Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Woodlands were important to early settlers

Forests valued more than prairies

Early settlers called the area that is now southern Todd County "the barrens" because it was flat and grassy. Few trees grew there, except along streams. It was part of a large prairie ("barrens") that stretched across present-day Barren, Warren, Simpson, and Logan counties, and the southern parts of Todd, Christian, and Trigg counties (see map). These barrens were one of several areas of tallgrass prairie in Kentucky before the land was put under cultivation.

The northern part of Todd county was hilly and forested, with a little creek at the bottom of every ridge. Such land, though rough and rocky, was considered highly valuable by early settlers. The reasons are summarized in this passage, written a century ago:
These lands [the soils] were not rich, but there was an abundance of fine timber out of which to build houses and barns and construct Virginia rail fences; beautiful streams well stocked with the finest of game fish; an abundance of mast to fatten swine; the river and creek bottoms covered with a growth of succulent young cane upon which cattle could live all winter; and wild game of many varieties in great abundance.

No wonder the settlers from the wooded hills and valleys of Virginia preferred this section to the "Barren" lands, as the prairie lands before mentioned were called. These same "Barren" lands were then selling for twelve and one-half cents per acre, while the wooded lands were selling for eight times as much.

Source: A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians: The Leaders and Representative Men in Commerce, Industry and Modern Activities by E. Polk Johnson (Volume 3, p. 1444). Published in 1912 by the Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago and New York.)

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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