Monday, February 8, 2016

How Wood is Made

The early years of the Wood Collectors Society newsletter were full of excellent material. There were a lot of wood scientists, experts, and collectors who for the first time had a outlet for their literary skills.

The following article is one of those gems. Written by IWCS member #14, Dr. Emanuel Fritz, this article is an excellent example of how complex science used to be so well simplified that even the most casual student could understand the subject. Dr. Fritz was a legend in California, and when he passed away in 1988 at the age of 102, the Los Angeles Times ran this obituary.
Emanuel Fritz, 102, a forestry and conservation authority who was known as "Mr. Redwood." Fritz helped create California's forest program and was co-founder of the Regional Parks Assn., the forerunner of the East Bay Regional Park system near San Francisco. He was a professor of forestry emeritus at UC Berkeley, having joined the faculty in 1919 and retired in 1954. Fritz lived the longest of any professor at Berkeley, the university said. Fritz's contribution to the field of forestry was honored this year by the Redwood Region Logging Conference 50 years after he founded it. He advised elected and appointed officials on the need to balance demands for lumber in a rapidly growing state with the need to preserve old-growth groves, replant logged areas and set aside areas for protection. On Thursday in Berkeley.
Here is his article from the November, 1949, edition of the newsletter of the Wood Collectors Society.

How Wood is Made
Dr. Emanuel Fritz, Member #14 

Wood is a complex aggregation of millions of cells. Essentially the individual cell of wood is not much different from the cell of any plant. Each has walls and a cell cavity. Each, when formed, contains protoplasm and other substances, essential in the life process. Wood cells are often large enough to be visible without the aid of the microscope -- for example, sugar pine and redwood among the conifers, and oak and chestnut among the hardwoods. More often, the cells are so small as to require a hand lens to make them distinguishable. Even in a wood like oak or redwood, some cells are large, others quite small.

Cells are generally box-like, closed all around except for the "pits", window-like openings, on side and end walls. Where a window has glass to close the "opening", the cell has a very thin membranous tissue, much thinner than the cell wall around it.

When the cell is first formed, its wall is extremely thin and the cell itself has still to grow in size. As the cell grows to its final size, its walls thicken. This thickening occurs inward; that is, more tissue is piled up or added to the inner surface. Cells in the summerwood portion of a wood like Douglas-fir or longleaf pine have much thicker walls than the cells in the springwood of the same growth ring. Such extra thickening causes the cell cavity, or "lumen", to be very much smaller in the cells of the summerwood.

All wood cells come from the "cambium". As they are generated - by cell division - they become specialized, or differentiated, and several types of cells are thus developed. Some will function primarily for strength; others for conduction; still others for food storage. (These will be discussed in a later paper.)

The cambium is a remarkable organization. Nature causes it to do things that make it appear almost human in intelligence. When nature steps on the gas in the spring, the cambium jumps into action and keeps in action until the season's tank is dry. Then the cambium rests, like a car in a garage. The cambium is really a single row of cells between the wood and the bark. This row of cells belongs as much to the bark as it does to the wood. It is common to both. But it is the only layer on the trunk of a tree that has the power to multiply and yet remain the same. Each cambium cell splits in half. These two small halves each begin to grow larger. One of them will grow into another cambium cell like its predecessor. Another will grow into a wood cell, a ray cell, a vessel segment or another type of cell. This is where "intelligence" comes in. How does the tree, (or the cambium cell), know when it is time to make wood or bark, or any one of the several types of cell making up wood and bark? Don't write me about it. I don't know.

When the cambium is engaged in the above business, naturally, there are some freshly created cells that are not yet fully grown either as to size or wall thickness. But there is only that uni-cellular row which we call cambium and which can continue the business of making new cells. Collectively, all the young cells hatched from the cambium, from the most recently created to the one still finishing up its growth, make up what we call the cambium (or cambial) zone. This zone of course will be several cells thick. It is quite weak, and for that reason the bark is easily peeled from a tree in the spring time. Don't confuse the cambium (or cambial) zone with the cambium. Only the latter possesses generative tissue, i.e., the ability to give birth to new cells. The cambial zone includes the cambium itself and the new and incomplete cells recently born from it.

The new cells stay put, once they have reached their full size. But the new cambium layer itself moves farther and farther away from the center of the tree. It's a sort of centrifugal displacement.

Obviously, the new wood cells pile up against the outside of last year's growth ring. But the new bark cells are formed against the inner face of the older bark. The bark moves outward. It can't stretch as the circumference of the trunk increases, so the older parts crack and the result is the grooves or fissures one associates with the bark of pines, cedars, oaks, hickories, etc. (The bark of the beech, birch, eucalyptus, and madrone are somewhat different, but they too move outward as the wood cylinder increases in diameter.)

The above is in non-technical terms. We crawl before we walk. If the editor is satisfied with this modest note, maybe we can later add some technical terms from time to time. But first of all we ought to look at a cross section of a tree trunk and discuss it. That would make this note too long, so we'll take it up next time. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hobby Pays Off For W.F. Pond, Member #13

Many people who come to love the hobby of wood collecting have professional backgrounds in which a knowledge of wood science is tangential to their work. Here's an example of how one such early member of IWCS used his knowledge of wood chemistry to drive the development of a new product for his company. By William F. Pond, from Volume 2, Number 11 (1949) of the Bulletin of the Wood Collectors Society.

Several people have asked me at times; "Bill, what pleasure can you get out of collecting a few old sticks of wood?" They do not know of the intense pleasure of collecting a "few old sticks of wood." If they did, I might wake up some morning and find my holly, mimosa, and dogwood trees had been cut during the night. Neither do these people know how my knowledge of trees and wood, meager as it is, was recently of the utmost value to me in my daily work.

Last year, it was found, quite by accident, that a certain inorganic chemical we manufacture when used in conjunction with certain of the natural tannins and saponins, greatly reduced the deposition of scale in boilers in condenser tubes. Scale is the enemy of efficient boiler operation. The typical boiler scale consists largely of calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, magnesium sulfate, magnesium carbonate, along with some silica, and the oxides of iron and manganese. Deposited as a hard, tenacious scale, this pest results in lowered heat transfer, more fuel consumption, not to mention corrosion.

The discovery seemed so fraught with possibilities, it was assigned to my department as a research project. Several hundred gallons of various hard waters were obtained for this study. These waters were notoriously bad actors. Several of the various tannins and saponins were obtained and the study started.

A period of eight months was spent on this study, during which period some three hundred laboratory experiments were carried out. Many gallons of water containing various combinations of chemicals were greatly reduced in volume by boiling and the nature of the scale examined. At the end of the eight months period, the outlook was very favorable, so operations were started on a pilot plant scale, which confirmed the favorable results obtained in the laboratory. Naturally, our thoughts next turned toward a patent, and here especially, is where my smattering of botany came to the rescue. Before we cover this, however, let's take a look and see how botany, (especially dendrology) entered the picture from the first.

The tannins are astringent, aromatic compounds, acid in character. These tannins precipitate the alkaloids, mercuric chloride, and the heavy metals. Added to solutions of ferric compounds, they form black or blue inks. Dissolved in strong alkalies, as caustic potash, they are excellent oxygen absorbers. The best known and commonest tannin is tannic acid, which chemically, is penta-digalloyl glucose, C14H10O9. Gallotannic acid, C76H52O46 is a closely related body. The list of tannins is quite lengthy; a few more may now be mentioned:

di-beta-resorcylic acid
ipecacuanhic acid
fraxitannic acid
m-digallic acid

Chemically, these tannins are therefore compounds, containing several benzol rings hooked up with a monosaccharide. The chemistry of the tannins is far from complete and frequently new data becomes available.

The saponins are glucosides of the type formula C32H54O18. Glucosides, incidentally, are chemical compounds which on hydrolysis yield an acid and a monosaccharide, mostly of the type glucose or maltose. The plant world is full of glucosides. Amygdalin is found in the bark of Prunus serotina. Salicin is found in certain species of Salix and Populus. The saponins are white powders, soluble in water, the solution foaming like soap when stirred or shaken. They are toxic and have antiseptic properties. Sasanqua saponin, C73H118O22 ' 3H20 from Camelia sasanqua is a typical one.

With the information our research had yielded, we found it would be necessary to know the botanical sources of these tannins and saponins. Knowing that I dabbled in botany and particularly dendrology, this assignment was given to me. Searching through the chemical texts and my own library on dendrology, it was not a difficult task to make a list of those species yielding commercial tannins and saponins. The following lists showing some of these commercial sources (by no means a complete list) are now offered:


1. Rhus copallina        (Anacardiaceae)        l. 17-38
2. Pistacia spp.             "                  g. 30-40
3. Schinopsis spp.           "                  e. 35-65
4. Aspidosperma spp.      (Apocynaceae)         l. 27-30
5. Alnus firma (minibari)  (Betulaceae)         f. 25-28
6. Terminalia chebula      (Combretaceae)       n. 30-40
7. Terminalia oliveri           "               b. 30-35
8. Larix europoea           (Pinaceae)          b. 9-10
9. Larix occidentalis           "               b. 10-12
10. Tsuga canadensis            "               b. 7-16
11. Castanea dentata         (Fagaceae)         b. 6-8
12. Quercus agrifolia           "               b. 19
13. Quercus aegilops            "      e.30-65; a. 17-40
14. Quercus cirris              "               g. 35
15. Quercus infectoria          "               g. 24-60
16. Quercus rubra               "               b. 25-30
17. Quercus tinctoria           "               b. 25-30
18. Quercus prinus              "               --------
19. Lithocarpus densifolia      "               --------
20. Acacia angica           (Leguminosae)       b. 20-25
21. Acacia binervata            "               b. 30
22. Acacia catechu              "               e. 60
23. Acacia decurrens            "               b. 20-61
24. Acacia microbotrya          "               b. 12-47
25. Acacia pycnantha            "               b. 40-50
26. Caesalpinia coriaria (Jacq.) Schl. -- Libidia coriaria:
      (Divi-divi; libi-libi) (Leguminosae)      p. 30-50
27. Pterocarpus spp. (Kino)     "               e. 40-60
28. Xylocarpus granatum      (Meliaceae)        b. 21-48
29. Eucalyptus spp.          (Myrtaceae)        --------
30. Rumex hymenosepalis      (Polygonaceae)     r. 25-30
31. Braguiera spp.          (Rhizophoraceae)    b. 22-52
32. Rhizophora spp.                "            b. 21-58
33. Nauclea gambir             (Rubiaceae)      --------

The small letters to the right mean: a - acorns; b - bark; e - extract; f - fruit; g - galls; l - leaves; n - nuts; p -pods; r - roots.

The numbers in the extreme right column refer to the percentage of tannins obtainable.


A partial list of the commercial saponins is now offered showing the botanical sources;

1. Saponaria officinalis             (Caryophyllaceae)
2. Quillaja saponaria                (Rosaceae)
3. Mimusops globosa                  (Sapotaceae)
4. Bumelia retusa                    (Sapotaceae)
5. Sapindus spp.                     (Sapindaceae)

The above list is by no means complete, but it will serve to show the source of a few of the saponins. The Sapotaceae is the source of many of the commercial saponins. Incidentally, the drupe of Melia azedarach contains a saponin like body.

With our research now completed and our botanical nomenclature in order, we were able to make the patent application in which it was necessary to name the botanical sources of the commercial tannins and saponins. It was rather interesting to note the reactions of the various other chemists in the organization. Soon they were reeling off the terms Quercus, Terminalia, Schinopsis, etc., like old hands.

So, when my friends wonder why I find pleasure in collecting a few old sticks of wood, I can say I find it profitable in two ways, viz., the intense pleasure it affords me which cannot be measured in terms of the dollar, and finally, it came to my rescue when confronted with a difficult chemical research problem.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Trip to the Mountain Above Turmero

Many of the original IWCS members were prolific travelers in search of their wood specimens. Here is another fine, nostalgic description of one such member's trip to the mountains of Venezuela in 1949, published in November of that year. Volume 2, Number 11.

A Trip to the Mountain Above Turmero
by J.H. Standen

Turmero is a typical South American village, narrow streets, room for two cars only, - the houses directly lining the narrow sidewalks, the patios are on the inside. The whole town is a little shabby, but when you get to know the people, they are very friendly.

Here we leave the main road between Caracas and Maracay and start on a mountain road, more or less to the north. It isn't the kind of road you'd want to try with your car, - it is strictly for jeeps. If you meet anyone, the fellow going up the mountain has to back down to a place wide enough to pass. Fortunately, traffic, except for donkey trains, is almost nil.

We wind along a dusty valley road for several kilometers before we start to climb, but once we start, we really climb. A swift lovely mountain stream is alongside the road all the way, often a good distance down the hill.

And the number of tree species:- you'd go green is you could see. Nettle relatives with trunks a foot through (sure I know Elm is closely related, but these even have nettle-like flowers. Giant fig trees (not edible) with trunks 6 feet or more through, with buttresses, each big enough and almost thin enough for dining room table tops.

That fellow there is Homalium pittieri, named after friend Pittier. (He is in the hospital in Maracay now, recovering from a leg operation. He's in his 93rd year.) That tree with the purple flowers is Lonchocarpus margaritensis, named by Pittier.

That tree with those long pods ins't a legume, it is Capparis flexuosa, named by Linnaeus. There are more Capparis species in this country than you could shake a stick at. Lots of Lauraceae too, Nectranda, Ocotea, etc. And as for Rubiaceae, all the way from herbs to giant trees, literally dozens of genera.

For example that fellow with the older leaves red is a Cinchona pubescens sister species to the quinines. The tall treelike shrub with the colored leaflike bracts, reminding one somewhat of Poinsettia, is a Pogonopus speciosus. The one with the sparse white leaflike bracts is a Calycophyllum. Incidentally this one is a new collection for Venezuela, and will, for the time being, go out to the boys as Calycophyllum sp., until Dr. Lasser runs it down or actually names it. There's a Genipa americana, also in Rubiaceae. And as for the Leguminosae, Machaerium, Piptadenia, Poponax, Inga, Senegalia, etc., etc., etc., until you are nearly dizzy.

Now we are up to my friend, Bartolo Perez' home. He died about three weeks before I write this. Because his family know of my respect and affection for this wonderful old woodsman, I'm invited to stay for dinner. The widow weeps a little when I tell her what a fine man her husband was. She complains with some bitterness because I didn't come to see him oftener. If only I could have. We had tentative plans to go tapir hunting higher in the mountains.

The family home has mud walls and a thatched roof. There are no doors. The floor is dirt. As we eat, the pigs and chickens wander through. But the food is good and the people gentle, well-mannered, hospitable, and obviously intelligent. The son, who came up from Turmero with me, shows me some of his ceramic work. It is excellent. We make plans to collect some more specimens as soon as I can spare the time. They are so helpful that it is even embarrassing. If they had their way, I'd chuck my job and stay right there collecting wood specimens. With this idea, I'm sure, many of the Society are in vociferous accord.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Collecting "Picturesque Woods"

The October, 1949 (2:10) issue of the Bulletin of the Wood Collector's Society was a wealth of interesting articles as shown in the last two posts. Here is a third article in the same issue that shows how rich the fountain of good wood collecting stories was in those early years of the society.

Comment by Fellow Wood Collector
Bernard G. Hildebrand

Mr. Mautz in his recent article published heretofore as part of this Bulletin, concluded his remarks with a fascinating discussion of the possibilities of collecting various unique pieces of a single species. He stressed variations of color, structure and grain and virtually suggested every wood collector should engage to some extent in collecting all available and different types of wood appearing in one or more species.

As I read his article he could have gone even further and suggested (possibly he also had this in mind) the collecting of what might be called "Picturesque Woods," or specimens made out of solid pieces which, with or without using imagination, and sometimes by the simple device of inclusion of some sapwood as well as heartwood, actually are multicolor pictures, usually of natural character. To some degree such woods resemble marquetry.

This fourth approach insofar as I know appears to be possible on a very high level only in the case of certain extremely colorful or variegated forms of woods and burls such as for instance are found in several members of the Dalbergia genus. In any event, the search for woods of this last unusual type appears to be more successful when "exploring" tropical woods. This kind of wood collecting has unlimited possibilities and furnishes a great deal of entertainment, in addition, of course, to hard work in cutting up, planing or sanding numerous pieces of wood. It also causes an element of dissatisfaction because some woods, often colorful and bright when freshly cut, lost their color and lustre to some degree thereafter, and especially when exposed to much light and very dry air.

During the past year (the project is still underway) I have been carrying on a "hunt" of this special nature using the single, generally beautiful species of Dalbergia nigra, or Brazilian rosewood, of which the writer is very fond. This wood when freshly cut (some of my pieces are not well-seasoned) flat or on the quarter or in other peculiar ways includes sometimes or in streaks or small areas all colors of the rainbow. The darker and stable colors such as black, brown, purple and red usually, however, predominate. The more delicate jewel-like and pleasant light but rare colors are pink, blue, green, orange and yellow, sometimes in various combinations. By keeping the pieces in the dark, much of this bright color can be substantially preserved for some months and sometimes longer. The pleasure one gets from this cutting right on the ground, so to speak, is beyond description and so different from viewing samples which often are old and definitely faded.

So far I have cut about 250 pieces of Dalbergia nigra samples out of boards and scrap pieces from dozens of logs and have finished in standard size about half of them. The pieces vary considerably as to structure, weight, grain and color. Identification is made quite certain by comparison of various pieces with each other and by checking of various typical samples by the Forest Products Laboratory. As to surplus pieces, the writer will be glad to exchange them for other species of the Dalbergia family.

From the foregoing pieces I have so far obtained about 25 most beautiful pieces which can be said to qualify as wood pictures. In each there are usually special grain formations with several colors which are delightful to see. These picture woods suggest often, and quite obviously, mountains, seashore and sunset scenes, etc., the outlines of the pictures generally being composed of the more stable colors already mentioned.

By using some imagination one could label some of these pieces as "Sunset," "Mountain Lake," "Cliffs," "Alpine Fir," "Storm Clouds," "Mountain Peak," "Contour Planning," " Dante's Inferno," etc. These specimens are considered by the writer as treasures and the most interesting woods in his collection.

I would appreciate hearing from any members of the Society who have or are carrying on specialized projects of this nature and would be glad to know what woods were used and the results. I would also be happy to have advice or suggestions as to the preservation of delicate colors in woods. Moreover, if any member of the Society ever comes to or near Brooklyn, New York, and wishes to see these picturesque woods above discussed, I shall be glad to exhibit them.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Wooden Rose

Another interesting pair of articles from the October, 1949 issue 2:10.

The Wooden Rose

Dactylanthus taylori Hook f. A very distinct monotypic genus, not closely allied to any other, confined to New Zealand.

A root parasite. Rhizome usually subterranean, perennial, hard and woody, rounded or amorphous, often irregularly lobed, surface rough with small tubercles or warts. Flowering stems or peduncles annual, numerous, crowded, clavate, clothed throughout with imbricate ovate or oblong brownish scales, the upper of which are larger and more closely spaced, slender, erect, cylindrical or slightly fusiform. Flowers very minute, densely packed, monoecious. Male flowers: Perianth wanting or of two minute subulate processes. Stamens 1 or 2; filaments very short, anthers didymous, 2-celled. Female flowers: Perianth adnate to the ovary; limb of 2 or 3 erect subulate segments. Ovary stipitate, ovoid-oblong, 1-celled; style long, filiform; stigma terminal; ovule solitary, apparently pendulous. Fruit minute, crustaceous.

From the above technical description of the New Zealand representative of the family Balanophoraceae few would realize that this unusual and rare plant is the cause of the famous "Wooden Rose" of New Zealand. This parasite attaches itself to the roots of trees, usually members of the Beech family. As the growth gradually surrounds the root the wood is distorted and formed into a beautiful wooden rose, completely hidden and surrounded by a shapeless mass of parasitic growth.

George L. Miller, Member #9, has collected some of these rare roses in his native New Zealand and has graciously submitted the following account of his collecting trip.

Collecting the Wooden Rose
By Geo. L. Miller

Dactylanthus taylori Hook f. is the name of a rare parasitic plant which grows on the roots of certain trees on the North Island of New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. This strange plant is becoming extremely rare, owing to the destruction of our virgin forests.

Suppose I ask that you all accompany me on this little outing, one of many made in the interest of our chosen hobby. After a hurried breakfast we finished loading our equipment aboard a small trailer. Heading due south for ninety miles we picked up a photographer friend and then continued another fifty miles before branching off for the tree and fern clad high country. This we traversed carefully as the road had given way to rough bush logging tracks.

We had the good fortune to contact a native bush worker, a Maori. This man was a great surprise and proved to be a valuable guide. Speaking his language we quickly made friends and he agreed to help us in our search.

On entering the dense brush we spread out fanlike, keeping within hailing distance of each other. After about an hour we heard a call from the Maori and converging on him found that he had located a bunch of growths, exposed some ten inches above the forest floor. We proceeded to dig up the whole growth. The rhizome was firmly attached to the host tree, in this case a Lancewood, Pseudopanax crassifolium var. unifolium T. Kirk, of the Aralia family.

After severing it with an axe all surplus dirt was removed and it was now ready for transport to the trailer, no light task as the weight was considerable. Some weighed more than 100 pounds, but others smaller and more easily handled were selected.

Back home with our specimens, the next step took several days. First each rhizome must be boiled for four hours, then scraped to remove the blood-red flesh of the Dactylanthus proper. Then and only then is the wooden rose revealed. Sometimes the work is in vain, as the rose may be decayed or distorted. But sometimes the labor is rewarded with a perfect rose flower in wood, delicately shaped and with beautiful fine lines on each petal.

From questioning my friend, the Maori, I learned that his ancestors employed these flowers in certain ancient rituals, the nature of which is a mystery. They had to make their fire with rubbing sticks, heating stones and then steaming the Dactylanthus until the rose could be removed.

In closing, I wish to mention that it was written with the wish that other members of our Society would find time to write of some of their collecting trips which would be interesting to all of us who collect wood.


[2015 Addendum]: From Wikipedia - Dactylanthus taylorii, commonly known as wood rose or Hades flower, is a fully parasitic plant that grows on the roots of certain trees in New Zealand. The host tree responds to the presence of Dactylanthus by forming a burl-like structure that resembles a fluted wooden rose (hence the common name). Māori names for wood rose are pua o te reinga or pua reinga ("flower of the underworld") and waewae atua, "feet of gods". It is monotypic to the Dactylanthus genus. One of its most common host trees is pate or seven-finger (Schefflera digitata).

Here's an original article on Dactylanthus taylorii from the 1895 edition of the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

And here's a Threatened Species Recovery Plan on Dactylanthus taylorii authored and published by the New Zealand Department of Conservation in 2005.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Wood Collecting Trip, Summer of 1949

Here's a delightful travel diary of a collecting trip by Harold Nogle and fellow members in the summer of 1949. From Wood Collectors Society Vol. 2, Number 10, October 1949.

Wood Collecting Trip
By: H. Nogle

This trip began by the combination of two trips. I was scheduled to go to Chicago, then fly with Hy Dentzman to go to Florida with Wib Opdyke, and later wanted Archie Wilson to go along. While this was taking form, Bill Pond was arranging for a trip through the Dismal Swamp with Archie Wilson, hoping he would bring Wib with him. All parties finally got together and made one trip, but unfortunately due to Mr. Opdyke's health, we were denied the pleasure of his company and the knowledge of his experience; therefore regretfully made the trip without him. The first get together was at Chicago, where after the meeting, Hy, Archie and myself, with Mrs. Nogle left in two cars for Cleveland. No collecting was done on the way to Washington, but there were three cars, as Ray Cottrell was with us as far as Houston, Pa., and we stopped a short time at this home there for a cooling drink, and put up at an auto court about 30 miles west of Washington. From here on it might be best to tell about this trip in the form of a diary.

Saturday, July 2: We got an early start and located the residence of W.A. Dayton, U.S. Forest Service; and at his home called Joe Stearns on the phone for directions to his place, where we were invited for breakfast. We had some trouble finding his place as the turn off the road was named wrong, however Archie came to our rescue with his psychic sight and we arrived at Joe's and had a fine breakfast, saw his woods, workshop, etc. After breakfast were were taken over his farm, and to his creek. Joe really has a fine place, the ideal for a wood collector. After that, we all drove over to Dr. Warren's house and with him as guide, went into the Pautuxent River Swamp. At the edge I picked up a large terrapin or turtle to take home to the boys, then we cut poison ivy. There was one vine about 8" in diameter but heartrotted, which was found out after cutting. Later Dr. Warren made a stick and knocked the bark off some 5" vine, which reduced it to about 3 1/2" but in collecting poison ivy, never do that, as it dries so quickly it splits all apart, but if the bark is left on its seasons perfectly. After coming out of the swamp plenty hot, tired, etc., the others presented me with 3 more turtles. Dr. Warren took a short cut to his house, got his car, and came back for us; then when we got back to his house made everyone an old fashioned mint julep. The three of us with Joe returned to his house where we had broiled steak out under the trees, plenty good and true Southern Hospitality in Maryland. About 4 P.M. we started for Portsmouth, Virginia, first having to make a back trip of about 30 miles where we had stopped the previous night to retrieve Hy's Panama hat, which he had left at the restaurant when he got so interested in that girl. [Ed. Note: Looks like some romantic intrigue was left out here...too bad] We drove about 200 miles and could not find any place to stop, all auto courts full, and finally Hy got us located at the Hotel, Suffolk, Virginia. Archie, Joe and I had one room and Mr. Dayton and Hy another.

Sunday, July 3: I think I got up first, barely daylight and got the car and went out looking for ice to put in our insulated can to cool some coco cola and beer, the beer being left over from the meeting at Wib's house, and acquired by Hy, who by the way is also a first class magician. Ice house closed, so came back to hotel and found Mr. Dayton and Hy already up, and finished breakfast, so they went back and had some more coffee with Archie, Joe and I. Hy got on a story telling contest with the cafe cashier, but we finally got him away and started out. We got lost from Archie getting out of town, but he soon found us out on the highway and we arrived at the home of Bill Pond in Portsmouth about ten o'clock. We met him and his family and took a picture of them, then met Earl Thompson and all of us went to a section of the woods adjoining the Dismal Swamp. Here we collected Viburnum prunifolium, Symplocos tinctoria, Oxydendrum arboreum, Bignonia capreolata, and Vitus rotundifolia, then back to the cars for Coke and beer. We made another trip into a different part of the woods, but I don't remember anything being collected except a quantity of Arundinaria tecta which I hope to glue into some kind of sample...then another ride to the hunting lodge over a road full of deep holes, where Joe managed to get across a deep ditch to cut a Sumac, after which we returned to Bill Pond's house where we had a wonderful fried chicken dinner. Joe had to leave early to get back and also take Mr. Dayton back, so the rest of us talked wood until time to leave for our auto court.

Monday, July 4: We went to town for breakfast, then to Bill Pond's house, where with Earl Thompson, we all went to the canal or big ditch which led to Lake Drummond in the Dismal Swamp. Earl had an outboard motor, so we rented two boats, put on the motor and took out up the ditch leading to lake Drummond, one boat pulling the other, with Earl and Bill in the motor boat and the three W.C.S. officers in the trailing boat, getting the exhaust smoke from the motor. This was a long ride of about an hour, then we came to the dam and the reddish brown water gushing out of the two escape valves, as the lake's level was 8 feet higher than the canal. The boats were put on a small truck on rails which ran down into the water under the boat, then hauled up and over the embankment and down into the water on the other side, this raised the boat 8 feet and we got into another canal at lake level. Another long ride and we finally came out into the big lake, took a cut over on one side and into a small outlet where there was a hunting house, where we tied up and went into the swamp forest. Just as we entered was a big rattlesnake, a whopper, which had been killed, as well as another big copperhead. We all got poles to stir up the brush ahead of us so we would not step on a rattler and have trouble. The wood collecting was hampered by the vicious "May" flies, which bit at us regardless of the insect repellent which helped a lot. We did not find much here, only cut a large Vitis rotundifolia, then came back for lunch at the hunting house, which had a screened porch which we got into to escape the biting flies. It was terribly hot and everyone was soaked with sweat, as no breeze at all in the dense growth. Wilson also cut a few cypress knees. We returned to the boats and started back. Took the boats back over the land down to the lower canal level, and the car ran off the track, and a little trouble was had getting it back on. On the way back we had Earl case our boat adrift, and we paddled over to the bank where there were lucious big ripe blackberries and watching out for snakes we ate plenty. We got back to the auto court about 4 P.M. and cleaned up, then visited with Bill Pond, went to town and sent some postcards and turned in early.

Tuesday, July 5: Started out about daylight and stopped after about 100 miles for breakfast. Most all day spent in riding and stopped for the day early at Myrtle Beach. After getting located we went back north on the highway into a spot of woods opposite the golf course and collected a small tree, being Persea palustris. In this place I found a large vine of Smilax wateri which could be glued into a sample. Archie and I went swimming that evening and when I came out and got in the car, I sat on my glasses and broke one lens out, so from then on had to read with one eye. While waiting for supper, I phoned Mrs. Nogle and arranged for an extra pair to be sent air mail to Gainesville, Florida. While Archie and I were in swimming, Hy saw some things around the auto court and wanted to cut down their shrubbery.

Wednesday, July 6: Started early in Florida. About ten miles south of Savannah we stopped and cut several large Daubentonia punicea and some Bacharris halimifolia and along here Archie cut a nice Wax Myrtle. A little before at 11 miles north of Washington, North Carolina, we cut a Mimosa or Albizzia julibrissum. Stopped early at Brunswick, Georgia and cut some bamboo, Bambusa multiplex and Archie got permission from the court manager to cut a Yucca aloifolia. We all ate some ice cream (finally got Hy to eat some too) and retired early.

Thursday, July 7: Left early, after an early breakfast at [a] good place adjoining the auto court, and in backing out I misjudged a parked car in the rear and hit his tail light with my head light, dented the front fender and knocked the rim off the headlight and broke the truck's tail light. We proceeded before any arguments [Ed.. ??? :-) ]  and arrived in Gainesville, Florida soon before noon, stopping at a few places to look but not cutting anything. Put up at the Florida motor court and got a nice place. Hy phoned the University and made contact and we had a date for 1 P.M. Went to town and got caught in the daily rain, mailed some postcards and picked up my glasses at the postoffice. Archie tried to buy some pants or a suit but didn't. After lunch at a drug store, we went to the University and met Dr. Reynolds B. Smith who took us down to meet Miss Lillian Arnold in charge of herbarium, and we stayed there and identified some of the things we were not sure about. We made a date to go wood hunting with all five of us the next day at 8 A.M. Left the University and had a good steak supper and retired early.

Friday, July 8: Arrived at the University on time and met all concerned and in addition Dr. W.B. Brush, who said he could go with us, and took photo of the group. We started out in both cars and went to a place where Hy cut a nice small Juniperus silicicola, and Archie climbed a tree and cut a log off a large limb of planera aquatica. It was a very hot day, but Miss Arnold had a jug of ice water with paper cups. We went in about noon to the cafeteria at the University which is a fine place, air-conditioned and good eating, also reasonably priced, where we had dinner. After dinner we took out again for a place called Devil's Millhopper being a sort of park area, where there was a big sink in the ground, and where several small streams made waterfalls running into this tremendous hole, and the water ran out of the hole to somewhere, no telling where. There was a lot of growth here, but nothing which we cut, although some discussion as to the various species of oaks. After leaving here we went out to the Forest Camp where the University maintains actual forestry conditions for training the students, including mess hall, and other houses, and where there is a deep lake. Archie and Dr. Smith went in swimming, as they were both so hot and full of sweat from helping cut a palm, Serenoa repens (some discussion about this name which we hope to get straightened out soon) and while cutting this palm met Professor Charles Geltz, Professor of Silviculture, who helped in a big way with getting these palms as had the big two-man cross cut saw to do the job. Prof. Geltz turned out to be the teacher of my friend Gene Marshall, Head of the Texas Forest Laboratory at Lufkin, Texas, when Gene attended Cornell. We returned to the University tired, hot and dirty; cleaned up at the auto court, had another steak supper same place, and Hy liked the girl well enough to see she got a dollar tip this time, because he thought she was a Republican. [Ed.: How thoughtful of Hy! :-) ] Went back to the auto court after all of us had another round of ice cream at a small place where we found was run by ex-railroad people, also Republicans.

Saturday, July 9: Early at 7 A.M., Milton Scott, from Miami drove in, as we had called him on the phone Thursday night, and we all went to breakfast. We met at the University as had been planned before, and all except Miss Arnold went on another wood hunt to a place called "Sugarfoot" on University owned land. Archie climbed a tree again to cut a large limb from a Tilia floridana which was not very good, then I found a small pole like tree which I cut and which turned out to be Viburnum corymbosum. A little later we cut another Tilia floridana which was a good one, then some Forestiera puberula and Cornus stricta. About noon we returned to College Cafeteria and had another good dinner, then started out again at another place near Gainesville, along a nice creek, and cut a nice Acer floridanum and Aesculus pavia. It was tough lugging these logs back to cars as had to climb steep hill and ford creek. After this we went out to Magnesium Springs where there is a fine swimming pool and went in swimming, all but Hy who stayed out and watched the cars. Went in and had another steak dinner but the Republican girl did not get our table, which was tough on Hy, then after dinner we went by the ex-railroad people's ice cream joint and all had more ice cream and coke. Talked wood a lot and finally went to bed after dividing a lot of the wood and packing cars. Archie sent a load back by freight from Gainesville, and also had Bill Pond ship a lot of his back by freight from Portsmouth.

Sunday, July 10: Up early and Milton Scott left for Miami and I left for Pt. Arthur. I cut a large wax myrtle 10 miles west of U.S. 90 out of Lake City, Florida. About noon it started raining and rained until I reached the Louisiana line, and I stopped for the night on north shore of Lake Ponchartrain and arrived home Monday a little before noon, after a total for my car of 4,336 miles and playing nursemaid to those 4 turtles for 1,986 miles, and while coming back thru Louisiana picked up another so arrived home with five of the reptiles. Used Monday and all of Tuesday in cutting the wood collected and labeling and putting up to dry. Archie, and Dentzman met the faculty of the University of Florida and made another collecting trip, which I assume he will add to this now.

Wood Collecting Trip
Additions by Archie F. Wilson

After bidding Milton Scott and Harold Nogle goodbye, Hy and I went to meet Miss Arnold and Dr. Smith. The trip planned was to the Ocala National Forest. Both Miss Arnold and Dr. Smith brough identification papers along with them which gave them permission to take specimens.

Here the terrain was entirely different, parched soil and scrub growth, but here we hit the jack-pot in desirable specimens. Among those cut were Persea humilis, Quercus laevis, Q. myrtifolia, Q. chapmani, Q. virgiana geminata, and Ceratiola ericoides. The latter was representation in a new family for us.

On the way back we stopped for a swim at another of those delightful spring-fed swimming pools. Then back to the cottage after bidding goodbye to our friends.

It was still mid-afternoon so we decided to make Tallahasee before dark. Arriving there in good time we called Bill Jacobs, Secretary of the Florida Forest and Park Association. He cam down to meet us and took us to his office. There we saw to our amazement a piece of Leitneria floridana fully 6" in diameter but nothing short of mayhem could get it away from him. He did give me a piece of Torreya taxifolia and one of the Eugenia confusa.

The next morning were were up bright and early and made Jackson, Tenn. by evening. The next day I dropped Hy off in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, where he had some business to attend to, and I headed for home and made it in time for dinner, tired but with a car trunk so full of specimens the springs were re-curved.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Wood Collector Dedication, Circa 1949

The following letter was printed in Volume 2, Number 8, September 1949. It shows to what great lengths and hardships collectors would go in those days, once they had been bitten with the wood-collecting bug. This experience is simply hard to imagine in today's context.

Excerpts From A Letter From John H. Ter Laak, #77

"At last I get a chance to write you a letter. I left Holland on October 17th and arrived in Suriname on November 29th. It was a long and varied journey. Never in my life did I have such a beautiful time. The news that I must start on the 17th came so quickly that I had no time to write all of my friends.

Before the 9th of December I had to prepare an expedition to the jungle to inspect the prospect of timbering. It was a great change for me to do this. Never did I think that this type of work would be mine but everything turned out O.K.

The jungle, the large rivers, and the bush negroes (here we call them Djaekas) made a great impression on me. I was away three weeks and came back for the Xmas holiday. The 4th of January I started again and returned on the 3rd of February.

After that I went to and from for a month and on March 8th started another trip from which I returned three days ago.

I can't tell you much in this letter. It's impossible to write in one simple letter all the impressions I got. The only thing I can tell you now is that these are hard and troublesome times for me. The jungles of the tropics are crawly. Sickness and accidents are common. The first time I went up I went without any gun, medicines or maps. The day before I left I bought clothes and compass. In truth I can tell you it was criminal to send me into the jungle.

I was the only white man and to help me understand the strange language I found a negro interpreter. So as I told you everything was O.K. I was successful and love my work. I loved the great forest with the thousands and thousands of trees. I made up my mind to stay here. Is this what I looked forward to, where I had spent the best years of my life in order to obtain a good living for my wife and children? I don't know. I can tell you this only after a few years. The only thing I can tell you is this - that the struggle for life is very very hard here. If I find a good job here then I must pay with a shorter life.

I am studying the native tongue. I am talking well and understand their speech very well. Their language is a mixture of English, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch. Very few white people understand them but if you go it alone in the jungle you must be able to talk and understand."

Wow...what a beginning of a story. So much mystery...what exactly is his work, and who pays him to do it? Does he stay there for the rest of his life? If so, does his wife stay with him? And what happens to him? I hope we hear more of Mr. Ter Laak in later issues.