Journals of Lewis and Clark: Trees

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The Journals of Lewis and Clark: The Trees
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark - Trees. A general description of the beasts, plants and Trees, &c. found by the party in this expedition.

The trees of a larger growth are very abundant; the whole neighborhood of the coast is supplied with great quantities of excellent timber. The predominating growth is the fir, of which we have seen several species. There is one singular circumstance attending all the pine of this country, which is, that when consumed it yields not the slightest particle of ashes. The first species grows to an immense size, and is very commonly twenty-seven feet in circumference six feet above the earth's surface: they rise to the height of two hundred and thirty feet, and one hundred and twenty of that height without a limb. We have often found them thirty-six feet in circumference. One of our party measured one, and found it to be forty-two feet in circumference, at a point beyond the reach of an ordinary man. This trunk for the distance of two hundred feet was destitute of limbs: this tree was perfectly sound, and at a moderate calculation, its size may be estimated at three hundred feet. The timber is throughout, and rives better than any other species; the bark scales off in flakes irregularly round, and of a reddish brown color, particularly the younger growth: the trunk is simple, branching, and not very proliferous. The leaf is acerose, one tenth of an inch in width, and three fourths in length, firm, stiff, and accuminate. It is triangular, a little declining, thickly scattered on all sides of the bough, and springs from small triangular pedestals of soft, spongy, elastic bark atthe junction of the boughs. The bud scales continue to encircle their respective twigs for several years. Captain Lewis has counted as many as the growth of four years beyond their scales; it yields but little rosin, and we have never been able to discover the cone, although we have killed several.

The second is a much more common species, and constitutes at least one half of the timber in this neighborhood. It seems to resemble the spruce, rising from one hundred and sixty to one hundred and eighty feet, and is from four to six in diameter, straight, round, and regularly tapering. The bark is thin, of a dark color, much divided in small longitudinal interstices: the bark of the boughs and young trees is somewhat smooth, but not equal to the balsam fir: the wood is white, very soft, but difficult to rive: the trunk is a simple, branching, and diffuse stem, not so proliferous as the pines and firs usually are. It puts forth buds from the sides of the small boughs, as well as from their extremities: the stem terminates like the cedar, in a slender pointed top: the leaves are petiolate, the footstalks short, acerose, rather more than half a line in width, and very unequal in length; the greatest length seldom exceeds one inch, while other leaves intermixed on every part of the bough, do not exceed a quarter of an inch. The leaf has a small longitudinal channel on the upper disk, which is of a deep and glossy green, while the under disk is of a whitish green only: it yields but little rosin. What is remarkable, the cane is not longer than the end of a man's thumb, it is soft, flexible, of an ovate form, and produced at the ends of the small twigs.

The third species resembles in all points, the Canadian balsam fir. It grows from two and a half to four feet in diameter, and rises to the height of eighty or an hundred feet. The stem is simple, branching, and proliferous: its leaves are sessile, acerous, one eighth of an inch in length, and one sixteenth in width, thickly scattered on the twigs, and adhere to the three under sides only; gibbous, a little declining, obtusely pointed, soft, and flexible. The upper disk is longitudinally marked with a slight channel, of a deep glossy-green; the under of a pale green and not glossy. This tree affords in considerable quantities, a fine deep aromatic balsam, resembling the balsam of Canada in taste and appearance. The small pistils filled, rise like a blister on the trunk and the branches. The bark that envelops these pistils, is soft and easily punctured: the general appearance of the bark is dark and smooth; but not so remarkable for that quality as the white pine of our country. The wood is white and soft.

The fourth species in size resembles the second. The stem is simple, branching, ascending, and proliferous; the bark is of a reddish dark brown, and thicker than that of the third species, divided by small longitudinal interstices, not so much magnified as in the second species. The relative position of the leaves resemble those of the balsam fir, excepting that they are only two-thirds the width, and little more than half the length, and that the upper disk is not so green and glossy. The wood yields no balsam, and but little rosin. The wood is white and tough although rather porous.

The fifth species in size resembles the second, and has a trunk simple, branching, and proliferous, The bark is of a thin dark brown, divided longitudinally by interstices, and scaling off in thin rolling flakes. It yields but little balsam: two-thirds of the diameter of the trunk in the centre, presents a reddish white; the remainder is white, porous, and tough: the twigs are much longer and more slender than in either of the other species; the leaves are acerose, one-twentieth of an inch in width, and one inch in length; sextile, inserted on all sides of the bough, straight, and obliquely pointing towards the extremities. The upper disk has a small longitudinal channel, and is of a deep green, and not so glossy as the balsam fir. The under disk is of a pale green.

We have seen a species of this fir on low marshy grounds, resembling in all points the foregoing, except that it branches more diffusively. This tree is generally thirty feet in height, and two in diameter. The diffusion of its branches may result from its open situation, as it seldom grows in the neighborhood of another tree. The cone is two and a half inches in length, and three and three-quarters in its greatest circumference. It tapers regularly to a point, and is formed of the imbricated scales, of a bluntly rounded form. A thin leaf is inserted in the pith of the cone, which overlays the centre of, and extends half an inch beyond the point of each scale.

The sixth species does not differ from what is usually denominated the white pine in Virginia. The unusual length of the cone seems to constitute the only difference. It is sometimes sixteen or eighteen inches in length, and is about four in circumference, It grows on the north side of the Columbia, near the ocean.

The seventh, and last species grows in low grounds, and in places frequently overflown by the tide, seldom rising higher than thirty-five feet, and not more than from two and a half to four in diameter: the stem is simple, branching and proliferous: the bark resembles that of the first species, but more rugged: the leaves are acerose, two-tenths of an inch in width, three-fourths in length, firm, stiff, and a little acuminated: they end in short pointed tendrils, gibbous, and thickly scattered on all sides of the branch, though they adhere to the three under sides only: those inserted on the under side incline sidewise, with upward points, presenting the leaf in the shape of a sithe: the others are pointing upwards, sextile and like those of the first species, grow from the small triangular pedestals, of a bark, spongy, soft and elastic. The under disk is of a deep glossy green, the other of a pale whitish green: the boughs retain the leaves of a six years growth: the bud scales resemble those of the first species: the cone is of an ovate figure, three and a half inches in length, and three in circumference, thickest in the middle, and tapering and terminating in two obtuse points: it is composed of small, flexible scales, imbricated, and of a reddish brown color. Each of these scales covers two small seeds, and is itself covered in the centre by a small, thin, inferior scale, acutely pointed: these scales proceed from the sides of the bough, as well as from its extremities. It was no where seen above the Wappatoo. The stem of the black alder arrives to a great size. It is simple, branching, and diffuse: the bark is smooth, of a light color, with white spreading spots, resembling those of the beech: the leaf, fructification, &c. resemble precisely those of the common alder of our country: the shrubs grow separately from different roots, and not in clusters, like those of the United States. The black alder does not east its leaf until the first of December. It is sometimes found growing to the height of sixty or seventy feet, and is from two to four in diameter.

3. There is a tree common to the Columbia river, below the entrance of Cataract river, when devested of its foliage, much resembling the ash. The trunk is simple, branching, and diffuse: the leaf is petiolate, plain, divided by four deep lines, and resembling those of the palm, and considerably lobate: the lobes terminate in from three to five angular points, and their margins are indented with irregular and somewhat circular incissures: the petiolate is cylindrical, smooth, and seven inches long; the leaf itself eight inches in length, and twelve in breadth: this tree is frequently three feet in diameter, and rises from forty to fifty feet: the fruit is a winged seed, somewhat resembling that of the maple.

In the same part of the country there is also another growth, resembling the white maple, though much smaller, and is seldom to be seen of more than six or seven inches in diameter. These trees grow in clusters, from fifteen to twenty feet in height, from the same bed of roots, spreading, and leaning outwards: the twigs are long and slender, the stem simple and branching, the bark, in color, resembling the white maple, the leaf is petiolate, plain, scattered, nearly circular, with acute, angular incissures round the margin, of an inch in length, and from six to eight in number: the acute angular points so formed, are crenate, three inches in length and four in width: the petiole is cylindric, smooth, and an inch and a quarter in length, and the fruit is not known.

Accounts of the Plants

Accounts of the Fruits and Berries

Accounts of the Shrubs and Undergrowth

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