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Darwin asleep under the trees

by William (Ned) Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum
April 12, 2016

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Darwin asleep under the trees

DarwinTrees_directorsBlog40Charles Darwin loved nature. He also was deeply in love with his wife Emma. This beautiful letter from Charles to Emma was written on this day (April 12) in 1858, just a year and a half before On the Origin of Species was published; a point when Darwin was deeply immersed in deciphering the secrets of descent with modification. Charles Darwin was at Moor Park for a “water cure” to help with his digestive and other health problems. In this letter, Scotch firs (Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris), birches (Betula), and larches (Larix) figure prominently.

“My dearest. The weather is quite delicious. Yesterday after writing to you I strolled a little beyond the glade for an hour & half & enjoyed myself – the fresh yet dark green of the grand Scotch Firs, the brown of the catkins of the old Birches with their white stems & a fringe of distant green from the larches, made an excessively pretty view. – At last I fell fast asleep on the grass & awoke with a chorus of birds singing around me, & squirrels running up the trees & I did not care one penny how any of the beasts or birds had been formed.”

Below, the “fresh yet dark green” of a Scots pine (22535*H), some birch catkins of Betula schmidtii (251-98*A), and the distant green of larches (Larix decidua ‘Pendula’, 804-33*A) – all at the Arnold Arboretum. Amazing what nature can do to create a sense of tranquility. This spring, come fall asleep under some of our trees in the conifer or birch collections and see if Charles Darwin was on to something!

 

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