Suppose you are in the woods, and your woods in Canada, or the Northern States; you would see at once two kinds of trees: Pines and Hardwoods.
Pines, or Evergreens, have leaves like needles, and are green all the year round; they bear cones and
The Hardwoods, or Broadleaves, sometimes called Shedders, have broad leaves that are shed in the fall; they bear nuts or berries and have hard wood.
Remember this, every tree that grows has flowers and seeds; and the tree can always be told by its seeds, that is, its fruit. If you find a tree with cones on it, you know it belongs to the Pine family. If you find one with broad leaves and nuts or berries, it belongs to the Hardwoods.[C]
Of these the Pines always seem to me more interesting.
In September, 1002, I had a good chance to study Pine trees in the mountains of Idaho. There was a small one that had to be cut down, so I made careful drawings of it. It was fourteen years old, and across the stump it showed one ring of wood for each year of growth, and a circle of branches on the trunk for each year. Notice that between the branches, the trunk did not taper; it was an even cylinder, but got suddenly smaller at each knot by the same amount of wood as was needed by those branches for their wood.
If we begin in the centre of the stump, and at the bottom of the trunk, we find that the little tree tells us its own story of its life and troubles. Its first year, judging by the bottom section of the trunk (No. 1) and by the inmost ring, was just ordinary. Next year according to section 2 and ring 2, it had a fine season and grew nearly twice as much as the first year. The third year the baby Pine had a very hard time, and nearly died. Maybe it was a dry summer, so the little tree grew only 2-1/2 inches higher while the ring of wood it added was no thicker than a sheet of paper. Next year, the fourth, it did better. And the next was about its best year, for it grew 7-1/2 inches higher, and put on a fine fat ring of wood, as you see.
In its eleventh year, it had some new troubles; either the season was dry, or the trees about too shady, or maybe disease attacked it. For it grew but a poor shoot on the top, and the ring of wood on the stump is about the thinnest of all.
Of course, a saw-cut along the second joint showed but thirteen rings, and the third but twelve while one through the top joint, the one which grew this year, showed but a single ring.
Thus the Pine tree has in itself a record of its whole life; and this is easy to read when the tree is small; but in later life the lower limbs disappear, and the only complete record is in the rings of growth that show on the stump. These never fail to tell the truth.
Of course, you are not to go around cutting down trees merely to count their rings and read their history, but you should look at the rings whenever a new stump gives you a good chance. Then Hardwoods as well as Pines will spread before you the chapters of their life; one ring for each year that they have lived.