Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 6, 1875, Volume II
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Fish.
Tokei, February 22, 1875. (Received April 2, 1875.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a report made by Thomas Hogg, esq., at the request of the government of Japan, upon the flora, &c., of a portion of the island of Yesso.
His excellency the minister for foreign affairs made request through me that Mr. Hogg should furnish a copy of his report for the agricultural department of Japan, which was accordingly done.
I am, &c.,
Report of Mr. Thomas Hogg on the flora of Yesso and Niphon.
A hurried journey through a section of country, however limited, is insufficient to enable the investigator to give anything like a full description of its flora. As the area of country is enlarged, the difficulties of doing so are in creased, and a residence of weeks or months, combined with frequent journeys, becomes necessary in order to describe, with even approximate completeness, its floral treasures. It is, therefore, impossible for me to more than take a hasty glance at the vegetation, as the results of a tour of a few weeks in those portions or the Empire of Japan indicated above.
Occasionally I shall take the liberty of departing, in a slight degree, from the direct subject of my report, to a consideration of the country with reference to its agricultural capabilities and productions, as suggested themselves to my mind during the journey.
The flora of the island of Yesso, though in some respects resembling that of high altitudes on the island of Niphon, still exhibits a marked difference, owing to its higher latitude, isolation, and narrower limits. Its peculiarity, in these respects, is apparent in the absence of many trees common throughout Niphon. On no portion of the route over which I traveled, with the exception of the immediate neighborhood of Hakodati, did I find growing, in a natural state, either cryptomerias, pines, retinospera, planera, or the wistaria. Those seen at Hakodati were probably grown from seed, or young trees brought from other districts. On the high hills, at the base of which Hakodati is situated, are found growing a species of telia, resembling, if not identical with. T. Europœa, Peyrus ancuparia, (?) Hydrangea paniculata, Berberis vulgaris, and several species of Enonymus.
On the level plain northward are found Wahlenbergia grandiflora, Aconitum Fischeru (?); also found growing abundantly all over the island, Lythrum virgatum (?) and Cimcifuga ramosa (?).
Passing over the mountain-ridge toward Volcano Bay, on the road leading to the town of Mori, on its shores I first met with the elm and beech, plentifully distributed. A species of poplar is also common. It attains a larger size than other trees of the forest, which here are not generally of large growth, owing to the volcanic, thin, gravelly soil.
Crossing over Volcano Bay to Mororan, the first portion of the road leading over the mountain-spurs that terminate abruptly at the sea-side, the variety of forest-timber is increased by the addition of alder, birch, aesculus, and Magnolia hypolenca in quantity. Descending the mountain-spurs the road runs close to the beach, and its course is almost devoid of arboreal growth. The most conspicuous plant to be seen is the beautiful Gentiana pneumanthe (?), with an occasional Wahlenbergia grandiflora. Both of these plants apparently find a more congenial home on the eastern than on the western side of the island, where I occasionally met with the first, but with the latter not once.
A short distance from Tamokomai the road turns toward the interior, passing over a flat country, swampy in places, and mostly covered with oak-trees of low growth, the soil being thin and poor. About five ris from the coast more elevated land was reached, and covered with somewhat larger timber. Some of the species seen on the mountains near the sea-coast here disappeared, and among others that took their place was the ash, more closely allied to the American than to the European species of that tree. Soon after leaving Chistosi, seven ris from the coast, the appearance of the country [Page 790] improved. Ascending a hundred or more feet, the plateau was of moderately good soil, and covered with oak timber. Approaching Shimamadzu, the soil lost its volcanic character and was apparently fertile, and continually improved all the way to Satsporo. Oak timber predominated on this richer land, and attained a good size.
My limited stay of four days at Satsporo, portions of which it rained, did not permit an extended investigation of the surrounding country. It presented, however, no features specially different over that which I had already passed. On the drier soil oak still prevailed, but along water-courses, with a moist soil, there was a dense growth of a variety of trees already enumerated, with undergrowth of dwarf bamboo and shrubs.
Beyond Satsporo, toward the Ishkara River, the country becomes lower and somewhat swampy. Oak disappears and elm takes its place. The nature of the soil in all this section of country is shown in the luxuriant crops of farm-produce within the inclosures of recent settlers.
Cereals had all been harvested, but later crops, as buckwheat, beans, &c., were prospering finely. Undoubtedly the country is capable of abundantly producing cereals, with the exception, perhaps, of maize, which, for its successful cultivation as a farm-crop, may require a warmer climate. Hemp of equally excellent quality, as cultivated elsewhere in Japan, there is every reason to expect would succeed.
Approaching Ishkara, at the mouth of the river of the same name, the soil becomes drier and the elm less plentiful, the maple and linden, with other trees, taking its place. From Ishkara southward, toward Otaranai, along the sandy beach, the vegetation exhibits no remarkable peculiarities. The lower part of the plain, extending from Satsporo to the sea, is a dense growth of scrub or dwarf oak. Immediately bordering the sea the sandy hillocks are covered with rosa rugosa, which is also plentiful on the gravelly soils near Volcano Bay. Its large, fragrant flowers, succeeded by its bright-colored fruit, has rendered it one of the most highly-prized Japanese plants introduced abroad.
Crossing the mountains from Yoichi to Iwanai, in these higher regions, in addition to the catalogue of deciduous trees, we find several species of abies, or spruce. The most plentiful is Abies pichta (?), found also throughout Siberia. Besides these, of lesser growth, among deciduous shrubs, are found Sophora japonica and Styrax obassia, one of the most elegant shrubs in all Japan. Cercidophyllum japonicum, a tree of the largest growth, and peculiar to Japan, attains here its greatest size.
The road from Iwanai to Kuromats does not differ in its general character from other portions of the road from Ishkara. Wherever mountain-streams enter into the Japan Sea there are valleys of alluvial soil expanding in width as they approach the coast. They are susceptible of easy cultivation and of supporting a large population, but at the present time are simple wastes.
The road from Kuromats to Oishmambe, at the head of Volcano Bay, has also the same general features as that from Yoichi to Iwanai. The rugged mountains are covered with the same varieties of trees, and the valleys between them are in places rendered almost impassable by dense thickets of a species of bamboo. The valley extending back from Oishmambe into the interior is equally fertile with those on the west coast, and as equally undeveloped. From Oishmambe to Mori the road follows the shore of the bay, and is comparatively uninteresting in a botanical point of view, within the range of this report, to that passing through the interior of the island.
Before leaving the island of Yesso I cannot refrain from again referring to its agricultural resources. The efforts of the government toward developing them are worthy of praise. Much remains to be done, and the fields of action are even closer at hand than at Satsporo. In the immediate neighborhood of Hakodati, the experimental farm cannot but have in time a good influence in improving the modes of cultivation as at present conducted there. The introduction of nutritious grasses for pasture or hay for horses and cattle is to be desired in place of the coarse weeds that are gathered to serve the same purpose, and in a very insufficient manner. The planting of a larger variety of hard timber, useful for purposes of utility, to take the place of inferior woods, in districts not well fitted for the cultivation of crops, would, in course of time, be an additional source of wealth to the country.
At Awomori, on the island of Niphon, we find at once trees peculiar to the island, to which I have already referred as being absent in Yesso, and indicate the milder climate of Niphon. Proceeding farther southward, the change is still more apparent in the growth of various species of Iaurus, osmanthus, camellia, and ivy; also the pomegranate and lagerstroemia found frequently in the neighborhood of dwellings.