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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE REVIEW.

THE BRITISH OAK.

BY PROFESSOR JAMES PUCKMAN, F.L.S. F.G.S. F.S.A. ETC.

THILST the discussion is still pending, of iron against

the “brave old oak,” a few notes upon the forms of this truly
national tree can hardly fail to be acceptable. At starting,
however, we must bear in mind, that though we have ever
looked upon the oak as so thoroughly British that we had
almost been brought to think that it was made for the sole
glory of our land, yet there are those who would wish to cast
a doubt upon its true aboriginal nature, and who, according to
their custom, represent everything great as borrowed from the
Continent. What says, however, that pleasant discourser on
forest trees, Jacob George Strutt, of imperishable sylvan fame:
-"In proportion as the oak is valued above all other trees,
so is the English oak esteemed above that of any other country,
for its particular characteristics of hardness and toughness;
qualities which so peculiarly fit it to be the 'father of ships,'
and which are so admirably expressed in two epithets by that
great poet, to whom the book of nature, and of the human heart,
seemed alike laid open :-

Thou rather with thy sharp and sulph'rous bolt,
Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak,

Than the soft myrtle."--SHAKESPEARE.
Selby again, in his “History of Forest Trees," a work which
should be in the hands of all lovers of the beautiful natural
objects of which it treats, describes the finding of some bog
oaks, which would almost connect the present race with a
fossilized past :

At the Linden, the seat of C. W. Bigge, Esq., the trunk of a magnificent
oak was extracted from a peat moss that fills a small basin or hollow,

VOL. II, -NO, V.

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evidently produced by the stagnation of a stream, which now passes through it, and which, at some distant period, had been dammed back by the fall of the trees upon its margins. This oak was covered by a layer of the peat to the depth of about three feet, and was discovered by probing the moss. The trunk, with a small portion of one of the larger limbs, was with great labour and difficulty dragged from its miry bed. The contents of the portion recovered contained 545 cubic feet, although the whole of the sap-wood had perished. The timber was perfectly sound, and the tree, by whatever accident it had been overthrown, had fallen in the vigour of its growth. When sawn up, the interior planks were found of a deep rich brown colour ; those nearer the exterior darker, or approaching to black. A variety of elegant furniture has been made from the wood, but it has been found necessary, for fine cabinet-work, to have it cut into veneers, for, when worked in bulk, it is apt to crack and become warped. Remains of other huge oaks have also been met with on the banks of the Tyne, the Alne, and other rivers, as well as in various bogs and morasses ; and we mention these instances to show that in a district where, at the present day, nothing but recently-planted oak or dwarfish timber from stock-shoots exists, in former times the monarch of the forest grew luxuriantly, and attained a splendid development; and also as an inducement to the planter not to neglect the liberal insertion of this national tree wherever soil and situation are found congenial to its growth. In other parts of England, the oak still grows in all its native magnificence of form and dimensions, and the remains of those ancient forests, which are chronicled by our earliest writers, and which, in the time of our Saxon an

ancestors, spread over the greater portion of the country, are still to be traced in the venerable but living relics of enormous oaks, many of which are supposed to number more than a thousand years.

Not to neglect to plant the national tree! We hope indeed that thiere is no possessor of broad acres who does not esteem it a duty, regardless of profit, to provide for a succession of forest kings, if only to beautify the face of the country, and to leave the people of the present some grand living object to connect them with the history of the past. In fact, planting of the “ British oak” has not only been considered a duty, but followed out with the keenest pleasure by the country gentleman. In so doing, the question has scarcely until lately occurred, is the British oak always the same? or, are there not different species, or at least varieties of the genus Quercus, which have been confounded by the planter? To this question we now propose to address our inquiries.

On referring to different authors, we shall find mention of the following names as applied to the British oak:

1. Quercus Robur, Linn.
2.

sessiliflora, Salisbury.
3.

intermedia, Don. This method of nomenclature would however be only tenable on the supposition that we considered the trees so named

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