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The red oak has been found over such a wide range of soil conditions that the statement has been made that it will thrive in any soil except an undrained one. This statement includes abandoned and otherwise worn out soils. It has been found more practical, however, to limit this exceedingly general statement and say that red oak is best suited to porous, sandy or gravelly clay soils. It thus stands intermediate in its requirements between the white oak and several of the black oaks. It always requires good drainage, and no planting should be attempted on any soil, however fertile, unless this physiographic feature is present.
WHITE OAK. (Quercus alba.)
The white oak is found in the north-central, central and eastern States. Indiana falls directly within its region of best development. This region, which is of more far-reaching boundaries than the State of Indiana, includes the western slope of the Allegheny Mountains and other portions of the valley of the Ohio River. The white oak is the most valuable of American oaks, and is indeed worthy of closer attention than it is receiving at the present time. In certain isolated areas and on a few abandoned hillsides in southern Indiana, the white oak is making a slow but otherwise persistent effort at natural reproduction. This effort, however, receives no artificial aid and is, in a majority of cases, even interfered with by an utter disregard of natural laws. This interference with natural reproduction is a result of careless lumbering and a failure on the part of the land owners to acquaint themselves with the principles of the forest policy which is now being agitated through every State of our Union. This is another phase of the subject under discussion, however, and cannot be considered here.
The white oak is found to do best on rather deep and moderately moist well-drained soils. A loamy sand where the amount of sand may run as high as 80 per cent., and situated in warm localities, is found to be exceedingly favorable. It will also succeed on poorer soils and is often found where the per cent. of clay is quite large. It is recognized as a light needing species and though capable of enduring shade while very young, never does so with advantage.
BUR OAK. (Quercus macrocarpa.)
The bur oak being closely associated with the white oak, is found over a wide range. It is distributed from Manitoba to Texas, and eastward to the Atlantic coast. It is an important tree in our
State and has reached its greatest development throughout the Mississippi basin. Here it is found associated with white oak, basswood, white ash, cottonwood, black walnut and some of the hickories. About the Great Lakes and in the Dakotas it is sometimes found in pure stands, forming the characteristic “oak opening.” Throughout this section of its natural range, however, it never occurs except in the presence of other forms.
The bur oak requires a better soil than the white oak, being best suited to a deep, rich, so-called "river-bottom” soil. A rich loam is indeed its favorable soil, but it is often found growing and maintaining itself in poorer upland localities. It is recommended for planting only where the soils are fairly rich, and though low, they should be well drained. This species, though somewhat intolerant, will endure more shading than white oak. It is not thought, however, that it is intolerant to such an extent that it could be recommended as an undergrowth beneath some more rapidly growing form.
Two other species of oaks about which only a few words can be said, are the chinquapin oak (quercus acuminata) and the swamp white oak (quercus platanoides). The chinquapin oak is another form which reaches its best development in the lower Ohio Valley. Like most other oaks it will thrive on a wide range of soils. It does best on deep, rich, moist, well-drained river bottom land. It is also not uncommonly found on dry limestone situations such as are found in southern Indiana.
The swamp oak which reaches its greatest size south of the Great Lakes, is found on a deep moist soil or even in inundated swamps. Low banks of water courses are often grown up with this form and many loose, rich and fairly moist uplands are often covered by a mixed growth of which this species forms an important factor.
The ashes are distributed over a considerable portion of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, the green ash even extending into those mountains in Utah and New Mexico. They are most abundant in the Mississippi Valley, where, though often occurring as the leading species, they seldom occur in large masses or pure stands. More generally they are found as individuals or in small groups among other hardwoods. The species with which they are associated are maples, elms, basswood, birches, walnuts and oaks.
WHITE ASH. (Fraxinus Americana.)
The white ash is a natural forest form, reaching its maximum size in the lower Ohio Valley. In the forest it is a tall, slender tree surmounted by a crown, somewhat open and made up of stout upright branches. Its natural distribution is from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to northern Florida, central Alabama and Mississippi and westward to Ontario, northern Minnesota, eastern Nebraska, Kansas, Indian Territory and Texas. Its range for economic planting has been designated by the Government Forest Service as extending from the valley of the Wabash and Ohio Rivers, north and west through Indiana and Illinois to the region of the Great Lakes; westward through Iowa, southern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota ; southward through eastern Nebraska and Kansas into northern Oklahoma and Indian Territory.
In its habits and growth the white ash prefers a rich moist soil. The finest trees have been found in the bottom lands of rivers and in the valleys of rolling uplands. The mild climate of the west central portion of its range offers the most favorable condition for its development. While apparently doing best in a protected valley, on a loam soil containing sufficient sand to make it light and easily worked, the white ash will thrive, under much less favorable conditions, and even in adverse localities. Indeed a wet, compact soil is not objectionable if well drained. It has been said that a porous sub-soil is absolutely essential and that a water table at a depth of from 10 to 12 feet offers considerable advantages. This last statement was varied by observations in the southern counties, where the valleys and low hillsides were, in many cases, found supporting a vigorous growth of young ash seedlings. The ash seedlings will endure considerable shading while young, but it requires light for its perfect development.
GREEN ASH. (Fraxinus lanceolata.)
The green ash, a species closely related to the white ash is, when forest grown, a medium sized, rather round-topped tree with a straight, slender bole and branches more spreading than in the case of the white ash. It rarely exceeds a height of 60 feet and a diameter of 24 inches. It is thus a much smaller tree than the white ash, which reaches a height of 80 feet and a diameter of 3 feet.
In distribution it follows closely the boundaries of the white ash, extending them, however, in the north and southwest part of its range. Along the drainage basins of the middle west this form has sometimes been found as the dominant species, but more often
it occurs as scattered individuals. It is most common and best developed in the Mississippi valley, and decreases in number and importance as we follow it eastward, until it becomes rather infrequent.
The green ash will succeed best if planted in low, moist localities. This does not mean that it requires a rich soil, for it has been found making fair growth on dry sandy loam or even on a stiff clay.
It is indeed one of the forms which can exist and even develop, under conditions of temperature and moisture which would be fatal to many other forms. It has been grown with some degree of success on upland clay, and although its growth in such situations is much slower than in deep river bottom soils, it is thought that it could be handled with greater safety than most other trees. Indeed, where unfavorable conditions are encountered and a question of hardiness of species arises, the white ash should always yield preference to the smaller green ash. Even on the arid plains of western Kansas and Nebraska, this species has survived on abandoned claims where nearly all others have failed. For economic planting its range has not extended beyond its natural distribution, but it is probable that on account of its resistance to adverse conditions it may prove extremely valuable for planting in regions now being developed throughout the west, which extend even beyond its natural boundaries.
The hickories which form the last group to be considered here, are found widely distributed from southern Maine, west through southern Michigan to eastern Kansas, Nebraska and Texas, and south along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. The region of best development is on the western slopes of the Appalachian and along the Ohio River and its tributaries.
The shagbark hickory, when forest-grown, usually attains a height of 70 to 80 feet and a diameter of 2 feet. When grown free, as is usually the case when it is planted for nuts, it branches near the base, and the crown becomes full. Under forest conditions, however, the trunk is straight and clear, and the crown small and open.
The shagbark is generally found growing with other deciduous trees, although it is not uncommon to find comparatively pure
stands. Its associate forms are principally the oaks, chestnut, ashes, maples and yellow poplar.
Since it is closely associated with these forms it would naturally be expected to demand about the same requirements of soil and climate. This is true, however, only to a certain degree, and though it may be found growing rapidly under the same soil conditions as these other associated forms, it must not be supposed that it possesses no individual characteristics. The following peculiarities have been observed and are thought necessary to the best development of the shagbark hickory.
A deep, rich, loamy soil is preferred, but many fine trees are found on other moderately rich soils. Even some of the poorer soils, as those derived directly from sandstone and limestone, which are not so compact as to prevent the toproot from penetrating to a moist subsoil, may produce a good growth of hickory. Such conditions are present in the southern part of Orange County, where the sandstone soils are in many instances covered with an almost pure stand of hickory. Hard, compact clay soils or soils containing a large per cent. of sand, underlain by a layer of impervious clay or hardpan, are never recommended for hickory plantings. In many localities in our central counties the absence of hickory may be traced to a subsoil of compact retentive clay, or an almost impenetrable layer of hardpan.
The strong toproot which the shagbark hickory develops must be allowed to penetrate readily to a moist but not a wet subsoil. To make a more general statement it may be said that this tree will make good growth throughout the Middle States in well-drained situations where the subsoil is loose and moist, and wherever it can get abundant sunlight.
The shagbark is intolerant of shade and develops normally, only, when growing in pure stand or when surrounded by other trees which only slightly obstruct the light. When shaded it grows slowly, and very early assumes a dwarfed appearance. Under proper conditions, however, its rate of growth is fairly rapid, and compares exceedingly well with that of the white oak.
Some of the smaller hickories, such as the pignut or swamp hickory (Hicoria minima), and the mockernut (Hicoria alba), are widely distributed over the eastern United States. They are most abundant in the southern States, this being especially true of the mockernut or Hicoria alba.
The first named species often attains a height of 80 feet and a diameter of 2 feet. It is found growing under less favorable con