Henry David Thoreau was an American author, and poet.  He was also a philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, surveyor, and historian and he greatly admired trees.

Henry David Thoreau wrote a wonderful paper entitled The Succession of Forest Trees which was first published in 1860.  It was an address read to the Middlesex Agricultural Society, in Concord, September, 1860.  In quite simple terms he was able to describe the transformation of meadows to pine, then oak, then maple-beech forests laying out for his audience how trees arrived in the area when they hadn’t been there before.  Seed dispersal through wind and animals is explained in an almost poetic way as is the scientific process of forest transformation itself.

I imagine Thoreau, as a naturalist and surveyor, spent much time tramping through forests in all seasons.  As a surveyor he would have used trees as marking points.  Beech trees or birches or pines may have been witness trees –  trees close to a section corner which the surveyor blazed and then noted their position relative to the corner in his notebook and which were used as evidence for the corner location of surveyed land.  As a naturalist, I imagine he felt close to these trees which he most likely came upon often while surveying a particular site.  They must have felt like old friends as he saw them again and again in his work parceling off huge tracts of land.

 

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