Human Flower Project
Monday, November 21, 2011
Radicles from the Afghan Front
Two years after its seed was collected in a remote Afghan village, a tiny cedar settles into its new Kentucky home.
Cedrus deodara (at right) in the Kullu Valley of NW India
Photo: via wiki
By Allen Bush
The Himalayan cedar barely got a nod last month at the silent auction in Louisville, Kentucky. Jack Alexander from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University had donated a tiny Cedrus deodara but the seedling was far from the most fetching plant on the block. The little tree (auction item # 61) had a story with a bare bones bid-sheet teaser: “Collected from wild Waygal District Nuristan Province Afghanistan. “ No commas, no more details.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai held a loya jirga this week in Kabul, 2,000 elders gathering to sip tea and try to untangle their country’s problems. Louisville’s pow-wow – the 61st annual meeting of the Eastern Region of the International Plant Propagators Society, —drew a smaller crowd: some 150 folks sampling Kentucky Bourbon and fretting over the siege of the emerald ash borer.
Across the auction room at the Seelbach Hotel, there was a huddle around Parrotia subaequalis, a witch hazel relative recently introduced from China. The day before, visiting nurserymen, academics and representatives from arboreta and botanic gardens had seen a small 4’ (1.2 m) tall planting at Yew Dell in Crestwood. Those standing in the cold drizzle erupted in oohs and aahhs, sparked by the rich burgundy fall foliage. This plant’s relative, the Persian ironwood Parrotia persica, never quite reaches the autumnal expectations of brilliant oranges and reds as advertised—at least not in the Midwest. But its Chinese cousin delivered the fall goods at Yew Dell, in plain sight. The top bid for the rare Parrotia was $280.00.