Its Nativity.—Range of Growth and Soil Suited to its Growth.—General Appearance and Duration of Life.—Description of its "Wood, Bark, and Leaf. — Large Specimens, Where Found. — Manner of Sowing its Seed.—A Suggestion by Michaux.—Date of Introduction into Europe.—Attained Height.
This tree is a native of the United States and Canada, where, especially in bottoms which skirt rivers, in soil deep, fertile, and moist, it is most common, and found to attain its greatest size. "West of the Alleghanies it flourishes in open ground with trees of other varieties, though in such situations its growth is somewhat more stunted. It seldom, however, exceeds fifty feet in height, with a trunk twenty inches in diameter.
Its range of growth does not extend beyond the fifty-fourth degree of north latitude, and south to the Southern States, where, in Georgia and Tennessee, it thrives, and, when cultivated in soil and situations favorable to it, attains its amplest dimensions. Its trunk, separating into branches at no great height from the ground, forms a loose and wide-spreading head of dense f oliage, giving to it an ornamental appearance. In America, where effect and shade are the objects of its raising, it merits attention owing to its rapid growth and massive, showy foliage. It is not a long-lived tree, arriving at maturity in fifteen or twenty years. Its wood is fine-grained and of a yellowish color, variegated at its heart with bluish and rose-colored veins. In middle life the proportion of sap-wood to heart is large. In color, the bark of this tree, when grown, is brown; but when young the bark is of a beautiful pea-green color and smooth surface. Its leaf is oval-shaped, terminating in a point, and deeply toothed on its edges.
Some of the large specimens of this tree are to be found in Pennsylvania, specimens having been seen growing on the Schuylkill Eiver and in Philadelphia of the height of fifty feet and a four-foot circumference of trunk.
Its seed, as soon as practicable after gathering, should be thickly sown, as about half of them are false, and not over one in ten will germinate. Sow in the fall in shallow furrows, and cover only one and a half inches deep with earth. In somewhat moist and deep soil the plants grow rapidly, and should be protected, during the fall and winter, with a covering of straw. Plant them out in the spring four feet apart, and they will grow the first year ten to sixteen inches. I have seen nursery plants, two years old, six feet high and one inch in diameter. Box-elders of eleven years old measured thirty inches in circumference and were thirty feet high.
A suggestion from Michaux says that, from its rapid growth, if cut down and " layered " it might form a valuable underwood, to be used for fuel, charcoal manufacture, and other purposes; but, on trial of this, it has been found that the " layer " soon decays.
The introduction of this tree into England dates from 1688, and since that time its growth has extended to the continent of Europe, where, especially in Austria, a specimen of it attained the excessive height of eighty feet.