On Planting Trees—Growth of Pineasters—remarkable Change in the Quality of Fir Timber in St. Helena—extensive Plantations of Pineasters recommended—Mimosa Myrtifolia (or Botany Bay Willow), its rapid Growth—-yields innumerable Pods, containing a sort of Pulse fit for feeding Poultry—its Culture recommended.
|"By viewing nature, nature's handmaid, art,|
|"Makes mighty things from small beginnings grow." DRYDEN|
THERE are no trees that succeed so well on this island as the pineaster and a mimosa, which is usually called the Botany Bay willow. They grow on the poorest lands, withstand the southeast wind, and thrive in the most exposed situations.
Most of the pineasters at Plantation house are from seed brought here by Mr. Henry Porteous, and sown on the 1st of July, 1787. I have lately measured the girt of several of the largest trees ; one is 5 feet and 7 inches ; others are from 5 to 3 feet, and even less, differing in size according to the soil in which they are planted. These girts were taken at 4 feet above the ground.
One of those trees was blown down in February last. It has since been used for various purposes. The first 7 feet above ground squared to 13 inches ; the whole of the stem measured 146 superficial feet, and the large branches contained 47 ; making the total from one single tree, 193 feet superficial. The smaller branches yielded a considerable quantity of fuel.
The timber is of a very superior quality : it differs materially from either the Memel, or the American fir, being of a closer grain, beautifully veined, and resembling in some degree, a pale mahogany.
It appears, by the printed laws and ordinances, that the importance of planting trees has been often, during the last century, strongly pressed upon the landholders by the Court of Directors : but leaving what is past, and looking forward to the next five and twenty years, it may be useful to take a view of the invaluable benefits which might be conferred on this denuded island, by a due attention to the orders of the Company ; and above all by forming plantations of pineasters, particularly on the leeward sides of the mountains, and other parts in the interior of the island, where, on account of a greater moisture, and a cooler atmosphere, it may be expected they would produce even larger timber than in the vicinity of Plantation house.
As Governor Roberts's directions on the 31st May, 1709, (which require the distance from one tree to another not to exceed seven feet, or at the rate of 888 trees to an acre) are different from the practice of the present time : it may be proper in this place, to say a few words upon the number of trees that should be planted on an acre.
In the Transactions of the Society of Arts, Vol. XXVI. there is an account of Dr. A. Bain's plantations in Dorsetshire, of 338,199 forest trees, upon 250 acres of poor land. He allotted 2000 to each acre. His plantations are of a mixed sort, consisting of 289,555 Scotch firs ; 4362 oaks ; 12,290 larch ; Spanish chestnut 5647 ; spruce 3450 ; ash 11,050 ; pineaster 1900 ; sycamore 4050 ; birch 1700 ; and hazel 4195. The Scotch firs and pineasters succeed far better than any of the other trees.
The same number of trees to an acre has been also allotted in the Duke of Portland's plantations in England ; where trees of various sizes are placed in an irregular manner. And Mr. Nicol remarks, in his Treatise on Planting, that "he who plants too thin, with the idea of saving trouble in thinning, deviates as widely from the right path, as he who thins none at all."
Relying, therefore, upon established practice, and such good authority it seems advisable to plant trees at the rate of 2000 to an acre ; which is something less than five feet asunder. The thinning of the plantations would, in a few years, well repay the trouble, by the ample supplies of fuel they would produce ; and by leaving the choicest trees to attain their full growth, they would, in the course of 20 or 25 years, be of very great value in affording excellent timber upon the farms, either for sale, or for the purpose of erecting buildings.
Let us now suppose the possibility of forming plantations of pineasters, upon 600 acres of the St. Helena mountains ; and that 2000 trees are planted upon each acre, and of which 500 timber trees shall be produced, (four or five and twenty years hence) from each acre, or in all 300,000 timber trees.
Suppose also that the average superficial feet in each of those timber trees, to be no more than 150 feet, which, from 300,000 trees, would be 45,000,000 superficial feet ; and rated at 4d. (the recent price of imported American timber) would be, in value, seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds. This is at the rate of no more than 50 shillings for each timber tree, exclusive of vast quantities of fuel from the thinning of the plantations, and from the lopping of the timber trees at the time they are cut down.
In regard to the Mimosa Myrtifolia, or Botany bay willow, there are at Plantation house several young trees that were raised from seed sown on the 20th January, 1810, and afterwards transplanted. The largest is 9 or 10 feet high, a beautiful shrub now in blossom, and covering a space of about 8 feet in diameter. This sort of Mimosa attains the height of 20 to 25 feet.
It produces annually an immense number of long pods fall of seed ; so that it might not only be propagated to any extent, but as the seed is greedily devoured by rats, it may be presumed that its general culture would be highly beneficial, both in speedily raising fuel, in contributing to the support of poultry, hogs, and other live stock. I have tried it with poultry who seem to relish it equally as other grain.
I hope that these hints will be duly considered, and that they may tend to excite a spirit of emulation in planting trees, which no doubt might be greatly promoted if premiums were offered by the Court of Directors, to every landholder, who shall have growing, in a thriving state, 20 or 25,000 trees.
22nd July, 1811.