Page 4, 21st April 1944

21st April 1944
Page 4
Page 4, 21st April 1944 — Earth and Ourselves Larches in Flower
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Earth and Ourselves Larches in Flower

THE larches are now in full

Hower. The long curtseying boughs, until so recently bare of everything but their rather mournful looking pendants of brown cones, have suddenly veiled themselves in green and stabbed that green with crimson.

I don't know which are the more exciting to come across— the waxy red fruits of the Yew or the little crimson tufts of the larclt They are both of them like children's toys and both have the penver of evoking, year after year, in autumn and in spring, the sonic kind of delighted surprise. Is there any small girl who is really dolls-house-conscious who would not be enchanted with such decoration for her tables or such fruit for its dishes?

People in England must have felt something of this sort when the larch was first introduced into this country, for instead di plant. Mg it for use as we do nowadays, they treated it as something rare and curious and grew it in pots in their greenhouses; then somebody about the middle of the eighteenth century had' the good Idea of planting it out as a forest tree, its rapid growth making it useful from a very early age.

Twood of the larch, " very profitable for workes of long continuance," is used for many different purposes. for palings and hop poles and for various ship-building uses (Hiawatha, we know. " tore the tough roots of the larch tree" when he wanted to build his canoe I), and because its resinous .qualities preserve it from rot larchwood has been fairly extensively used for painting, and a number of Italian master pieces were painted on panels of larch.

In the warmer countries that are the natural homes of these trees the hot sun draws from the leaves a kind of manna that has a sweetish taste, but in the colder Siberian regions where larches have been planted in large numbers and where they are frequently the victims of forest fires, the scorched trees exude a kind of reddish gum similar to gum mythic and useful not only in medicine but as a food.

" It is not true," says Gerard in his Herbal!, " that the wood of the Larch free cannot be set on fire, as Vitruvius reporteth of the Castle made of Larch wood which Caesar besieged, for it burneth in chlmneles and is turned into coles which are very profitable for &finites." To this I would add that not only does larch wood " burn in chimneles" but if not kept under strict control it will shoot out sparks that are liable to burn in a great many other places as well — and to this I can testify from my own regrettable experknee !

Julian




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