Leonard Lyell


Leonard Lyell


John Muir


[1][letterhead]29th May. 1910My dear SirI have been spending my time hunting the Redwood & partly from ignorance of the country have expended so much time that I shall be unable to see you at Los Angeles; & now ask if there is any likelihood of my finding you at Martinez when I come back, after an attempt I am going to make to see the giant Sequoia Forest which you were so good as to specially recommend to my attention.As I had never seen the Redwood in its native forests I was specially anxious to make sure of them first & went04769

[2]to Fort Bragg. There I saw a good deal & was particularly advised to see some of the finer stands on the Eel River. This expedition cost far more time than I had expected & after all I did not get to the largest trees. Difficulties & delays in getting about the country was the cause & I did not think it worth while staying longer - I was very much interested in what I saw the stately magnificence of the standing trees up to 10 & 12 ft in diameter & the great value of the timberIf the woods I saw are a fair sample of the rest I fancy I must be right in regarding the forest as a decadent one. Almost all the larger mature trees are dead at the top & even of the next younger growth a very large proportion seemed withered at the head & seemed not to be increasing in height though all were vigorous in growth lower down & may increase in growth yet a good whileI saw no seedlings of S. sempervirens that I could be sure of. There were plenty3.of young plants of the Douglas fir, a tree that seems less fastidious as to condition of growth. Why the Redwood should stop abruptly & sometimes at a distance recur again in the valley; I could find no sufficient reason - I suppose it has something to do with rainfall.This decadence of the Redwood looks not to be of very old date. Possibly within the last 100 years. Anyhow I could not see any evidence to show that it was now holding its own against an invasion of the Douglas Fir. from the higher slopes. The cutover stocks sprout freely but none that I saw were high enough or were thick enough or the ground to justify the expectation that they would become forest trees for in many cases the leading shoot was very liable to wither & break off. The Union lumber Co people told me of an interesting experiment they are carrying out in planting up the intervals among the cutover stock with Eucalyptus both as an additional source of lumber & because they hope that the side shade04769

[4]will promote the upward growth of the Redwood plant. This was the only case I have heard of of any artificial means taken to promote the growth of this tree. Though the old forest seems destined to perish I daresay under good sylvicultural methods it may be continued as an economic timber [tree?] & be of great value. Before this comes I hope the government will secure for preservation some good sections of this most splendid tree - quite irreplaceable in its peculiar beauty & dignity. From what I know of the rapid growth of S. sempervirens in Ireland I think it would respond to a much heavier rain fall & provided the young wood was ripened in the summer a modest amount of frost would not kill it —[letterhead]5.I have pleasure in noticing a much greater disposition among the lumber men to adopt steps & preserve some of the best trees for the enhancement of the ultimate selling value of this land as a residential district & for scenic purposes. I daresay this is good policy - Further, I find some of them willing to take more active steps to stop the desolation of the country through fires. Public opinion is acting on these usefully. Still if the big lumber has to be got out I don't see how it can be practically extracted without a great deal of burning of slashing of Underwood. If the burning were done more systematically & thoroughly so that the land might be very soon restored to greenery by the growth of new seedlings & no black stumps were left I think much less objection would be taken to their methods — This forestry problem is immensely interesting to me.After seeing the Sequoia park, if practicable I shall go north04769

[6]to study Sitka Spruce & Douglas fir in Washington from Tacoma as headquarters & to revisit that delightful National Park Mount Rainer, where if it ever is sufficiently melted I hope to see some of the higher [lived?] silver firs. A. lasiocarpa & firs of [Paradise?] Valley & the Nisqually glacier.Will you be staying at Martinez?Believe me with many thanksyours sincerely,Leonard Lyell[letterhead]


San Francisco

Date Original

1910 May 29


Original letter dimensions: 21.5 x 14 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 19, Image 0427

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Some letters written to John Muir may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Owning Institution

University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.


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