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.
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|
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.”
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.
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.
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 '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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.”
|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.
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.