Economic Botany: A Textbook of Useful Plants and Plant Products

By Albert F. Hill | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
FOREST PRODUCTS: WOOD AND CORK

FOREST PRODUCTS

The products of the forest have been of service to mankind from the very beginnings of his history. The most familiar, and the most impontant, of these products is wood, the manifold uses of which in all types of construction, as a fuel, and as a raw material of the paper and rayon industries are well known to everyone. Wood, however, is by no means the only useful material obtained from trees. Other products include cork, rubber, many of our tanning materials and dyestuffs, resins, gums, oils, drugs, and even sugar, starch, and various chemicals. Moreover the seeds and fruits of many trees often serve as food for man or beast.

Not only are these forest products of value to man, but the forests themselves have many utilitarian features. They help to regulate climate and temperature. They aid in the conservation of the water supply and in flood control by preventing the runoff of water. Their deep roots hold the soil firmly in place and so check erosion. Again they may act as shelter belts against drying winds. In addition forests afford a range for livestock, a shelter for wild life, and offer many recreational aspects for man, the importance of which is just beginning to be recognized.

Our discussion of forest products, as such, will be limited to wood and cork, which will be treated in the present chapter. The other useful materials obtained from trees will be considered in later chapters together with similar economic products from other sources.


THE IMPORTANCE OF WOOD

From the earliest time clothing, shelter, and food have been the three great necessities of mankind. We have already discussed in Chap. II the importance of fiber plants as a source of shelter and of clothing. Wood has been fully as important, and has contributed its share to the advancement of civilization. Primitive man not only used wood in the construction of his rude shelters, but was able, even with the crude stone implements at his disposal, to fashion dugout canoes, implements, and utensils of various kinds. At a later period when metal tools became available the uses of wood increased greatly. When we stop to consider that from the dawn of history to the middle of the last century all ships were made

-52-

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