Mr. Miller's Directions for rearing Scotch Pine are applicable to the Pineaster—St. Helena Pineaster Wood described—weightier than common Fir—thrives upon poor Soil—average Growth about two Feet in the Year—sometimes grows more than three Feet. Plantations of Firs at St. Helena more profitable than in Europe—Computation of their Value in twenty years. Negligence and Inattention to the planting Law much to be regretted—The fittest Trees for St. Helena Plantations enumerated—Further Notices upon the Growth of Trees—and upon the necessity of extirpating Goats, and tending Sheep.
MR. MILLER'S directions for planting the Scotch pine are in general applicable to the Pineaster, which is the species of pine at Plantation-house, and at other places on this island. This is described in Miller's Gardener's Dictionary. "Pine tree with two thick smooth leaves in each sheath, and pyramidal acute cones ; the Wild Pine, or Pineaster."
The wood of St. Helena pineaster of twenty-four years growth, which has the appearance of pale mahogany, is weightier than common fir, in the proportion of 6 to 5, and apparently surpasses in quality all the sorts that are usually imported here. It grows even upon poor, hard, clay soil, and consequently may be cultivated with better success in many places: but particularly about the middle of the island, where there is better soil, more moisture, and a cooler temperature.
According to personal observation and particular attention to pineasters of different ages, I have observed that, in general, their average growth is about two feet in the year. This is upon dry land: upon better soil, the growth would no doubt be quicker; for, in some cases, I have seen them shoot three feet in twelve months. A good many of these trees may be seen at the east side of the lawn at Plantation-house which are already well grown. The seed-bed was sown in May, 1809, and the young trees transplanted in May, 1810 : one of which, in four years, already measures ten. feet eleven inches high. Even this small specimen of a pineaster plantation is sufficient to shew the advantages that would, in a few years, be derived from the establishment of large plantations. Judging from the size of some pineasters, planted by Colonel Patton, about eight or nine years ago, I am of opinion that the first thinning of St. Helena plantations might take place in nine years from the seed; at which time, the stems would yield many pieces of small timber, fit for a variety of purposes ; and the branches would furnish abundance of excellent fuel; an article at present so very scarce on this island.
According to Mr. Miller, the first thinning, in the northern climates, takes place at sixteen or eighteen years growth ; because, be says, they are four years old when transplanted : but here they are set out after being about ten. months, or one year, in the seedbed. I conceive their quick growth in this climate, may be ascribed to the powers of vegetation not being at any time suspended: which is not the case in cold and frosty regions.
The advantages therefore of forming plantations of firs at St. Helena are much greater than in Europe ; the expenses will be much sooner reimbursed ; and the best trees, being left for growing timber, will be of great value ; and at this, island would establish fortunes for the younger branches of even the present generation.
It may not be unprofitable to take a view of the advantage that would accrue from the proposed plantations. The result will, I trust, operate as a powerful stimulus to exertion, and will, I hope, keep up that spirit for planting which has happily this year shewn itself, by many applications for trees from the Plantation-house garden. Seven thousand one hundred and eighty-four fine young plants have, within these few days, been distributed in various parts of the island. These will very soon determine the best sites for the plantations. That number, and about four thousand transplanted during the years 1811 and 1812, make, collectively, an addition of above 11,000 pineasters to this island: the value of these, in twenty years, according to the following computation, may be estimated at about £12,500. sterling.
I will suppose a landholder to establish a plantation of only two acres upon land at present useless : and according to Mr. Miller's directions, that he places the trees at the distance of four feet. In this case, each acre will contain 2722 trees, say 2500, or 5000 in the two acres.
|After nine years growth the thinning of the plantation would yield 2500
about 18 feet high ; and worth as timber and fuel 10s. each, or
|£1,250||2500 trees of standing timber, at twenty years growth, estimated at 40s. each||5,000|
|Total value of two acres at 20 years growth||£6,250|
But if we take a more enlarged view of the proposed plantations, the advantages will appear immense. Supposing then that the old planting law, requiring one acre in ten to be planted with trees, so often repeated, but never attended to, had been enforced ; and that those trees had been pineasters, and planted twenty years ago. The quantity of land thus planted would have been 600 acres, having 12-50 trees of standing timber upon each acre, or 750,000 trees upon the 600. These, at twenty years growth, are certainly undervalued at St. Helena, when reckoned at only 40s. each ; consequently their value at the present time would have been at least £1,500,000. : this is exclusive of immense quantities of fuel that would also have been furnished by thinning the plantations during that period.
How much then have the present generation cause to lament the negligence and inattention of their fathers ! If those plantations bad been established, fuel would have been, during the last twenty years, in abundance ; and there would have been enough to supply the numerous ships that annually touch here ; whilst the aspect of the island would have been beautified : and in all probability an improvement in the climate effected, by the attraction of a greater degree of moisture from such extensive plantations.
Surely these reflections are enough to rouse the attention of the present landholders ; and as every facility will, in future, be given to forward so laudable an object, by establishing proper nurseries in the Company's gardens at Plantation-house, from which all the fittest sort of trees for this climate will be supplied, at moderate rates, I therefore entertain a sanguine hope that the present beginnings will be pursued with ardour.
If, after what has been said, and I hope clearly demonstrated, there should be any occupier of land, who is not impressed with a conviction of the infinite importance of plantations of pineaster and other useful trees, and who does not exert himself in rearing them, I should consider such a man as totally blind to his own interests; regardless of himself and family ; and of little or no use to the community of which he is a member.
I cannot quit this subject without again adverting to What has been stated in my letter to Dr. Berry, in pages 15 and 16 of the last month's Register. Experience, during five years past, has clearly shewn that the pineaster, stone pine, cypress, Botany Bay willow, the indigenous red wood, and the large species of Morgossa (Melia azederach), are without exception, the very best trees for this island. They are of quick growth, and all evergreens ; they stand the trade wind in the most exposed situations ; and most of them are equally useful for timber as for fuel. To this list I may venture to add the Bois noir, or black wood. Of this tree I lately received some seed from Governor Farquhar at the Isle of France, who is of opinion that the black wood might be a valuable acquisition to the St. Helena plantations. So far as I can at present judge, I have reason to believe it will succeed admirably. The young plants are already finely come up, and are much more forward than any other of the seeds that were sown at the same time. "The Bois noir, at the Isle of France, is beautiful during nine months of the year, grows surprisingly quick, and yields a timber that is excellent for ship-building, and other valuable purposes."
Of the trees I have here enumerated, there is, I believe, only one (the Morgossa) which is fit for underwoods ; and as these would be extremely serviceable for fuel, because they re-produce after being cut down, I would recommend extensive plantations of Morgossa, China peach, island peach, fig, guava, orange, and lemon trees, all of which bear cutting, and, after being once established, would yield a succession of fuel for many years.
Plantains, too, are deserving attention. If the low grounds, where there is a good supply of water, were filled with groves of this excellent fruit, they would not only be a great acquisition as food for man, but their stems would yield, after the fruit is ripe, abundance of nutritious fodder for cattle ; which would secure the landholders from such ruinous losses in cattle as have, at times, occurred in seasons of drought ; and which I am fully convinced, from all I have read on this subject, and from the successful trials I have made of green-fodder crops from corn, are entirely to ascribed to improvident management, and to depending solely on pasture lands.
I shall conclude these observations with the following notices, regarding the growth of trees on the island of St. Helena, which are recorded in my journal.
February 9th, 1813.—At Long Wood there are some China peach trees, on the east side of the offices behind the house (a very exposed situation), raised from peach stones put in the soil by Colonel Broughton about four years ago. These blossomed last year, but had no fruit. At present they are ten to twelve feet high, and have a good many peaches on them. This proves that very valuable orchards of peaches might raised at St. Helena, A few acres, planted in sheltered and warm arm situations with peach stones at four feet asunder, would be much sooner productive of fruit ; and when thinned, at four or five years growth from the seed, would yield plenty of fuel : and the best trees being left, would continue for many years to produce great abundance of fruit, which would be serviceable to the inhabitants and shipping, and what might be to spare would afford an admirable food for hogs ; as these animal, are extremely fond of the fruit, and more so of the kernels, they might be suffered to range in the peach orchards as they do amongst oak trees in England. Thus they might be fed, during January, February, and March, without any expense to the proprietors.
These observations apply equally to orchards of figs and guavas ; which come in season immediately after the peaches, and would give a further supply of food to those animals during the three following months.
Some young pineasters which Colonel Broughton received from the seed-bed at Plantation-house, sown in May, 1809, are now, at three years and a half growth, 9 ½ feet high. Some red wood trees of the same age are from 6 to 8 feet high, with fine straight stems now in red blossom.
May 20th, 1813.—At Plantation-house there is amongst the pineasters sown in May, 1809, and transplanted in May, 1810, a remarkable fine tree which this day, in four years, measures ten feet eleven inches. Some Morgossa trees (the seed of which was sown on the 26th of February, 1812), transplanted the 3d of October, measure 3 ½ feet high ; with horizontal branches which cover a space of 4 feet diameter. This a surprising growth in fifteen months from the seed. I also this day measured a beautiful young cypress which was a seed on the 8th of April, 1811, and transplanted on the 2d of July, 1812, and has now attained the height of four feet and five inches. These few notices may be of use hereafter to refer to ; and are, undoubtedly, sufficient to convince all unbiassed persons here, and elsewhere, of the facility with which plantations of useful timber, and of fruit trees, might be raised at St. Helena. It is, indeed, much to be lamented, that any obstruction whatever should stand in the way of these extensive and valuable improvements. If the goats are not exterminated, and the sheep tamed and tended, there is but too much reason to apprehend that those animals will be a constant source of vexation and loss, to those who have really a desire to contribute their efforts to the general good of the island.
May 20th, 1813.