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The Scrub Pine P


P. contorta, Loud.

The scrub pine is the humble parent of one of the splen did Western lumber pines, whose description comes under its varietal name. Down the coast of Alaska, usually in sphagnum bogs, on sand-dunes, in tide-pools and deep swamps to Cape Mendocino, the indomitable, altogether admirable scrub pine holds its own against cold, salt air and biting arctic blasts. No matter how stunted, gnarly and round-shouldered these trees are, one thing they do, often when only a few inches high: they bear cones, and keep them for years; and each season add more. Up from the sea the scrub pine climbs, ascending the Coast Ranges and western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, changing its habit to a tree twenty to thirty feet tall with thick branches and dark red-brown bark, checked into oblong plates. Gummy exudations of this pitch pine make it peculiarly liable to running fires. Thousands of acres are destroyed every summer, but they seize the land again and soon cover it with the young growth. This happens because the burned trees drop their cones, which open and set free the seeds which have never lost their vitality.

In all the vast region over which this vagrant tree swarms, it furnishes firewood and shelter. The pioneer blesses it, and a great multitude of wild things, both plant and animal, maintain their lives in comfort and security because of its protection.

The lodge-pole pine or tamarack pine is but a variety (Murrayana) of P. contorts, that grows in forests on both slopes of the Rocky Mountains of Montana and Wyoming, at elevations of from seven to eight thousand feet, and stretches away into British Columbia and Alaska, and southward to the San Jacinto Range. Between eight thousand and nine thousand five hundred feet in altitude, along the Sierra Nevada in California, it reaches its great est size and beauty, and forms extensive dense forests.

The young trees have very slender trunks, and often stand crowded together like wheat on the prairie. An average forest specimen is five inches in diameter, when thirty or forty feet in height. No wonder the Indian in Wyo ming and Colorado called it "the lodge-pole pine," for their supple trunks fitted these trees, while yet saplings, to support the lodge he built.

Richer, moister ground nourishes this fortunate off spring of the scrub pine. The two-leaved foliage, usually about two inches long, wears a cheerful yellow-green, while the parent tree is dark and sombre, with leaves an inch in length. The hard, strong, brown wood of con torta contrasts strikingly with that of its variety, which is light yellow or nearly white soft, weak, straight-grained and easily worked. Its abundance in regions where other timber is scarce, brings it into general use for construction work. It also furnishes railroad ties, mine timbers and fuel, with the minimum of labor, since trunks of proper sizes can easily be selected.

The Indians, whose food supply was always precarious, gathered branches and made a soft pulp of the inner bark, scraped out in the growing season. This they baked, after shaping it into huge cakes, in pit ovens built of stones, and heated for hours by burning in them loads of fire-wood. When the embers were burned out, the oven was cleaned and the cakes put in. Later they were smoked with a damp fire of moss, which preserved them indefinitely. "Hard bread" of this type provisioned the Indian's canoe on long trips. Inedible until boiled, it was a staple winter food at home and on long expeditions, among various tribes of the Northwest.

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