1900 Cedar-of-Lebanon Contract

Overview

1900 Cedar-of-Lebanon Contract

At the turn of the century Charles S. Sargent contracted Walter Siehe, a German-born botanist living in present-day Turkey, to make collections of Cedar-of-Lebanon (Cedrus libani) from populations that represented greater cold-hardiness than the current specimens growing in the Eastern United States. Cedar-of-Lebanon had historically been valued and used as a religious and national symbol throughout the Levant region, while its horticultural merits were recognized in the West. It was often desired as a prominent feature of many European and American gardens. However, collections made prior to the Siehe contract did not prove to be reliably hardy in the New England climate.

In a letter from Siehe to Sargent dated November 1900, Siehe notes the trip took 8 days and yielded 150 pounds of seed, collected from a population growing at approximately 6,250 ft. above sea level (near the upper limit of its range). Siehe sent a collection and shipment fee of 50 Deutsche Mark (approximately $15 in 1900), and the Arnold Arboretum accessioned the Siehe collections on February 4, 1902. The seed lot (AA #4697) proved to be reliably hardy, drought tolerant, and vigorous in the Arboretum landscape, only suffering major setbacks during extreme high wind events such as the Hurricane of 1938. The plants were consistently praised for their horticultural value in the early 20th century, and have been written about and utilized extensively in North American gardens.

Additional Resources Aiello, Anthony S. and Dosmann, Michael S. “The Quest for the Hardy Cedar-of-Lebanon.” Arnoldia 65 (1) 2007 [pdf].