The Forest World and Human Life Compared.—Remarkable-sized Trees, Where Found.—The Largest and Oldest Specimens in the World.—Adanson's Experience of the Age of Trees.—"The African Baobab," "Californian Pine," "American Cypress," "The Tree Shelter of Cortez," "The Chestnut-tree of Mount Etna," " The Babylonian Tree," " The Wiirtemberg Linden-tree," " The Ancient Oaks of England," "The Old Walnut-tree of the Balkans," "The Banyan-tree of Ceylon," "The Ancient Cedar Forest of Lebanon," "The Feathery Cocoanut and Fan-like Palmyra of India," "The Date-tree," "American Trees of Historic Fame," "The Walnut-tree," "The Soap Plant of California," "The Mulberry-tree," "The Jonesia Asika" and "The Tamala of India," "The Shakespearian Mulberry," " The Wadsworth Oak of New York," " The Live-oaks of Florida," and the Grand Oaks of Europe variously and separately Described.—The Oriental Mulberry Proverb.—A Quotation from Genesis.
Teee-life all over the world, in every age and every clime, under Southern sunny skies or the bleak, bare heavens of the North, has its wonderful giant-like mon-archs, its hoary old sages, rugged with age, its poetical love-dreaming and love-suggesting specimens, and its useful plain, honest members. In fact, like the human life, the forest denizens have their world within themselves, their kings and sages and plebeian races.
The subject is a vast one; thousands of trees bear names or attributes worthy of description. The most remarkable trees, as to size, are the baobab of Africa, the coniferse of Upper California, the banyan of India, the lindens of Germany, and the oaks and yews of England.
The African baobab is held by botanists to be the oldest and largest specimen of vegetable growth in the world. Adanson saw one in the Cape Verde Islands within whose trunk, overlaid by three hundred close layers of wood, he discovered an inscription carved by two English travellers three centuries before. By the aid and position of this inscription he was able to arrive at a correct estimate not only of the length of time which it took the tree to grow or increase in size, but the exact age of the tree itself, which he puts down at five thousand one hundred and fifty years. The stem ordinarily attains only ten or twelve feet in height, but is thirty - four feet in diameter; this immense foundation being necessary to support the foliage that grows on it. The main branch rises perpendicularly sixty feet in diameter, and from it shoot other branches, extending horizontally fifty or more feet on all sides, and which, being loaded with the most exuberant growth of leaves, forms a verdant crown of something like one hundred and sixty feet in diameter; a single tree giving thus the appearance of a forest. It is called by a name which signifies "a thousand years," which would seem to be in agreement with the calculation of its age by all herbalists. A group of these baobab trees, crowning the summit of its rocks, gives the name of the Cape Verde Isles—" Green Cape." The next in size, and of course in age, are the celebrated pines of California, known by various popular names among the miners and other inhabitants of the district in which they grow: " The mammoth Washington Tree," which was discovered by the naturalist Lob on the Sierra Nevada, at an elevation of five thousand feet; " The Miner's Cabin," which is large enough for a comfortable dwelling-place, being a hollow tree three hundred feet high, with an excavation seventeen feet in breadth and thirty feet in circumference ; " The Three Sisters," three trees which, springing from one root, are so interlaced as to appear but one tree; another," The Riding School," has been blown down by a terrible storm which swept over the valley. It has a hoUow stem into which a horse may be ridden for seventy-five feet and turned around.
These trees stand in groups, and many of them attain four hundred feet in height. Judging from the rings found within those that have been felled, they are mostly three thousand years old. Dr. Bigelow tells of one which he measured: " Eighteen feet from the stump it was fourteen and a half feet in diameter. As the diminution of the annual growth from the heart or centre to the outer circumference or sapwood appeared in regular succession, I placed my hand midway, measuring six inches and carefully counting the rings on that space, which were one hundred and thirty, making the age of the tree, by this computation, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five years." As to its size, he says, " It required thirty-one paces, three feet each, to measure its circumference, making ninety-three feet;" and to fell it they were obliged to use pump augurs and bore it. It took five men twenty-two days to lay it low, and the mere cutting down cost over five hundred dollars.
It is said there are five hundred of these gigantic trees within an area of fifty acres, ninety of which are of colossal size.
At Chapultepec, Mexico, there is an American cypress which, when the Spaniards entered the country, in 1520, was called " The Cypress of Montezuma," being then of immense size, over forty feet in girth and one hundred and twenty in height. And the province of Oakaca, in the same country, shows the cypress which sheltered Cortez and his troops, still in fine condition. According to De Candole, these trees are four thousand years old.
A chestnut-tree still grows upon Mount Etna, called by the natives " Castagna di Cento Cavalla," because a hundred horsemen can be concealed in its interior; being hollow, and measuring one hundred and eighty feet round. At Babylon stands a willow-tree, in an ancient garden of Semiramis, and supposed to be coeval with her reign. A peculiar sighing sound, heard in its branches, and caused by some action of the wind upon them, is believed by the Arabs to be the voices of spirits hidden within its foliage. As no bird or insect ever lights upon it, or flowers grow, or, indeed, hve near it, they think them evil spirits, whose presence is a bane.