Happy Birthday, Charles Sprague Sargent
April 24, 2014 marks the 173rd birthday of Charles Sprague Sargent, the founding director of the Arnold Arboretum. Born to a prominent Boston family, Sargent contributed his tenacity, horticultural knowledge, and commitment to education to shaping the Arnold Arboretum in its first fifty years. Sargent published extensively, including The Silva of North America in twelve volumes, and inaugurated the Arboretum’s program for plant exploration. His influence on silviculture and forestry was felt nationally and influenced efforts to conserve American forests, particularly in the Catskills and Adirondacks.
As an important center for the study of plants and the penultimate link in Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the Arnold Arboretum continues to honor Sargent’s unique vision and build on his legacy. We invite you to join us in celebrating his life and accomplishments.
Sargent’s quotations about trees
“Certainly nothing could have happened to the Arboretum that could have assisted it so much as the fact that you are to make the plan for laying it out; and now I feel that its future success is assured.”
Sargent to Frederick Law Olmsted, October 8, 1877
“Each of these groups [of plants] will rest on the main avenue so that a visitor driving through the Arboretum will be able to obtain a general idea of the arborescent vegetation of the north temperate zone without even leaving his carriage. It is hoped that such an arrangement . . . will facilitate the comprehensive study of the collections, both in their scientific and picturesque aspects.”
Sargent to Board of Park Commissioners for the City of Boston, 1880
“[F]ortunately, for nearly two thousand years the priests of Buddha have planted and replanted trees about their temples, which are often surrounded by what now appear to be natural woods, as no tree is ever cut and no attempt is made to clear up the undergrowth.”
Forest Flora of Japan, 1894
“A good set of photographs are really about as important as anything you can bring back with you.”
Sargent to E.H. Wilson on the eve of Wilson’s first expedition to China for the Arnold Arboretum, November 6, 1906
“The great natural feature of the Arboretum is Hemlock Hill with its high steep cliffs rising on the north from the Bussey Brook and covered so thickly with hemlock trees that the rays of the sun rarely penetrate to the ground between them. In no other public garden are there such cliffs or a more beautiful remnant of a coniferous forest. Oaks and other native deciduous leaved trees from one hundred to perhaps two hundred years old still cover small areas on each side of the Meadow Road, on Centre Street, and on Bussey Street at the eastern base of Peters Hill, and are valuable in showing several important New England trees in their adult state.”
The first fifty years of the Arnold Arboretum, Journal of the Arnold Arboretum, 1922
Did you know?
After graduation from Harvard College in 1862, Sargent joined the United States Army and served during the remainder of the Civil War. His duty was mostly in Louisiana, where he was brevetted the rank of major. Sargent momentos in the Arnold Arboretum Archives include his uniform and sword, as well as items related to his plant expeditions in Asia.
Arboretum Correspondence Database
Garden and Forest; A Journal of Horticulture, Landscape Art and Forestry, conducted by Charles Sprague Sargent, 1888-97
Arboretum Library Holdings
Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927) papers, 1868- . [pdf]
Sargent’s published writings in Arnoldia
Sargent’s published writings in Arboretum Publications
Rehder, Alfred. “Charles Sprague Sargent.” Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 17:2, April 1927 [pdf].
Sutton, S.B. Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum [Harvard University Press, 1970].
The One-hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Charles Sprague Sargent, published in Arnoldia (1941) [pdf].