Author’s Note: This article chronicles some of the Korean portion of the Arnold Arboretum’s collecting trip to Japan and Korea in the fall of 1977. The goals of this trip have been outlined in Arnoldia 38: 28-31. 1978, while Richard Weaver’s Japanese Journal appeared in Arnoldia 38: 82-101. 1978, and described many of the events and plants encountered in Japan. As in that article, space here allows for the description of only the most memorable days and events. A detailed itinerary, however, with a list of the plants collected appears at the conclusion of this article. I should like to express my deep thanks to Dick Weaver and my wife. Happy, for help in remembering all the details of our trip during the preparation of this article, and my warmest and deepest thanks are extended to Carl Ferris Miller, whose most generous help and hospitality made our trip in Korea possible.

On the afternoon of September 30, after having spent the morning on an excursion to the island of Miyajima in the Inland Sea (where we explored the beautiful temple there, famous for its offshore tori or gate), Dick Weaver, my wife. Happy, and I tried to express our deep thanks to my old graduate school friend, Katsuhiko Kondo, for his generosity and overwhelming hospitality during our travels in Japan. Back in Hiroshima, we left Katsu on the platform and boarded a Shinkan-sen or bullet train destined for the city of Fukuoka on Kyushu, the southernmost of the four major Japanese islands, where we were to spend our last night in Japan. Our trip from Hiroshima was comfortable and pleasant as we felt well accustomed to the extraordinarily efficient Japanese train service, and as darkness fell, we saw extensive plantations of tea from the train windows and were aware that we were traveling into an even more tropical climate and vegetation than we had left in Hiroshima.

Early on the morning of October 1 we taxied to the Fukuoka International Airport for our China Airlines flight to Seoul and the beginning of our Korean adventure. While we were not anxious to leave Japan, feeling as we did that we had only begun to sample its extremely rich flora, we were nonetheless expectant and excited to be headed for the Asiatic mainland. We also were particularly anxious to be able to make comparisons between the Japanese and Korean floras and to learn more of the plants of the Korean peninsula.

We arrived in Seoul in the middle of the afternoon after an easy but crowded flight, and as our plane made its descent on its approach to Seoul, I was immediately surprised by the dry and dusty aspect of the landscape, a decided change from the verdant green and humid countryside we had left in Kyushu. After a long, hot wait standing in line, we finally cleared through customs and were able to pass into the terminal waiting room where we immediately spotted and were spotted by our host in Korea, Carl Ferris Miller.

Through our mutual friends. Admiral and Mrs. Harry Hull, we had briefly met Carl at the Arnold Arboretum almost a year before. On that visit Carl’s great enthusiasm for, and knowledge of plants, particularly woody plants, had been obvious, and he had described his plans for the arboretum he is developing in Korea while convincing us that the native Korean flora, which includes many species of horticultural value, has been largely ignored by western botanists and horticulturists. Unlike the flora of Japan, which has been under scrutiny and investigation by western as well as Japanese botanists since the time of Linnaeus, the first collections of Korean plants were made as late as 1854 when Admiral B. A. Schlippenbach of the German ship “Pallada” sent a party ashore to collect specimens during his survey of the eastern coast of Korea. One of their discoveries was the beautiful pink-flowered azalea. Rhododendron schlippenbachii, named to honor the Admiral by the botanist Maximowicz.

Our decision to include Korea on our itinerary was largely due to Carl’s convincing arguments, our desire to see Carl’s Chollipo Arboretum, and the fact that the climate of Korea is more similar to that of New England than is that of Japan. With hot summers and very cold winters, plants growing in Korea are adapted to a continental climate, and we were anxious to collect seeds of species hardy in Korea for trial at the Arnold Arboretum.

After spending a relaxing hour or two at Carl’s Seoul townhouse discussing plans for the upcoming two weeks, sipping iced tea, and then quickly rearranging our luggage, we left Seoul with Carl and Chin-su, one of Carl’s adopted Korean sons and also an avid plantsman. In Carl’s version of a Ford Pinto station wagon, we drove south and then, after exiting from the Seoul-Pasan Expressway, proceeded in a westerly direction. Our destination was Chollipo, as the crow flies about seventy miles southwest of the capitol city, and during the trip we were delighted to be talking plants and to be observing the Korean countryside at eye-level. Unfortunately, the sun had set by the time we were far into our journey, and most of the countryside was driven through unobserved. However, the trip was not without memorable incidents, partially due to the fact that the station wagon was loaded with luggage and supplies for Chollipo. We made a quick stop in a small town for last minute supplies and were delighted to see a small farmers’ band playing homemade instruments and parading down the road in the twilight to celebrate the completion of the harvest. Before reaching the last turnoff for Chollipo, the car was hitting bottom along the rutted road, and on taking the last turnoff, the underside of the vehicle took a horrendous beating that culminated in the loss of the muffler as we drove onto the beach of the Yellow Sea (it was low tide) and up the steep drive to the main house at Chollipo Arboretum. After a late dinner, we headed by flashlight to our beds in different guest houses, not knowing what view would meet our eyes in the morning.

Black-and-white photograph of coast with vegetation in foreground
The Yellow Sea, terraced rice paddies, and pine forests at Chollipo. Photograph courtesy of C. F. Miller.

The following morning, lying on tatami (Japanese bed mats placed on the floor), Happy and I opened our eyes and were stunned momentarily by the magnificent sweep of the Yellow Sea in front of and below us. Our guest house was perched above the beach with a breathtaking view of the coast and an offshore island, which we learned later was a part of the Arboretum property and accessible by foot at low tide. The tides in this area are notable in and of themselves as the second highest in the world and second only to those in the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where the tides sometimes rise between 40 and 50 feet. At Chollipo on the Yellow Sea, 30-foot tides occur, and the beaches of white sand make swimming a delight.

The Arboretum property comprises about three hundred acres along the coast of the Yellow Sea and includes the low-lying mountains that curve inland at this point to form a small basin with the fishing village of Chollipo (located adjacent to the Arboretum property) on the beach itself. Because of the varied topography, exposures, and soil types, the site is ideally suited to development as an arboretum, and its location near the Yellow Sea has the added advantages of the moderating influences of the sea in extending the growing season as well as providing occasional fogs and mists and tempering the extremes of day- and night-time temperatures.

Black-and-white photograph of coast with vegetation in foreground
The rugged coast of the Yellow Sea at Chollipo Arboretum. Note the compound leaves of Platycarya strobilacea in the foreground. Photograph courtesy of C. F. Miller.

After breakfast, we spent the morning walking around the nursery areas, which are located adjacent to the main and guest houses at Chollipo, and we were overwhelmed by the vast numbers of plants as well as the diversity of the collection (in excess of four thousand species) that Carl has brought together within the last seven years. I can only liken the experience to walking around the Hillier Garden and Arboretum in Hampshire, England, and it is obvious the Chollipo Arboretum will soon be among the foremost Temperate Zone arboreta in the world. We made numerous collections of seed, our first in Korea, from the plants in the nurseries and growing in permanent plantings. I was particularly interested in studying Carl’s collection of Magnolias, which includes upwards of sixty taxa, and we were fascinated by the diversity of the Ilex collection that includes upwards of three hundred taxa. Species of both of these genera hold a special fascination for Carl, and his collections are certainly the most comprehensive I have seen. At every turn Dick, Happy, and I were aware of our ignorance and at the same time we were delighted to be seeing either completely new plants or others we had only known by reputation. Carl estimates that the climate at Chollipo is comparable to that of Zone 8 (USDA map), and he is attempting to grow all species from both the northern and southern hemispheres that might prove hardy at Chollipo.

After lunch and a swim in the Yellow Sea, we continued our survey of the plant collections in the Arboretum nurseries, and late in the afternoon we walked down to the sandy beach adjacent to the fishing village of Chollipo, where Carl was anxious to show us and have us collect seed from an extensive population of Vitex rotundifolius. Unlike other species of Vitex, which are either trees or upright shrubs, this species is prostrate and creeping, and at the collection site served as a sand binder on the low dunes.

On October 3, another clear, beautiful day, we continued our investigations of the plantings at Chollipo, and spent the better part of the afternoon exploring the native vegetation both on Carl’s offshore island and along the coast north of Chollipo at Uihang-ni. Pine forests cover the low-lying mountains along the coast and the dominant species are Pinus densiflora, a species common everywhere in Korea, P. thunbergii, and in the Chollipo area the hybrid between the two species, P. densithunbergii. Another common conifer in the Chollipo area is Juniperus rigida, while common deciduous species in the scrub along the coast and in the forested areas include Platycarya strobilacea, an unusual monotypic genus of the Juglandaceae, Kalopanax pictus , Zanthoxylum pipentum and Z. schinifolium, Elaeagnus umbellata and E. ttiacrophylla, Vaccinium oldhamii, Sorbus alnifolia, Evodia Daniellii, Carpinus koreana, Rhododendron miucronulatum everywhere in pine forests, and Quercus dentata, Q. mirabilis, and Q. acutissima. Two lindens, Tilia mandshurica and T. amurensis, are common, while the unusual Grewia biloba, also a member of the Tiliaceae, is a frequently encountered shrub.

Black-and-white photograph showing distinctive fruit structures of Platycarya
The cone-like infructescence of Platycarya strobilacea on a plant growing in the Chollipo Arboretum. Stephen A. Spongberg

At Pang-jik-kol, Carl took us to see one of the few known native occurrences of Koelreuteria paniculata in Korea, and we were amazed to find this species, which we tend to think of as a tree from 30 to 60 feet in height, growing in sandy soil as a shrubby plant only approaching 12 feet in height. Needless to say, we are hopeful that the shrubby habit of these plants is genetic and not environmentally induced, as we made a collection of seed and can visualize the horticultural and landscape use of a dwarf, shrubby golden rain tree. Carl also took us to collect seed from another plant, Viburnum bitchiuense, that was growing in an unexpected habitat. We found a large population of this low-growing shrub growing in almost pure sand, where, like the Vitex, it was serving as a sand binder on the low dunes behind the beach of the Yellow Sea.

We spent the better part of the next day, October 4, back in the nurseries at Chollipo Arboretum, and by mid-afternoon, after lunch and a refreshing swim, had packed and were ready for our return trip to Seoul. Before leaving the topic of our stay at Chollipo, however, note should be made of the wonderful hospitality there and of the superb meals, a blend of western and Korean cuisines, and largely dependent upon the fresh fruits and vegetables grown on the arboretum property. Ajumoni (the Korean term applied to housekeeper and/or cook) was responsible for these delightful meals, and special mention must be made of the featured botanical hors d’oeuvres. These included roasted ginkgo nuts, pine nuts, Tagetes leaves tempura-fried, two species of seaweeds (one prepared rather like Doritos or potato chips, the other with sesame seeds), and popcorn. Other specialities included kimchi, the famous Korean hot relish, and a wonderful pie made from the fruits of Elaeagnus umbellata that were collected from shrubs growing in the arboretum.

We departed from Chollipo by mid-afternoon leaving vast areas of the arboretum unexplored, but we were able to make several stops to collect en route to Seoul. We were delighted to find a magnificent old specimen of Gleditsia japonica var. koreaiensis, and stopping in the town of Taean, not far distant from Chollipo, we made what to me was one of the most exciting discoveries of the trip. While Carl took us to an old garden to see an exceptionally fine specimen of an unexpected North American native, Taxodium distichum, we spotted a large magnolia nearby. At first glance, we assumed that this tree was a fine, old specimen of the Japanese white-bark magnolia, Magnolia hypoleuca, a species that is not an uncommon cultivated tree in Korea. On examining the tree more closely, however, we were astounded to notice that many of the large leaves were deeply lobed at the apex, a characteristic of the Chinese species, M. officinalis. This latter species is exceedingly rare in cultivation in North America and is represented primarily by its variety, M. officinalis var. biloba. While the taxonomic status of M. officinalis and its relationship with M. hypoleuca remain unclear, we were able to collect numerous seeds from the Taean tree with the use of a ladder loaned to us by the kind but rather mystified owner of the garden.

The fact that this Chinese species was growing in Korea is a reminder of the long history of Chinese influence in Korea. Taean, located near the Yellow Sea, was once the Korean terminus of a trade route to China across the Yellow Sea, and we speculated that it may have been over this old sea trading route that seed or perhaps plants of Magnolia officinalis were introduced into Korean gardens. Chinese influence was evident again the next day in Seoul when Mr. Nam, Carl’s driver, took us to the campus of a private school for girls to see the finest specimen of the lace-bark pine, Pinus bungeana, that I have ever seen. Like M. officinalis, P. bungeana is native to China, but despite that fact, the beauty, large size, and great age of the tree we saw growing in Seoul had merited its designation as a living national monument in Korea.

During the afternoon of our day in Seoul on October 5 we were able to visit the Forest Research Institute of the Korean Institute of Science and Technology where we met briefly with the director and then spent a couple of hours with Mr. Cho, a staff member, in the arboretum he has established on the grounds surrounding the administration building. Mr. Cho was most hospitable and allowed us to make numerous valuable collections, including a large collection of the seeds of Firmiana simplex. This tree proves perfectly hardy in the Institute’s arboretum where winter temperatures fall to -5°F. and the snow cover is light as the winters are generally very dry. Before leaving the Institute, Carl had arranged for us to meet Mr. Cho on the evening of October 7 at the village of Changchon, where we would join him on a collecting expedition in that vicinity on October 8.

Black-and-white photograph showing distinctive fruits of Firmiana
The leaf-like, dehisced carpels and seeds of Firmiana simplex. Stephen A. Spongberg

On the next day, October 6, we left Seoul and traveled on the Seoul-Kangnung Expressway to the eastern seacoast of the Korean peninsula, stopping once en route to do some roadside collecting. The weather, unfortunately, began to deteriorate rapidly, and to our disappointment we drove through the mountainous terrain in dense fog and rain. We finally arrived at our destination after dark and luckily found rooms in the Sorak-san Hotel, within the limits of the beautiful and mountainous Sorak-san National Park. After getting settled in our western-style rooms, we made a brief excursion into the market and shop area outside our hotel where we were fascinated by the snake and curio shops, many of which were festooned with dried octopus and squid that hung down from the shop doors and walls like curtains. Soon, however, despite the fine drizzle, we were collecting seeds of Acer trifiorum by flashlight.

The next morning the rain had let up slightly, our spirits were high, and we followed the well-worn path along a rain-swelled mountain stream to a temple on the mountainside; in the rich forests above was a famous area where the mountain stream courses through an extensive cataract. The temple, like others subsequently visited in Korea, was a beautiful old structure, and unlike the temple buildings we had seen in Japan, was wonderfully ornamented and decorated with painted murals. Moreover, the ridge poles of the roof, which extended to form broad eaves, had been painted in intricate patterns in wonderfully bright, primary colors.

Among the seeds we collected along the trail were those of Sapium japonicum, a member of the Euphorbia family with magnolia-like leaves, which turn crimson in fall, that is not included in Rehder s Manual, and Hovenia dulcis, the unusual raisin tree, of the Rhamnaceae. We also were able to locate a few seeds in last year’s pods on an old specimen of Paulownia koreana that had apparently not flowered during 1977. Despite that fact, the year-old seeds have proven viable and at the time of this writing seedlings are growing in the Arnold Arboretum’s Dana Greenhouses.

As we left Sorak-san it was still raining, but we made several stops, one to collect fruits of Diospyros lotus, and another at Naksan Temple, which is located directly on the coast above the Eastern Sea (or Sea of Japan), where we collected fruits of Tilia megaphylla, another species not listed by Rehder. We retraced our route for a considerable distance, again in rain, and then in pitch darkness headed north to Changchon and our rendezvous with Mr. Cho. After driving over poor roads that had been soaked by rain through sparsely settled, mountainous country, we finally arrived at the village and to our delight found Mr. Cho and several of his colleagues waiting for our arrival. They escorted us to our inn, our first experience with a traditional Korean inn, where we soon had our evening meal and fell into discussion with Mr. Cho over plans for the morning.

We occupied three rooms at the inn, each small and square with sliding rice paper doors that faced out onto an open courtyard and the communal washing place. The rooms are entered off an elevated platform or deck, and one leaves one’s shoes on the ground below. Most of the inns are rectangular or L-shaped, only of one storey, and a chimney is located at one end of the building. The area beneath the building is essentially a crawl space in which a fire is built at the end opposite the chimney. The floors are like adobe, and heat from the fire beneath them warms those of the rooms above. A very strong mulberry paper made from local trees covers the floors; the paper is very smooth with a polished surface somewhat like linoleum.

Due to the heavy rains, our schedule was left tentative and it wasn’t until late that evening that Happy and I returned to our room to find that several layers of brightly decorated quilts had been spread on our warm floor. We slept soundly with only minor disturbances caused by an occasional rat running on the roof. The next morning we woke to fog and were astounded to see our surroundings in daylight. The small village with its one muddy thoroughfare was undergoing complete renovation of all its buildings simultaneously.

Our plans for the day were finalized with Mr. Cho and a modified climb of Kyebang-san was decided upon due to the uncertain weather. We started our climb several miles from the village and it was necessary for Mr. Nam to relay us in shifts to the jump-off point. Our party had increased in size because Mr. Cho had hired several village boys to accompany us as his collectors.

As we left the farmyard, amidst mats spread with drying chili peppers, com, and thinly sliced squash and the avidly curious stares of several children, the sun began to shine and the day, after all, became one of the most beautiful we had in Korea. We walked through fields where giant radishes (upwards to 3 feet in length with a diameter of a loaf of bread) had been harvested. We passed by fields of millet and stood to the side of the trail as women laden with firewood of large logs and branches in chiega on their backs came down the mountainside. One side of the valley had been totally denuded of its forest and Mr. Cho’s mission that day was to collect seed for use in reforestation programs across Korea. The forest on the opposite side of the valley, through which we climbed, was exceedingly rich in species composition and was very reminiscent of a well developed deciduous forest of mountainous eastern North America.

We were to make numerous collections as we climbed the easy trail, and in a thicket along a small stream we located one plant of Magnolia sieboldii with fruit aggregates, the follicles of which had dehisced to disclose numerous bright red seeds. While we had seen this species at Sorak-san, none was found there with fruits, and we had almost despaired of bringing home to Boston reliably hardy strains of this wonderful plant. Later, we were to collect a large number of seed of this species from plants in cultivation, but seeing the plant in its native habitat and securing its seeds there was a highlight for me. Several species of maples grew in this beautiful forest, and one, Acer pseudosieboldianum, gave us our first encounter with spectacular fall color. Its leaves had turned to a brilliant crimson where the plants were growing in exposed areas along the edges of the forest, while plants of the same species growing in the forest had turned a warm golden-yellow. Another maple, A. mandshuricum, one of the trifoliate maples, had not yet assumed its fall color, but its fruits, high up in the crowns of the trees, were abundant. Dick was able to climb high into one of these trees and shook the keys to the ground where Carl, Happy, and I gathered them into envelopes. Huge specimens of Kalopanax pictus grew in close association with the maples, and the young boys were dispatched by Mr. Cho to collect their fruits. In a couple of instances the boys failed in their attempts to shimmy up the tall trees. It was amusing to watch and listen as one boy, high up in his tree, obviously urged and then heckled his cohort who was unsuccessful in getting far off the ground on his tree due to the great girth of the trunk and the lack of foot- and hand-holds. As we continued our climb, the dappled sunlight played on the beautiful white bark of Betula ermanii, and we were astounded to find huge specimens of Juglans mandshurica and another birch, B. schmidtii. One specimen of the latter with its peeling, shingle-like, dark gray bark, was perhaps the most magnificent tree we had seen, and I estimated its height at about 60 feet.

Our goal the following day was to visit the temple grounds at Yongmun-san, specifically to see the giant Ginkgo biloba tree that grows on the mountainside just below the temple. While the forest trees at Kyebang-san that we had seen on the previous day had been impressive in their size, the Yongmun-san ginkgo dwarfed them by comparison and is probably the largest individual tree any of us had seen previously. The interpretive sign near the tree was in both Korean and English, and according to the information given, this ginkgo, towering to a height of 200 feet, is thought to be the oldest living ginkgo in all of Asia. Unfortunately, the data given did not include the diameter (dbh) of the tree, but we estimated that this would exceed 15 feet. While we scurried from one vantage point to another in an attempt to photograph the tree in its entirety, we were somewhat less than completely successful, yet the accompanying photograph taken from above in the precincts of the temple, gives some idea of the enormous size of this ancient tree.

Black-and-white photograph showing people standing beside massive trunk of ginkgo
The base of the giant 200-foot, 1100-year-old Ginkgo at Yongmun-san Temple, Kyonggi-do Province, Korea. Stephen A. Spongberg

After leaving the temple we made several interesting collections along the trail to the small village at the base of the mountain, and along the main street of the village we were able to supplement our collections through purchases in the market there. This market reminded me of the open air markets in villages in Mexico, and the diversity of plant materials offered for sale, many collected from the wild, made for a colorful botanical shopping spree. Among the plant materials for sale in the market were cones of Pinus koraiensis (for the edible pine nuts), the small red drupe-like fruits of Elaeagnus umbellata, Vitis coignetiae with its bunches of small, purplish-black berries, the sweet green berries of Actinidia arguta, and the small, oblong red drupes of Zizyphus jujuba, the jujube, which tasted much like apples. Spread out on mats to dry in the sun were quantities of acorns of Quercus aliena and close at hand were water-filled dishpans in which slabs of acorn curd, prepared from the acorns, were floating. Other mats were spread with chilies and thinly sliced squash, while the small, grayish-brown seeds of Perilla fruticosa were piled on others. A member of the mint family, Perilla is grown for its seeds that are an important source of oil that is used in cooking and for water-proofing paper. Other, more commonplace vegetables and fruits included chestnuts, several varieties of com, tomatoes, and pumpkins, while crates of apples and apple-shaped yellow pears were displayed along with the tempting, orange fruits of Diospyros kaki, the oriental persimmon. Carl also showed us the roots of Platycodon grandiflorum, the balloon flower, which are commonly prepared and eaten in soy sauce; there were numerous other roots with Korean names that Carl was unable to translate into Latin ones.

Black-and-white photograph showing women tending baskets of food
Women in the market at Yongmun-san. Note the slabs of acorn curd in the dishpan in the foreground. Stephen A. Spongberg

I was particularly anxious to buy several persimmons or kakis, both to eat and to obtain seeds for trial at the Arnold Arboretum. Carl persuaded me that we would have better chances of obtaining hardy strains if we purchased fruits from local farmers, inasmuch as the market fruits may not have been grown locally. He had no problem in convincing me not to buy persimmons, but he was unsuccessful in tempting the three of us to try the delicacies of the several snake shops in the market area. These establishments were clearly recognizable by the cages with live specimens of both venomous and non-venomous snakes, and earlier, on the trail to the temple, we had seen a father and son collecting snakes for the local shopkeepers. After a customer selects the snake of his choice, the proprietor kills, cleans, and prepares a hot snake stew for consumption on the premises, a culinary treat apparently very popular with Korean tourists. We disappointed Carl as we preferred to satisfy our appetites with jujubes and other vegetable produce.

En route from Yongmun-san to Seoul we did stop and buy persimmons of two varieties that were growing in a farmhouse dooryard. One variety was large-fruited, deep rich orange in color with four longitudinal grooves that divided the fruits into quadrants, while the second produced smaller, less attractive, ungrooved fruits of a pale orange color. As luck would have it, the larger more beautiful kakis contained no seeds, but several seeds were found in the less attractive fruits. If we were successful in obtaining a hardy strain we will, unfortunately, have to be content with the less attractive, smaller-fruited form.

Black-and-white photograph showing people gathered near porch of house
Carl Ferris Miller and the author purchasing persimmons from a Korean family at Yangpyong Myon. Richard E. Weaver, Jr.

After spending a day in Seoul exploring the business and market districts and shopping for souvenirs, we left on the morning of October 1 1 on our last collecting foray. On this trip we headed south on the Seoul-Suncheon Expressway, and after a brief stop for collecting at the Forest Research Station at Chonju, we continued southward where our objective was Sonam Temple, located about six miles northwest of the town of Sunchon on the mountain Chogye-san at about three hundred meters above sea level. Once again, we arrived at our destination in darkness and we were forced to stop as the road came to a seemingly abrupt dead end on the forested slope of the mountain. While Carl assured us that there had been an inn there on his last visit to the area four or five years previously, we saw no signs of life. Carl, however, set off on foot, flashlight in hand, while Happy, Dick, Mr. Nam, and I waited by the car.

When Carl reappeared he had two young boys with him from the hidden inn, and he greeted us with the news that the Ajumoni was preparing our evening meal. After dinner, which was served in Carl’s room, we headed to our rooms and bed, and once again fell asleep not knowing what view would meet our eyes in the morning. At three o’clock, however, we were awakened by the sounds of drums and cymbals and we realized that our inn was, indeed, on temple grounds.

Black-and-white photograph showing stone urns set in manicured garden
Burial urns on the forested slope of the mountain at Sonam Temple. Stephen A. Spongberg

Early the next morning Happy and I had a quiet, pre-breakfast walk around the then seemingly deserted temple. Large, leafless persimmon trees laden with fruits were silhouetted against the blue of the early morning sky, and we discovered on an adjacent hillside numerous ancient burial urns. After breakfast we explored the forest around the temple and located beautiful specimens of the native Korean Stewartia that grow in this region, but unfortunately, we were unable to locate capsules with seed. We did make several additional collections in the area, and during the afternoon, after lunch at the inn, we visited other areas in the vicinity, including the Seoul National University Forest at Kwangyang. We also made a stop at the private garden of a Mr. Kim, an old friend of Carl’s, to see his exceptionally fine persimmon trees. Mr. Kim kindly showed us through his garden and then gave us enough ripened persimmons so that even I could satisfy my appetite for these delicious fruits. Included among these kakis was a variety unlike any I had ever seen or heard of, inasmuch as it is sweet and non-astringent when still apple-hard.

The next day, after spending a second night at the inn, we reluctantly started back in the direction of Seoul, stopping at another locality in search of Stewartia seeds. Although our search for capsules of Stewartia was again unsuccessful, we were able to go over the five hundred mark for total collections during our travels in Japan and Korea. We made these last collections with the realization that our Korean adventure was fast coming to a close, and on the long drive back to Seoul our conversation turned to plans for the future and our itinerary for our hoped-for next trip to Korea.

On the morning of October 14, Dick left Seoul on an early flight to return home via the Philippines, while Happy and I ran an errand to the post office to mail off our last collections to the Arboretum and bought a bouquet as a parting gift for Ajumoni. Later in the day after attempting unsuccessfully to express our deep thanks, we left Carl and Ajumoni, and Mr. Nam drove us to the airport for our flight home via Honolulu and San Francisco. While the tangible results of our travels in Korea can be seen in the Arboretum’s Dana Greenhouses, and hopefully will be obvious in the Arboretum’s living collections in the years to come, for Happy, Dick and me, one of the greatest rewards of our trip was intangible — the opportunity to meet and learn to know and love an astounding and generous man, Carl Ferris Miller.

From “free” to “friend”…

Established in 1911 as the Bulletin of Popular Information, Arnoldia has long been a definitive forum for conversations about temperate woody plants and their landscapes. In 2022, we rolled out a new vision for the magazine as a vigorous forum for tales of plant exploration, behind-the-scenes glimpses of botanical research, and deep dives into the history of gardens, landscapes, and science. The new Arnoldia includes poetry, visual art, and literary essays, following the human imagination wherever it entangles with trees.

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