Garden and Yard Care

Published on December 19th, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance


Rare Tree Cut Down by Christmas Thief at WA Arboretum

Bah Humbug!  A thief has cut down a rare conifer from the Washington Park Arboretum for a Christmas tree.  A holiday tree purchased on a lot can be expensive, but a Forest Service permit to cut your own is only $10.  A live tree has always been my family’s solution.  To steal a rare tree from an arboretum is a new Christmas low. 

Photo by acmeRare conifer cut down from WA arboretum for Christmas tree.

Rare conifer cut down from WA arboretum for Christmas tree.

The tree stolen from the arboretum was a keteleeria valued at $10,400.  The University of Washington explains the trees significance:

Keteleeria trees are found in Laos, a few southern provinces of China and several other isolated places in Asia. The cut tree was considered “conservation material,” because it is under such threat in the wild, according to Randall Hitchin, the garden’s registrar and collections manager.

“It was rare in our collection and it is rare in the wild,” he says.

The keteleeria was named and documented in 1869 by Père David.  It is native to China, Taiwan, Laos, and Vietnam, where it grows above the lowland rainforest and reaches up to 35 meters in height.  Although this conifer can be found in landscaping applications in the United States, because of habitat destruction it is considered “critically endangered“.  Commercial development, logging, hydropower, and plantations of eucalyptus are largely to blame for the habitat destruction.  Keteleeria is one of “seventy-six plant species in the area have been ranked as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable.”

The stolen tree was a gift from China, and one keteleeria still remains at the park, although “the genetic material in each tree is distinctive and irreplaceable.”  It is doubtful the thief knew the significance of the tree he/she cut down for holiday merriment, and park officials say it would make pathetic, spindly Charlie Brown tree.  NWCN reports:

“Investigators don’t believe the thief had any idea of the magnitude of his crime was probably just looking for a free Christmas tree.
The thought of the $10,000 conifer possibly sitting in the living room of a nearby fraternity house has University of Washington horticulturist David Zuckerman disgusted.

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