Will's Tree Challenge: Question #1

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As a result of studying trees, especially those native to North America, I have discovered some interesting information on different species, some of which may not be that well known. I thought it would be a pleasant break to post some questions and see the responses.

If you have to look it up, you're cheating, but that's alright because all is fair in advancing our knowledge of trees and how they shaped the world around us. American bonsai will eventually be influenced by our culture and what better way to start than to look at the history of our own native species.

Question #1

What North American tree was not only instrumental in building the greatest Navy of the time, but also was one of the major causes of the American Revolutionary War?



For those of you reading this for the first time, don't scroll down and read the answers given, instead reply first and see if you were correct, before confirming it.

I'll give this a couple days before posting the answer with explanation and acknowledging those who correctly answered the question.


Have fun,


Will



__________________________________________________________________
Other Tree Challenges:

Question #1
Question #2
Question #3
Question #4
Question #5
Question #6
Question #7
Question#8
.
 
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BigBill

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I would have to say it was the liberty posts. which were made of pine.
 

Bonsai Nut

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"Greatest Navy of the Time" leads me to think of "Old Ironsides" and the heavy frigates that were considered revolutionary in their construction. I am pretty sure they were made with heavy Oak sides - but I'd be cheating and have to look it up to confirm it.

However why would Oak be a major cause of the Revolutionary War? Unless... was the Liberty Tree an Oak? That's my guess :) And now I'm itching to know the answer :)

Oh, and don't ask me to name the oak :) Red oak, Pin oak, Black oak, White oak, Live oak, Bur Oak, Cork oak; I'll bet there are at least 50 oak species in North America :)
 

Bob

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Hi everyone. This seems like as good a time as any to make my first post here! I would say Southern Oak. I think that it was because of the natural curves of the branches, which were perfect for bow (as in bow of the ship) construction. Bob.
 

Tachigi

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Having a ship restoration background and having worked for the Smithsonian. I will hazard a guess and say eastern white pine. This tree was highly prized for masts due to there height and straightness.
 

candyjshirey

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Eastern White Pine would be my best guess, also. My land is plentiful with eastern white pine beasts and I have heard the stories of ship builders related to the long straight trees prized for masts.
 

Dav4

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The first tree I thought of was the pitch pine, Pinus rigida. which was also used extensively in ship building.

Dave
 

Martin Sweeney

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Will,
I initially thought Oak for ship constuction. Great Britain had used up much of its own "old growth" forest stocks, colonial forests were still primary growth forests and the wood was much denser, and better at repelling cannon balls than what could be found in Great Britain. Tachigi's response worries me that I am wrong. That is interesting about the pines for masts. Either answer makes sense.
Regards,
Martin
 

Bob

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Tachigi is looking strong with that answer and his experience.
 

Vance Wood

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I believe the answer Will is looking for is the Oak, in this instance the Charter Oak. Oak was the major element in ship construction, Old Iron Sides was not an iron clad ship but was built of Oak that was so thick and strong that cannon balls could not penetrate her sides. If my history serves me correctly the ideas and alliances that led to the American Revolution were hatched in the shade of an old Oak tree that has been named the Charter Oak. The White Pine did serve a purpose in providing masts for ships but it has never been considered in the way this single Oak tree has.
 

Martin Sweeney

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Vance,

As a recovering Nutmegger, I can tell you that the Charter Oak was a White Oak in which the Connecticut State Charter was hidden from the British when they came looking for it in the 1600's. They were going to repeal the Charter and split Connecticut between Massachusetts and New York, but couldn't or didn't after they could not locate the Charter.

Regards,
Martin
 

Behr

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The chief oak species used in "Old Ironsides" was the 'Southern Live Oak'...This particular species was so well established in this time for the construction of ships for battle, that the "U.S. Navy" purchased and set aside several thousand acres of 'live oaks' in the Southeast part of the nation, so that they would always have a supply of this magnificant wood for the building of 'vessels of war'...The largest stands of 'live oak' to this day are still owned by the Navy...

The shape of the trunks and branches were selected for appropriate ship parts, which resulted in the curves and corners being much stronger than any joinery known to man...The density and strength of the wood was ideal for repelling the cannon balls of the enemy, and so was used also for the sides or hull of the ships...

Regards
Behr

:) :) :)
 

BONSAI_OUTLAW

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Behr is right about that. I had to write a paper back in school on it and also built a model of the ship which was purchased by my history teacher. I wish I still had it. It was three feet long.
 
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Any others?


Let's not forget the second part of the question, "... but also was one of the major causes of the American Revolutionary War?"


Will
 

Rick Moquin

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I knew Ironside was made out of oak, but not which type. Thank you Mr Behr ,your explanation was to a T, including the forks in the branches for selected parts, e,g the bow sprint (not sure of terminology).
 

cray13

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Pine Tar.

I'll throw in my two cents. Being from North Carolina and having recently read a book on North Carolina history I'm going to say Eastern White Pine as well.

I don't remember the details, but I do know that the tar from pine trees was a very important substance used to waterproof those old wooden vessels. This stuff became a very valuable commodity to the British with their constant sea battles with Spain and France. Pine tar was used in many other applications as well.

There are several legends to why North Carolina is called the "Tar Heel" state. One says it's because NC volunteers during the revolutionary war defended so fiercely in a battle that it was said they must have put tar on their heels to stay in place. Another says it was used to describe stubborn confederate soldiers from NC. But I'm guessing the third "legend" is probably where "Tar Heels" really came from... a nickname given to North Carolinian's because of the production/harvesting of pine tar that was a major export for the colonists.

I can't remember the details, but I do remember reading that the owners of the "Pine Plantations" (my term) remained British loyalists and export of pine sap/tar to Britain was suspended for a long time even after independence had been secured. These loyalists were "removed" after the war and their properties were confiscated by the State.
 
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rlist

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which resulted in the curves and corners being much stronger than any joinery known to man...
Well, it would have been much easier if they had just used Gorilla Glue... :D
 

Bill S

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I believe the answer is the Pitch Pine ( pinus rigida ). Most of these trees were cut down over the years leaving basically the crappy scraggly ones.
 
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The resin produced by this tree was used by the Native Americans to waterproof canoes, as a antiseptic, and as a medicine to combat smallpox, coughs, scurvy, and various other illness. Yes, sailors did use the pitch for waterproofing ropes, canvas and even other wood, hence earning them the nickname in the 1600's that has stuck till this day, "tars."

At the time European settlers came to America, Europe had basically already logged out their own forests and the English were using imported wood from other nearby countries for masts. These were substandard at the best, often being pieced together out of the biggest trees available at the time. The Eastern White Pine (Pinus Strobus) offered a solution in what was almost 3.4 billion cubic feet of trees in the known territories. The first shipment of 100 masts left New Hampshire in 1634 and sold for upwards of 100 pounds each!

The White Pine became so important to England that the British Parliament, under William III declared that all White Pines with a diameter of 24 inches or more belonged to the king. A fine of 100 pounds was levied against anyone who cut down one without authorization.

White Pines across the known nation were marked as belonging to the King, blazed with a special sign known as "The King's Broad Arrow."

In Europe all the land and forests belonged to the King and the early American settlers were greatly upset by the King laying claim to trees in America, where all the resources were thought to belong to all.

Long before the Boston Tea Party, settlers were angry about this taxation without representation and went to great, sometimes humorous, means to thwart what they believed was an illegal possession of their own resources.

Settlers would dress up as Native Americans and cut down trees under the cover of night in order to gain access to some of the huge profits promised by the White Pine.

Some would spend a great deal of time putting the King's blaze on smaller, inferior trees and others would simply cut big blocks for shingles out of standing trees, leaving the tree to die.

This struggle over the ownership of the White Pines was a significant part of what eventually led to the American Revolutionary War. The very first flag of the revolutionary forces featured the White Pine.

It wasn't long before the early Americans became angry that the British warships (the largest navy of the time) threatening them were fitted with White Pine masts from their own forests. Bowing to pressure, Congress stopped all White Pine exports in 1774.

The rest is better known history......



Will


Sources:

Native American Ethnobotany - Moerman
The North American Sylva - Francois Andre Milhaux
Bontanica North America - Marjorie Harris
A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America - Donald Culross Peattie
Changes in the Land - Cronon
 
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