The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section IV. Deciduous Ornamental Trees

Plane trees in the United States of America

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In the United States, the plane is not generally found growing in great quantities in any one place, but is more or less scattered over the whole country. In deep, moist, alluvial soils, it attains a size scarcely, if at all, inferior to that of the huge trees of the eastern continent; forming at least, in the body of its trunk, a larger circumference than any other of our native trees. The younger Michaux (Sylva, 1, 325) measured a tree near Marietta, Ohio, which at four feet from the ground was found to be forty-seven feet in circumference; and a specimen has lately been cut on the banks of the Genesee river, of such enormous size, that a section of the trunk was hollowed out and furnished as a small room, capable of containing fourteen persons.* On the margins of the great western rivers it sometimes rises up seventy feet, and then expands into a fine, lofty head, surpassing in grandeur all its neighbors of the forest. The large branches of the plane shoot out in a horizontal direction; the trunk generally ascending in a regular, stately, and uninterrupted manner. The blossoms are small greenish balls appearing in spring, and the fertile ones grow to an inch in diameter, assuming a deep brownish color, and hang upon the tree during the whole winter. A striking and peculiar characteristic of the plane, is its property of throwing off or shedding continually the other coating of bark here and there in patches. Professor Lindley (Introduction to the Natural System, 2d ed. 187) says this is owing to its deficiency in the expansive power of the fibre common to the bark of other trees, or, in other words, to the rigidity of its tissue: being therefore incapable of stretching with the growth of the tree, it bursts open on different parts of the trunk, and is cast off. This gives the trunk quite a lively and picturesque look, extending more or less even to the extremity of the branches; and makes this tree quite conspicuous in winter. Bryant, in his address to Green River, says: "Clear are the depths where its eddies play, And dimples deepen and whirl away, And the plane tree's speckled arms o'ershoot The swifter current that mines its root." (* A buttonwood on the Montezuma estate, Jefferson, Cayuga Co., N. Y., is forty-seven and a half feet in circumference; and the diameter of the hollow two feet from the ground, is fifteen feet. (N. Y. Med. Repository, IV. 427.))