Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/40

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30
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

SOME CURIOUS VEGETABLE GROWTHS.
By W. H. LARRABEE.

THE importance of trees to the earth and to life does not need to be insisted upon. The condition of treeless regions is almost a demonstration that without them the soil would not be tillable and life would not be endurable. It is, therefore, natural that they should have at all times shared the special regards of men; and that not only-particular species, but individual trees, should in their times and places have been hallowed with a sacred, historical, legendary, romantic, or mythical interest. The list of such trees, if one should undertake to make it out, would fill a large catalogue. Our own country and time, commonplace as their characteristics are supposed to be, are not without them. Other trees have become famous by reason of their extraordinary size, or some other remarkable features of their growth; and in these points we are able to present specimens with respectable claims to honor. The big trees of California are equaled among the trees of modern, and, so far as is known, of ancient, periods only by a few Australian eucalyptuses. Many of the most remarkable specimens of vegetable growth are familiar by description; others are added to the list, from time to time, as new quarters of the earth are more thoroughly explored and their forests more closely examined, or seen with eyes keener in observation.

The forests of Europe still contain a few remarkable trees, the history of which has not become trite by familiarity. Mr. Gaston Tissandier's "La Nature" furnishes us with descriptions and illustrations of two noteworthy specimens of these growths.

Switzerland has its old chestnut-trees on the banks of Lake Leman, and the ancient linden of Fribourg, the history of which is said to go back to the time of the conflicts with Charles the Bold. M. Louis Pire, President of the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium, has found a fir-tree in the forest of Alliaz, Canton of Vaud, which he believes to be still older than the linden of Fribourg, and considers entitled to be regarded as the oldest and most remarkable tree in the canton, if not in the whole confederation. It is growing near the baths of Alliaz, at a height of about thirteen hundred feet above the hotel, and forty-five hundred feet above the sea, surrounded by a forest of firs, which it overtops by more than thirty feet. The trunk of this tree is ten metres, or a little more than thirty feet, in circumference at the base. At about a yard from the ground it puts out, on the south side, seven offshoots, which have grown into trunks as strong and vigorous as those of the other trees in the forest. Bent and gnarled at the bottom, these side-trunks soon straighten themselves up and rise perpendicularly and parallel to the main stem. This fea-