The Black Larch, or Tamarack. —Its Singular Beauty, Attainable Height, and Appearance.—Its Range of Growth.—Soil Suited to its Growth, with Difference of Opinion.—Its Durability and Usefulness.—A Practised Fraud Unearthed.—The European Larch. —Its Attainable Height, Range, Rate of Growth, and General Contour—Its Ornamental and Timber Excellence. —Durability and Uses of its 'Wood.—Larch-growing in England and Scotland.— Ages of Maturity.—Foreign Testimony on its Durability. — Its Adapted Uses.—Places Favorable to its Propagation.—Where to Select and Obtain Seed.—Mr. Thomas Lake's Experience in Growing Larch.
This singularly beautiful tree grows to the height of from ninety to one hundred feet, with a diameter of from two to three feet. It is perfectly straight, with leaves of a light-bluish color. It grows as far north as Hudson's Bay, but is found in the United States in only swampy soil. I, for one, cannot understand this, as in British America it thrives in almost any soil. It is a very strong and durable wood, and among our most valuable for timber and rafter-beams; uprights made of it are said to last a great length of time.
It is a handsome and a very ornamental tree. That which grows the farthest north is far superior to our swamp-growing species.
Some unsophisticated horticulturists have been swindled into buying the black laroh as the European species—a deception that is very easy of accomplishment with those not acquainted with the different varieties of trees.
This tree rises to the height of from ninety to one hundred feet, and in general contour much resembles the black larch. It is found in the Alps of France and Switzerland, of the Tyrol, and in the Carpathian Mountains, and in various mountainous districts of Europe. Thanks to the assiduous care of the Duke of Athol, it has been planted in England as a forest-tree, and duly recognized as one of much excellence both as an ornamental and a timber tree. It is very durable, and adapted to a variety of uses, and is daily growing in greater demand.
Loudon says: " The rate of growth of the larch in the climate of London is from twenty to twenty-five feet in ten years from the seed, and nearly as great on the declivities of hills and mountains in the Highlands of Scotland. A larch cut down near Dunkeld, after it had been sixty years planted, was one hundred and ten feet high, and contained one hundred and sixty cubic feet of timber. In a suitable - situation, the timber is said to come to perfection in forty years, while that of the pinaster requires sixty years, and that of the Scotch pine eighty years."
"W. C. Bryant, in his excellent work on trees, says: " The larch, planted four feet apart each way, may in ten years be large enough for fence-posts. At that distance, about twenty-seven hundred would grow on an acre."
A great deal of foreign testimony may be cited in regard to the durability of this tree, as, for instance, tried by driving a post made of it alongside an oaken post in the Thames Kiver, where the tide rose and wet it and then subsided and left it exposed to the drying influence of the sun. The oak posts were renewed twice before any alteration was noticed in the larch. The vine-props of a great many German vineyards are made of this timber, and have been handed down from generation to generation, and will still be handed down, in an almost perfect state of preservation. M. Brissel de Monville says that he has examined trees in the forests of Switzerland that have been struck by lightning and badly shattered, and yet the heart-wood is still perfectly sound, and the uninjured limbs continue to grow in a perfectly healthy condition; and even trees that had lain on the ground for years and become thoroughly dried out have not rotted, but have become brittle with old age and may still be scaled off. It is the best timber for rails, fences, etc., and anything that requires to withstand the weather.
The larch appears to grow best on uplands, and I doubt not with a little care and attention some of our own hills and prairies could be covered with a luxuriant growth of larches. It does not seem to thrive on low, damp plains, and I would not recommend any one to try it in such places, as a failure might prejudice them against a tree that is destined to become one of our most useful and ornamental trees.
Great care should be taken, in the purchase and selection of seed, to obtain it from thoroughly reliable parties, as large quantities of worthless old stuff are sold for good seed that no one could make grow. I would recommend seed from the Tyrol in Switzerland, or from the Valais of Switzerland, both of which are usually purchased by the horticulturists of France, Germany, and Scotland.
In closing these remarks about the European larch, I would like to call attention to the experience of Mr. Thomas Lake, a resident of Winnebago County, Illinois. In a recent letter Mr. Lake says: " A few years since I saw in the Rural New-Yorker the European larch advertised for sale by Robert Douglas & Sons, "Waukegan, Illinois, and being well acquainted with the fast growth and value of those trees in my native home, England, I bought and planted nine thousand, and have but to regret that I did not multiply that number by ten at that time. They were quite small when I bought them— many not larger than a lead-pencil and not over a foot high. My ignorance as to how this climate would suit them was the only reason I did not venture to plant more at that time. Many of those trees are now standing thirty feet high and six to seven inches through at base, as straight as an arrow, and much admired by those who see them. My mode of planting is to plough the ground deep—the deeper the better—and make it as mellow as possible. I do not advocate deep planting. I mark out with the plough furrows four feet apart each way. As I plant, I settle the fine earth firmly around the roots with my foot. Get the ground ready as early in the spring as possible for your trees, as the English larch is about the first tree that starts. At corn-planting time I planted two grains or more of corn on the south side of each httle tree; if more than two grew, I pulled them up. The corn-stalks acted as a shade for the young trees through the heat and drought of summer, and I think it saved many, as the season was extremely dry.
" Many think that when they have planted, their work is ended, but it is just begun if one is resolved to succeed. I kept the young larches well cultivated with the corn-cultivator, not allowing any weeds or grass to grow. I harvested corn enough to pay for the labor, and produced the largest ears grown on the farm. The reason of this was that there were only two stalks to the hill, and they were well and often tended. I followed the same course the next season, and intended to do so the third, but in this I was prevented, as the trees had grown so fast that I could not get the horse and cultivator through without injuring them. That season they covered the ground and choked out the grass and weeds— so ended my labor."