Davidia involucrata (dove tree) in the fog, China, 1909

by Larissa Glasser, Library Assistant
January 3, 2019

Davidia involucrata

Davidia involucrata (dove tree) in the fog, China, 1909

Davidia involucrata, China, 1909

Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana Hemsl. Changyang Hsien, China. Height 30 ft. Circumference 4 ft. Altitude 6000 ft. In fog. [Information from label on verso of photo mount.] 20.5 x 15.5 cm. Original library accession 4157. Photograph Z-557. Emulsion on glass.

Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana

Photograph by Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930), American, English
Changyang, Hubei Sheng, China
January 30, 1909

A larger version of this image is available in HOLLIS Images.

Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930) was the furthest traveled of all the Arnold Arboretum’s plant explorers and collectors of the early twentieth century. It is not an overstatement to credit Wilson with bringing Eastern Asian botany, history, and culture to widespread interest in western society, nor to exaggerate the introduction of thousands of Asian plant species to western gardens.

This photograph was among hundreds taken by Wilson during his Third Expedition to China (his first under the official aegis of The Arnold Arboretum). “A good set of photographs are really about as important as anything you can bring back with you,” Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927), the first Director of The Arnold Arboretum, wrote Wilson as he prepared for his journey while living in England. Sargent insisted Wilson take on this journey and on all that would follow, a large format Sanderson whole-plate field camera capable of recording both great detail and broad perspectives without distortion. Wilson turned out to be a considerably talented photographer–and not only has his work endured but it’s also remarkable when you consider the double benefit of The Arboretum’s expeditions: botanical collecting along with visual documentation of cultural landscapes.

Arnold Arboretum Head of the Library and Archives Lisa Pearson explains more about Wilson’s travels in China and his quest for the dove tree.

Copyright © 2006, President and Fellows of Harvard College, Arnold Arboretum Archives; all rights reserved.

Featured Image Archive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *