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Three trees, which had been growing about four years, and which I had regrafted in the previous spring, died utterly, except the root, although the scions had grown finely and remained plump and full of sap until the bodies had turned black under the bark. I cut off several at the ground and grafted them, and the new scions grew vigorously, indicating that the roots were still sound.
In the autumn, one of those which had put forth a scanty foliage, though making a fair growth, was accidentally broken off. Upon examination, I found that all the wood was discolored, except a ring of the alburnum, next the bark, which appeared healthy. Upon cutting into others, I observed a similar appearance, as if nature had made an effort to cover with a living stratum of wood that organization which had been so disturbed as to obstruct its proper offices. Having occasion in May, 1852, to travel over the westerly part of the State, I carefully observed the condition of the fruit trees wherever I went. The results of my observations were uniform. More injury had happened to the apple trees that winter than for many previous years. To low and sandy land, subject to early autumn frosts, and to highly cultivated trees, the injury was almost exclusively limited. My own trees stand upon a sandy plain, and were growing very rapidly, and I found scarcely an instance of an apple tree upon hilly land affected in the least.
The same remark may be made of the peach buds. My own, near my apple trees, and on similar soil, had set full of blossom buds, but not a single peach was produced, although the trees were not much injured.
Mr. Downing's theory has been, that whenever the thermometer sunk 12° below zero, the fruit buds of the peach were always destroyed by the mere intensity of the cold. But this theory was not correct as ap plied to New Hampshire. The thermometer in all parts of this State fell to 18° below zero last winter, and yet peaches were abundant. I myself saw trees loaded with peaches, at Derry, within twenty feet of the spot where the thermometer had indicated 18° below zero the previous winter. Mr. Downing himself, in one of the last numbers of the invaluable publication which he prepared, admitted that his theory was not supported by his more recent observations. What then produces the injury? It cannot be the mere intensity of the cold under ordinary cir cumstances, because, if it were, all trees of the same kind would perish at a given extreme of cold. The tree on the plain would not be taken, and the tree on the hill be left. The same tree would not pass unscathed through extreme cold of one winter, and perish the next at a higher temperature. We must look for the solution of our problem in some peculiar accidental condition of the tree.
In New Hampshire no winter ever passes without weather which sinks the thermometer below zero. Water freezes at 32°, and the sap, in the small twigs, must be frozen long before the weather is at zero. We all know that water, as it becomes solid, expands by crystallization, and we can readily comprehend that such expansion may rupture the sap vessels of the wood or bud, and so destroy its organization. If this be the cause of the destruction of the buds, and the injury to the wood, then it should happen whenever the sap freezes. Now, I will not undertake to affirm that the sap in the peach does free ze before the cold reaches 12° below zero. It is possible that there is in the sap of trees, and in the incomprehensible
phenomenon of its circulation, a power of resistance to cold sufficient for its protection to that degree. I speak cautiously on the subject, because there is no theory of the circulation of sap, which seems perfectly consistent with known facts, and I set this subject down among the matters not yet perfectly revealed. The circulation of the blood in animals generates heat in some way, and possibly the circulation of the sap in plants may do the same.
Count Rumford, in his essays, seems to assume that the sap of trees does not freeze, and reasons as if it were incontrovertible that if the sap freezes the tree must die. The first demonstrates that heat is propagated in fluids only by circulation, never by contact of the particles of the fluid one with another; or, in other words, that these particles are non conductors of heat. Heated water rises, if heat be applied to the bottom of the vessel, because it is lighter, and the surface water must, of course, descend to make way for it. Water cannot be heated by the application of heat to the surface, but will remain at the boiling point for hours, resting upon cold water, or even ice, in a glass vessel, if the ice be confined so as not to rise.
Again, the circulation of water is impeded by mingling with it any fibrous matter, like eider-down, or by a solution of resinous substances, and so parts with its heat less readily. And, further, wood is almost a perfect non-conductor of heat. Considering all these facts, it must be manifest that the sap of trees, thickened as it doubtless is in winter by the evaporation of its watery particles in autumn, shut up in capillary vessels of wood, so curiously fashioned that it has been ascertained, in the process of kyanizing, that fluids cannot well be forced through them downwards. I say it must be manifest that heat escapes very slowly from a living tree; or, in other words, that the cold enters and freezes the sap only at a very low temperature.
Still the fact has been observed by every man who has chopped in the woods of New Hampshire in winter, that the logs appear to be frozen solid, and will fly open like blocks of ice at the blow of the axe, and show the frozen sap sparkling like diamonds.
After the sap has actually become solid by cold, as it would seem must be the case every winter, what further change can be produced in it by greater intensity of cold? What mechanical or chemical process, which thus destroys the trees or buds, is induced by twenty or thirty degrees of cold added to that which has already rendered the sap solid? I dwell upon this point, because the winter of 1851-'52 was one of the severest on record, and the injury to trees-apple trees in particular-was unusually great. Yet I am not willing to concede that the extreme cold of the winter caused this injury. The nurserymen of this region have assured me that tender, half-hardy shrubs, with the ordinary protection, endured that winter unusually well.
My conclusion upon the whole matter is, that it is not the intense cold of the winter which injures the peach and the apple in the manner referred to, but the early sudden frosts of autumn, which find the trees on warm and sheltered land, full of sap, unprepared for the sudden change. The vessels filled with the watery fluid are burst by the crystallization of freezing long before the extreme of winter. It is not improbable that the same effect may be sometimes produced in the winter or spring by sudden changes of temperature on wood not fully ripened.
This is a matter not merely of curious investigation, but of practical importance. If intense cold weather, to a certain degree, necessarily kills all our trees, we have nothing to do but submit as gracefully as we may. If, however, our trees are killed because they are growing_too rapidly from over-cultivation, or because they are too much sheltered, or upon land too sandy, or land undrained, or in the valley rather than on the hill, we have the remedy, by the exercise of good judgment, in our own hands.
A careful and constant application of scientific principles to known facts will eventually bring out of the chaos of what we call accidents new evidence of the constant, uniform operations of the laws of nature. HENRY F. FRENCH.
EXETER, N. H., January 29, 1853.
REPORTS OF STATE FRUIT COMMITTEES.
REPORT FROM MAINE.
Although a portion of the State of Maine has been permanently settled since 1630, and apples, pears, and other fruits were early planted in some sections, yet the systematic cultivation of such fruits, and of improved varieties, has, comparatively speaking, but recently begun to attract attention among our people generally.
It is true, that in some towns you will find the good effects produced by the zeal and taste of some enterprising person or persons, who planted orchards, and took pains to introduce the select and choice fruits of their time many years ago. But these were the exceptions, and their exertions were isolated, in a certain degree, and confined mainly to their immediate neighborhood. Among the fruit pioneers were the late Hon. Dr. Vaughan, of Hallowell, and the Hon. Ephraim Goodale, of Orrington, still living at an advanced age.
The territory of Maine is large, extending about three hundred miles from east to west, or through more than four degrees of longitude, and from south to north through nearly five degrees of latitude. This extent of surface would, of itself, cause quite a diversity of climate. The peculiar location, and the face of the country also, add to this diversity. In the first place we have more than three thousand miles of seacoast, with all its indentations of creek, bay, cape, promontory, and islands. In the next place we have, extending far into the interior, plains and mountains, lakes and rivers, with all the accompanying changes of soil, from primitive upward, and from rich alluvion to barren heath. From these causes there must, inevitably, be quite a difference of climate in different localities, sufficient to vary essentially the times of ripening of many kinds of fruit. We can introduce you to a portion of the State where most of the choice varieties of the apple grow and mature in perfection; and, without travelling beyond our boundaries, also introduce you to the very northern limit of the apple region, or at least where it is difficult to mature more than a very few varieties of that fruit. In one section, extending from the western boundary to the cen tral portions and along most of the seaboard, the well-known Roxbury
Russet grows and matures in abundance and perfection, while in the northeastern section the autumnal season is not long enough nor warm enough to allow it to mature; yet some of the earlier varieties of northern origin—such as the Red Astrachan, Duchesse d'Oldenburgh, and also the Fameuse and Ribstone Pippin-exhibit a condition of growth and flavor deemed by many to be superior to any raised in other parts of New England.
It will therefore be borne in mind, that the notes on fruits herewith submitted as flourishing and ripening in Maine, have reference to the first-named portions of the State, and not to the northeasterly part, on the valley of the St. John's. The latter is as yet but sparsely settled, though it has a fertile soil, and is still a region where the hardy pioneer is making way for future improvements in the culture of field and garden products. During the first twenty-five years of the present century, almost every farmer planted an orchard, and some of them very large ones. The trees were mostly seedlings, and the principal object in view was the manufacture of cider, which then commanded a ready market and high price. In process of time, the supply of this article far exceeded the demand, and, consequently, attention is now turned to engrafting these trees into varieties of established reputation in the market as table fruits. Those who now plant orchards are careful to select the best varieties. From the immense number of seedling trees which compose the older orchards among us, some very excellent varieties have been found, and are worthy of propagation; and, though they may not yet be widely known or fully proved in other localities, are nevertheless highly valued in the vicinity of their origin.
The present season has been a fruitful one, and marked by some peculiarities. Very little rain fell from the middle of May until the latter part of August-in some parts of the State the drought was severe and crops suffered. The value of mulching has been seen in an eminent degree in the case of newly-planted trees, which have made a fine growth; while of those not so treated many failed and others barely survived. The heat and drought combined have caused some fruits to ripen prematurely, and we notice considerable variation from the usual period of ripening in pears, especially Doyenné d'Eté and Madeline, which ripened as usual the first half of August. We have now, (September 1,) Dearborn's Seedling, Rostiezer Bartlett, Beurré d'Amalis, Belle Lucrative, Flemish Beauty, Marie Louise, and others, which usually furnish a supply during two months, all ripening together. The later sorts-as Aremburg, Vicar of Winkfield, Napoleon, &c., which, just before the late heavy rains, parted readily from the tree and seemed on the point of ripening-are now firmly attached and rapidly swelling, and bid fair to mature at the usual period.
The crop of apples is large. Of fine pears more will be grown than in any previous year; and so of choice plums in the central and eastern parts of the State, particularly in the vicinity of Bangor, where the curculio seems to have suspended operations for this season at least. In the western part of the State the blossom-buds, which were never more abundant, shrivelled and fell in spring, from some cause, without open ing. [Query. What was the cause?]
Bell's Early-similar to, if not identical with, Sopsavine, or Sops of Wine-best; productive and highly esteemed.
Early Sweet Bough-best.
Red Astrachan-good; productive and profitable.
Duchess of Oldenburgh-good; productive and profitable.
Vermont-very like the Porter in form and color; flesh more tender, of milder flavor, and a week or ten days earlier-probably same as the apple more recently known as Walworth, and also by other names; has been cultivated here upwards of forty years, and considered highly valuable.
Gravenstein-best; productive, excellent.
Golden or Orange Sweet-best; productive; tree of moderate growth. Fumeuse-very good; hardy, and bears well.
Nodhead or Jewett's Fine Red-best; delicate flavor, skin thin, and liable to the curculio, its only fault.
Winthrop Greening-very good, if not best; originated in Winthrop; large, tender, crisp, and sprightly flavor.
Hubbardston Nonsuch-best; of rapidly increasing popularity.
Baldwin-best, productive and fine; young trees very liable to be winter killed.
Rhode Island Greening-very good, and reliable; best cooking apple.
Ribstone Pippin-best; fully S..stains its English reputation.
Golden Ball-very good; tree hardy and a good grower, but not an early or great bearer; often supposed to be a native of Maine, but is not. Some fifty years ago the scions were brought from Connecticut without name, and for thirty years or more known only as the "Connecticut apple."
Danvers Winter Sweet-very good, long keeping.
Blue Pearmain-very good, fair and fine.
Northern Spy-rapid grower, and very hardy; has fruited but two years; specimens not uniform, the well-grown ones only being very fine; is likely to be well proved, as large numbers of young trees have been planted.
The cultivation of this fine fruit is rapidly extending in this State, great impetus having been imparted by the introduction of the quince stock, it being found by the use of the Angers variety, and the careful selection of sorts adapted to it, that many varieties can be grown in the highest perfection, which either entirely failed on the pear root, or would not repay the trouble and cost of cultivation.
Doyenné d'Ete-best early pear; tree of feeble growth, and overbears. Dearborn's Seedling-very good, productive.