This section is from the book "A Few Suggestions On Tree Planting", by C. S. Sargent.
The White Cedar (Cupressus Thyoides, L), although we are here on its northern limit, where it only attaius a moderate size, should be planted on account of the value of its wood for fencing and other rural purposes, boat-building, shingle-making, etc., but more especially on account of its natural place of growth, which is always in deep, cold swamps, often near the sea, and overflowed by high tides, a situation in which no other tree of an equal commercial value could possibly thrive.
The value of the white pine is so thoroughly understood, and this beautiful tree grows so rapidly wherever it finds a certain amount of shelter and protection, that it is needless to advance its claims on the planter.
In consideration of its market value at all ages, the rapidity of its growth, and the length of time it continues to throw up suckers, the white ash (Fraximis Americana, L.) is the most valuable of all our native trees for planting in this State. Valuable as Massachusetts-grown white oak is, it can never compete with that produced in other sections of the country for purposes which call out its highest qualities ; while the slowness of its growth, and the difficulties which attend the early years of its cultivation, seem still further to reduce its value for the general planter as compared with the ash. Already there is a rapidly increasing export trade of ash lumber to Europe, Australia, and the Pacific coast, from Boston and New York, and the possibilities of this business can only be limited by the supply. The American is generally acknowledged to be superior to the European ash in the qualities for which it is specially valued, toughness and elasticity, and in which no other wood can equal it. Australia possesses no tree which is at all its equal for carriage-building, while west of the Rocky Mountains there is but a single one which can supply its place — an ash (Fraxinus Oregana, Nutt.) which, developing into a large and valuable timber tree in Oregon, is less frequent and less valuable south of the California line. Of the economic value of several species of ash which grow on the Eastern Asiatic seaboard, nothing is as yet known. It seems, then, that the New England States could command the markets of the world for one of the most useful and valuable of all woods, had they but a sufficient supply to offer.
* Report of Department of Agriculture, 1865: American Forests; their Destruction and Preservation. By the Rev. Frederic Starr, Jr., St. Louis.
According to Mr. Thomas Laslett,* Timber Inspector to the British Admiralty, the specific gravity of American ash is 480, while that of the European is 736. The former is, therefore, on account of its greater lightness, far more valuable for the handles of shovels, spades, hoes, rakes, and other hand implements.
According to the United States census of 1870, the number of spades, shovels, rakes, hoes, and hay-forks made in that year was 8,347,478, and as our exportation of such implements is rapidly increasing, although still in its infancy, it is evident that the value of ash will be greatly enhanced at no distant day. It is also used in making ships' blocks, in turnery, and for making the oars of boats. In speaking of the white ash, Laslett says, " It stands well after seasoning, and hence we get from this tree the best material for oars for boats that can be produced. They arc much and eagerly sought after by foreign governments as well as our own, and also by the great private steamship companies and the mercantile marine of this country ; consequently there is often a very keen competition for the possession of them." The manufactory of oars (surely a seaboard industry), in pursuit of material, moved from Massachusetts first to Maine, and then to Ohio and other western Slates.
Ash is coming into extensive use for expensive furniture and for the interior finish of houses, while an immense number of the young saplings are annually consumed in the coopers' trade. Its value for firewood, according to Bull,† is 77, the standard hickory being 100, while only four other American woods are its superior in heat-giving qualities.
In view of its many uses for purposes for which no other wood can supply its place, it is not astonishing that the value of ash lumber has largely increased of late years. The present price in the Boston market of the best New England ash is $85 the 1,100 feet, or about $15 higher than that grown in the West.
To develop its best qualities, the white ash should be planted in a cool, deep, moist, but well-drained soil, where it will make a rapid growth. That the plantation may be as early profitable as possible, the young trees should be inserted in rows three feet apart, the plants being two feet apart in the rows. This would give 7,260 plants to the acre, which should be gradually thinned until 108 trees are left standing, twenty feet apart each way. The first thinning, which might be made at the end of ten years, would give 4,000 hoop-poles, which at present price would be worth $400.
*Timber and Timber Trees, Native and Foreign. By Thomas Laslett, Timber Inspector to the Admiralty. London, 1875.
† Experiments to determine the Comparative Value of the principal Varieties of Fuel. T. Bull. Philadelphia.
The remaining thinnings, made at different periods up to twenty-five or thirty years, would produce some three thousand trees more, worth at least three times as much as the first thinnings. Such cuttings would pay all the expenses of planting, the care of the plantation and the interest on the capital invested, and would leave the land covered with trees capable of being turned into money at a moment's notice, or whose value would increase for a hundred years, making no mean inheritance for the descendants of a Massachusetts farmer. The planting of the white ash as a shade and roadside tree is especially recommended, and for that purpose it ranks, among our native trees, next to the sugar-maple.