Friday, January 18, 2019


Dr. Forrest Bump

Due to my career in horticulture I have been fortunate to have made acquaintance with a number of medical doctors who are also avid plant collectors. Indeed I have made my living off of them. They are good, smart people, and my wits have been sharpened by them. One of my mentors was the late Dr. Forrest Bump – what a great name! – of Forest Grove, Oregon who was our family doctor. He fixed my broken ankle when I was in high school, then later I became his equal in the world of horticulture, although we were both probably more knowledgeable than each other...which is a perfect relationship. I even met a noted horticulturist, Dr. Kim Tripp of the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina and later the New York Botanical Garden, who switched her career from plants – i.e. plant expert and plant health – to becoming a wellness-people doctor. Wow – what a Tripp!

Magnolia denudata

Pierre Magnol
In olden times, physicians who served best needed to be familiar with plants and their curing properties. After all it was Pierre Magnol, after whom Linnaeus named the Magnolia genus, who stated that “it would be very advantageous to make a serious study of plants before practicing medicine.” While that connection is not so vital today, it is not surprising that the medical mind also finds interest and solace in botany and horticulture. I remember one time that Dr. Bump whined to me that a certain maple died in his garden “for no reason at all.” Being quite familiar with plant death, I chirped back, “I wonder if you have lost more plants in your garden than patients in the hospital?” Then I sensed that I had gone too far when he muttered that, “most who died were bound to die,” as if his maple was not predisposed to expire.

Herbalist Bian Que (BC 407 - BC 310), China

Plant study has gone on for thousands of years in one form or another around the world. So many have uses as medicine, food or for other purposes, one purpose being that many are simply pleasant to the eye. Sometimes it is the physician/botanist who is out collecting in the field, or other times he or she is holed up in their study and just do the naming and describing. Let's consider some who have coined names for they are in the record book for all time.


A good place to begin with discussing the physician/botanist is with Karl Linne, and the brilliant Swede was so enamoured with Latin that he changed his name to Carolus Linnaeus. Of course he was considered the “father of modern taxonomy,” and is justly famous for developing binomial nomenclature, i.e. grouping plants into genera and species which eventually internationalized the naming of organisms. My most sharp employees, after only a few months, can use the terminology and can visualize the difference between Acer palmatum and Acer japonicum. We don't say cedar for a Thuja or a Chamaecyparis or a Cupressus, but rather: we identify plants as Thuja plicata, Chamaecyparis obtusa or Cupressus lusitanica...even though all are commonly known as “cedars.” So thanks Linnaeus, you helped Buchholz Nursery and the Flora Wonder Arboretum to exist and thrive.

Homo sapiens

One interesting note about Linnaeus – who some found as quite arrogant,* was that he was also a renowned zoologist, and his remains comprise the type specimen for Homo sapiens, since the only specimen that he is known to have examined was himself. Furthermore he referred to his students as his apostles.

*Arrogantly, Linnaeus described his 1753 work, Species Plantarum, as “the greatest achievement in the realm of science.”

Linnaeus holding Linnaea borealis

An important event in the life of Linnaeus was an expedition in his young years (age 24) to Lapland, where he hoped to find new plants and animals, and also he was interested about the native Sami people, the reindeer-herding nomads. He travelled on foot and horse, and during the trip he found great quantities of Campanula serpyllifolia which was later known as Linnaea borealis, the humble “twin flower” that he so much admired. After six months of observing many plants, birds and rocks, he described about 100 previously unidentified plants. He had not quite yet developed his binomial naming system, but his resulting Flora Lapponica was considered the first proto-modern flora, and botanical historian E.L. Greene described Flora Lapponica as “the most classic and delightful” of Linnaeus's works.

The Hamburg Hydra

I don't want to belabor the contributions of Linnaeus, which all of you can access yourselves through biographies or on the internet, but I find one incident humorous that occurred in his younger days. In 1735 he travelled to The Netherlands to study medicine at the University of Harderwijk, and on the way stopped in Hamburg. There he met the mayor who showed him an incredible wonder of nature, the taxidermied remains of a seven-headed hydra. Linnaeus determined that the “wonder” was fake, put together from the jaws and paws of weasels and the skin of snakes. He didn't really want to disappoint the mayor, who hoped to sell the hydra for a lot of money, but Linnaeus made his observation public, and as a result he had to flee Hamburg.

Linnaeus was ill in his final years, and suffered a stroke in 1774 which partially paralyzed him. Then in 1776 a second stroke caused a loss of memory. He was still able to admire his own writings, but could not recognize himself as their author.

Orto Botanico di Pisa

Luca Ghini

Luca Ghini (1490-1556) studied medicine at the University of Bologna, then became a professor there and lectured on medicinal plants, so again, another physician/botanist. He developed the first recorded herbarium and also the first botanical garden in Europe after moving to Pisa. The Orto Botanico di Pisa is operated by the University of Pisa, located at via Luca Ghini 5, Pisa, Italy. The arboretum has been moved a couple of times, with the third and final location in 1591. I would love to visit to see the old botany institute building, constructed between 1591-1595, to see its facade ornamented with sea-shells.

Caesalpina gilliesii

Andrea Cesalpino
Luca Ghini didn't publish any botanical work of his own, but as a teacher he instructed student Andrea Cesalpino (1519-1603) who eventually succeeded him in the herbarium and botanical garden. Previously some botanists classified plants alphabetically or by medicinal properties, but Cesalpino did it according to their fruits and seeds. Besides teaching and tending the garden, he made botanical explorations in different parts of Italy...conduct which I admire. I can imagine great boredom and resulting stupidity if someone spends too much time in a dusty herbarium, and even though I own the Flora Wonder Arboretum that contains many wonderful plants “from the best corners of the world,” I still need to go outside into our natural areas to see what they contain. Cesalpino (in Latin Andreas Caesalpinus) was honored by the Franciscan friar Charles Plumier for the plant genus of Caesalpina, which today includes some 150 species and belongs to the Fabaceae (legume, pea or bean) family. Linnaeus admired Cesalpino and retained the genus name in his system and praised his predecessor with the following: “Quisquis hic exstiterit primos concedat honores Casalpine Tibi primaque certa dabit,” which basically says “Cesalpino was the best.”

Dahlia 'Isadora'

Anders (Andreas) Dahl (1751-1789) – my God, he lived only 38 years! – was a Swedish botanist and student of Linnaeus, and of course the Dahlia genus is named after him. In 1776 he passed an exam for medicine, but then everybody did that who was interested in botany. Dahl served as curator of the private natural museum and botanical garden of Clas Alstromer (Alstromeria), who was a Linnaean disciple. In 1786 he became the professor at the Academy of Abo (today's University of Helsinki) teaching medicine and botany. It was supposed that the Dahlia genus name was bestowed by Linnaeus, however L. died eleven years before the plant was introduced into Europe, and it is now certain that it was scientifically described by Antonio Jose Cavanilles, Director of the Royal Gardens of Madrid who received the first specimens from Mexico in 1791, two years after Dahl's death. Cavanilles learned about science in Sweden, plus the fact that Dahl's book on botanical observations had just appeared, and that drove him to honor Dahl for the new Mexican plant: “In honorem D. Andreae Dahl, sueci botanici.” Also, Carl Peter Thunberg, a friend from Uppsala, named a species in the Hamamelidaceae family after Dahl, Dahlia crinita, which was made in reference to Dahl's long beard, since crinita is Latin for “long haired.” The name was published in 1792, but has since been reclassified as Trichocladus crinitus.

Gardenia jasminoides 'Variegata'

Alexander Garden (1730-1791) – yes, great name – was a Scottish physician, botanist and zoologist, and from his home in Charleston, South Carolina, he sent specimens to Linnaeus. There in S.C. he practiced medicine while he collected the flora and fauna, but was intellectually isolated, and he complained there were no neighbors with similar interests: “there is not a living soul who knows the least iota of Natural History.” Garden sent Magnolia and Gordonia specimens to London and wrote descriptions of Fothergilla, but with Gardenia, the plant named for him, he wasn't even familiar with. Linnaeus was pushed to name a plant for Garden and he chose the South African “Cape jasmine.” Garden sided with the British in the American War of Independence. Two years later his property was confiscated and he moved to London where he became vice-president of the Royal Society, lucky to get out of America alive.

Stephan Endlicher

Stephan Ladislaus Endlicher (1804-1849) was born in a German-speaking town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and he studied theology and languages, then in 1828 he began his studies in medicine. Still, he had time to become proficient in Hungarian, Czech, German, French, Chinese, Italian, English and Latin of course, as well as ancient language forms. Remarkable since he only lived 45 years. Eventually he was appointed Director of the Botanical Gardens for the University of Vienna.

Sequoia sempervirens


Endlicher named or co-named over 1600 plants from the tropics alone, and sometimes he honored people, and other times named with the characteristics of the plants themselves. He corresponded with Austrian botanist Eduard Poeppig who had an interest in plants and people of North and South America. Endlicher also corresponded with French linguist Peter Du Ponceau who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Du Ponceau was an expert in American Indian languages and he was fascinated that Sequoyah (1776-1843), the illiterate son of a fur trader father and a Cherokee mother, had created a Cherokee syllabary for his people. So Endlicher was familiar with Sequoyah's accomplishment.

Sequoia sempervirens

Charles V
Endlicher produced the Synopsis Coniferum in 1847, where he reviewed several genera and reclassified some including Taxodium sempervirens, or the “coast redwood” of California, previously named by Lambert and Don. Since Endlicher was a polyglot* – one who knows multiple languages – he appreciated Sequoyah's brilliance and honored him with the Sequoia name a few years after the half-breed's death.

*Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was a polyglot too. He claimed that he addressed his horse only in German, conversed with women in Italian and men in French, but used Spanish for his talks with God. The term polyglot is derived from Greek “polyglotteos,” from poly for “many” and glotta for “language” or “tongue.”

John Gerard

John Gerard (1545-1612) described himself as “Master of Chirurgerie,* Warden of Company of Barber-Surgeons, becoming a Master in 1608. He was curator of the College of Physicians garden and author of the famous Herball in 1597. Though his work was flawed in various respects, he was noted for his clear descriptions of plants, especially the new flora from America such as the potato, maize, sunflowers and tomato, the latter which was considered the “apple of love,” and thought to be an aphrodisiac. Another of one of the newer plants was Yucca, and Gerard had one in his garden except that it didn't bloom in his lifetime. Yucca is a perennial genus in the Asparagaceae family, but early reports of the genus were confused with the cassava (Manihot esculenta), and because of that Linnaeus mistakenly coined the generic name from the Taino word yuca (with a single “c”). So even though Linnaeus considered his 1753 Species Plantarum “the greatest achievement in the realm of science,” it does contain the Yucca, and other mistakes.

*Chirurgeon is an archaic word for “surgeon.”

Yucca rostrata

John Parkinson

A piece of Gerard's Yucca root was passed on to John Parkinson (1567-1650), a gardener and apothecary to James I. He tried to correct the Yucca mistake, but by then it was too late and it has been called Yucca ever since. In 1629 Parkinson produced his Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris which punned on his name Park-in-sun. You see: these botanists/herbalists were not complete nerds, complete bores. And by the way, the Yucca finally did bloom for Parkinson.

Thomas Johnson was an eight-year-long apprentice to the apothecary William Bell and he was friendly to Parkinson whom he lauded. Johnson made plant-hunting expeditions throughout Britain, the earliest accounts of plant-hunting expeditions ever to be published in England. Flanking the title of Johnson's Herball (1633) edition is revealed, “Very much Enlarged and Ammended by Thomas Johnson Citizen and Apothecarye.” Depicted in the edition are “Theophrastus, soulful in sandals, and Dioscorides in a suitably warlike outfit.” This wonderful description is provided by Anna Pavord in her Naming of Names – The Search for Order in the World of Plants, a must-read for anyone caring anything about this blog.


Historia Plantarum
In a nutshell, Theophrastus (372-287 BC) was a Greek philosopher and contemporary of Aristotle; in fact Aristotle left Theo his extensive library upon his death. Aristotle, besides being a famous philosopher, was a first-rate scientist, with his primary interest being with human and animal anatomy, especially creatures from the sea. What Aristotle did for animals, Theophrastus did for plants, and was perhaps the first person to describe plants based on their differences and similarities. Theo produced Historia plantarum and Causae plantarum which reveal that his brilliant mind was equal to that of Aristotle. They collaborated for a few years on the Isle of Lesbos, where science, rather than philosophy, was their primary endeavor.

Pedanius Dioscorides

Pedanius Dioscorides (AD 40-?) was a Greek physician and author who joined the Roman army as a doctor. At the time he was considered the ultimate authority on medicinal plants, and his reputation continued for over a thousand years. He produced his Materia Medica, or medical material, a Latin term for the “history of pharmacy.” The term has now been replaced in medical education as pharmacology. Keep in mind that before Dioscorides, various materia medicas had been in existence in Ancient Egypt, China, India and probably in the Americas also.


And don't forget Hippocrates (born 460 BC) who was a philosopher and known as the “Father of Medicine.” He focused on treating the causes of diseases rather than the symptoms. He produced Aphorisms and Prognostics which discussed 265 drugs, and he was aware of the importance of diet for optimum health. I'll oath to that!

I suspect that most nurserymen today – at least the yokels in Oregon – have little understanding or appreciation of the history of plant knowledge. Certainly it's not necessary to operate a successful plant factory. Thousands of Japanese maples are cranked out in Oregon every year by at least a couple of hundred nurseries, but I doubt that more than a dozen growers could tell you if the species are monocious or diocious. Even though I don't have the brains to be a bonafide botanist, what little I do understand is fascinating, and especially its history. It helps to spice up the risks, drudgery and sore back of being a nurseryman.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Gordon's The Pinetum

For relaxation some people like to curl up with a good book. Well, I never curl, and seldom do I relax, but I did spend the week with a fascinating book: George Gordon's The Pinetum published in 1858. In last week's blog I discussed Pinus attenuata which Gordon previously named Pinus tuberculata in 1849, and since he was a bonafide botanist I don't know why his name didn't stick.

Chiswick House Conservatory

George Gordon (1807-1879) worked for the London Horticultural Society – which later became the Royal Horticultural Society – as Foreman of Society Gardens at Chiswick in west London. The Chiswick garden is long gone with the Society's replacement at Wisley, Surrey in 1904. Gordon's first edition is described as “A synopsis of all the coniferous plants at present known, with descriptions, history and synonymes,” and it also promises: “One Hundred New Kinds.” Nothing explains further about the “New Kinds,” but the implication is that these 100 had never been described (in book form) before. The title page adds the credentials of A.L.S. after Gordon's name but I have no idea what that stands for – certainly not Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, AKA Lou Gehrig's disease.

Algernon Percy, 6th Duke of Northumberland

The first edition was dedicated to Algernon, Duke of Northumberland, K.G. – “a great admirer of hardy trees, the cultivation of which in England has been much influenced by the many fine specimens in his Grace's park and pleasure grounds at Syon, THIS WORK is very respectfully dedicated, by His Obedient and Humble Servant, George Gordon.” I don't know...perhaps the Duke financed the publication.

Picea torano

Gordon followed the 1858 The Pinetum with a “fully revised” second edition in 1875, and I'll make an effort to acquire it to see what has been revised, what has changed. If you check the index you'll notice a lot of double listings, for example Abies bracteata directs you to page 145 while Picea bracteata also directs you to page 145. Abies Torano [sic] Siebold is on page 12 as is Abies polita Zuccarini, then Picea polita Carriere is on page 12 but there's no listing for Picea torano which is the accepted designation these days. What Gordon is doing is putting all the synonyms into the index which is cluttering and confusing.

Abies bracteata in Santa Lucia

Abies bracteata

Back to Picea bracteata (syn. Abies bracteata Hooker, syn. Pinus bracteata Don, syn. Pinus venusta Douglas), Gordon describes it: “A tall, slender tree, growing 120 feet high, but only two or three feet in diameter, first discovered by Douglas, on the mountains along the Columbia River, and afterwards by Dr. Coulter and Hartweg, on the sea range of Santa Lucia...” Of course Abies bracteata has never been found along the Columbia, but mistakes like that are what makes old books fun. Today we know that the first known specimen was collected in the Santa Lucias in 1831 or 1832 by either botanists Thomas Coulter or David Douglas, probably from Cone Peak to the west of Mission San Antonio. Both sent specimens to England, but Coulter's specimen was first identified as bracteata and so that's why we use the name today. Interesting that Hillier in his Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014) says that William Lobb introduced Abies bracteata in 1852, so apparently that was another collection 20 years later. Gordon sums up his description with: “It is quite hardy, but suffers very much in its young growth from late spring frosts.”

Tsuga mertensiana

If you look for Tsuga mertensiana in the index you won't find it. Instead Abies Mertensiana Lindley is listed, which Gordon calls the “California Hemlock Spruce,” with synonyms Abies heterophylla Rafinesque, Abies taxifolia Jeffrey, Canadensis taxifolia Gordon, Pinus heterophylla Endlicher, Pinus Mertensiana Bongard and Picea Mertensiana French Gardens, but I don't know what publication is French Gardens. Gordon says of the Hemlock Spruce: “It is found in the Oregon and Northern California, where it constitutes one half of the timber in the neighbourhood.” I wonder who fed Gordon that notion? He sums up: “It is quite hardy, and very much resembles, in general appearance, the Hemlock Spruce.” What? It resembles itself? Today we call it the “Mountain hemlock” while its specific epithet mertensiana refers to Karl Heinrich Mertens (1796-1830), a German botanist who collected the first specimens while on a Russian expedition between 1826-1829.

Tsuga mertensiana 'Bump's Blue'

Tsuga mertensiana at Mount Baker

One of the challenges of the book is to figure out what species Gordon is describing, especially with Abies Pattonii Jeffrey, or “Patton's Giant California Fir,” with synonyms Abies gracilis Hort., Abies trigona Rafinesque, Abies Hookeriana Murray and Picea Californica Carriere. Gordon relates: “It is quite hardy, and has been named by Jeffrey, in compliment to Mr. Patton, of the Cairnies, in Scotland, a gentleman much interested in conifers.” If you google Abies Pattoniana one site gives you Edward James Ravenscroft's The Pinetum Britannicum (1863) where the name Abiea [sic] Hookeriana is used as a synonym. The hand colored lithograph depicts Tsuga mertensiana, or something close to it. Some botanists list a Tsuga mertensiana subsp. mertensiana var. jeffreyi (Henry) Schneider, once considered a hybrid (x jeffreyi) with Tsuga heterophylla, but never verified, so maybe the variety is what Gordon is describing. Elsewhere he says Abies Pattonii was “first discovered by Lewis and Clark while exploring the sources of the Missuri River...,” and indeed T. mertensiana ranges as far east as western Montana. Later: “Mr. Jeffrey, who again discovered it on the Mount Baker range, in Northern California, describes it as a noble tree...” I know of no Mount Baker range in northern California, but Tsuga mertensiana does occur at Mount Baker in northern Washington.

Picea jezoensis

Strangely the “Douglas Fir,” called Abies Douglasii Lindley is sandwiched in the hemlock section, and so too is Abies jezoensis Siebold which Endlicher calls Pinus Jezoensis and Carrier calls Picea Jezoensis like we do today. As far as the spruce is concerned, Gordon says: “Much confusion seems to exist in books respecting this species, as to whether it is a spruce or silver fir...” Again, I wonder how the fully revised second edition deals with the confusion.

Tsuga sieboldii
Tsuga diversifolia

Abies Tsuga Siebold is synonymous with Pinus Tsuga Antoine, Pinus Araragi Siebold and Tsuga Sieboldii Carriere according to The Pinetum. It is described as “a dwarf tree, growing from 20 to 30 feet high, with the appearance and habit of Abies [Tsuga] Canadensis...” Gordon ends with “This sort is not yet introduced into England.” Well, obviously not since Tsuga Siebold and Tsuga canadensis are hugely different. Besides, Gordon says the Abies Tsuga Siebold is native to the northern provinces of Japan, “on the mountains of Matsmai and Dewa...,” so he is probably referring to the “northern Japanese hemlock,” Tsuga diversifolia, not the “southern Japanese hemlock,” Tsuga sieboldii. T. diversifolia is the more hardy of the two and is native to higher elevations. Dewa Province (Dewa no kuni) was a province comprising modern-day Yamagata and Akita Prefectures. The Three Mountains of Dewa (Dewa Sanzan) are holy to the Japanese Shinto religion, and are famous as having the oldest history of mountain worship in Japan (since 593 A.D.).

Cunninghamia lanceolata

Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca'

Cunninghamia was “Named by Dr. Brown in compliment to Mr. James Cunningham, who first discovered the plant in China.” Followed by: “A small tree, native of China and Japan.” Anyway Cunninghamia lanceolata is not so small, and it is a prized timber tree in China, known as “China fir.” Maybe the fossil record shows that it was once native to Japan, I don't know, but in 1858 it wasn't. Later Gordon reveals that Cunninghamia is “cultivated in Japan,” so maybe that is what he means by “native.” Gordon calls it Cunninghamia Sinensis R. Brown, with synonyms Cunninghamia lanceolata Van Houtte, Belis jaculifolia Salisbury, Pinus lanceolata Lambert, Araucaria lanceolata Hort. and others. There's even mention of 'Glauca' where “This variety differs from the species in having its leaves on the branchlets of a glaucous color,” which I guess is the same clone as what I have planted in the Flora Wonder Arboretum.

Xanthocyparis nootkatensis

Gordon lists a number of Cupressus species and calls them “The True Cypresses.” Cupressus Nutkaensis Lambert is the “Nootka Sound Cypress,” but one synonym is Chamaecyparis Nutkaensis Spach. It has also been known as Cupressus Americana Trautvetter, Thuja excelsa Bongard, Thuiopsis Borealis Fischer and Abies aromatica Rafinesque. I chuckle at the aromatica name because, believe me, I have cut over 10,000 scions in my career of what we now call Xanthocyparis nootkatensis and I would describe the aroma as that of cat piss.

Thujopsis dolabrata

One synonym for “Cupressus Nutkaensis” is Thuiopsis Borealis, but Gordon also lists Thuiopsis dolabrata Siebold which is “A majestic evergreen tree, found in moist situations in Japan.” It was known to Thunberg as Thuja dolabrata and to Spach as Platycladus dolabrata, and goes by the common name of “Hatchet-leaved Arbor-Vitae.” Gordon adds: “Professor Thunberg says in the countries [sic] of 'Oygawa' and 'Fakonia' it is plentiful along the high roads, particularly on the hill sides, and that it is of vast height and dimensions, and the most beautiful of all evergreen trees,” and that “It no doubt will prove hardy in England.” The Oygawa reference is probably Ogawa (“small river”) but I don't have a clue where Fakonia is located. Ogawa is a small village in Nagano Prefecture with a 2016 population of 2,634 souls, and it is listed as one of The Most Beautiful Villages in Japan by a nonprofit organization that promotes the protection of Japanese rural heritage. Nagano is a mountainous, landlocked prefecture in the center of Honshu Island, and it was the site of the Olympic Winter Games in 1998.

Calocedrus decurrens

Linnaeus named the Thuja genus, and Gordon commonly calls it “The American Arbor Vitae,” with the statement: “All large evergreen trees or bushes, found in North America and California.” North America and California, I find that amusing. When he lists Thuja gigantea Nuttall, Gordon calls that one the “Gigantic Arbor Vitae.” Hmm...what species is he referring to? Thuja Craigiana Jeffrey doesn't help nor does Abies microphylla Rafinesque as synonyms. Ah! – Libocedrus decurrens Torrey does the trick for what we now call Calocedrus decurrens, and our common name today is “Incense cedar.” Gordon calls it a “noble evergreen tree” and “It is found plentiful along the banks of the Columbia River, and at Nootka Sound...” Well, I know you won't find any at Nootka Sound especially since it prefers drier conditions. Now the aromatic wood is used for cedar chests and also for making pencils. The largest known tree is located in the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon, and stands 229 feet (69.8m) tall with nearly a 6 foot diameter. The genus name is from Greek kalos meaning “beautiful' and cedrus meaning “cedar tree.” Torrey's name of Libocedrus was from Greek liboi for “tears” due to the resinous nature of the tree. Funny then that Gordon says: “Timber, white and tough, but rather porous, and with but little resin in it.”

Thuja plicata

Thuja menziesii Douglas is “Menzies Arbor Vitae” with synonyms of Thuja gigantea Hooker, Thuja Lobbii Hort., Thuja Lobbiana Hort., and fortunately Thuja plicata Lambert. It was found by Douglas “on the North-west coast of America and California...” Actually California became the 31st state of the Union in 1850 but apparently Gordon didn't get the news. Mexico had ceded California to the US in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe, back when it was a region of mission towns with a total population of about 7,300. Not at all did the Mexican diplomats know what gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill just nine days before they signed the peace treaty.

Thuja occidentalis 'Pendula'

Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd'

Linnaeus named Thuja Occidentalis, the “American Arbor Vitae,” but surprisingly a synonym is Thuja Siberica Linnaeus. What? It was also called Thuja Theophrasti Bauhin, Thuja obtusa Moench, Thuja odorata Marsh and Cupressus Arbor Vitae Targioni-Tozzetti. Gordon says that the species is “found in most parts of North America” which is not true, although it does have a rather large range. T. occidentalis is related to the Thuja plicata species, though the former doesn't get as large. The largest known specimen is only 112 feet (34 m) tall in Michigan, but some specimens in southern Ontario, Canada have been dated over 1,650 years old, which makes them the oldest trees in Eastern North America.

Pinus pinaster

Pinus Pinaster is the “Star” or “Cluster Pine.” It is a species from the Mediterranean Basin, yet it carries synonyms such as Pinus Massoniana Lambert which is native to China. It's also named Pinus Nepalensis Royale, Pinus Japonica Loudon, Pinus Nova-Hollandica Loddiges, Pinus Nova-Zealandica Loddiges and more. Gordon explains: “It is also found (but no doubt introduced from Europe) in China, Japan, New Holland, New Zealand, and St. Helena, and even in the north of India, where Major Madden and other travellers detected it in Nepal, and gave it the names of P. Nepalensis and P. Latteri, but there is not the slightest difference between the European and Asiatic plants.” So basically Gordon is telling us that P. pinaster has been introduced around the world.

Pinus pinea

As for Pinus Pinea, the “Italian Stone Pine,” it too has travelled as some synonyms include Pinus Maderiensis Tenore, Pinus Pinea Chinensis Knight, Pinus Americana Hort., Pinus Sativa Bauhin and Pinus Pinea Arctica Hort. I don't understand the Arctica epithet though since it is only hardy to zone 8 (10 degrees F). Gordon lists some “varities” of P. pinea, such as P. Pinea fragilis Du Hamel for the “Thin-shelled Stone Pine” and P. Pinea Cretica Loudon from Crete “where it attains a larger size than the common Stone Pine.”

Sequoiadendron giganteum

Duke of Wellington
I'll finish Gordon's The Pinetum on a crabby note, for he lists Wellingtonia Lindley, “The Mammoth Tree,” named “in compliment to the late Duke of Wellington. A gigantic tree from California.” Gordon warns us that “It is tolerably hardy in favourable situations, but generally gets its foliage more or less browned in winter, and is much injured in severe ones.” I don't know, for Oregon has more brutal winters than anywhere in England and the “Wellingtonia” does fine at my nursery. Synonyms include Sequoia gigantea Endlicher, Washingtonia gigantea of the Americans, Americanus giganteus Hort. Amer. and Taxodii sp. Douglas. The last name is odd because David Douglas never set eyes upon Sequoiadendron giganteum. Gordon claims: “This magnificent evergreen tree was first discovered by Douglas in 1831...” Rong! Gordon furthermore claims that a Mammoth Tree grows to 363 feet in height when the largest measured today is 315' tall (95.80 m) in the Sequoia National Forest. The tallest in the United Kingdom is 190' (58 m).

Sequoiadendron giganteum at the Calaveras Grove

Oh well, The Pinetum was written only a few years after Sequoiadendron was officially discovered by Augustus T. Dowd at the Calaveras Grove in 1852, though the first reference to their existence occurred in 1833 in the diary of explorer J.K. Leonard whose route would have taken him through the Calaveras Grove. Of course Native Americans knew of the trees and named them variously as wawona, toos-pung-ish and hea-mi-withic. Sadly the first tree found by Dowd, christened the “Discovery Tree,” was felled in 1853.


Stephan Endlicher
Of course it was J.D. Buchholz who argued for the separation into separate genera for Sequoia sempervirens and Sequoiadendron giganteum in 1939. Due to Josiah Whitneys's 1868 book The Yosemite Book it was presumed that the Sequoia name honored the Cherokee chief Sequoyah (1767-1843) who was famous for inventing a syllabary for his people. A 2012 study (Gary Lowe) suggested that it was not Sequoyah being honored, but rather the Austrian botanist Endlicher intended to use the Latin sequi meaning “to follow” since the number of seeds per cone fell in mathematical sequence with the four other genera in the suborder.* Gordon was right when he claimed the Giant Redwood to be 3,000-4,000 years old since today the oldest tree is 3,500 years old, and boy, some old-timer spent most of the day counting rings on a felled specimen.

*However Nancy Muleady-Mecham offers compelling evidence in 2017 that Endlicher was honoring Sequoyah in her publication Endlicher and Sequoia: Determination of the Etymological Origin of the Taxon Sequoia.

I had fun with Gordon's book, even though I couldn't always figure out what species he was describing. When quoting I stayed true to his spellings, his capitalizations and his use of tonnes of commas which, I, found, very, annoying. At the end of the book, after the index he writes The End, which is obvious since nothing follows.