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The Forester
Chapter IV. System of thinning and rearing up of Fir Plantations


SYSTEM OF THINNING AND REARING UP OF FIR PLANTATIONS SYSTEM OF THINNING AND REARING UP OF MIXED HARD-WOOD PLANTATIONS REARING UP AND THINNING OF OAK PLANTATIONS.

SECTION I. SYSTEM OF THINNING AND REARING UP OF FIR PLANTATIONS.

In order to point out properly the manner of proceeding with the thinning of fir plantations, it will be necessary to give a detailed account of how the work should be done at the different stages of the age of any plantation; and, as I have already stated that no particular age of a young plantation can be given as that at which thinning operations ought to commence upon it, the observation of the operator must always be his guide in such a case. Every man who has given his attention to the rearing of forests must have observed, that on some particular soils and situations a young plantation may be in a fit state for thinning at eight years of age, while another, composed of the same sorts of trees, and planted at the same time, may not be ready for this operation at twice that age—all depending upon the elevation of the situation, and the nature of the subsoil, whether that may he open or retentive, dry or damp. Therefore it is, that observation upon the spot is the only decisive way of ascertaining when a plantation is in want of being thinned.

For the guidance of those who may not have had much experience in the thinning of plantations, I shall here lay down a few hints of practical utility, from which, I am certain, a cautious, intelligent man may he enabled to lay the foundation of future experience in this art. In examining the state of a young fir plantation with the view of ascertaining if it be in a condition so far advanced as to admit of being* thinned, it will he necessary first to walk very carefully through its whole extent, and mark well the hearing that the young trees have one upon another. If the points of the branches of the young trees he merely touching, or slightly interfering with one another, thinning would he premature, and ought to be put off for a year or two longer; but if, upon examination, the lower side branches of the trees have the appearance of having been considerably stunted in their growth, and are actually becoming deadened in the extremities from the want of freedom and air, and if the higher side branches of one tree are spreading widely, and actually encroaching about half their length upon those of another, it is high time that thinning should be commenced. If the lower branches of the young trees have a brown and deadened appearance, and the upper are spreading so widely that in many instances the points of the strongest of them touch the bolls of others, thinning has been delayed too long, and from the trees being heavy topped, and light in the lower parts, many of them would be apt to be blown down if thinned suddenly; therefore, thinning should never be delayed so long as to allow the last-mentioned feature to manifest itself upon the trees.

Having, in the manner stated, gone through the young plantation, and determined as to whether it ought to be thinned or not, and supposing that it has been found necessary to thin, it will be necessary, previous to commencing operations, to examine which sort of tree has thriven best upon the ground, and has the appearance of becoming the most valuable for a permanent crop of timber; that is to say, if the ground has been originally planted with a mixture of Scots, larch, and spruce firs, examine each district of the plantation as it may naturally divide itself into height or hollow, sloping banks or level ground, and ascertain which variety appears most healthy, and is most likely to come to perfect maturity as a timber tree in each separate district. In each district spare that species which, from general appearance, is most likely to succeed well; and, when thinning, remove those sorts which have not the appearance of becoming good timber upon the soil.

In commencing to thin any plantation, it is also necessary to have in view its situation. The operator should keep in view that, if the situation be a high one, he must thin sparingly at first, for fear of checking the growth of the trees. At the same time attention ought to be paid to ascertaining what winds prove most violent and destructive in the neighbourhood of the plantation; and having ascertained the quarter from which the most injurious winds eome, it is wisdom to thin most cautiously upon that side, and thin more severely in the interior of the plantation. But if the plantation be sheltered, either naturally or artificially, by older plantations upon other heights, then less caution is necessary, and the trees may at once be allowed more freedom in order to develope themselves quickly and perfectly. The operator having fully informed himself upon each of the points above stated, he will next proceed to have those trees marked which it is considered should be taken out.

In the act of thinning, particular attention should be paid to leaVing, in all eases, the healthiest trees upon the ground, and to cutting out those that are most weakly, as the nature of the thinning may require.

In thinning a plantation, many foresters think that the principal object to be aimed at, is that of giving the whole a regular systematic appearance, by leaving the trees as nearly as possible at a given distance one from another, without taking into consideration the ultimate welfare of the plantation. Such a method of conducting thinning operations may, indeed, have the effect of pleasing the eye and taste of the inexperienced for a time; but the effect of such a system is certainly ruinous to the proprietor in the end, and is never practised by the forester of extensive experience—but only by the inexperienced, who think that if they can but please the taste of their employer at the time, all will be well. If the trees in a young plantation are all equally healthy, then it is but proper to thin them out to a regular distance from one another; but where many of the trees appear of an unhealthy cast,—which is frequently the case in a high situation,—the healthy trees should be preserved without respect to a nice regularity in appearance. Wherever two trees may be found growing together, the one having a healthy and the other an unhealthy appearance, and according to regularity in the act of thinning the unhealthy tree may be found to occupy a proper place and the healthy one an improper, yet, for the sake of the future welfare of the plantation, no hesitation ought to be entertained as to which should be out down, but in all such cases at once cut out the sickly and leave the healthy.

In the thinning of young fir plantations for the first time, it may be asked at what distance the trees should be left the one from the other? In answer to this, I have to say, that no certain distance can be specified: and the reason is, that the young trees do not all grow alike in the same plantation, neither to height nor to breadth of branches; consequently, they do not all occupy the same space upon the ground. In the first thinning of any plantation of considerable extent, it will often be found prudent and necessary to pass over some parts altogether, without taking out almost one single tree, and this will happen upon a part of the ground which is of a poor thin nature; and again, wherever the ground is of a stronger nature, with a little shelter from the higher grounds, it may be found necessary to take out nearly one third of the trees in order to give proper air and room: and all this must be regulated by observation more than by any rule that could be given. However, as to rule in this case, I may say thus far, that my method of procedure generally is, to leave the trees, as nearly as possible, free from one another after the thinning has been performed: that is, when a plantation of young trees has been newly thinned, the extreme points of the branches of one tree should do no more than touch those of its nearest neighbour; and in all cases where fir trees are raised for timber, as well as for shelter, they should be kept rather closely together than otherwise. And upon observation, the most advantageous distance will be found, as I have formerly mentioned, to be about one third of the height of the trees generally. When firs are kept growing at a distance less .than one third of their height, they become tall, slender, and weakly ; and if grown at a distance from one another greater than that mentioned, they become branchy and do not increase proportionately in height, and the timber is generally coarse. No pruning of fir trees should be allowed; pruning invariably injures the quality of the wood of fir trees, and besides, the health of fir trees is much injured by pruning. If the trees are kept as nearly as possible at the distance specified above, they naturally prune themselves as they advance in height; for as soon as the lower branches of the fir and pine tribe become confined, and a want of free air ensues in the body of the plantation, they gradually die and fall off without in the least injuring the quality of the timber. In the act of thinning, great care should be had to see that no large open space be left among the trees, which in any direction would in length measure more than the height of one of the trees growing by it; and this can be easily avoided by proper attention in the disposal of the trees upon the ground, not to hare them running in rows, but in such an alternate manner that, which way soever the eye can look from any given point, there may be always a tree to intercept the view within a short distance: and this, indeed, is a point of the utmost importance in the art of thinning plantations, and can only be attained by careful observation and experience. If open spaces be left for any considerable distance, the wind gets play among the trees, and has a tendency to cause havoc among them, particularly after being newly thinned, and more so if the plantation has been formerly neglected. As soon as the young trees which were marked to come out have been cut down, they should be carried out entire to one of the nearest roads in the plantation, and pruned of their branches there. This is not, indeed, always done; but still it ought to be the method of going to work among young trees, the health of which requires, for its maintenance, free circulation of pure air among them. I have often had occasion to remark that plantations in a young state are much benefited by having a dry wholesome air circulating through them; and being aware of this fact, it must appear evident, that if the prunings of the felled trees be allowed to he upon the ground when they are cut, the gases arising from their natural decomposition must prove injurious to the health of the standing trees. And this, I have had occasion to observe, is particularly the case when plantations are composed entirely of one tribe or family of trees; that is, if a plantation be composed entirely of the different sorts of firs, the gases arising from the decomposition of their own kind is injurious to their health, whereas the gases arising from the decomposition of firs are favourable to the health of hard-wood trees. And again, the gases arising from the natural decomposition of hard-wood trees are injurious to the living plant in the neighbourhood, but the same gases prove beneficial to the health of fir trees. The reason of this I do not pretend to explain, as a question of chemistry is involved in the answer; still, from my own observation, I am satisfied of the truth of what I here assert, although I do not remember of ever having heard that any other forester had observed this phenomenon: and it is to be regretted that, generally speaking, foresters are not allowed time and expenses to keep young plantations in the clean healthy state which their ultimate value demands. I have observed, in several places of note in Scotland, where men of first-rate abilities acted as foresters, that the plantations under their charge, although generally well conducted in other points, were, notwithstanding, always in a confused state from the prunings of all felled trees lying upon the ground; and upon inquiry into the reason of such a state of things, I have always learned that, the operation of keeping plantations clean being an expensive one, they were not allowed strength of men sufficient to keep all right. And I beg here to remark, that proprietors of plantations often lose much valuable timber by this state of things being allowed to go on in their plantations : it does, no doubt, demand a few more pounds of outlay at the time, but ultimately that would be paid to their successors ten times over, from the effects of a superior system of management.

Supposing that a plantation of young fir trees had been thinned in the manner as above recommended, when about twelve years old, the trees would then, probably, be from eight to twelve feet high, according to soil and situation; and supposing that the same plantation was then in a fail-state of health, and to have continued so for another period, say of eight years from the time that it was first thinned, it would, at the end of this second period, be about twenty years old, with the trees from twelve to twenty feet high, and they would, in all probability, be ready at this age for another thinning. In the thinning of the same plantation for a second time, the same practical points relative to the work must in all eases be attended to as have already been recommended for the first thinning: consequently these need not be repeated here again. But there are one or two points which must be observed by the operator in the thinning of plantations at or above twenty years old; and these are, first, to see that the standing trees are not injured by the falling of those that are cut down. I have seen much damage done to the trees in a young plantation, where the falling down of the cut trees was allowed to take place in a careless and thoughtless manner; therefore it is that I here beg to recommend to all operators, in the act of cutting down any tree of considerable size and height, to be most careful in the operation. When a fir tree happens to lose its top by a felled neighbour coming in contact with it, such a tree seldom or never increases any more in height, and very frequently dies. The operator, in the act of cutting down any tree of such weight of branches as may be considered dangerous to let fall against any of its neighbours, should, if he has not a sufficient opening for its safe fall, provide himself with a pruning chisel, having a shaft proportioned to the height of the tree, and also a mell; and with these he should lop off all the heavy branches from the tree to be felled, previous to its being cut; and when it is thus made bare of all its branches, any ordinary-sized tree may be at the command of a man’s strength, in so far as he may be enabled to push it down to one side or another as he may see fit to suit an opening among the standing trees. I beg to observe here, that the lopping off the branches from a tree of any considerable size, is an operation requiring considerable time, consequently it need not be adopted excepting in extreme eases, where there is evidently danger to the young and growing trees.

In most cases an expert woodsman can, from observation and practice, make a tree fall very nearly to any given point he may choose as an opening of the safest description. The method practised by expert woodsmen in this sort of work is, to observe, first, toward which side the tree he may be about to cut has naturally its centre of gravity. Having ascertained this point, he proceeds to judge if the tree will or can be made to fall into a proper opening among the growing trees; and being from observation well assured as to the side to which the tree can be made to fall with the most safety, he commences to cut first upon the side to which he wishes it to fall: after cutting the tree rather more than half through upon that side, so as to throw the centre of gravity in the desired direction, he next applies his axe to the opposite side. As he gradually weakens the perpendicular attitude of the tree, he observes now and then if the centre of gravity in the tottering tree is likely to take an unexpected turn upon him, and if so, he checks the same by cutting oppositely; and by these means alone I have had men who could lay down trees upon the ground to almost any given point. But, notwithstanding all this, I have frequently had to do with instances in the thinning of plantations where the coming down of a heavy-topped fir tree would have done much damage; and in such cases, when I applied the chisel In the manner as above stated, the work was safely accomplished.

At the age proper for the second thinning of any fir plantation, it should never be too severely thinned; because, at such an age, say at about twenty years old, the trees are generally in their most healthy and rapid state of growth; and if they should happen to be checked at such a stage, the ultimate value of the whole plantation might be materially impaired, and it is even possible that the whole might be ruined; therefore it is requisite, in all cases, to thin with experience and caution.

It is in all cases better to thin frequently, and take out a few trees at a time from any given plantation, than to thin at distant periods, and then to do so severely. Many foresters recommend to thin plantations at regular intervals of ten years. To such a method of procedure I cannot agree, because it is evident that no specified time can be given as an interval between thinnings: plantations do not grow with equal vigour every year—in some years trees will make strong healthy shoots of young wood, and in others much less. Trees grow more rapidly in a warm season than in a cold one, and, as has been already stated, they are very much affected by variety of soil and situation; and being aware of these circumstances, it is folly to say that a plantation of trees can be thinned advantageously at any definite period. After any young plantation has been thinned for the first time, it is advantageous to its welfare to go over it and take out a few trees in the way of thinning, at intervals of four or five years—in all cases udoing upon this point according to the appearance of the trees, whether they may have grown rapidly or not since they were last thinned; and at such thinnings I would advise every proprietor merely to take out such trees as are really doing injury to others. By this method, which I always practise myself, plantations never experience any sensible check, and consequently they are kept in a constant quick-growing state; whereas, by the method of thinning at regular intervals of ten years, the trees in a plantation are by that time generally hurt to a very great extent from the effects of confinement; and as soon as they are thinned, in such a manner as to relieve each tree for another period of ten years, the whole plantation must be very much cooled down in temperature and shelter from what it was before the operation was performed, and the natural consequence is, that the trees thus receive a severe check, which in too many cases they never recover. A plantation thinned at intervals of about five years, will yield one third more timber at the end of sixty years, than one of the same extent thinned at intervals of ten years.

Every fir plantation, whether that may be composed of larch, Scots, or spruce, ought to be gradually thinned as the trees advance in height and breadth, until they be about forty years of age, after which period no fir plantation which has been properly managed, should be at all disturbed by the operation of thinning. At forty years of age, the trees in a fir plantation should stand at such a distance one from another, as may be considered sufficient to bring them to confirmed maturity upon the soil upon which they are growing; and this distance of the trees one from another should, as I have formerly stated, be about one third of their height; and, indeed, this ought to be as nearly as possible the rule for distance among fir plantations at all stages of their growth, commencing our calculation with the time the trees receive their first course of thinning.

In many high-lying districts, the trees in a fir plantation may, at forty years of age, be about thirty feet high; therefore, the distance of such trees at that age, should be as nearly as possible ten feet: and, again, in a more sheltered situation, with a dry and favourable subsoil, they may, at forty years of age, be about sixty feet high; and in such a case, the distance of the trees one from another may be about twenty feet.

At sixty years of age, the wood of the pine and hr tribes is generally considered to be in its most valuable and solid state as timber ; it is then heavier, and more full of resinous matter than at any other stage of its existence; consequently, at that age, if the object be a crop of valuable timber, the tree should be cut down, and disposed of as may seem best. But if the proprietor have in view the giving of shelter to bis lands, which is generally one end aimed at by improving proprietors, the plantation may be allowed to stand for other twenty years, after which period the trees will begin to become lighter in their wood, and many will then be showing marks of natural decay, and the whole plantation will of course be generally speaking of less value than it was at sixty years’ standing. However, this is not always the case ; for very much depends upon the nature of the soil and situation upon which the crop of wood may be growing, as to whether that may be high or low lying, dry or damp. In a high situation, with a good dry bottom, I have seen excellent fir trees at one hundred years old; while, upon the other hand, I have seen firs beginning to show symptoms of rapid decay at fifty years of age, and in many cases even at a much earlier age, which was in a low and rather moist situation, and without a free circulation of air.

It very frequently happens that fir plantations have to be dealt with which have been much neglected; and although they in many instances be past any good hopes of recovery, and might in so far as regards the value of their timber be very properly cut down, yet, it is very often the wish of the proprietor to have old fir plantations preserved, and not altogether cut down, particularly if such a plantation should happen to be placed upon a part of his estate where, from its evergreen appearance, it proves ornamental from a certain point of view, as well as a shelter to the neighbourhood around it. In such a case, profit and ornament should be combined. It would not be profitable for the proprietor of an old neglected fir plantation to leave the ground entirely occupied by a few trees only in a fair state of health, with many others dead and dying; therefore, the profitable way of going to work in such a case would be to plant anew with other trees all vacant parts, and, for the sake of ornament and shelter, all good old trees could be left for a time.

I have frequently been called upon by proprietors to give my opinion relative to the state of fir plantations upon their estates, which had grown up under utter neglect; and requested to say whether I thought that such a plantation would recover by any means I could suggest. Where I have found such plantations young—say, at or under thirty years of age—and spoiled merely from the want of having been thinned in proper time, I have very often seen them recovered by a very cautious and gradual course of thinning, and that especially where the trees grew upon a dry bottom; but wherever I have found thinning neglected upon a damp soil, I at once pronounced that there was no hope of recovery for the trees. In many such cases I have seen a gradual course of thinning with draining tried for the purpose of recovery, but all to no purpose. If ever the pine or fir tribe have been much affected by dampness in the soil, the sooner that the trees are cut down the better; after which, draining and replanting can be got done in a proper manner.

Where the trees in a neglected fir plantation may happen to be old—say, at or above sixty years—and where, in such a case, it is the wish of the proprietor to extend the existence of his plantation as long as possible for the sake of shelter and general ornament, it is a very good method to cut out gradually all the trees which have the appearance of decay, and to leave the best trees standing at wide distances, and as nearly regular as possible. Say that good trees are left at seventy feet distance one from another, from a distant view the plantation would seem good ; and then the open spaces between the old trees could be replanted with a crop of hard-wood trees, which, from being sheltered by the old firs, would grow very rapidly; and in the course of ten or fifteen years from the time of this replanting, and when the hard-wood may be expected to be pretty strong, the firs might with propriety be dispensed with altogether, or at least, a few of the best trees might be left, according as the taste of the proprietor might suggest.

SECTION II. SYSTEM OF THINNING AND REARING UP OF MIXED HARD-WOOD PLANTATIONS.

The rearing up of hard-wood plantations to any thing approaching natural perfection, requires much more attention and practical knowledge from the manager than that of fir woods does.

In a fir plantation, the trees are alike of an upright habit of growth, from which circumstance they are very easily regulated and kept in proper place and order; but in a plantation consisting of many different kinds of hard-wood, all growing in a mixed state—some, as the elm, inclining to grow much to horizontal branches, and others, as the ash, tending to an upright growth—much attention is necessary for the first twenty-five years, in order to keep the rambling sorts within due bounds, and from over-topping and injuring their neighbours which may be less hardy in their young state. And as it is in the young state that hard-wood plantations may be made to do well or otherwise, according as they may be attended to, to train them up as children in the way they should go, it is a matter of the first importance in good forestry, that the manager be well acquainted with the circumstances which retard the progress of young trees, as well as those which are known to he favourable to their healthy development. Being myself well aware from past experience of the extensive damage which is done to young hard-wood plantations in consequence of their being neglected in their young state, I shall here lay down at some length the method which ought to be pursued in order to have healthy and valuable harcl-wood trees—dwelling more particularly upon the system which ought to be adopted in rearing till the trees attain twenty-five years of age; after which time, if they have been properly attended to, little care is required as regards trees individually, except to give them room as they advance in size.

Suppose that a tract of ground has been planted with a mixture of young hard-wood trees at ten feet distance from each other, and that the ground between them has been planted with firs for the sake of giving shelter, in such a manner as to make the plants over the whole ground stand at about three and a half feet distance. If the ground thus planted have been properly drained previous to the trees being planted, and the situation is one of a moderate exposure, such a plantation will, at ten or twelve years’ standing, very probably be in a state requiring to be thinned for the first time. In examining the state of such a young bard-wood plantation, with the view of ascertaining whether it may be proper to thin or not, go carefully through among the trees, and mark particularly the state of the hard-wood plants, observing if the branches of the firs are not encroaching too far upon them, either so as to overtop them or to confine them too much upon any side. My method of proceeding in the management of young hard-wood plantations at the stage above stated is as follows :—

About two years before I consider it necessary to begin thinning out any of the firs, I go over all the hard-wood plants, and prune from them all strong branches that may have the appearance of gaining strength upon the top shoots, as also cutting away with a hedge-knife any of the fir branches that may be encroaching upon the hard-wood trees. This being done, the hard-wood trees, having the advantage of shelter all about them after being pruned, make strong and vigorous shoots during the two succeeding years. By that time they are in a confirmed healthy growing state, and have completely recovered from the effects of any pruning that they may have received: consequently they are then in a fit state for being exposed to more free air, as is always the case after being thinned for the first time; and in fact, if young hard-wood trees be properly attended to in pruning them in this manner, and at this stage of their growth, they seldom or ever require much pruning afterwards. The great error which generally prevails among foresters at the present time, in the management of young hard-wood plantations at the stage above mentioned, is, that they both thin and prune at the same time. JNow, no system of management can be more injurious to the health of any plantation than this ; for, when a few branches are lopped off a young tree, it will often die when exposed suddenly to a temperature below that which it formerly used to exist in; and this invariably ensues when pruning and thinning are executed at the same time. But if, when a young tree is pruned, the temperature be increased rather than otherwise, the tree is immediately improved by the operation, and decidedly attains amore vigorous constitution than it formerly possessed ; and this again is exactly the ease when pruning is done in the early part of spring, and a considerable time previous to thinning : this at once pointing out the evil of both pruning and thinning at the same time, and the great propriety of pruning trees a considerable time before exposing them suddenly by thinning.

Having pruned the young hard-wood trees in a plantation, as has been stated above, and having allowed them to remain among the firs undisturbed for two years after, and finding them at the end of that period In a healthy and vigorous growing state, I next thin away all firs that are pressing too much upon the hard-wood, without, in the first place, having any respect to the thinning of the firs among themselves; for the hard-wood trees being of the first importance, the firs are in this instance only a secondary object. But as soon as I have the hard-wood plants all properly relieved, I next thin out a few of the firs also; and in doing so, I aim at keeping them close rather than thin, and that with the view of giving as much shelter to the hardwood plants as is properly consistent with the health of the whole. But, to be more particular upon this point. It shows a great want of judgment in the manager of plantations wherever firs are severely thinned from among young hard-wood trees, particularly in that earlier part of their existence relative to which we are now speaking. The firs were planted among the hard-wood with the view of giving them shelter in order to nurse them up quickly : now, if they be removed away many at one time, the hardwood plants will, no doubt, suffer much from the check: if they be once cheeked by a severe thinning, the trees neve]’ will afterwards attain that state of health they would have had, had they been otherwise dealt with; and of course, in such a case, the future value of the whole as a plantation will be much lessened. Therefore, in all cases of thinning away firs from hard-wood for the first time, great caution is necessary not to overdo this point, more particularly if the situation be much exposed. Another advantage gained by keeping young hardwood trees rather close among firs is, that from being confined rather than exposed, the plants are more drawn up to height of boll than to breadth of branches; and from the circumstance of the side branches being confined, and not allowed to expand upon account of the firs, they do not grow rapidly, and of course the top soon gets the lead in the growth, and in a groat measure does away with the necessity of pruning—which is, properly speaking, an unnatural operation, and ought to be avoided as much as possible. When once the top of any tree has fairly got the lead of all the branches, it will keep it ever after, unless any unforeseen accident should befall it. When young trees have too much free air and room to spread out their side branches in a plantation, there must be much waste of ground; and in order to check such a free growth of side branches where such is actually the case, pruning must be adopted, in order that one tree may not injure another. But under good management this is seldom found to be the case; where young plantations have been neglected, the case is altered, and a system of pruning must bo adopted.

The firs growing in a plantation among hardwood trees, which are intended for the ultimate crop upon the ground, should he gradually thinned out as the hard-wood trees advance; and not so much attention should be paid to the thinning of the firs among themselves, as to see that they do not encroach too much upon the hard-wood trees; as soon as they do so, attention should be directed to having such cut down immediately.

As I have already said, when referring to the thinning of fir plantations,—many foresters are in the habit of thinning at stated intervals of from five to ten years;—but I again, in this place, beg to caution all who wish to produce healthy hard-wood plantations, against such a dangerous system of forest management. Because, if a young plantation, whether of hard-wood or firs, after receiving its first course of thinning, be allowed to grow on undisturbed for a period of say eight years, the trees in it must be in a very confused and confined state, and certainly too much drawn up; and when such a plantation is thinned, in order to give each tree relief, many must be taken down. When this is done, the whole plantation is suddenly cooled; and if the ground be of a damp or cold nature, many of the trees are blown down, and such a plantation very often is ever after left a mere wreck.

The great art of thinning and rearing up of hardwood plantations is, to go carefully and regularly through them every third or fourth year at farthest, and never to cut away many trees at one time, but merely such as are actually doing injury to others of more value than themselves. By this method of procedure, the plantations so dealt with never receive any sensible check, and are kept in a constantly healthy growing state, and always produce much more timber at the end of any given period of years, than plantations managed upon an opposite principle.

When a young hard-wood plantation has arrived at the age of twenty-five or thirty years, it is very probable that the firs may be dispensed with altogether, in order to give the hard-wood all justice for the expansion of their trunks ; but if the situation happen to be an exposed one, it will be a point of wisdom to have a considerable portion of the firs left standing upon the most exposed side or sides of the plantation—they are more hardy than the hardwood sorts, and, when growing upon the outside of a wood, they form a protection to more valuable trees in the interior.

I have already stated elsewhere, that hard-wood trees, when growing in a forest, should stand at a distance corresponding to about one half the height of the trees respectively; but, properly speaking, there can be no specific rule laid down for guidance upon this point, for much depends upon the nature of the soil. In a strong loamy soil well adapted to the rearing of forest trees, I have seen excellent timber growing eighty feet high and not more than twenty feet tree from tree; while upon the other hand, in a light poor thin soil, I have seen trees not thirty feet high, scarcely able to maintain existence although they were standing twenty feet one from another. But upon a moderate calculation, and upon a soil of moderate capabilities, one half the height of the trees may be reckoned as a fair distance at which one tree should stand from another, at all stages of their growth, after they have received their first course of thinning.

I here beg to caution all who have not had thorough practical experience of their own, not to be guided by any universal rule of distance which one tree should stand from another, in the act of thinning. The great point to attend to is, to keep the trees, at all stages of their growth, after the first thinning has taken place, merely free one from another, in the top branches—not to allow the trees to grow so closely together as to be drawn up weakly in the boll, nor to be allowed so much room in the forest as to spread out their branches horizontally, and take up too much space in the plantation.

If the plantation have thriven well, it is likely that, at thirty years of age, a few of the hard-wood trees may require to be taken out, in order to relieve others of more value, and which may have grown more rapidly; and in the same manner, a few should be taken out now and then, without much respect to stated intervals, wherever they may have the appearance of being too close one upon another. And this should be gradually done till the plantation is about forty-five years old, when it should have a final thinning, making every individual tree stand as nearly as possible free of its neighbour; and in this state, the trees may be allowed to stand until they attain perfect maturity, which, with the generality of trees, is about sixty-five years old, when they may be either cut down or allowed to stand, according as the taste or inclination of the proprietor may suggest; but where valuable timber is the object of the proprietor, the trees should be used as such when between sixty and seventy years old.

In all cases, during the progress of rearing up hard-wood for timber in a forest, where pruning may be found necessary, let that be done one or two years previous to commencing any thinning operations. The reason for this advice I have explained already; and were this point properly attended to, we would soon see a great improvement in the quality of our timber trees.

There is also the case of neglected hard-wood plantations to be taken into consideration; and, indeed, cases of this nature too often come under the observation of the forester who may have extensive practice. In many cases I have had to deal with plantations consisting of harcl-wood and firs, mixed and growing together in the proportions formerly mentioned, which had never been thinned up to the time that I examined them—and they were then thirty years old. The hard-wood plants were then about ten feet high, and from two to three inches in diameter; and the firs, which had grown rapidly, were large, massy trees, fully thirty feet high. Upon consideration, I concluded that no remedy could be used in order to recover the hard-wood plants, seeing they had been so much stunted and crushed down. There was, indeed, one way in which the hard-wood trees might have been made to grow to advantage, but it must have been at the expense of the firs ; but as they were good trees, the operation would have been a decided loss to the proprietor. The only way to have saved them would have been, to have cut them all down to the ground, and to have made them all spring from the root afresh; but in order to have given them a proper recovery, one half of the firs must have been sacrificed. In several instances where I have had to deal with plantations consisting entirely of hard-wood plants, so old, and so much drawn up together from the want of thinning, that they had actually become mere poles of thirty feet high, and not more than four inches diameter, I have cut the whole plantation over to the surface of the ground, because thinning was out of the question; and in such cases, I have had an excellent plantation of young trees from tlie old stocks, and which, in ten years after, formed a first-rate plantation of trees, having been all thinned out to regular distances in due time, and not allowed to rise too thickly again.

In all cases of neglected hard-wood plantations, where it may considered advisable to cut down the trees, in order to cause them to send up fresh young shoots to form trees, care should be taken to see that the ground be made perfectly dry, by a proper course of draining; for if this point be not attended to, disappointment may possibly be the result.

Wherever hard-wood plantations are found to be in a bad state, from having been neglected for a period at or beyond thirty years, there is little hope of their recovery by any course of thinning, however cautiously it may be gone about, unless the trees evidently show symptoms of a sound constitution, which may be the case where the soil is good and dry. Therefore, in all such cases, unless symptoms of health be remarked in the trees, the proper and only way is to cut all down and plant anew; and if the situation be one exposed to the view of the mansion-house, or pleasure grounds, where a complete clearing away of the mismanaged plantation would cause a bad effect, a few of the best and healthiest trees might with propriety be allowed to stand for a time, in order to give effect to the landscape, until such time as the young trees had attained a considerable size.

What I have said above, relative to the rearing up of hard-wood plantations, is only applicable to such when grown for the sake of their timber; but upon proprietors’ estates, hard-wood plantations are more generally raised with the view of being ornamental upon the lawns and home parks, than simply for the sake of the value of their timber.

Every proprietor who lays out new grounds in the neighbourhood of his mansion-house, if no plantations exist upon those grounds at the time, will, in accordance with good taste, and with the view of affording shelter, plant extensively upon them. And every proprietor of sound natural taste will, in a case of this nature, plant the different sorts of hard-wood, with the view of their becoming ultimately his permanent standing trees, and make up with firs, simply with the view of acting as nurses, until such time as the hard-wood sorts may arrive at a size sufficient to insure their welfare, independent of the firs; and not plant firs in a body by themselves, in any plantation near the mansion, or in the grounds immediately in view, for these always give a place a mean and highland appearance.

I am aware that many proprietors in Scotland, whose seats are upon high-lying and rather moorland districts in the country, are of the opinion that hard-wood trees will not grow with them to a size worth cultivating with the view of becoming ornamental lawn-trees. Upon this point, my experience points to quite a different conclusion. In all high-lying situations in Scotland, where the Scots and spruce firs are found to succeed well—the former on the heights and the latter In the hollows —the beech, elm, and ash will thrive well also, and become trees of no mean magnitude. This I have observed through Aberdeenshire, and other northern parts in Scotland, as also on the highest-lying districts in the south of Scotland; therefore no proprietor in Scotland, if he can produce upon his estate Scots firs of good size, should hesitate to plant the sorts of hard-wood trees above named. All that he has to do, in order to insure success, is to plant firs as nurses, along with the hard-wood, and remove them by degrees as the others advance.

It is allowed by all people possessed of good natural taste, that firs, when planted in a mass, and forming a plantation near to a gentleman’s mansion, without a proper body of hard-wood trees, give that place a cold, heavy, alpine appearance, although it may be situated in the most fertile part of the country. And it is my opinion, that every proprietor of land should endeavour, as much as possible, to cultivate all the different sorts of hard-wood within the range of his home parks, which will give his grounds a fertile and cultivated aspect, although the situation he may occupy be naturally one of an opposite character. All fir plantations should be kept out upon the poor high grounds of an estate; and by the arrangement of having the hard-wood trees in the centre of the property, and the firs upon the outer grounds, the whole will have a most natural and imposing effect.

Wherever a young plantation is made of hardwood and firs, with the view of their ultimately becoming ornamental lawn trees, they should, in every respect, be treated in the same manner as already advised for forest hard-wood trees, until they arrive at the period when they require to be thinned for the first time. The hard-wood which are intended for lawn trees should also be brought into shape by receiving a judicious pruning previous to being thinned for the first time, as has been advised elsewhere; and when the hard-wood trees which are intended for lawn standards are thinned, they should have, at all stages, much room and space to spread out their branches and develope themselves according to their nature, which is the state in which trees always appear to best advantage. And in order to allow the young hard-wood trees to attain their natural shape as much as possible, the firs which may be planted about them, with the view of giving shelter for a time, should be kept well off them, and never allowed even to touch them branches, but placed so as merely to stand by their sides, and give the benefit of their shelter.

As soon as they approach each other too closely, the firs should at once he sacrificed. At the same time, however, attention must be paid to sec that this be done gradually ; perhaps looking over and taking out a few firs every year, as occasion may require, and as the hard-wood trees advance.

The great art in rearing up hard-wood trees for lawn scenery, is, first, not to prune off any branch after the trees arc fairly established in the ground, and about eight or ten feet high. Second, the firs, which act as nurses, should never be allowed to spread themselves upon the branches of the hardwood, but should merely stand by, for the sake of shelter. Third, observe what sorts of hard-wood trees appear to thrive best upon the ground, and encourage those most which appear to do best; and, at the same time, wherever any particular sort of hard-wood does not appear to do well upon the soil, leave firs in their place. A few good specimens of firs look well among hard-wood. Fourth, when the hard-wood trees have advanced so far as to require all the firs to be removed to give them room, and when they begin even to encroach too much upon each other, cut out several of themselves also, and continue to do so until the trees have attained the age of forty years, after which period it will not be found necessary to thin much, if they have been well attended to formerly. Fifth, in the act of thinning out trees intended for park and lawn scenery,

care should be had to see that picturesque openings be made here and there, of distant views from the mansion; such as a particular plantation upon a height, a romantic view of an old ruin, or a sheet of water in a neighbouring hollow;—all of which are beautiful objects in landscape scenery, and should never be hidden from the mansion and grounds of the proprietor; for, however beautiful trees maybe in themselves upon a lawn, they form but a dull and monotonous scene, if well-chosen openings be not left among them, through which other interesting objects may be seen.

SECTION III. REARING UP AND THINNING OF OAK PLANTATIONS.

The oak being the most valuable of all the timber-trees grown in Great Britain, it is generally cultivated with more care and attention than any one else; therefore, I consider it necessary and proper to treat of the manner of rearing it under a distinct head.

Three different systems of rearing young oaks are practised among foresters of the present day; each of which is advocated and upheld by a considerable number of practical men, who put each his own system into operation, according as his own views of the matter direct him, without paying due consideration to place and circumstances.

The three different systems are these:—First, that of sowing the Acorns or seed at once upon the ground where it is intended the trees are to grow up and become timber : second, that of transplanting the trees from the nurseries in the usual way, and, in one year after being planted, when their roots are established in the ground, cutting each tree over by the surface of the earth, and allowing the stump so cut to stand for two or three years, when a number of young shoots are produced immediately from the earth, strong enough to allow a choice to be made of one to stand for a permanent tree, when all the others are destroyed: and, third, the system of planting the young trees in pits, as is usually done, and allowing them to come away in their own natural way. Each of these systems has its peculiar advantages and disadvantages; and, in order to point out these clearly, and in such a manner as to render the statement of them practically useful to the forester who wishes information, it will be necessary to make a few observations upon each of the systems referred to.

With regard to the first,—namely, the system of sowing the acorns, or seed of the oak, at once upon the ground where it is intended the trees are to grow up and become timber,—this is, undeniably, acting according to the laws of nature, to which we ought always to attend in the rearing of forest trees to any thing like perfection. Those who advocate the general introduction of this system say, that the best specimens of oak trees to he found in Britain are those sown by the hand of nature. But this assertion seems to be far from fully authenticated; for, of the many famous oaks mentioned in the history of our country as having existed until lately, it is uncertain whether they might have been remains of an old natural forest, or whether they may have been planted artificially by the hands of man. The managers of the Government forests in England have adopted this method for the rearing of their oak for the supply of the navy ; and I understand that the trees so raised are doing well, and likely to become trees of the first magnitude : but still, I am not aware that they are succeeding better than transplanted trees would have done, had they been planted instead of the acorns at the same time. I have sown acorns in the forest grounds, with the view of ascertaining if plants raised in such a manner did grow much more rapidly than those brought from the nurseries and transplanted in the usual manner; and from what experience I have gathered upon this point,—which, be it understood, has been hut upon a small scale (upon five or six acres of ground), where they were merely intermixed among transplanted trees, and the experiment was made simply with the view of satisfying myself as to the utility of the system,—I am convinced that the trees raised from the acorn sown in the forest ground, grows, for the first few years, more rapidly than the others, and is brought into the proper form of a tree with very little artificial aid as regards pruning; but I have found also, that where much game exists, as is almost always the case upon gentlemen’s estates, it is almost an impossibility to get the young tender shoots of the plants, as they rise above the ground, kept from being eaten down by hares and rabbits. About four years ago, I was very much inclined to commence the sowing of acorns in all our plantations where oaks were required to be raised upon the estate of Arniston; being convinced, from a former trial, in another situation where I was, in which I was very successful, that they, when got up without any damage befalling them, formed the handsomest and fastest growing specimens, I was the more bent upon making another trial upon an extensive scale. Having communicated the scheme which I then had in view to an old forester of forty years’ experience, asking his opinion previous to making the attempt, he advised me strongly not to sow acorns immediately in forest ground, with the view of raising trees in any new situation, until I had proved the utility of the system, by sowing first upon a small scale. Acting upon his advice, for he was a man of the soundest judgment in all forest matters, I sowed acorns in pits dug by the spade for the purpose, and had the pits, in the act of making them, well cleaned from all root-weeds, so as to give them every chance of success; and the soil being a fine dry sandy loam, I calculated upon success. I sowed the seed in the month of February, and, upon looking over the ground in a week or two afterwards, I was mortified to find that rabbits had visited the fresh earth of the pits before me, and had fully one-half of them burrowed through ; upon looking for the acorns, I found the shells indeed, but the mice had eaten the kernels; and upon examining the state of the pits generally, in which the acorns had been sown, I found that very few of them had escaped the ravages of vermin of some sort or other—I even caught pheasants in the very act of scraping up and helping themselves to an acorn. Upon seeing all this, I was indeed thankful to my old friend, the forester, for his cautious advice, and was also happy that I did not sow extensively upon ground which was so much overrun with game and other vermin. As I had sown only about an acre of ground in the manner above stated, I could indeed easily have prevented the ravages of the larger animals, but against those of the mice there was no possible resource. Therefore, this being only a trial upon a small scale, I determined to give nature her own way in the whole business, and consequently did not go back to inspect the state of the pits in which the acorns were sown till about the middle of May, when I found great difficulty in tracing out the exact spots where they had Been sown—the grass and weeds which were natural to the soil had grown rapidly, and almost hidden the red earth. I immediately had the weeds, &c., all cut away from about the pits, and at the same time had the surface of the pits weeded by the hand ; hut there was no appearance of any oaks as yet in them. About the middle of June I again had the surface of the pits weeded, when I observed about twenty young oak plants rising upon a whole acre of ground; and before the autumn, there were none left excepting two, which I protected, which are indeed doing well now, but not a great deal better than others which were transplanted about the same time, in the usual manner, from the nurseries.

Besides what I have detailed relative to my attempt to rear oaks from the acorn in the natural forest ground, I have also since then sown in many places of our woods without digging the ground at all, merely paring away the turf from the surface of the ground slightly, and then putting in the acorns with a common garden dibble ; and I did this with the view of disturbing the natural soil as little as possible, thinking that the rabbits and mice would not be tempted to burrow in the soil when they found it firm. The ultimate issue, however, was the same; for what plants were allowed to come above ground, and had escaped the ravages of the mice and pheasants, were greedily sought after and devoured by the hares and rabbits when they came into leaf. Therefore, in the mean time, and until I have further experience upon this point, I am induced to think, that the system of rearing oaks at once from the acorn in the forest ground is not at all adapted to the present state of forest lands. I confess that I am convinced of the propriety of raising trees in the forest at once from the seed, in order to have the best specimens of timber trees; but it is very likely that a period of fifty years must elapse before our forest grounds are put into a proper and fit state for raising trees to advantage by such a system. Were it practicable to have all our forest ground ploughed and cleaned in the same manner as in agricultural operations, I would at once say, that all forest trees ought to be raised from the seed at once sown in the ground they are intended to occupy; but until then, the system is quite impracticable.

I conclude my observations upon this head by remarking, that the advantages of the system in question are, that the trees so raised never receive any check in their growth, as must be the case with all transplanted trees ; they grow much quicker, and come sooner to the size of trees, than those raised by transplanting; they grow taller in habit from not having their tap roots cut, and are seldom found to require much pruning, as is the case with the others.

The disadvantages of the system in question are, that the seed when sown in a detached form in pits in the common forest ground, is extremely liable to be destroyed by vermin before it vegetates; while, after the plants appear above ground, they are in equal danger from hares and rabbits eating them over. They are also liable to be destroyed from the effects of rank-growing grass and other weeds choking them while in their young and tender state; and in order to avoid this, much expense is incurred in keeping the plants clean. Trenching the ground for the reception of the seed, would be the proper plan; but the expense of such an operation to any extent is out of the question.

I now proceed to the second system of rearing the oak when young—viz. that of transplanting the young trees from the nursery into the forest ground, and in one year after, when their roots are fairly established, cutting them over by the surface of the earth ; and when a number of young shoots are produced from the stumps, choosing the strongest and healthiest for a permanent tree in each plant.

This system is very much practised by foresters who have to raise hard-wood plantations in high-lying districts of Scotland, where it is well known that young hard-wood plants are apt to suffer a severe check when newly lifted from a sheltered nursery, owing to the cold, cutting winds which prevail in such quarters. Indeed, in all cases, young hard-wood trees which may have been reared in some of the public nurseries near large towns, when they are removed to and planted in a high moorland county, seldom do much good for three or four years after their removal. The whole part of the plant situated above the grass or foggage of the ground, becomes stunted, and gradually dies down to within two or three inches of the surface, which part remains fresh, because sheltered by the foggage from the winds; and, indeed, if the plants are left to themselves in such a situation, they, about the third year after being planted, and after the roots have properly established themselves, send up a number of young shoots from the live part about the surface of the ground, which young shoots ultimately become trees of inferior magnitude; but if those young shoots be thinned out to one individual, a tree of the usual magnitude will be the result. Now, this system of cutting over is only assisting nature; and if, instead of allowing the young trees to lie dormant for three years, as is the case when left to nature, the forester cuts each tree over by the surface one year after they are planted, he places himself, by his art, two years in advance of nature as left to herself; for as soon as the trees are cut over, they each send up from three to six vigorous young shoots, which, when they are of sufficient age, ean be removed, with the exception of one, which is left as a permanent standing tree. I have, by adopting this method, had strong, vigorous young shoots of two feet high the second year after planting; and where I have not had them eut over, four or five years elapsed before I had shoots of the same strength.

I was acquainted with a forester who had the management of extensive plantations in Aberdeenshire, who, upon receiving his young hard-wood plants from the nurseries, of whatever species they were, cut each down to within three inches of the roots, and planted them in this state in the pits which were prepared for them in the forest. His reason for doing so was, that he asserted he gained young shoots a year sooner than if he had allowed the plants to remain for one year in the ground previous to being cut over, as is the usual way. But upon examining the state of his young hard-wood plants, which had been planted one year before I visited him, and inspected his system of going to work, I found that all his young trees which had been so cut previous to planting them produced but very weak shoots the first season, and, as I apprehended, they in fact made no vigorous growths till the second year. In this case, therefore, something was lost instead of gained; for until the roots of the young plants are fairly established, very little young wood can he produced. The plants require the first year in order to establish their roots, and if they are forced to make wood during the first year, — as is the case when they are cut over at once,—the wood seldom or never ripens, but is weak, and apt to be nipped by the first frost of winter; but when the plants are allowed to have their own natural way for the first season after being planted, and when the stem is allowed to remain, and push out a few leaves in order to elaborate any sap drawn up by the roots, these roots become during this period properly and firmly settled in the earth, and are rendered strong and vigorous for being called into action the year following. Hence it is, that young trees cut down the year after being planted, always make more vigorous and stronger shoots in that one season, than trees of the same character cut down when planted, and having two years’ growth upon them.

In conclusion, this system ought always to be practised with oak, or indeed with any other hard-wood plants, when planted out in a high district, and after being removed from a sheltered nursery; but in no other case is it necessary.

The third system of rearing the oak when in its young state, as formerly mentioned, is that of planting the young trees in pits, as is usually done, and afterwards allowing each to come away in its own natural way.

This is the system practised in all moderately sheltered districts, for the planting of oaks as well as all other sorts of young trees, and need not be enlarged upon here. I may mention, however, that in all moderately sheltered districts, young trees of any sort receive very little check from being transplanted, if they are not above four feet high, and if the soil is one adapted for the growth of the trees planted, and the work carefully and properly done; but if the soil be not of first-rate quality, and the situation one much exposed, the trees always receive a violent check, and, consequently, the bark upon the young trees becomes hide-bound, and will not carry on its natural functions; but the roots being as healthy as formerly, they, when the old tops are gone, send up young shoots to supply the place of the former, which, as they grow up, become habituated to the climate and situation, and consequently form trees adapted to it. Therefore the planter, when he meditates to bring up a plantation of young oaks, or other hard-wood, must judge for himself as to which of the two last-mentioned systems he should adopt; and that, of course, must be regulated by his grounds being exposed or sheltered.

Suppose that a tract of ground has been planted with oak at seven feet apart, and the intermediate spaces made up with firs, to such a closeness as to leave the whole plants over the ground at three and a half feet distance from each other; and suppose that the oaks in such a plantation have been planted and managed in one or other of the two last-mentioned ways, as may be found most suitable in the case of the situation planted—the oak trees will, when the plantation is about eight years old, require to be carefully looked over, and pruned in all cases where found necessary, but not severely: for the oak, at no stage of its growth, agrees with much pruning; the wood is of a hard cross nature, and any severe wound made by the knife is not easily healed, even although the plant be young; therefore, pruning should be sparingly practised upon them. All that is necessary in the case of pruning the oak trees at the stage above mentioned, is to prune away one top in all cases where two exist, or where more than two tops appear upon one individual tree, to choose the best, and prune away all the others; to lop off a part of any strong branch that may have the appearance of gaining an undue strength upon the regular proportions of the tree; and to clear away any small spray shoots from the lower part, so as to form a clear stem or boll. If this' pruning be properly done when the trees are about eight or ten years old, when the wood is in its softest stage, no damage will be done; and if the work be properly done at this stage, little or no pruning will ever be afterwards required.

The oak not being a rapid-growing tree at any stage of its growth, as compared with many other sorts of hard-wood trees, the young plants will not, at eight or ten years’ standing in a plantation, have attained a large size, probably not above five or six feet high; but if the firs which were planted among them for the purpose of giving shelter have thriven well, the oaks will be deriving benefit from their shelter, and progressing rapidly. In fact, young oaks never do come away well until such time as the firs rise up around, and afford them shelter; and more especially if the situation in which they are planted be an exposed one, or the soil naturally of a cold bottom. As an instance of the great advantage gained by planting firs among young oaks, in order to shelter them in their young and tender state, and to bring them away as rapidly as possible, I may mention a case which I witnessed myself in one situation where I acted as assistant forester. There we had about twenty acres of rather stiffish clay ground converted into a plantation, and it was situated upon what was considered rather a level and sheltered part of the country, although there was no other plantation near it. The ground was fenced by a young hedge all round, protected by a three-barred paling; and as the proprietor wished the plantation to be one of oak, without any admixture of other trees, the ground was planted entirely with oak plants in the usual way, and at three feet apart, but without any firs whatever to act as nurses. The oaks thus planted remained in a dormant state for three years after they were planted, not only making no young shoots whatever, but, upon the contrary, fully one-third of the plants died out. Upon seeing this state of things with regard to this plantation, the forester thought that the whole would turn out a failure upon his hand, set us to work, and had fifteen hundred Scots fir plants planted to the acre of the ground, mixing them regularly among the oaks. In two years after this planting of the Scots firs, or five years from the time that the oaks were planted, the former began to make considerable shoots, so much so as to give a little shelter over the surface of the ground: the oaks now began to throw up healthy shoots from the tops of their roots, or rather at that part where the roots are thrown out from the stem: and in many instances, where it was thought that the young plants were dead, they sent up excellent young shoots as soon as shelter was produced.

In fact, after this period, the whole plantation throve remarkably well, and the oaks kept pace with the firs during all the time that they stood among them; but in a few years they were mostly cut down again in order to give the oaks room as they advanced.

Now, from this example, I would draw the attention of the planter to the great necessity, in all cases, of planting firs among oaks in order to nurse them up while in their young and tender state, and having the firs thinned out by degrees as the oaks advance in strength.

Having pruned the young trees in the plantation of oaks in the manner formerly referred to, and that two years previous to requiring any thinning of the firs from among them, the next step in the rearing of such a plantation is to thin away any firs as soon as they encroach upon the oak plants; and this thinning of the firs, in the rearing up of oak plantations, must at all times be more severe than when thinning away firs from among the common kinds of hardwood. And, indeed, this particular forms the only difference worth mentioning between the cultivation of the oak and the cultivation of hard-wood in general; that is, the oak-trees, after they are once properly established in the ground, and brought into proper shape by a judicious pruning, must, through the whole course of their culture afterwards, have more room and air than any other species of hard-wood trees. The reason of this difference as regards the cultivation of the oak is this:—The oak is a valuable tree both upon account of its wood and bark: the wood is more valuable when grown of proportionable diameter than when of great length, and it is also of more durable quality when freely exposed to the air than when drawn up weakly and to a great height; thence arises the necessity of giving the trees free circulation of air in order to have valuable wood. The oak is also valuable upon account of its bark, as I have already mentioned; now, in order to produce bark, a tree must have extent of wood, whether that be in the form of trunk or branches. I have seen an acre of oak trees, one hundred years old, cut down and sold for the sake of both wood and bark, which had been cultivated upon the principle of drawing up the trees tall and without branches; and according to my note-book, which contains an account of the transaction of the sale, that acre of ground, which contained two hundred trees, sold for L.360. On the other hand, upon a neighbouring estate, I attended a sale of oak trees only ninety years old, and which had been cultivated upon the principle of giving free air and room to the trees as they advanced; and upon one acre of ground, which contained a part of those trees sold, I counted one hundred and four trees, which trees brought altogether L.868, making the oak trees which were cultivated upon the principle which I have recommended—namely, that of giving free air and room —nearly three times the value of those which were drawn up weakly. When oak trees have free room for expanding themselves, the lower branches form into bends for ship-building, which is a valuable object; the trees also, being more branchy in themselves, produce a greater surface for the production of bark, and the bark itself, having free air, becomes thick and heavy upon the tree. Indeed, perhaps, it is not generally known that oak bark, produced upon trees having free air about them, weighs almost double that of an equal surface taken from a tree confined and not having air; and at the same time, bark of such weight is always more valuable, because containing a greater proportion of tanning matter.

What I have here said relative to the cultivation of the oak, I regard as sufficient to convince any proprietor of the necessity of keeping his oak forests thinner of trees than any other of his woods: and need only add, in conclusion, that in every other respect oak plantations are to be managed upon the same principles as other hard-wood ones. Oak trees are never reckoned of full age till they have attained from eighty to one hundred years; therefore, after a plantation of oaks has received its final thinning, it should be allowed to stand until that age before cutting down.


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