Walnut. Kappale teoksesta: A Description And History of Vegetable Substances, used in The Arts, and in Domestic Economy. (1830)
The Library of Entertaining Knowledge.
A Description And History of Vegetable Substances, used in The Arts, and in Domestic Economy.
Timber Trees: Fruits.
Illustrated with wood engravings.
London: Charles Knight, Pall Mall East.
Longlamn, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green, Paternoster-Row; Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh; Robertson & Atkinson, Glasgow; Wakeman, Dublin; Willmer, Liverpool; Baines & Co., Leeds; And G. & C. Carvill, New York.
London: Printed by William Clowes. Samford-street.
Vegetable Substances, Part I. Timber Trees. Chapter VI. Walnut, Mulberry, Mahogany.
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BEFORE the introduction of mahogany, the walnut was "the cabinet-maker's tree" in England, and it was well adapted for the purpose,—being tough and strong in proportion to its weight, beautifully variegated, admitting of a fine polish, durable, and obtained in sizes sufficiently large. In many parts of the Continent, where the expense of the carriage of mahogany is great, the walnut is still extensively used in the manufacture of furniture ; and, perhaps, there is no native tree which bears the climate of England well, that is better adapted for the purpose. Oak, though abundantly durable, cannot be finely polished without great expense, and it is heavier in proportion to its strength.
Of the Walnut-tree, (called by the Romans Juglans, or the nut of Jove,) there are very many species enumerated, which have been divided by modern botanists into three genera. Of these species it is necessary to mention only two as timber trees,. the Common Walnut-tree (Juglans regia), and the White Walnut, or hickery-tree (Juglans alba). The first of these is a native of the warmer parts of Europe, or perhaps of Asia; and the last is a native of America.
The common walnut is a very handsome and a very useful tree. It is true that the fruit does not come to maturity in the northern parts of this island ; and that in the southern, nay in countries much farther south, it is apt to be injured by the frosts of
spring. In many parts of this country it thrives well as a tree and wherever it thrives it is valuable.
As is the ease with all trees and plants that have been long known; esteemed, and cultivated by man; the original country of the walnut is not recorded: Some are of opinion that it is the " Persian nut" mentioned by Theophrastus ; and that; therefore; Persia is the country from which it Was first introduced into Europe. It is found indigenous in the more northern parts of that country, toward the mountains of Caucasus; sometimes, though more rarely in the Russian territory on the north of those mountains ; and in China. In all these situations, it grows, according to the best authorities, in a state of nature, and continues itself without cultivation. In the east of France, the south of German, and Switzerland, it is very abundant, more specially in Germany; in many parts of which, such tie the plaints of the Bergstrasse, which run parallel to the Rhine be-
* The spring of 1827 was particularly destructive to the walnuts of the Bergstrasse; and the neighbouring parts of Germany, where the walnut is extensively cultivated for the oil. Many thousand trees were killed, and nearly all the branches of the rest were destroyed.
tween the Neckar and Mayn, there is hardly any other timber*. In England there are still a good many trees scattered over the country ;' but the number is not so great as it was formerly, the partiality for the woods of the colonies and other foreign countries having diminished the value of this, as well as of most other species of domestic timber used for finer purposes.
There is still, however, one use to which the walnut-tree is applied, in preference to any other timber, and this use demands the qualities of beauty, durability, and strength : walnut-tree is employed for the stocks of all manner of fire-arms. Before it is used, however, it should be well seasoned, or even baked, as when recent it is very apt to shrink, a disadvantage which is completely got rid of by seasoning.
The walnut grows rapidly till it attains a considerable size, which is even valuable as timber. The absolute duration of the tree has not been ascertained with accuracy ; but, probably, the most profitable age for cutting it is the average of hard-wood trees, about fifty or sixty years. The demand for musket and pistol stocks during the late war thinned England of its walnut-trees; and the deficiency should be made up by fresh planting. At that period the timber was so much in demand, that a fine tree has often been sold for several hundred pounds.
Beside the value of its timber, the walnut-tree has many other uses. The ripe nuts are well known as a fruit ; the green ones make an agreeable and wholesome pickle ; and the oil is used for delicate colours in painting, and for smoothing and polishing wood work : sometimes, also, for frying meats, and
for burning in lamps. When the leaves and recent husks, in their green state, are macerated in warm water, the extract, which is bitter and astringent, is used to destroy insects ; and it is a very permanent dye, imparting to wool, hair, or the skin and nails of the living body, a dingy, greenish yellow, which cannot be obliterated without a great deal of labour. On this latter account, it is said to have been used by gypsies, in staining the complexions of stolen children, that they may appear to be their own offspring. The quantity of oil in fresh walnuts is very considerable, being about equal to half the weight of the kernels.
There are several varieties of the common walnut, —as the thick shelled, which afford the best timber ; and the thin shelled, which have most fruit, and yield most oil. These, however, are mere varieties ; for, as is the case with the oak, and many other trees, in which we find a variation in the colour and shape of the leaves, and in the fruit, all the varieties may be obtained by sowing the nuts of the same tree.
In cultivated vegetables, indeed, there is a confusion of varieties which is not met with in animals. The animal mules, whether quadruped,-as between the horse and the ass or the zebra,-or birds, as the cross of the goldfinch and canary-bird,—are alll barren : but the new varieties of plants, though apparently accidental, are generally productive ; and thus, by the seeds alone, varieties maybe produced almost without end. Many trees of more full growth, in which forced cultivation has destroyed the faculty of perfecting, seeds, may be propagated by cuttings or layers.
The form which the branches of the walnut-tree assume is generally beautiful. In May, the warm hue of its foliage makes a pleasing contrast, with other trees ; but it opens its leaves late and drops them early.
The white walnut, or Hickery, is a native of North America, where it grows to be a timber tree of considerable dimensions. The nut is rather smaller than that of the common walnut ; it is lighter in the colour, and not furrowed in the shell. The kernel is edible, and yields an oil similar to that of the walnut.
One part of the wood is more porous than that of the walnut; but the other is more compact: this gives the grain of the wood something the appearance of that of ash ; and where it abounds, it is used for similar purposes,—the small shoots for hoops, and
the grown trees for agricultural instruments. Hickery is very tough and elastic ; and therefore it answers remarkably well for fishing-rods; the shafts and poles of carriages, and other purposes where a slender subsstance of timber has to resist sadden jerks or strains.
In favourable situations, the hickery grows well in England ; the specimens in the arboretum of them Royal Botanical Garden at Kew are of great size for their age, and very handsome trees. The trunk rises to a considerable height, of nearly uniform thickness, as straight as a line, and without any lateral branches; and it is thus very probable that, if the tree were more generally cultivated, it would make one of the most valuable in the country.
There are two other descriptions of foreign trees, which, though they belong not to the same genus with hickery, are applied to purposes- almost similar in the arts and therefore this is the proper place in .which to notice them. They are Lance wood, and the Hassagay wood, of which the natives of Southern Africa make the stems of their spears.
Lance wood (Guatteria virgata) is a native of the island of Jamaica ; and though it does not grow to a very great size, it is perhaps one of the most valuable timber-trees in the island. No timber pos‑
sesses, in a higher degree, the qualities of toughness and elasticity ; and therefore none can be better for the shafts of light carriages, and every other purpose where a small body and weight of timber is required to stand a great strain. The very best ash, the toughest of our native timber, is greatly inferior to lance wood, both in strength and elasticity ; and in consequence of ash being open and varied in the grain, while lance wood is close and uniform, it does not carve so well into ornaments, take so smooth a polish, or admit of being varnished with so little labour.
The Hassagay Tree (Curtisia faginea) is a larger growing tree than the lance wood, being one of the largest timber trees in Africa. Its leaves resemble those of the birch ; the timber is compact, firm, and very stiff. It is not so much used in this country as the former.