Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Louisiana Cypress 1809

The Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners features an early thirty-page pamphlet on the Louisiana bald cypress:

Mémoire sur le cyprès de la Louisiane: (Cupressus disticha, de Linné)
By M. de Cubières, Simon-Louis-Pierre de Cubières
Versailles: Imprimerie de la Société d'agriculture de Seine et Oise, chez J.-P. Jacob, 1809.

The short treatise includes a history of the tree's identification by various naturalists, its distinctive features, its potential uses in France, as well as a discussion of its appearance in Great Britian's Kew, Stowe and Blenem Gardens. Cubières credits Henry Compton (1632-1713), the Bishop of London, with transporting the first seeds from America. Compton's Fulham Palace gardens did include the American magnolia and azalea, but John Tradescant the Younger (1608-1662) is generally believed to have first imported the bald cypress seed.

Cubières claims that it was not until 1750 that the bald cypress was cultivated in France, the first seeds brought by the renowned botanist Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau(1700-1782), whose Art de rafiner le sucre (Paris, 1764) also graces the Garden Library.

In 1963, the bald cypress was designated as the Louisiana State Tree.

Above: Lauxan, delineator; Bessin, engraver. Cupressus Disticha/Cyprès de la Louisiane. Plate 1, from M. de Cubières, Simon-Louis-Pierre de Cubières. Mémoire sur le cyprès de la Louisiane. Versailles, 1809.

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