Transactions, 2: 382-386 (1882)
XCVII. Some farther Observations on the Method of ringing Fruit Trees, for the purpose of rendering them productive.
GEORGE HENRY NOEHDEN, LL. D. F. L. S. &c. Vice Secretary.
Read September 2, 1817.
** See Bon Jardinier for the year 1817, p. 305.
† Description de l'Ecole d'Agriculture du Muséum, p. 59.
IN a former communication, the practice of ringing fruit trees, in order to cause them to bear, has been spoken of; and I have since found, in reading some of the writings of M. ANDRE THOUIN, that this mode of proceeding is familiar to the French gardeners. Mr. HEMPEL, of whose account of this operation, a translation has been given in the Appendix to the present volume, mentions, that his father, from whom he himself learnt that method, had derived it from a French journal. M. THOUIN intimates, in a passage, which will be subsequently quoted, at full length, that it has been known and approved in France, for upwards of a century. The French have likewise adapted it to another use, namely, to facilitate the process of obtaining layers, especially from hard-wooded trees or shrubs; but this application is of much later date. It will be recollected, that our President, guided by that philosophical sagacity, which is peculiar to him, arrived at this practice, by his own experiments. He gave the Society an account of it, in the beginning of the year 1812. The subject of ringing fruit trees is incidentally touched upon, by M. THOUIN, in his Description de l'Ecole d'Agriculture du Muséum, p. 83. where he treats of the various modes of making layers, His words, translated from the French, are these: "The name of annular cut, or annular section, and of vertical ring, is given to a space, or blank, occasioned in the circumference of a shoot, branch, bough, stem, or even the trunk of a tree, by the removal of a stripe of the bark, from the outer cuticle down to the alburnum, not, however, including the latter. The object of this operation is, either to diminish the vigour of a luxuriant branch, and by detaining the sap in the upper parts, to force it to yield fruit, or to dispose it to emit fibres, fit to be converted into roots, for the purpose of making layers. These rings are made of different sizes, according to the nature of the branches, and the particular trees, on which they are cut, and likewise according to the object you have in view. You, generally, have them of a width of two millimetres to three centimetres. It is only a few years, since they have been applied, to hard woods, with the intention of getting layers. This operation is used in the nurseries, for the multiplication of fruit-trees, and in the gardens, for the increase of exotics." M. THOUIN remarks, that the ring must be quite cut down to the alburnum, a circumstance, which has been particularly, adverted to in the paper, to which I have alluded. The dimension of the rings, he says, may be from two millimetres to three centimetres, according to the subjects on which they are practised, and the purposes, for which they are wanted. If we reduce those denominations to our measure, we shall find, that two millimetres will be somewhat less than the twelfth part of an inch, and three centimetres will approach to an inch and a half; and we may say, that M. THOUIN requires, for his different purposes, rings of a width from the twelfth part of an inch to an inch and a half. It is implied in what he says, that rings should vary in their dimensions, according to circumstances, which had also been remarked in our paper.* It is satisfactory to see an opinion, that had, in a great measure, been founded upon general reasoning, confirmed by such an authority as that of M. THOUIN, who speaks from experience and observation. The effect of ringing, in producing fruitfulness, is likewise accounted for, by him, in a manner similar to that, which was suggested in our Transactions. It was there stated, that the abundance of the sap, or the quickness of its motion, might be considered as the cause that prevented fruitfulness. The latter, indeed, may be supposed to arise out of the former. For the sap, as any fluid, will move with greater force, when it abounds than when it is scanty. But it seems, that in a state of accelerated motion it is less fit for the process of secreting and depositing the ingredients of the fruit, than when it circulates slowly; and experience has pointed out certain means, by which the quickness of the circulation appears to be diminished. Thus gardeners have found, that by twisting, or bending, the branches, or by training them in a particular manner, fruitfulness is frequently brought about; and the method of cutting rings on them, which is the immediate topic for our consideration, aims at the same end. To this may be added the use of ligatures, tightly bound round the shoots. All these operations evidently tend to interrupt, or retard, the flow of the sap; and in this way they seem to conduce to fruitfulness. It is, therefore, fair to conclude, that whatever controls the motion of the sap, is beneficial to the production of fruit. Whether the actual diminution of the sap is the right plan to be pursued, may perhaps be doubted. An eminent Horticulturist calls the sap vegetable blood, and justly considers it as that, upon which the life and health of the plant depend: but whether we are to infer that, because this vegetable blood is so important and essential, it should be increased to the utmost, and that its function would be best performed in proportion to its comparative quantity, may well be questioned. It is probably in vegetable, as it is in animal nature, that there is a certain limit, beyond which all excess is faulty. There may be too much blood made in a plant, as we know that there may in an animal, the superabundance, in each case, being created by improper nourishment; and in both it may be expedient, and perfectly consistent with good judgment, to lessen it. The chief point, however, seems to be, to regulate the course of the sap, and to check it, when it is too rapid, which it may be concluded to be, when the tree is vigorous and luxuriant, and yet barren. M. NOISETTE, a very intelligent nurseryman at Paris, and one of the editors of the Bon Jardinier, in speaking of the proceeding, which in such circumstances should be adopted, calls it "to curb, or subdue, the force of vegetation" (dompter la force de la vegetation au profit des fruits);** and M. THOUIN in another passage, where he treats of a certain mode of pruning, expresses himself thus†:
"The theory of this mode of pruning consists in suppressing the direct channel of the sap, and substituting for it from three to seven oblique branches, which, at certain distances, one above another, form a sort of forked passage that will only permit the sap to rise and descend slowly, obliging it to stop and form a great number of fruit buds. The experience of more than a century proves the goodness of this theory, when it is put in practice by skilful gardeners." These remarks will serve as a supplement to the former communication, on the practice of ringing fruit trees, and may perhaps be useful in farther elucidating that proceeding.