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as green as ever, having survived the long winter without the loss of one slender branchlet or one drooping cone. The cones are small, not more than two inches in length, and of a purple colour.
Very beautiful, too, is the Douglas Spruce, which, like the sugar-pine, attains a height of 200 feet, and a circumference of from twenty to twenty-five feet. There are some beautiful specimens of this spruce in the Yo Semité Valley, and they looked their best in the early summer, when each spray was edged with a fringe of lovely fresh yellow-green needles, seeming as if the sunlight were flickering among its branches.
A rival beauty is the Incense Cedar, with its rich brown bark, and warm golden-green foliage. The young trees are feathered to the ground, their lower branches drooping, those nearer the summit pointing heavenward—the whole forming a perfectly tapering cone of richest green. The older trees throw out great angular arms, from which the golden lichens hang in long weird festoons and streamers like rays of tangible sunlight. Such beautiful lichen-of the most brilliant chrome and lemon-green colour-I know nothing like it in any other country.
Two of the loveliest trees of the Sierra are those silver firs which botanists distinguish as the " lovely” and the "grand"; 3 but which to the Californians are simply Red-fir and White-fir, from the general colouring of their stem. Both species grow to a height of about 200 feet in tall beautifully tapering spires. Some even overtop their fellows by an additional forty or fifty feet, and the stems attain to a circumference of from fifteen to twenty feet. The white-fir bears greyish cones, about four inches in length, which it carries upright, whereas those of the red-fir are purplish and about six inches in length, and they adorn the upper and under side of the boughs with equal impartiality.
The average lifetime of these noble trees is estimated at from two hundred to two hundred and fifty years. Wherever they find a desirable situation and suitable soil on ancient moraines, there they flourish, forming lovely groups, even at a height of 7,000 or 8,000 feet above the sea. These, however, are but, as it were, children among the trees of the Sierras, some of which, such as the Mountain Pine, 4 weather a thousand years, and attain their greatest perfection at an elevation of 10,000 feet.
Another hardy tree, which keeps watch and ward with these mountain sentinels on all the bleakest exposures, is the Red Cedar,5 | Abies Douglasii. 2 Libocedrus decurrens. 3 Picea amabilis and Picea grandis.
4 Pinus monticola. Juniperus occidentalis.
whose twisted, irregular boughs, bent and sometimes broken by the weight of snow and the fury of the winds, tell their story, as the rugged lines on an old weather-beaten face tell of the storms of life which have engraven them. These old-world trees are wonderfully picturesque. Many of them are merely huge shattered stumps, battered warriors, which have lost limb by limb, in many a hard-fought battle with wind and storm.
These gnarled old trees are to me the source of ceaseless wonder: they adorn the barest, coldest domes and slopes of hard granite inhospitable ground, where it seems impossible that any vegetable or animal life should exist; yet here they have established themselves so firmly that not all the wild wintry tempests which for centuries have swept the Sierras have been able to dislodge them. They are the sturdiest and most enduring of trees, and their rich cool green foliage (rendered doubly valuable by its contrast with the rich cinnamon colour and deep red-browns of the stem and boughs and rugged bark) forms the only point of positive colour in the bleak cold granite world, where they, alone, represent the vegetable world, and where the merry little chip-munks, most saucy of the squirrel tribe, prove that animal life can maintain itself even in that hungry region, though what they can find to eat passes my comprehension, for these patriarchal trees do not waste their energies in the production of many cones.
Some pines bear cones which form an important item in the food of the wandering Indian tribes, but these grow far away. The Fremontiana is found chiefly on the eastern foot ranges of the Sierras, in the districts where the Carson River and Mono-Lake Indians still dwell, and bears fruit abundantly, at an altitude of 8,000 feet. It is a stumpy little pine, rarely exceeding twenty feet in height, or forming a stem more than one foot in diameter. Its crooked irregular branches bear a very large crop of small cones, about two inches long, each containing several edible kernels about the size of a large nut, and pleasant to the taste. They are exceedingly nutritious, and are so abundant in certain districts that a diligent picker can gather about forty bushels in a season. Consequently it is a really valuable tree, and the Indians justly regard it as the food provided by the Great Father for their special use, and many a story of bloody revenge taken by the Red men against the aggressive Whites has been traced to the wanton destruction of these food-producing trees by the lumberers and settlers. This Nut Pine keeps its succulent kernels so securely imbedded in their hard outer
' Pinus Sabiniana and Pinus Fremontiana.
case that it requires the action of fire to force open the scales, within which they lie embedded.
The other pine which furnishes an edible nut is the Sabiniana or Digger Pine. It requires much greater heat than the Fremontiana, and consequently grows on the hot foot-hills at an altitude of from 500 to 4,000 feet. At first sight you scarcely recognise it as being a pine tree, so different is its growth from the ordinary stiffness of the family. Instead of all branches diverging from one straight main stem, perhaps 200 feet high, this little pine only attains a height of about fifty feet (which, however, is more than double the stature of its nutbearing brother). It shoots upwards for about twelve or fifteen feet, and then divides into half a dozen branches, which grow in a loose irregular manner, generally, but not invariably, with an upward tendency. Thence droop the secondary boughs with pendent tassels of very long greyish-needles. They are often a foot in length, and form the lightest, airiest of foliage, casting little or no shade. From each bundle of needles hangs a cluster of beautiful cones which in autumn are of a rich chocolate colour. They grow to a length of about eight inches, and are thick in proportion. Both squirrels and bears climb the highest branches in search of these, well knowing what dainty morsels lie hidden within the armour-plated exterior of strong hooked scales. By diligent nibbling, even the little squirrels manage to extract the nuts, but the Indians simplify this labour by the use of fire. They climb the trees and beat off the cones, or (more reckless than the bears) cut off the boughs with their hatchets; then, collecting the cones, they roast them in the wood-ashes, till the protecting scales burst open, when they can pick out the nuts and crack their hard inner shells, at their leisure, as they lie round their camp-fires at night, or bask idly in the sunlight through the long summer day. It is dirty work, as you can imagine ; but a little more or less misplaced matter, such as charcoal and resin, matters little in a filthy Indian camp.
To me the most uninteresting tree of the Sierras is the Tamarack Pine,' sometimes called the Two-leaved Pine, from the peculiar growth of its needles, which are set in long tassels, bearing clusters of small cones, which in the spring-time are of a rich crimson hue, an ornamental feather, which, however, does not compensate for the sparseness of the foliage. It is a small pine, compared with its neighbours-full-grown trees averaging fifty feet in height and seven in circumference. Each tree is a slim tapering spire, and a large grove affords little or no variety of form; only, where the trees grow
| Pinus contorta.!
closer together in sheltered hollows, they assume an exceedingly slender character. The tamarack overspreads large districts in the higher ranges, flourishing at a height of 9,000 feet. Its presence appears to be favourable to the growth of succulent grasses, and the tamarack groves are dear to the shepherd, who therein finds sweetest pastures for his flocks.
They have the disadvantage, however, of being exceedingly liable to be swept by forest fires, owing to the large quantity of resin which drips all over the bark, so that when, in seasons of drought, a chance spark falls among the sundried cones and needles, and so runs along the ground to the foot of one of these resin-sprinkled trees, it straightway ignites, and, in a moment, the column of flame rushes up, only pausing, however, to consume the sap. For a few short seconds, the beautiful pyramid of rose-tinted flame envelopes the tree; then fades away, and passes on to enfold another and yet another in its deadly embrace. For though the fire runs on so swiftly that the trees are scarcely charred, and not a twig burnt, they die all the same, and, after a while, their bark peels off, and the poor naked bleached trees remain standing intact-a weird forest. In course of years the boughs drop off, and wind and storm gradually complete the work of destruction.
More provident with regard to fires is the little Hickory Pine,' so called by the miners on account of the hardness and white colour of its wood. It is only found in certain localities, on the lower hills, at an elevation of less than 3,000 feet. It is a graceful little tree, rarely exceeding forty feet in height and one foot in diameter. Its branches are curved and slender, and its grey needles grow so sparsely as to cast little shadow. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that its hard glossy cones, or burs, as they are called, grow in circles right up the main trunk and along the principal branches, instead of clustering on the lesser boughs.
Stranger still is the fact that these cones never drop off till the tree dies, but adhere to the parent stem, accumulating an everincreasing store of ripe seed. Consequently no young trees are ever found near a flourishing grove; all the trees in one colony appear to be of the same age, which is attributed to the fact that, growing as they do on dry hill sides, clothed with inflammable scrub, and very liable to be swept by fire, the groves are periodically burnt, and, with them, all the cones borne by the trees throughout the whole course of their existence. Multitudes of these are merely charred, and the action of heat only bursts the hard scales, and leaves the seed free to sprout so soon as the ground cools and the rains moisten the soil. Thus, phoenix-like, a new forest springs into being, so soon as the parent trees have been consumed.
1 Pinus tuberculata,
Though all alike children of the Sierras, the last half-dozen trees I have mentioned are not included (at any rate, hold no prominent place) in the beautiful forest of Calaveras, of which we were speaking, and which is to me an abiding memory of delight.
But there is no use in attempting to paint such a place in words, All the thousand details that go to make it a scene of enchantment are indescribable. Each must imagine for himself the drowsy hum of bees and other insects—the flash of brilliant colour as a blue jay darts across the sunlight—the busy tapping of the scarlet-headed woodpecker-an occasional glimpse of a humming-bird, hovering for a few seconds, then vanishing as if by magic—a flight of butterflies, or a solitary heavy-winged moth-and, above all, the aromatic fragrance of pine and cypress and cedar, all mingling in the balmy health-giving breeze. These, and countless other delights, are all combined in the daily and hourly life of the happy few who find the will and the leisure to abide for a season in the beautiful forests of the Californian Alps.
C. F. GORDON CUMMING.