National Geographic : 1955 Nov
Wealth and Wonder of Northern State Trees Pines, Oaks, and Maples-Species That Housed American Colonists Are Favored Arboreal Symbols of the Cooler Tier of States BY WILLIAM A. DAYTON 651 United States Forest Service With Paintings by National Geographic Artist Walter A. Weber AST spring the little town of Brier Hill, in northern New York, witnessed a forceful affirmation of man's age-old comradeship with trees. Twenty aroused citizens, backed by the au thority of a World War I machine gun (not loaded), gathered to defend an old elm tree. The State's Department of Public Works had ordered the blight-stricken landmark cut down as a hazard. The cordon of vigilant townspeople held off the State's axmen while a tree surgeon exam ined the elm and reported that it might be saved. Removal of the tree was postponed and the minutemen of Brier Hill disbanded. As it turned out, the diseased tree had to be felled. But the incident dramatized the long-standing bond between man and trees of which George Pope Morris wrote: Woodman, spare that tree! Touch not a single bough! In youth it sheltered me, And I'll protect it now. State Trees, a Tribute of Affection Since New York set the fashion in 1889, 42 of the 48 States have chosen popular and typical trees as their arboreal emblems. In this issue the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE presents the State trees of the northern United States, from Maine and Dela ware to Washington and Oregon. Paintings by staff artist Walter A. Weber portray the 17 trees picked by 22 States. One species, sugar maple, is the choice of four States. Four picked pines, and three named the stately American elm as their favorite. All 17 trees are deeply rooted in the his tory, tradition, and economies of their States, as well as in their soil. State legislatures have officially blessed many of the selections; in some instances, trees were picked by forestry groups, garden and women's clubs, or students. In 1907, for instance, 43,586 Illinois school children cast ballots expressing a decisive preference for the stalwart bur oak (page 676). Several States have supported their choices with the reasons that prompted recognition. A fair example is Pennsylvania's Act No. 233: Whereas, the hemlock ... is still today, as it was of old, the tree most typical of the forests of Pennsylvania; and Whereas, the hemlock yielded to our pio neers the wood from which they wrought their cabin homes; and Whereas, the hemlock gave its bark to found a mighty industry; and Whereas, the hemlock everywhere lends kindly shelter and sure haven to the wild things of forests; and Whereas, the lighted hemlock at Christmas time dazzles the bright eyes of the child with an unguessed hope, and bears to the aged, in its leaves of evergreen, a sign and symbol of faith in immortality; now therefore, Section 1. Be it enacted, &c., That the hemlock tree (Tsuga canadensis Linnaeus) be adopted as the State tree of Pennsylvania. Major timber trees, a liberal endowment of our land, are almost all represented on the list of State trees. In the northern tier of States we find, in addition to Pennsylvania's hemlock, the eastern and western white pines of Maine and Idaho, Oregon's Douglas fir, Montana's ponderosa pine, the red pine of Minnesota, and Washington's western hem lock. The list includes a variety of valuable Editor's Note This article is the first of two presenting, in text and paintings, the State trees of the United States. The second article, describing southern State trees, will appear in a forthcoming issue of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE. The trees of Connecticut and Indiana (white oak and tulip tree, respectively) will be portrayed in the article on southern State trees, since they are symbols of States in that group also. The State tree features will enlarge THE MAGAZINE'S survey of the plant kingdom, important aspects of which have been presented in the articles: "American Wild Flower Odyssey," May, 1953; "How Fruit Came to America," September, 1951; "Our Vegetable Trav elers," August, 1949; and "The World in Your Gar den," July, 1947. William A. Dayton is outstandingly qualified to write about trees. He served for years as Chief of the Division of Dendrology and Range Forage In vestigations of the U. S. Forest Service and its prin cipal taxonomist. Walter A. Weber is renowned for his paintings of wildlife, which have enriched the pages of THE MAGAZINE for 16 years.