauties, by its loftiness. None of the productions of this country approach it in this particular. It is sometimes said to reach the height of more than two hundred feet, and Michaux actually measured one which had been felled, and which exceeded one hundred and fifty;