xt7xwd3pwd3g https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7xwd3pwd3g/data/mets.xml DeFriese, Lafayette H. 1880  books b96-13-34924281 English Stereotyped for the Survey by Major, Johnston & Barrett, Yeoman Press, : Frankfort, Ky. : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Timber Kentucky. Report on a belt of Kentucky timbers  : extending east and west along the south central part of the state, from Columbus to Pond Gap / by Lafayette H. DeFriese. text Report on a belt of Kentucky timbers  : extending east and west along the south central part of the state, from Columbus to Pond Gap / by Lafayette H. DeFriese. 1880 2002 true xt7xwd3pwd3g section xt7xwd3pwd3g 


          N. S. SHALER, DIRECTOR.

                   ON A





                                     207 & 28

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                            NEW YORK, February, 1879.
Professor N. S. SHALER, Director Kentucky Geological Survey:
  DEAR SIR: I herewith submit a report upon a belt of Ken-
tucky timbers, extending from Columbus, on the Mississippi
river, to Pound Gap, on the Virginia line.
  The data for the report were obtained on a trip made for
that purpose during the summer of i878. The general plan
of the report does not differ materially from that of previous
reports; but the great extent of country covered by it, and
the particular objects in view in this report, rendered neces-
sary considerable differences in detail. Such of these as are
important will appear from the body of the report.
                 Very respectfully,
                        LAFAYETTE H. DEFRIESE.
    VOL Y.-X9                                      289 A 290

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                BUS TO POUND GAP.

                  PRELIMINARY REMARKS.
  In each of the several previous reports made on Kentucky
timbers, attention has been called to a comparatively limited
portion of country; and all the conditions of timber growth,
the relative numbers of the different kinds of timbers, the
changes that these several kinds of timbers undergo under
certain circumstances of time or position, have been inquired
into somewhat minutely, and in a detailed manner. Such
previous reports have been occupied, therefore, each in its
own locality, with minute examinations and discussions of
tree life, growth and changes, and there has not been much
effort to direct attention to the similarities and dissimilari-
ties shown to exist, by comparison of reports, on widely sep-
arated localities. In other words, each previous report has
been detailed in character and limited in locality. This
report is intended to be exactly the reverse. It deals with
a very wide extent of country, and in a more or less general
way. Its principal objects are to embrace under one view
timber growths existing under the most widely different con-
ditions possible within the State, and to call attention to any
marked changes that may be found to accompany such dif-
ferences of condition, and especially to discuss the effects of
height above drainage upon such growths. A better oppor-
tunity for the latter purpose could not be had than presents
itself to one who passes from the swamps and hilly, rolling
country of Western Kentucky onto the level and fertile Blue-



grass Region of the central part of the State, and thence
across the high mountains, deep valleys, and wild ravines of
the eastern portion. Almost every variety of topographical
and geological, condition to be found in the State is met with
on this journey, and the corresponding effects of such changes
upon forest growths can be seen and studied.
  It should be borne in mind, however, in reading this report,
that my observations were confined to a very narrow belt on
either side of the line of travel; and that, while I brought to
my. assistance facts obtained from elaborate and minute study
in various parts of the State, nevertheless I may have erred
at times from having been necessarily confined to so narrow
a strip of country. Conditions may exist at one point which
are exceptional rather than general, and which, a few miles
distant, would cease to exist altogether. Erroneous reason-
ings may thus arise, which could not be avoided under the
circumstances; though, in preparing data, great care has been
taken to avoid material error.
  Another source of possible error in such a report as this, to
which attention should be called at the outset, arises in deal-
ing with comparative heights above drainage. In a rapid trip
over so great an extent of country it is impossible to keep a
stationary barometer to correct the fluctuations of the instru-
ments carried; so that, in many instances, heights had to be
more or less estimated. Such a source of error was unfor-
tunate; for a difference of level of a few feet will often make
a material difference in the growth of timbers, and interfere
with comparative work.

                     GENERAL REMARKS.
  In passing from the extreme southwestern to the extreme
southeastern part of Kentucky, almost a complete change in
forest growth will be noted. This singular change-a great
part of which I cannot account for at all at present-begins
first to be noticed, along the belt covered by this report, in
Madison county, in that cluster of hills of which --Big Hill"
is the centre and the most conspicuous. An exception tq




this statement should be made in the case of linden or bass-
wood trees, a few of which skirt 'Muldraugh's Hill farther to
the west. (By Muldraugh's Hill, is here meant the entire
range of hills bordering the Bluegrass Region on the south.)
About the vicinity of Big Hill the first pines (P. mitis) make
their appearance. Not a single coniferous tree or bush, with
the exception of the swamp cypress and a few small cedars
in Northwestern Kentucky, is to be seen in the entire west-
ern part of the State.
  The pines first appear on the dry Waverly shales, extend-
ing down to the foot-hills along the knobs about Big Hill, and
are also found on the Conglomerate, capping the tops of the
highest knobs in this region. Their entire absence in West-
ern Kentucky, and their presence in Eastern Kentucky, can-
not be due to difference of geological formation, for both
Waverly and Conglomerate are found in the western part of
the State. Nor can it be due merely to the height of the
hills and mountains in Eastern Kentucky; for pines are often
found here on hills much lower than many in Western Ken-
tucky. In another place, and under its proper head, I shall
give what I conceive to be the reason of this peculiar phe-
nomenon in the growth and distribution of the pine in Ken-
tucky. At present, I wish merely to call attention to the
marked difference between the forest growths of the western
and those of the eastern part of the State.
  In passing from the west to the east, the first hemlock trees
(Abies Canadensis) were found by Professor Shaler in a De-
vonian shale ravine, about five miles north of Irvine, in Es-
till county. In a previous report on the timbers of the North
Cumberland (Bell and Harlan counties), I called attention to
the fact that, in that part of the State, hemlock appeared only
on coal-measure formations, and was confined almost entirely
to the Conglomerate. The finding of hemlock on Devonian
shale, in Estill county, shows that in Kentucky, as in other
States, that tree is not confined to particular formations. It
should be said, however, that very little hemlock was found
on this journey elsewhere than on coal-measures.



  The magnolias are likewise first met with not far from Irvine,
and between that place and Beattyville. while the American
laurels (Rhododendron and Kalmia) are not found until the
rockier mountains and wilder ravines farther east and south
are reached. The same may also be said of the Amelanchiers
and some other smaller shrubs. Thus, within comparatively
few miles, and without any apparent topographical or geological
reason for it, the whole character of the forest growth changes;
arid while the oaks and hickories of the west remain, there
are added to them lindens, pines, laurels, and magnolias-
stately and beautiful trees of the east alone. I say, without
any apparent topographical reason, because these timbers are
found alike on the mountains and in the valleys of Eastern
Kentucky, while in Western Kentucky they do not appear,
even on the highest hills. The same geological conditions
can be found in the western part of the State as those on
which these timbers grow in the east; so that the only point
of difference which suggests itself, is in the higher mountains
and hills of the east. It may be, therefore, with some of these
timbers, that a wild and mountainous country is a necessary
condition precedent to their introduction, and that their sub-
sequent spread over the lower hills and valleys is a matter
of course; but this is a subject which would require a great
deal of preliminary investigation, before an opinion upon it
could be safely hazarded.
  Nothing is more certain to attract the attention of students
of forestry in Kentucky, than the contrast met with in passing
from the splendid woodlands of Muldraugh's Hill onto the
Cincinnati limestone of the Bluegrass Region, near Danville.
Especially is this contrast striking in Garrard county, which,
though one of the finest and richest in the State, is neverthe-
less, with the exception of a few fenced-up groves, a treeless
waste, devoid alike of water and forests. Coursing across it
here and there can still be traced the dried-up beds of numer-
ous streams. in which, within the memory of citizens living.
along them, water continuously flowed. Inasmuch as the Cin-
cinnati limestone is an exceedingly waterless formation, or one




the surface of which is not adapted to the holding and flowing
of water, I should have been in doubt whether to attribute the
dry character of the country to the destruction of the timber
or to the formation, had I not been told that water once flowed
the year round through the now parched stream-beds. All
that can be said is, that the people owe their present dearth
to their past thoughtlessness; and the reckless destruction of
forests now going on throughout the State portends an even
greater calamity before there is a turn for the better. An
able investigator of this subject well says: "Since i835, the
forest area of the western hemisphere has decreased at the
yearly average rate of 7,600,ooo acres, or about 1 1,ooo square
miles, and this rate in the United States alone has advanced
from I,600 square miles in i835 to 7,000 in 1855, and 8,400
in I876, while the last two years have been scarcely less ex-
haustive. Statistics for eighty years previous to 1835 show
that we have been wasting the supply of moisture to Ameri-
can soil at the average rate of seven per cent. for each quar-
ter of a century during the last one hundred and twenty-five
years, and that we are now approaching the limit beyond
which any further decrease will materially influence the cli-
mate of the entire continent. Many eastern regions, such as
Afghanistan, Persia, India, and Asia Minor, once possessed of
a fine climate and abundant harvests, are now often scourged
by pestilence and famine; and it is altogether probable that
their misfortunes began with the disappearance of their native
forests. It is quite likely that we shall suffer in climate, fer-
tility, and health before a great while, if we continue to de-
stroy our trees as recklessly as we have done, and it behooves
us to be warned in time.        For one hundred and
fifty years we have been felling the forest; for the next one
hundred and fifty we should try to restore what we have taken
  In previous reports attention has been called to the fact
that certain timbers, especially white oaks, do not seem to
return again to forests from which they have once been
driven by such an agency as fire. It has also been men-



tioned, that the formations best adapted to the growth of
chestnut timber are the Conglomerate and Chester sand-
stones. On soils from these formations chestnut is normally
found in the greatest abundance, and growing to the greatest
perfection. In passing from Western to Eastern Kentucky,
my attention was therefore attracted to the fact that when
the Big Clifty (Chester) sandstone first appeared, which was
in the neighborhood of Hopkinsville and on Pilot Knob, no
chestnut appeared with it.  Moreover, the white oak and
liriodendron, away from the streams, seemed scrubby and
scarce. Otherwise the forest was normal, and I searched in
vain for any clue to the absence of these timbers. I finally
came to the conclusion that, long ago, the entire country
through here, reaching probably as far west as the Cum-
berland river, had been laid waste by fires, and had been
barrens similar to those still remaining in the Purchase, and
further east in Barren and other counties.
  Mr. Irvine Kennedy, who has lived in this part of Ken-
tucky for sixty-eight years, and who now resides near Elk-
ton, informed me that my conjecture was correct, and that
he could remember when all these heavy forests were a
uniform growth of young trees, with not an old tree stand-
ing. except on streams too large for fires to sweep through
their swamps.
  I was afterward informed that some chestnut groves exist
not far from Elkton, though I did not see a tree. It is pos-
sible that they stand in a piece of woods for some reason
protected from the ravages of fires. Without special inves-
tigation made for that purpose, it is impossible to arrive at
anything near the extent of Kentucky forests which repre-
sent, not the original growths of the State, but a kind of sec-
ond growth, sprung haphazard from the burial-place of the
primeval forests.
  In a previous report on the timbers of the Purchase Dis-
trict (see Report, volume V, this series), attention was called
to the remarkable absence of chestnut from that part of Ken-
tucky, although the formation is a mill-stone grit waste, on



which chestnut should be found. A closer examination of
the timbers surrounding the present barrens of the Purchase
shows that there is very little white oak among them, except
along streams and on low grounds. My present opinion is
-subject, of course, to correction upon closer study-that the
high grounds of almost the entire Purchase, from Tennessee
river on the east to the Mississippi on the west, have been
swept by fires and denutded of their timbers, and that the
only difference between the other forests of this part of Ken-
tucky and the present barrens is one of age. Both are sec-
ond growths, and in both cases the primitive forests have
been swept away by long-continued fires. In this report I
give my reasons for believing that in former times the bar-
rens have extended east beyond the Cumberland river, at
least as far as Hopkinsville, if not, with local exceptions, to
the waters of Big Barren river, leaving the narrow strip be-
tween the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers alone unswept
by fires. Big Barren river is probably the eastern limit, in this
locality, of the ancient barrens, part of which are still to be
seen along it. The location of the northern limit of these
ancient barrens is worthy of special investigation, if the view
here advanced be correct, for they have certainly never ex-
tended to the Ohio river. Further on in this report I have
called attention to certain chestnuts, evidently dropped by
passers-by, having sprung up in the Purchase, near Clark
river, and died. In this connection, an interesting question
presents itself, and that is, whether chestnut and white oak
will grow again in a forest once //horougIly burnt out, even if
planted. If not, it may be that the barrens were never burnt
over so long as to kill the roots and seeds of existing timbers,
but only long enough to destroy the chestnut, white oak, &c.,
which would not grow again on the burnt-over grounds. The
whole subject is one of the deepest interest, and should be
thoroughly investigated.
  There are some peculiarities connected with timber growth
in certain localities which are worthy of mention. For in-



stance, speaking broadly and generally, timbers are far better
on the north sides of hills than on the south sides. This is
doubtless due to the north side of a hill being shadier and
damper than the south side, which is exposed directly to the
drying heat of the sun. There are some exceptions to the
statement that the finest forests grow on the north side of the
hill. When the hill is very high, the observation made in the
report on the timbers of the North Cumberland, that white
oak flourishes best on the south side of the hill, is true. It is
also true, even to a greater extent, of pines. If the hill be
low, the best white oak, as will be noticed further on, like
other timbers except pine, grows on the north side; if it be
high enough to affect much the temperature of the north side,
the white oak is found on the warm side; and where white
oak is found on the north side of a high hill, it is found right
at the base, where it is sheltered, or right on top, where
the sun reaches it. In the case of the pines, it may be that
the method of their distribution, of which I shall speak fur-
ther on, has something to do with their confinement largely to
the southern slopes of hills; but that cannot fully account for
the fact, and it must be that the pines of Kentucky are not
hardy, and seek the southern sides of mountains for warmth
and sunlight.
  Again, it would be natural to suppose, inasmuch as there
are several belts of distinct timbers on each large hill, each
belt composed of those timbers adapted to its height above
drainage, that the various species of timbers would shade off
gradually in ascending a hill; for instance, that the best white
oak would be found at the base of the hill, that that a little
higher up would be not quite so good, and that the quality
would gradually grow poorer, until the white oak ceased alto-
gether. To my astonishment, this did not seem to be a rule.
That is, in descending a hill, the very first trees of a particu-
lar species are often as fine as any others found on the hill,
unless want of richness of soil prevented. The observation
certainly holds good with the beeches, hemlocks, and other
timbers with which moisture of soil is the controlling requisite



of growth. They remain of the finest quality till they cease
altogether, and their line of growth often forms a sharp and
well-defined band around the hill.
  As would naturally be expected, the timbers characteristic
of a mountain top are not found directly on top of the moun-
tain, but a few feet below the top, on the brow. The reason
is, that on the level top there is usually a considerable depth
of detritus and decayed vegetable matter, more or less moist,
which gives to the timbers somewhat the characteristics of
lowland timbers.

                      SPECIAL TIMBERS.
  Reference has already been made to the peculiar, and, in
many respects, remarkable distribution of pines in Kentucky.
They are not found further west, in the timber belt here
spoken of, than the Big Hill region, in Madison and Garrard
counties; and the same counties are almost the northern limit
of pine growth likewise, though scattering ones may be found
on Muldraugh's Hill, still farther north. The pines met with
are principally of the P. mits or yellow species, though con-
siderable numbers of P. i-igida or pitch pine, P. strobus or
white pine, and P. /aeda or loblolly pine, are also met with.
The question presented by this pine growth is, why is it lim-
ited so absolutely and arbitrarily to the southeastern part of
the State Is the reason to be found in the geological forma-
tion of that part of the State, or in its topographical nature,
or in some problem connected with the original appearance
of the pines in the Kentucky forests  As I have already said,
the reason cannot be a geological one, for the exact geologi-
cal counterpart of this section of the State can be found in
Western Kentucky, where there are absolutely no pines.
The true cause must then be sought in the other two alter-
natives-topographical nature of the country and method of
original appearance and distribution-and I think that these
two causes supplemented each other in producing the present
peculiarities of pine growth.  In order to fully comprehend
the matter, let these facts be kept in mind:



  I. The pines of Kentucky (hemlock is excepted for the
present, and will be spoken of later) require a very dry soil,
and for this reason are confined to the rock ledges of the high
mountain tops, or to the dry shales of the lower levels. For
this reason pines cannot be distributed by the earring power of
water, as in that case the seeds would be deposited in low,
wet places, where growth would not take place.
  2. In a general way, pines gradually increase in numbers
from where they are first met with on the north to the south-
ern border of the State, and from where they are first met
with in the west to the eastern part of the State. This state-
ment is subject to some modification on account of variations
in height of the hills in this part of Kentucky, to be explained
  3. Pines are distributed over slopes of hills and mountains
facing south and southeast.
  A little reflection will show that only one hypothesis will
satisfactorily explain all these peculiar facts in relation to the
present growth and distribution of the pine; and that is, that
the pine forests of Kentucky were introduced at a compara-
tively late date, and spread, from the vast pine forest and mountain
growths of North Carolina, to the south and southeast of this
section. Inasmuch as they could not have been distributed
by water, for the reason already given, we must look to the
wind as the motor power in their distribution. I was informed
by all the citizens questioned on the subject that the prevail-
ing winds in Kentucky are from the south and west. Of
course, it is apparent at once that the pine seeds are carried
north from North Carolina by the prevailing southern winds,
while the western winlds are almost a perfect barrier to con-
fine them to the eastern part of the State. The trees work
westward very slowly against the prevailing winds; and when
the wind does blow from the east, it is liable to be accom-
panied by rain, which would destroy its power to carry the
seeds to any great distance. If the pine seeds were carried
by the winds from the south, of course they would be lodged
on the south sides of the hills and mountains, and the pines



would naturally be first found there. I do not say that this
is the reason why they are found on the south, and not found
on the north sides of the mountains, for they would, if con-
ditions were suitable, soon work over from one side to the
other. I merely say that, given the conditions here present.
the pines would certainly be first found on the south sides of
  It must be said that there are some tolerably strong argu-
ments against the view I have here advanced as to the distri-
bution of the pines, and one of these is, that in the very
section of Kentucky where the pines are found, they are by
no means uniformly distributed, and oftentimes miles of low
hills will intervene without a single pine, and a comparatively
solitary high hill will have several on its summit. I can only
suggest, in explanation of this, that the high hill-tops are the
ones which would most catch the wind-carried seeds, and that,
should they be dropped on the low intervening hills, they
would probably not grow, unless the formation happened to
be one of the dry shales. As I have previously said, my
observations go to show that the pines in this part of the
State (as also in the Pine Mountains further southwest) grow
only on high hill or mountain tops, or else on dry shales, like
the Devonian or some of the Waverly shales.
  Inasmuch as the hemlock is always found within compara-
tively few feet, in barometric height, above local drainage, and
is therefore usually in the hollows and ravines, rather than on
the hills, we must look to the water for its distribution. Such
seeds as the wind might pick up and lodge on mountain peaks
certainly would not grow. To appreciate the peculiar distri-
bution of hemlock, its characteristics must be understood.
These I have studied minutely, so far as their growth in Ken-
tucky is concerned, and am convinced-
  I. That they do not grow, on the average, at a greater
height than fifty feet above the local drainage.
  2. That, nevertheless they require a very dry soil, the
more rocky and precipitous, usually, the better. These two
conditions can be satisfied only by small mountain streams,



which have a very limited extent of bottom land (hemlock
will not grow on bottom land at all), and where the surround-
ing hills come down to the water edge, forming more or less
ravines and precipices. The consequence is, that while the
head-waters of the Kentucky river on the one hand, and of
the Cumberland on the other, penetrate into the very heart
of the hemlock region, and are the mountain streams along
which this timber grows to the greatest perfection, yet the
Kentucky river does not carry it far northward, nor the Cum-
berland river far westward. [he seeds will be carried down-
ward and deposited by these streams, and will take root and
grow, just so long as the above conditions are complied with;
but, whenever the streams become large enough to have a
belt of bottom lands along them, the possibility of a further
spread of the hemlock ceases in Kentucky. The conditions
of growth of that timber may be different elsewhere.
  It is worth while, in speaking of special timbers, to call
attention to a somewhat remarkable forest of beeches, which
occupies a belt of country eight or ten miles wide, beginning
about three miles from Greensburg, and extending to within
about the same distance of Campbellsville, and lying in Green
and Taylor counties. The extent of the belt in other direc-
tions I could not determine. In this belt, beeches form the
forest timbers to the almost entire exc'usion of other growths.
They not only occupy the valleys, but extend to the tops of
the highest hills. The reason is to be found in the formation,
which is a reddish, very much decayed St. Louis chert, out
of the very top of which the water oozes, and which is there-
fore always wet. Inasmuch as height above drainage is the
principal determinant of beech growth, it is natural that these
hills should be covered with such a heavy forest of that tim-
  As to the distribution of the magnolias, the so-called Amer-
ican laurels (rhododendron and kalmia), and the linden trees,
I confess that I see no reason why they should be confined to
the eastern part of Kentucky, unless it be the purely topo-
graphical one, that high mountains and deep and ragged



ravines are necessary conditions of their introduction and
growth. On the other hand, all these timbers grow and
flourish on ground in this part of the State, which has less
of those very characteristics than grounds further west, on
which they do not grow at all. So far as I can see, the only
difference is, that there are high mountains in Southeastern
Kentucky, and there are no high mountains in Western Ken-
tucky. The subject of the growth and distribution of these
timbers is full of interest, and should be investigated.
  I should speak, also, before leaving this head, of the oaks
in Kentucky and the West generally. So far as their classifi-
cation is concerned, they are in a very unsatisfactory condi-
tion; and in dealing with them, our botanies are practically
worthless. In all of them, the best of which are those of
Gray, Wood, and Chapman, the basis of distinction is their
leaf or fruit. About the former, a great deal of space is
occupied discussing distinctions which do not exist at all; for
the leaves of the oaks, with a few marked exceptions given
below, shade into one another in such a way that it is impos-
sible to distinguish the trees in that way.  It is nearly as
bad with the fruit, with the additional inconvenience that it
is only for a short portion of the year that such a distinction
is available at all. I am convinced that the only character-
istic suitable for a basis of classification in forestry, is the
bark, and that seems to have been studiously ignored by our
best authorities. For my own part, while I desire to be very
conservative in speaking on a subject which requires much
labor and study. the more attention I devote to the oaks, the
more I am inclined to believe that there is no foundation in
fact for more than seven oaks in this part of the United States,
viz.: white oak, black oak, red oak, Spanish oak, post oak, laurel
oak, and chestnut oak. There is exceedingly small basis for a
distinction between the red oak and black oak, and I question
if they merit the dignity of separate species. All of the
many species of our oaks, beyond these six or seven, rest,
I believe, upon illusory distinctions, and can be traced through
all gradations into one of the seven divisions here given. Of



course, in the following pages, the usual botanical classifica-
tions have been made, as a matter of convenience.
  There is an oak found near streams, and in rich woods and
glens in Kentucky, which cannot be classed, according to the
distinctions now in use, as a variety of red oak, nor as a
dwarf oak, nor as a Quereus lyrata. It resembles Q. macro-
carpa more than any other oak, perhaps, except that the
leaves are not downy or tomentose beneath; but, on the
contrary, are a dark, rich, smooth green, and are shining like
the leaves of Q. /trata. I have called it rich red oak, and
have classified it as macrocarpa.
  There is another oak, called by the people chinquapin oak,
and which I have classed as Q. prinoides, on account of its
very great resemblance to chinquapin oak, but which often
grows fifty feet high in the mountains of Kentucky. There is
also in the mountains a low, rich green oak, the bark of which
is darkish to whitish gray, with long, straight, shallow furrows
at the base of the tree, growing more deep and chipped up
the stem; branches smooth, gray, with brownish rough spots
or dots; acorn broader than long, dorsally compressed, and
one fourth buried in a brittle, scaly, flat cup. The leaf lobes
are 7, 9, x1 in number, and are awned. The little tree is
very rich in fruit. I have called it Q. ilicifolia, on account of
its great resemblance to that species, though it differs from it
in some respects.

                     TIMBER IN DETAIL.
  A mere running sketch of the Purchase country and its
timbers will be given here, because a special report on the
timbers of this section has been prepared and published, to
which the reader is referred for more detailed information.
(See Rep