Having just arrived home from a trip across country, I thought I’d post about something I saw many, many of on my adventures on the road — the tree. Now before I say too much more, let me say that I’ll be giving away a book free today to some lucky blogger — so come on in and join in the discussion.
The tree. One of the outstanding gifts of America to the world was that of the tree — or wood. Forests were everywhere. And in Native America, prior to the coming of the European, those forests were kept neat and trim in order to make hunting easier. Overgrown forests were a myth. John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) writes of the park-like state of the forests — that one could ride for miles and miles in any direction and never leave the park-like forests of native America. Using carefully guarded fires, the Indians burned the undergrowth in order to make the forests easy to navigate, to hunt and to “sugar,” or to tap the trees for maple sugar.
Not only did trees provide the settlers with much needed wood for building, it also provided food and medicinal products. From trees the settlers got pecans, pine nuts, acorns, hickory nuts,walnuts, not to mention fruit. The settlers knew about honey, but none had experience with maple sugar — or sugaring as it’s called. Interestingly, maple sugar became a large economy to the settlers, who, unlike the American Indian, needed to profit from the New World, not simply subside.
One of the first products that the settlers were able to export for profit was that of sassafras and ginsing. To the American Indian sassafras was a medicine and its used was to apply it directly to wounds. They also used the sassafras root as a dye as well as a flavoring. The settlers, seeing the many uses for sassafras, looked upon this as a drug that might cure many different ailments, including syphilis. As early as 1602 and 1603, British ships came to America to export this new medicine, which proved to show a profit on the London market.
Interestingly few people nowadays (unless they are of the older generation) know of sassafras and its many uses. Ginseng was already well known to the European, but in 1718, Jesuit monks organized the trade for American ginseng, which showed great profit. However, herbs didn’t prove to be the basis for a growing economy and so the settlers looked elsewhere, and found it in the wood itself.
It was so plentiful that soon the settlers had tapped the resources for such things as tar, pitch and resin, not to mention its use for building ships and homes. The British had no such trees as the white pines of New England, and so the growing economy of America built and built on something as the tree.
For the Americans in their early history, wood filled the needs of what most of the world at that time used metal for, such as the basis for industries like brickmaking, liquor distilling, etc. In fact, wood served many uses including plates to eat on, mugs, boxes — not to mention firewood.
So come on in and leave a comment. What do you think about these beautiful trees? Did you know that the forests of America were of a park-like qualtiy? Little to no undergrowth was permitted. It made for easy hunting and traveling. So next time you see a movie with great undergrowth, you’ll know the truth.