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Botany, Zoology and Entomology; Climate; Storms and Tornadoes; Agriculture, Live Stock and Manufacturing Interests; Tables of Statistics.
The botany of Allamakee County is rich in species, both of exogens and endogens. The country on the whole may be considered well wooded, though many of the groves that now dot the prairie are the result of forethought on the part of the early settlers, who planted trees for shelter from the winds of winter and the summer sun, and are well repaid by the enhanced beauty and value of their farms thereby
Among the forest trees and shrubs of the county are found the oaks, white, black, and minor varieties; the hard and soft maples, which here grow to perfection; the hickory, butternut, black walnut, hackberry; ash, white and black; elms, cottonwood, poplar, birch, willows, several species; basswood, honey locust and mulberry, rare; wild plum, crab-apple, wild cherry, iron-wood, thorn-apple, elder, sumach, hazel, gooseberry, raspberry, blackberry, wild grape, etc., among the deciduous varieties; and the common white pine, red cedar, balsam fir, trailing hemlock and trailing juniper among the evergreens. Besides these, all the hardier varieties of fruit trees, ornamental shade trees and shrubs, do well when introduced into this region, as the apple, pear, cherry, grape, currants, chestnut, buckeye, mountain ash, larch, spruce, arbor-vitæ, etc.
In regard to fruit trees, the experience of most of the early comers who attempted to grow apples of the varieties which had prospered well in their former homes, was discouraging in the extreme, and the trees killing out winter after winter induced nearly all to give up the attempt. There were a few, however, in different portions of the county, who believed that with judicious selection and management the apple would be made a success, and about 1855 and 1856 there were numerous nurseries established, nearly every one of which proved failures. Among those who entered this branch of horticulture was D. W. Adans, who established a nursery at Waukon in 1856, and persevering year after year, casting aside as worthless such varieties as winter-killed and propagating only such as readily became acclimated, he succeeded in establishing the fact that some of the best apples in the country can be easily grown in this region. He to-day has forty acres of bearing orchard, probably as fine as any in the Northwest, which has yielded as high as 2,000 bushels per annum. Throughout the county, too, are many orchards in bearing, supplied with the varieties which have proven themselves well adapted to this climate—some of them seedlings of remarkable excellence.
Of the herbs and small shrubs the number is very great. From early spring, when the anemone or wind flower appears upon the hill-side, until the late frosts of fall, there is a constant succession of floral beauties. Among the more common of these herbs and flowers may be mentioned the buttercups, liverwort, cowslip, prairie pinks, blood root, sorrel, dandelion (said to have first appeared with the coming of the white man), thistles, lilies, sunflowers (many varieties), asters, bone-set or thorough wort, wild rose, strawberry, may weed, lobelia, cardinal flower, wild pea, lady's slipper (yellow and purple, the latter not common), May apple or mandrake, several species of milk-weed, morning glory, etc., as well as many kinds of beautiful ferns and mosses in the shady dells. Of course a number of plants and grasses have been introduced that have become practically indigeneous. The tame grasses have found a congenial home in the rich prairie soil, and afford the most luxuriant pasturage for all kinds of live stock.
This chapter would be incomplete without an allusion to the lotus, or the beautiful and fragrant cream-colored water-lily, which expands ten inches in diameter, and is found in the sloughs along the Mississippi river. It is said to grow in but few localities in North America.
ZOOLOGY. The natural history of Allamakee County deserves to be studied with more care and scientific accuracy than has yet been bestowed thereon. And especially should the young people be encouraged to take an interest in a study so attractive as well as useful. Species once common are becoming extinct, and others not native here are appearing year by year and taking the place of those that are disappearing. Not one in twenty of our boys knows what insects are useful to the farmer, nor what birds; and of the latter great numbers are annually slaughtered in wanton sport, which, had their lives been spared, would render valuable aid to the farmer and horticulturist in ridding him of annoying and destructive insect pests.
The principle mammalia found in the county by the early settlers were the panther, gray wolf, prairie wolf, lynx, wild cat, raccoon, skunk, mink, weasel, beaver, otter, muskrat, rabbit (hare), bat, shrew, mole, fox, black bear, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, flying squirrel, striped squirrel (or chipmunk), gray gopher and striped gopher (or ground squirrels), woodchuck or ground hog, the pouched or pocket gopher, and mice of several species. Rats were so early an importation by steamers that it would not be surprising to see some gray veteran, with the impudence of his race, appear and claim a share of the banquet at a pioneer's meeting. The porcupine has also been found in this region, we believe. An occasional red squirrel has been obtained of late years, though not observed when the county was first settled. Since white men settled in the county its prairies have not been shaken by the tramp of buffalo (more properly bison), which were undoubtedly at one time to be found within our borders. Elk were found here at first, but have disappeared long since. Red deer were very plentiful for many years after the county was settled, and a few are killed each year to this day along the bluffy regions of the Iowa and Yellow Rivers. At as late a date as December, 1870, we have an instance of no less than ten being shot in a three days' hunt, participated in by four men, in the Iowa Valley. The latest instance we have of the capture of a beaver in our county borders was in November 26, 1874, when one was killed on the farm of C. J. F. Newell, on the Yellow River, in Franklin Township, This specimen was three feet, eight inches long, and weighed forty-eight pounds. Of wolves, wild cats and foxes, there are still a sufficient number to warrant the county in paying a bounty upon their scalps, and they do not seem to decrease as rapidly as the sheep and poultry owners might wish, as the following comparison will show: In the five months' ending, June 1, 1871, the county paid bounties upon 47 wolves (including whelps), 37 wild cats and 40 foxes. In the year ending, December 31, 1881, the number paid for was-wolves 88, wild cats 43, and foxes 23. Occasional lynx are included in this number and classed among the cats.
The birds of this county are those of a large portion of North America, though we are more favored in numbers of varieties than many sections because of our varied topography--a combination of prairie, valley, bluff, woods and water-affording breeding places for nearly all the species that inhabit this climate in North America. Several species are only occasional visitors; many others go southward during the winter; while a small number remain here the year around. Among the birds of prey (Raptores) the bald eagle holds the first place, and may still be seen perched in solitary state in lofty trees, and is known to breed in this county. Among other species of this order which are supposed to nest in this region may be mentioned the buzzard, duck hawk, pigeon hawk, sparrow hawk, goshawk, Cooper's hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, red-tailed or hen-hawk, barn owl, great horned owl, mottled or screech owl, golden eagle, fish hawk, and barred owl. The great gray and snowy owls of the northern regions are often seen in winter.
Of the Scansores, or climbers: the red and the black-billed cuckoos, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, the black woodcock (rare), and the yellow-bellied, red-headed, golden-winged, and perhaps some other woodpeckers. It is an idea of some, but fast becoming exploded, that some varieties of woodpeckers do great injury to fruit trees, etc.; but the fact is that no more industrious insect hunter exists, and these species should be protected instead of exterminated. They seldom peck away any but decayed wood, and the good they do is vastly greater than the injury.