Earliest American Plant to China for Dwarf Potted Use?

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Earliest American Plant to China for Dwarf Potted Use?

Post  Robert J. Baran on Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:45 pm

From the just when you thought you've seen it all file... I recently came upon this gem in my researches.

"The Domestic Flora of China" was an unacknowledged quote about dwarf trees from Robert Fortune's 1847 book Three Years' Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China as reprinted in American agriculturist magazine (New York), Volume VI, No. XI, November 1847, pg. 333 (http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA333&dq=dwarf+potted+tree+%2BChina&lr=&id=IXoYAQAAIAAJ#v=onepage&q=&f=false). As a footnote to this, we learn

"In our August number [pp. 236-237] an allusion was made to the passion the Chinese have for miniature plants, which forcibly [sic] reminds us of an incident that occurred on our late excursion over the Long Island railroad. Among our company were Hee-Sing, high priest of the Chinese junk, which had lately arrived in our port, and his no less famous artist and companion, Sum-Sing, both of whom were characterized by their medium size, copper complexions, high cheekbones, and straight black hair, similar in appearance to our native Indians. They were gaily dressed in loose flowing robes of variously-colored silks, ornamented with gold buttons. They wore scull-caps closely fitting to the head, and from beneath these hung queer looking tails of long hair, falling nearly to the ground. They carried fans in their hands, which they used to screen their faces from the sun as they walked out, and as our ladies do, to blow them cool. They were of course the observed of all observers during the whole excursion. It was the first time they ever had ridden in a rail-car, and they manifested no little alarm at the shrill whistle of the locomotive, as well as the rapidity of its movement. But being somewhat intelligent men, and Hee-Sing understanding English tolerably well, everything as we passed along was explained to their entire satisfaction. Alighting at Suffolk Station, Sum-Sing found growing among the bushes a dwarf whortleberry, in the form of a miniature tree. 'Hai-yah,' he exclaimed in great delight, 'too muchia handsome,' and carefully packed it away, no doubt with the view of exhibiting it among his friends on his return to the Celestial empire, as one of the wonders of the Western world." (emphasis added)

No other reference has yet been found to these two gentlemen or the fate of the collected plant. But it would make a heck of a story if the blueberry cousin did successfully transplant in China.


Robert J. Baran

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Re: Earliest American Plant to China for Dwarf Potted Use?

Post  EdMerc on Mon Nov 02, 2009 9:23 pm

What a great story. Thank you for sharing.


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