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  ― 13 ―

(b). Age and Size of Trees.

Wattle-bark should only be procured from mature trees, i.e., from those whose bark possesses the full natural strength. The Victorian Board states, as has already been noted, that bark-stripping may profitably commence at the end of the fifth year, and returns undoubtedly commence not latter than this period. Mr. J. E. Brown strips his wattles at about 6 years of age, but the exact period can only be decided by the cultivator's common sense. Mr. A. Bucknall mentions that wattle trees mature in seven years in the Majorca plantation, Ballarat. Mr. W. Ferguson of Victoria makes the general statement that none should be cut under 5 inches in diameter,—a reasonable suggestion which might be enforced, on Crown lands, by legislative enactment.

Some people fell their wattles before stripping, and use the wood for firewood. Bark-strippers as a rule leave about a third of the bark on the tree, besides leaving unsightly dead trees. It should also be borne in mind that dead and decaying trees are a source of danger to the plantation, owing to the harbour they give to insect pests. The matter of utilizing the bark on the twigs, &c., will be alluded to below.

Mr. Thrupp states, as his experience, that greater weight of bark can be produced in five years when cultivated, as against 8 year old bark grown in its natural state (Journ. S. A. Bureau Agric., April, 1890). It is to be hoped that farmers and others will institute some experiments with the view to estimate the improvement in quantity and quality of wattle-bark under cultivation, but such experiments, to be conclusive, must have the data carefully checked, in order to make sure that the comparisons of wild and cultivated trees are as fair as possible.

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