Sophora japonica (Scholar Tree) China, 1907

by Larissa Glasser, Library Assistant
August 20, 2019

Tree trunk and roots with a building in the background

Sophora japonica (Scholar Tree) China, 1907

Tree trunk and roots with a building in the background

Sophora japonica. A strange example of what privations the pagoda tree can stand and yet thrive. Ping tu, Chili, China. November 17, 1907. [Information from label on verso of photo mount.] Photograph 5388. Original library accession 6631. 9.5 x 12.5 cm. Gelatin silver process.

Sophora japonica China

Alternate Title: Tree trunk and roots with a building in the background
Photograph by Frank Nicholas Meyer (1875-1918), Dutch, American
Ping tu, Hebei Sheng, China
November 17, 1907

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

Frank Nicholas Meyer began his career at the Amsterdam Botanical Garden where he worked his way up to the position of head gardener in charge of the experimental garden. His aptitude caught the attention of Hugo de Vries (1848-1935), who became his mentor.

Meyer arrived in America in 1901, and obtained work with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). After a year with the USDA, he went to Mexico to collect plants. On his return in 1904, David Fairchild (1869-1954) of the Foreign Plant Introduction Section of the USDA hired Meyer to make a collecting trip to China. When Meyer sailed for China in 1905, he began a 13-year odyssey that led to the introduction of more than 2,000 species of plants. In an arrangement between Charles S. Sargent and Fairchild, Meyer sent the Arboretum trees and shrubs of ornamental value.

Frank Meyer’s photographs document his expeditions. His captions reflect his empathy with the subject matter and the enthusiasm he held about the potential for improvements in economic botany in the West based on his exploration of the East.

Meyer died in China in 1918 after a fall from a boat. In 1920, his former associates at the USDA had a medal struck with funds he had bequeathed them. In recognition of his contributions and service, the Frank N. Meyer Medal for Plant Genetic Resources is presented yearly for service to the National Plant Germplasm System, whose mission is to preserve the genetic diversity of plants.

Many thousands more Botanical and Cultural Images of Eastern Asia are available in our Visual Archives.

The Archive Collection of the Arnold Arboretum also holds the Frank N. Meyer (1875-1918) papers, 1906-1914.

Copyright © 2004, President and Fellows of Harvard College, Arnold Arboretum Archives; all rights reserved.

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