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

Timber wood of locust tree

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As a timber tree of the very first class, the locust has but few rivals. It is found to be stronger and more durable than the best oak or Red cedar; while it is lighter and equally durable with the Live oak of the south. Its excellency for ship-building is therefore unsurpassed; and as much of the timber as can be procured of sufficient size, commands a high price for that purpose. Great use is also made of it in tree-nails (the wooden pins which fasten the side planks to the ship's frame), and it is now extensively substituted for the iron ones formerly used for that purpose; a considerable quantity of the wood is now even exported to England for this purpose. For posts it is more durable than the Red cedar, and is therefore in high estimation for fencing. In France, where the tree was introduced by Jean Robin, herbalist to Henry IV. (whence the name Robinia), it is much cultivated for the poles used in supporting the grapes in vineyards. It has the remarkable property, says Michaux, of beginning from the third year to convert its sap into perfect wood; which is not done by the elm, oak, beech, or chestnut, until after the tenth or fifteenth year. Hence excellent and durable timber can be obtained from this tree in a shorter period than from any other.* (* Cobbett, who, en passant, though a most remarkable man, was as great a quack in gardening as the famous pill-dealers now are in medicine, carried over from this country when he returned to England, a great quantity of seeds of the locust, which he reared and sold in immense quantities. In his "Woodlands," which appeared about that time, he praised its value and utility in the most exaggerated terms, affirming "that no man in America will pretend to say he ever saw a bit of it in a decayed state;" and that "its wood is absolutely indestructible by the powers of earth, air, and water." "The time will come," he continues, "and it will not be very distant, when the locust tree will be more common in England than the oak; when a man would be thought mad if he used anything but locust in the construction of sills, posts, gates, joists, feet for rick stands, stocks and axletrees for wheels, hop-poles, pales, or for anything where there is liability to rot. This time will not be distant, seeing that the locust tree grows so fast. The next race of children but one, that is to say, those who will be born 60 years hence, will think the locust trees have always been the most numerous trees in England; and some curious writer of a century or two hence, will tell his readers, that wonderful as it may seem, 'the locust was hardly known in England until about the year 1823, when the nation was introduced to a knowledge of it by William Cobbett.' What he will say of me besides, I do not know; but I know he will say this of me. I enter this upon account, therefore, knowing that I am writing for centuries to come." ! ! For a fuller account of his locust phrensy, we refer our readers to the very complete article on Robinia, in that magnificent work, the "Arboretum Britannicum.")