THE SUGAR PINE.
P. Lambertiana, Dougl.
The sugar pine (see illustration, page p231) belongs in the class with those tree giants, the sequoias, with which it grows in the mountain forests of Oregon and California. John Muir calls it "the largest, noblest, and most beautiful of all the pine trees in the world." Trees two hundred feet high, with trunk diameter of six to eight feet, are not un common. The maximum given by Sargent is twelve feet across the stump. The head of a sugar pine is rounded and broad, with pendulous branches, tufted with stout, dark green leaves, three to four inches long. The cones are the largest known, reaching eighteen inches in length, rarely longer. The black or dark brown seeds are one to five inches long, including the fiat, blunt wings. Indians, bears, and squirrels gather the abundant harvest of these cones, which are rich in nutriment and pleasant to the taste. Crystals of sugar form white masses like rock candy, but with a taste of maple sugar, wherever a break in the bark of a sugar pine permits the escape of the sweet sap. This gives the tree its name. No other pine has sap with such a noticeable sugar content.
Fortunately, these gigantic soft pines belong to the high Sierras and do not go down to the sea, where lumber men could sacrifice them without effort. Nature has fenced them in by many barriers, and the government, by reservation in national parks, insures the preservation of some of the finest sugar pine groves, for the use and inspiration of all the people.
A visit to Yosemite is the experience of a lifetime to any American. Here grow the most gigantic trees in the world, and the sugar pines are nobler even than the giant "big trees," for the latter are often decrepit, while the sugar pines are hale and youthful by comparison. Leaving behind the scrawny gray digger pines on the foothills, the traveler enters the belt of the yellow pines, on the higher elevations, and passing these he comes to the grand sugar pines along the highest level of the stage road that leads into the National Park. The road is no wider than the
broad stumps of sugar pines, scattered here and there. The standing trees amaze one with their height and girth.
It is impossible to shake off the impression that some magic has put magnifiers in our eyes; for trees, beetling cliffs, and rushing cataracts are bigger than their counter parts in other regions of the world far-famed for their scenery. The sugar pine trunks seem like great builded columns, too large for any real tree to grow, and the "big trees" in the Mariposa Grove intensify this im pression of unreality. In a day or two the traveler be comes accustomed to his surroundings. He goes out of the Park and down into the world of men and affairs, his soul enlarged, his life enriched by an experience he can never quite forget. He is a bigger, better man for his brief association with Nature in her noblest manifestations.
The wood of the sugar pine is soft, golden, satiny, fra grant, inviting the woodworker through every one of his senses. A single tree often yields five thousand dollars' worth of marketable lumber, the finest, straight-grained soft pine in the world.
The shame of the century is the wanton destruction of sugar pine trees by vagrant shingle-makers and thieving mill-owners, who despoiled the grandest trunks of their choicest wood, wastefully leaving the bulk to cumber the ground and invite forest fires. Late and slowly, but surely also is the popular mind awakening to the fact that forests belong to the nation and should be conserved and main tained for the whole people—not wasted for the temporary enrichment of private owners, as forest wealth has been squandered in past years.