Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 296 pages of information about Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20).

[Illustration]

THE BIG TREES OF CALIFORNIA

(FROM STUDIES SCIENTIFIC AND SOCIAL.)

BY ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE.

[Illustration]

In the popular accounts of these trees it is usual to dwell only on the dimensions of the very largest known specimens, and sometimes even to exaggerate these.  Even the smaller full-grown trees, however, are of grand dimensions, varying from fourteen to eighteen feet in diameter, at six feet above the ground, and keeping nearly the same thickness for perhaps a hundred feet.  In the south Calaveras grove, where there are more than a thousand trees, the exquisite beauty of the trunks is well displayed by the numerous specimens in perfect health and vigor.  The bark of these trees, seen at a little distance, is of a bright orange brown tint, delicately mottled with darker shades, and with a curious silky or plush-like gloss, which gives them a richness of color far beyond that of any other conifer.  The tree which was cut down soon after the first discovery of the species, the stump of which is now covered with a pavilion, is twenty-five feet in diameter at six feet above the ground, but this is without the thick bark, which would bring it to twenty-seven feet when alive.  A considerable portion of this tree still lies where it fell, and at one hundred and thirty feet from the base I found it to be still twelve and a half feet in diameter (or fourteen feet with the bark), while at the extremity of the last piece remaining, two hundred and fifteen feet from its base, it is six feet in diameter, or at least seven feet with the bark.  The height of this tree when it was cut down is not recorded, but as one of the living trees is more than three hundred and sixty feet high, it is probable that this giant was not much short of four hundred feet.

[Illustration:  THE “MOTHER OF THE FOREST.”]

In the accompanying picture the dead tree in the centre is that from which the bark was stripped, which was erected in the Crystal Palace and unfortunately destroyed by fire.  It is called the “Mother of the Forest.”  The two trees nearer the foreground are healthy, medium-sized trees, about fifteen feet diameter at six feet above the ground.

The huge decayed trunk called “Father of the Forest,” which has fallen perhaps a century or more, exhibits the grandest dimensions of any known tree.  By measuring its remains, and allowing for the probable thickness of the bark, it seems to have been about thirty-five feet diameter near the ground, at ninety feet up fifteen feet, and even at a height of two hundred and seventy feet, it was nine feet in diameter.  It is within the hollow trunk of this tree that a man on horse-back can ride—­both man and horse being rather small; but the dimensions undoubtedly show that it was considerably larger than the “Pavilion tree,” and that it carried its huge dimensions to a greater altitude; and although this does not prove it to have been much taller, yet it was in all probability more than four hundred feet in height.

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Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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