Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/215

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
211
THE BLACK LOCUST TREE

THE BLACK LOCUST TREE AND ITS DESPOLIATION.
By CHARLES A. WHITE,

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

WITHIN the past few years an increasing interest has been manifested in the black locust tree, Robinia pseudacacia. Many persons have begun to propagate it, not only as a wayside tree, but as a forest product; and issues of the public press lately have contained many articles and paragraphs pointing out the excellent qualities of the wood and recommending its general cultivation for economic uses. Several of the articles referred to have mentioned the fact that one of the great railroad companies has, within the past two years, planted on its Pennsylvania lands nearly a million and a half of trees of this species with the intention of using the product for railroad ties and fence posts, and for other purposes requiring exceptionally durable wood. It has been publicly announced that large additions to that company's planting of this tree are to be made, and it is also known that many smaller, but still extensive, enterprises of this kind, under both corporate and individual management, are in progress in different parts of our country. The aggregate of these enterprises requires the expenditure of so much labor and money before any profitable returns could be expected, that one who is acquainted with the past history of the tree can not but wonder at the apparent lack of business precaution, or of sound advice, which they imply. The fateful destiny of this tree has been long known and until recently it has been generally neglected; but by most persons the facts concerning it apparently are now forgotten or disregarded. From personal observations, extending through many years and over a large part of the United States and adjoining parts of Canada and Mexico, I am convinced that all attempts to cultivate this tree in any part of North America, with the possible exception presently to be mentioned, will result in failure so far as suitable returns in practical value of the product is concerned. The subject therefore has, with comparative suddenness, become of public importance, and my chief object in writing this article is the utterance of a public caution concerning it, especially directed to industrial interests.

The excellent quality of the wood of this tree is all that has been claimed for it, and doubtless it is this quality, together with the knowledge of the vigor of its early growth, that has encouraged the extensive preparations that lately have been made for its artificial propaga-