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flowers, its pendent racemes of black fruit, and its yellowish, satiny wood. To western Asia also belongs the laurel cherry, (Cerasus laurocerasus,) a beautiful evergreen tree, known at once, from all other species of the genus, by its large, smooth, yellowish-green, shining leaves, and its pale-green petioles, and young shoots. It is less hardy than the Portugal laurel cherry, (Cerasus lusitanica,) a large, evergreen tree, growing to a height of sixty or seventy feet, the branches of which, in England, are frequently killed back by the frost, and in Germany is almost everywhere treated as a green-house plant. Among the North American species worthy of culture, are the black cherry-tree, (Cerasus nigra,) a tall shrub, indigenous to Canada and the Alleghany Mountains, distinguished' for its pleasing flowers, with purplish anthers, which, like those of the plum, appear before the leaves; the Cerasus mollis, a tree from twelve to twenty feet in height, a native of the subalpine hills, near the source of the river Columbia, as well as near its mouth; and the Cerasus emarginata, known by its white flowers, globose, astringent fruit, and red wood, with white spots, found wild along the same river. To these we will add the Cerasus borealis, Cerasus virginiana and its varieties, and the Cerasus caroliniana.
Black Cherry-tree, Black Hertfordshire
Black Mazzard Cherry-tree,
LINNEUS, Species Plantarum.
Peasants OF CHESHIRE, (Eng.)
Deritations. According to Mr. Loudon, this cherry is called Corone, (a crow,) in some parts of England, in reference to its blackness. Merisier is said to be derived from the words amère, bitler, and cerise, a cherry; and Merry-tree and Merries, are evidently corruptions from it. Bigarreau is derived from bigarrée, party-coloured, because the cherries known by this name are generally of two colours, yellow and red; and Heaumier is from the French word heaume, a helmet, from the shape of the fruit.
Engravings. Selby, British Forest Trees, pp. 58, 61, 63, 64; Loudon, Arboretum Britannicum, vi., pl. 113; and the figures below. Specific Characters. Branches vigorous and divaricate ; the buds from which the fruits are produced, oblong-acute. Flowers in umbel-like groups, sessile, not numerous. Leaves oval-lanceolate, pointed, serrated, somewhat pendent, slightly pubescent on the under side, and furnished with two glands at the base.—De Candolle, Prodromus.
HE Cerasus sylves-
situations, often ac
o quires a height of sixty or seventy feet, in fifty or sixty years, with a trunk of proportionate size, and sufficiently large for the general purposes of construction. In the
of its growth to maturity, the form of its head is pyramidal, the branches springing from the main stem, at regular intervals, or at the commencement of the annual shoot; and as its spray is stiff, strong, and open in its character, it firmly resists the fury of the winds. Its foliage, though handsome and pleasing to the eye, is considered too uniform and unbroken to produce picturesque effect; yet "in autumn, when it assumes a deep purplish-red colour, it gives great richness to the landscape, and contrasts well," as Selby expresses it, "with the yellows and browns which predominate at that season." Its flowers, which are produced in profusion in April or May, from their snowy whiteness, blend well with those of the almond and the scarlet thorn. The fruit, well known in Britain by the name of gean, is usually of a very deep, dark-red, or black, when ripe, but sometimes it is of a bright-red; its pulp and juice is small in quantity, usually of the colour of the fruit, austere and bitter before it comes to maturity, and insipid or sweet, with a peculiar flavour, when perfectly ripe. The nut or stone is oval or ovate in its form, firmly adhering to the flesh, and is very large in proportion to the size of the fruit, which ripens in June or July.
Varieties. Únder this species are included the following groups or races, which conform with the arrangement in the "Nouveau Du Hamel," and in Loudon's "Arboretum Britannicum:"
1. C. s. Amara. Bitter-fruited Wild Cherry-tree, including the Merries of England, and the Mérisiers of the French, with black or yellow fruit.
2. C. S. JULIANA. The Julian Wild Cherry-tree. The fruit of this group is red or black, early or late. It includes the tobacco-leaved guignier, or gean, of four to the pound.
3. C. S. HEAUMIANA. Helmet-shaped-fruited Wild Cherry-tree ; Heaumier of the French. The fruit of this variety somewhat resembles that of the bigarreautier, but is less firm in its flesh.
4. C. S. DURACINA. Hard-fruited Wild Cherry-tree; Bigarreautier of the French, with fruit white, flesh-coloured, or black, and generally heart-shaped. The trees of this race are planted for ornament rather than for their fruit, among which, is that beautiful double-flowered variety, known in France by the name of Mérisier à Fleurs doubles, or Mérisier renunculier, and in England and America, Double french White.
Geography and History. The Cerasus sylvestris is indigenous to many parts of continental Europe, and is also considered by many to be so in Britain. The first mention of this tree as growing in England, it appears, is by Gerard, in his “ Herbal,” published in 1597, in which he particularly mentions the black wild cherry, with fruit of "an harsh and unpleasant taste.” M. Loiseleur des Longchamps, in the “ Nouveau Du Hamel,” states that, “though the wild cherry is undoubtedly indigenous to France, yet it does not appear to have been so to Italy; and that even in France, only the Cerasus sylvestris, or mérisier, is found in the forests; while the Cerasus vulgaris, or cerisier, is never found in an apparently wild state in any country in Europe, except near human habitations." From this he concludes that, although the mérisier had long existed in France, it probably had escaped the notice of the Romans, and even if they had discovered the tree, they would have set but little value on its bitter, austere, and nearly juiceless fruit. This species grows wild at Portella, on Mount Ætna, at two thousand nine hundred and seventy feet above the level of the sea; but not lower, as the climate becomes too warm for it. On the Swiss Alps, at Chürwalden, where, it is said, no other kind of stone-fruit will grow, it arrives at maturity, at an elevation of three thousand nine hundred and sixty-four feet.
The largest specimen of the Cerasus sylvestris on record, is in Gloucestershire, England, standing on the northern extremity of the Cotswald Hills, on the estate of the Earl of Harrowby, which is eighty-five feet in height, with a trunk upwards of three feet in diameter.
Soil and Situation. According to Mr. Loudon, the gean will grow in any soil that is not too wet, or is not composed entirely of a strong clay. It will thrive better than most other trees in dry, calcareous, and sandy soils, attaining, even in chalk, with a thin layer of earth over it, a very large size. It was found by Du Hamel, that this species succeeds on poor sandy soils, where other trees had altogether failed. It has been further stated that, whenever the roots extend to water, the tree always decays. This tree will grow on mountains and other elevations, as may readily be supposed, from its flourishing in high northern latitudes; “ but it does not attain a timber-like size," continues Mr. Loudon, “except in plains, or on low hills. It stands less in need of shelter than any other fruit-bearing tree whatever, and may often be employed on the margins of orchards, and for surrounding kitchen-gardens, to form a screen against high winds." It is also said to thrive best when unmixed with other trees; and suffers the grass to grow beneath its shade.
Propagation and Culture. The Cerasus sylvestris, whether grown for stocks for grafting upon, or for planting out with a view to produce timber, is almost always propagated from seeds; but, as the roots throw up an abundance of suckers, stools might be formed, and treated like those of the plum; or, cuttings of the roots might be employed for the same purpose. When plants are to be raised from seeds, Mr. Loudon recommends that the cherries should be gathered when ripe, and either be sown immediately, with the flesh on, incurring the risk of their being eaten by birds or vermin, especially mice, during the autumn and winter; or, what is preferable, they may be mixed with four times their bulk of sand, and kept in a shed or cellar, being turned over frequently, till the time arrives for sowing. As soon as the ground is sufficiently open, in the winter or spring, they may be sown in beds, and covered to the depth of one-half to threefourths of an inch, with light mould. Great care must be observed that the seeds do not sprout while in the heap; because, unlike the horse-chesnut, the acorn, and the seeds of some other fruits, the cherry expands its cotyledons at the same time that it protrudes its radicle; and when both are developed before sowing, the probability is, that the germinated seeds will not live; for the cotyledons, in sowing, are unavoidably covered with soil, whereas nature intended them to be exposed to the light. The strongest plants, at the end of the first season, will be eighteen inches or more in height, and may be drawn out from among the others, and transplanted into nursery lines; and, after they have stood there a year, they may be grafted or budded. *
The cherry-tree, whether in a young or old state, requires but a very little pruning, and the knife should only be used for the removal of a second leading shoot, or an over-rampant branch. Whenever this becomes necessary, let it be performed in the month of August or September, or at least, at a period when the leaves are fully expanded, "a rule which holds good,” says Mr. Selby, in his treatise on British Forest Trees,' "and ought to be observed in regard to all deciduous trees;" for, it has been found by experience that, when pruned in the summer season, they are not liable to bleed or exude their gum, and as the sap begins to elaborate, new wood is formed at the edges of the wounded parts, and by the time of the fall of the leaf, the injuries will be so far recovered as to be out of danger of decay, from the lodgment of wet, or the influences of the weather.
According to some experiments made by Mr. Selby, no tree bears transplanting when of considerable size, better than the gean. He removed with success plants from twenty to thirty feet in height, some of which had originated from suckers, and others from seeds. As in the case of all trees that he had removed, of a large size, they suffered a check by the operation, but from this they generally recovered in the course of two, or at most, three seasons.
Accidents, Diseases, fc. The foliage of the gean is seldom attacked by insects or their larvæ, though it is sometimes disfigured by the caterpillars of several species of Geometridæ; and the extremities of the young shoots are often preyed upon by a large, black louse (Aphis cerasi); but the fruit-bearing varieties of the cherry, like most other cultivated trees, seem more subject to injury from insects, than those in a wild state.
Properties and Uses. The wood of the wild cherry-tree is of a reddish colour, of a firm, strong texture, and close-grain, yet sufficiently soft to be easily worked, and is susceptible of a fine polish. When green, it is nearly of the same specific gravity of water, and when dry, a cubic foot weighs about fifty-five pounds, and in seasoning, it loses about one-sixteenth part of its bulk. In France, where mahogany is comparatively scarce, it is much sought after by cabinetmakers, turners, and the manufacturers of musical instruments. In order to heighten its colour and increase the depth of its tone, it is steeped from twentyfour to thirty-six hours in lime-water, and after being taken out, is immediately polished. This process, they say, prevents the colour from fading, when exposed to the action of the light; and the wood, when thus treated, is said strongly to resemble the more inferior kinds of mahogany. Its value, however, according to the experience of Mr. Selby, is not restricted to the uses made of it by those artisans, but it is equally applicable to the general purposes of carpentry; and where exposure to the atmosphere or the alternation of moisture and dryness is required, it is superior to most other timber, and is scarcely inferior to the best oak, or its rival, the larch.* In France, wine-casks are made of this wood, and the wine kept in them is said to be of an improved flavour. Where the tree is treated as a coppice, its shoots, from their power of resisting decay, make excellent hop-poles, vine-props, and hoops for casks, and when sufficiently large, they may be employed for posts and rails, for constructing rural fences. Like many other trees, it burns well when first cut, but if it be kept for two or three years, and is then employed for fuel, it will consume away like tinder, without producing either flame or heat.
* See Loudon's Arboretum Britannicum, ii., p. 700
As a tree, the gean is not only valuable for its timber, but for the food and protection which it affords to numerous species of birds. This is one reason why the cultivation of this tree is so generally encouraged in the forests of Britain, Belgium, and France; as it not only increases the number of birds by supplying them with nourishment, but is the means of destroying countless insects, which these important and useful creatures devour. In all ornamental plantations, hedge-rows, and avenues, cherry-trees are desirable objects of culture, on this account, as well as for the great beauty of their flowers and fruit, which are produced in the greatest profusion in their respective seasons of the year.
In France, too, this tree is highly prized for the food it supplies to the poor; and a law was passed, as long ago as 1669, commanding the preservation of all cherry-trees in the royal forests, in consequence of which, they became so numerous, that there was no longer room for the underwood to grow; when, as usual, going to the other extreme, most of them were cut down. This measure, it was remarked, was a great calamity to the poor, who, during several months of the year, lived, either directly or indirectly, on the produce of the mérisier. Soup, made of the dried fruit, with a little bread and butter, was the common nourishment of the wood-cutters and charcoal-burners of the forest, during the winter. This fruit is much used at present, to make jelly or rob, and in the manufacture of liqueurs, such as cherry brandy, ratafia, &c. Kirschwasser, an ardent spirit much used in Germany and Switzerland, is also made of it; and the famous liqueur Maraschino is the product of a small acid cherry that abounds in the north of Italy, at Trieste, and in Dalmatia.
* See Selby's British Forest Trees, p. 60.