CHAP. 51.—WHICH TREES BECOME OLD WITH THE GREATEST
RAPIDITY, AND WHICH MOST SLOWLY.
There are great differences also in trees in respect to age.
The almond and the pear1
are the most fruitful when old, which
is the case also with the glandiferous trees and a certain species of fig. Others, again, are most prolific when young,
though the fruit is later in coming to maturity, a thing particularly to be observed in the vine; for in those that are old
the wine is of better quality, while the produce of the younger
trees is given in greater abundance. The apple-tree becomes
old very early, and the fruit which it produces when old is of
inferior quality, being of smaller size and very liable to be
attacked by maggots: indeed, these insects will breed in the
tree itself. The fig is the only one of all the fruit-trees that is
submitted to any process with the view of expediting the
ripening of the fruit,2
a marvellous thing, indeed, that a greater
value should be set upon produce that comes out of its proper
season! All trees which bear their fruit before the proper
time become prematurely3
old; indeed, some of them wither
and die all of a sudden, being utterly exhausted by the too
favourable influence of the weather, a thing that happens to
the vine more particularly.
(28.) On the other hand, the mulberry becomes aged4
very slowly, and is never exhausted by its crops. Those trees,
too, the wood of which is variegated, arrive at old age but
slowly,—the palm, the maple, and the poplar, for instance.
(29.) Trees grow old more rapidly when the earth is
ploughed and loosened about the5
roots; forest trees at a later
period. Speaking in general terms, we may say that care
employed in the culture of trees seems to promote their fertility, while increased fertility accelerates old age. Hence it
is that the carefully tended trees are the first to blossom, and
the first to bud; in a word, are the most precocious in every
respect: but all natural productions which are in any way
weakened are more susceptible of atmospheric influences.