Willow. 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 V. Birch, Alder, Maple, Lime, Horsechesnut, Poplar, Willow / Birch and Alder (Betula)
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Of the willow, called Salix, from the Latin word which signifies "to spring up," and so denominated on account of the great rapidity of its growth, there are many species,—of which not fewer than one hundred and forty-one have been enumerated by Sir James Smith. Some of these, however, very much resemble each other, so that the species of willows are not so well defined as those of some other trees. Of this great number, it will be necessary to mention
only four—two, which are chiefly used in the manufacture of baskets, one which is'a timber tree, and another which is used principally as an ornament.
The basket-making willows—at least, those most generally and frequently used for that purpose (for baskets may be made of the twigs of many others)--are the Osier (Salix viminalis); and the Yellow Willow (Salix vitellina) ; the timber-tree is the White Willow (Salix alba); and the - ornamental one, the Weeping Willow (Salix Babylonica).
The osier is a native of most parts of Europe, and grows spontaneously in fenny places. When allowed, it becomes a small tree, but it is generally cut down for basket-work. The osier grows very rapidly; and is used only for the coarser basket-work, unless when split into pieces. On the banks of large rivers, osier beds may be planted with great advantage; and the osier will also thrive in dry situations if the soil be good. Cuttings of osiers take root very readily, and
it is not of much consequence which end of them be put into the ground. They are of great use in giving consistency to banks and embankments, which are in danger of being washed away. There are many osier-beds in the Thames, which are generally cut about once in three years, and are very profitable to their proprietors.
The shoots of the yellow Willow are much more slender than those of the osier : they are vety tough ; and on that account they are well adapted for the finer kinds of basket-work.
In common language, osier is used for almost any willow-tree, while of that which botanists call the osier there are many varieties.
The white aiborescent willow grows to a large size, by the sides of rivers - and when the wind agitates its twigs, and turns up the silvery sides of its leaves, it has a fine appearence. It is it native of most parts of Europe.
The weeping willow is a native bf fie Levant; but
it thrives very well in England, if the situation be not too cold for it, and if it be near water. It runs to a considerable height, and no tree can be more graceful on the margin of a lake or stream. The twigs, which hang down so beautifidly, are tough, as well as long and slender ; and there can be no doubt that they would answer well for basket-making ; but this tree is chiefly introduced on account of the beauty of its appearance. It has been said, that the first willow was planted in England by the celebrated Alexander Pope. According to the account of this circumstance, the poet having received a present of figs from Turkey, observed a twig of the basket in which they were packed putting out a shoot. He planted this twig in his garden, and it soon became a fine tree ; from which stock all the weeping-willows in England have sprung. This tree, so remarkable on every account, was cut down a few years ago.
The willow has not only been noticed, but employed
in basket-work in this country from a very early period, and there is some probability that the Britons taught the art to the Romans—at least, from the mention of a basket brought to Rome by painted Britons, in Martial, we should be led to infer that baskets of British manufacture were esteemed in the capital of the world.
The timber of the willow is applicable to many purposes similar to those in which the poplar is employed, and in toughness it is far superior. The ancient Britons sometimes made their boats of basketwork of willow, and covered them with the skins of animals : they were remarkably light and buoyant. Willow bark may be used in tanning and in dyeing.
The willow is used extensively in the manufacture of charcoal ; and it has been found to be superior to most other woods in producing charcoal for gunpowder. A good deal depends, however, upon the manufacture. In the ordinary modes of making charcoal, by building the wood up in a pyramidal form, covering the pile with clay or earth, and heaving a few air-holes, which ate closed as soon as the mass is well lighted, combustion is imperfectly performed. For charcoal to be used in the manufacture of gunpowder, the wood should be ignited in iron cylinders, so that every portion of vinegar and tar which it produces should be suffered to escape. In India, charcoal is manufactured by a particular caste, who dwell entirely in the woods, and have neither intermarriage nor intercourse with the Hindod inhabitants of the open country. They bring down their loads of charcoal to particular spots, whence it is carried away by the latter people, who deposit rice, clothing, and iron tools, a payment settled by custom. The benevolent Bishop Heber wished to mitigate the condition of these unfortunate people, but he found that he could not break through the Hindoo prejudice against them.
Evelyn, in his Sylva, fears that the progress of our iron manufacture would lead to the destruction of all our timber, in the preparation of charcoal for furnaces. He did not foresee that we should find a substitute, by charring pit-coal into coke. In 1788, there were eighty-six iron furnaces in England, of which twenty-six were heated by charcoal of wood ; in 1826, there were three hundred and five, all served by coke.
Good charcoal is also made from Dog-wood (Cornus sanguinea), which is, however, a tree, or rather a shrub, very different from the willow in its appearance and habits. The Dog-wood is firm and compact ; grows naturally in hedges upon chalky soils, and bears berries that have a purple juice, out of which a red colouring matter of considerable brightness may be extracted. It is very common in Kent and Sussex ; and as there are many powder-mills there, coppices of it are reared for supplying them with charcoal.
Another shrub which is applied to the same uses as the willow, namely, making baskets and hoops, but chiefly the latter, is the Hazel (Corylus avellana). Of
that there are several varieties, the principal of which are the common hazel and the filbert. The first is a native of every part of Britain, the shells of the nuts being found in the bogs even in the coldest parts. The filbert, again, is supposed to be a native of Asia—to have been imported first into Italy, and thence to the rest of Europe. The filbert grows more upright, is more tree-like, and bears larger and better flavoured nuts than the hazel ; but the wood of the hazel is the tougher, and the better adapted for hoops, though both make. excellent charcoal. There is an American , species ; and there is also one growing in the vicinity of Constantinople, which bears a nut nearly double the size of the filbert. More than a hundred thousand bushels of foreign nuts are annually consumed in this country.