Plants collected on this Expedition
- Event Type
- Collection Type
- Germplasm, Herbarium Specimens
- Arnold Arboretum Participants
- Charles S. Sargent
- Other Participants
- Philip Codman, James Veitch, and Gifford Pinchot
In late July of 1892, Arnold Arboretum founding director Charles Sprague Sargent and his nephew Philip Codman made a journey to Japan to botanize. They went to collect seeds and herbarium specimens Herbarium specimen: An herbarium specimen is a pressed and dried plant sample that is generally mounted on a sheet of paper. Specimens can be stored indefinitely and are used for a wide variety of botanical research. from Hokkaido and northern Honshu, but perhaps more importantly, to see the first hand the rich and botanically diverse flora in this east Asian nation.
Their objective was not only to observe and collect examples of the Japanese flora, but also to compare the morphological morphological: similarities of plants from eastern Asia and eastern North America (known as the study of biogeography).
“In Japan proper there are certainly not less than 325 species of shrubs, or 550 woody plants in all, or one woody plant in every 4.55 of the whole flora, a much larger percentage than occurs in any part of North America.”Charles Sargent, Forest Flora of Japan
A Botanical Journey in Japan
After a month-long cruise across the Pacific Ocean, they landed in Yokohama at the end of August. They made their way north using the extensive and modern Japanese railways, periodically stopping at nurseries, gardens, other points of botanical interest. In Nikko, they admired plantings of the stately Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica).
They explored northern Honshu and then continued on to Hokkaido. There they called upon Professor Kingo Miyabe at the Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University). Although he was ill and could not join them in their botanical explorations, he arranged for a guide to show them around the island.
During their exploration of Hokkaido, Sargent and Codman met the Englishman James Herbert Veitch, owner of Veitch Nurseries, with whom they traveled for the next several weeks. In search of plants for introduction to the western nursery trade and infected with a wanderlust that drew him to Asia, Veitch sought both wild and cultivated plant material.
After several weeks in Hokkaido, the party returned to Honshu to explore Mount Hokkoda in the far north of the island. Veitch then returned to Hokkaido, while Sargent and Codman returned to the Nikko area where they successfully collected a large quantity of Nikko maple (Acer maximowiczianum, accession 3337) seed.
After ten whirlwind weeks, they finally sailed for home. With them, they carried a wealth of seeds and specimens, as well as a much keener appreciation of the botanical diversity to be found in eastern Asia.
Back in Boston
Sargent and Codman returned to Boston in December with approximately 200 seed collections and 1,225 herbarium specimens. Among the more notable collections were the willow-leafed magnolia (Magnolia salicifolia, accession 263) and the torch azalea (Rhododendron kaempferi, accession 3697), both from Mount Hokkada. Perhaps the most significant were the early-flowering hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Praecox’, accession 14714) and what was later named the Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii, accession 4681).
Sargent authored dispatches from the field that were published in the weekly periodical Garden and Forest. These articles were compiled and published in book form in 1894 as Forest Flora of Japan.
Learn more about disjunct floras in this Arnoldia article, “Land Bridge Travelers of the Tertiary.”
Arboretum Keeper of the Living Collections Michael Dosmann talks about our long association with crabapples, including Malus sargentii in, “Malus at the Arnold Arboretum: An Ongoing Legacy.”