Charles Clagg the botanist. That's Who.
A while back I posted some pictures of the bamboo that I have growing on my front lawn. Many of you had asked for an article and I replied I would write one after my finals were through (and they thankfully are). Then recently, a gather member posted a picture of a Metasequoia. I commented by asking if she knew that this particular tree was known as the living fossil and that I knew the botanist who brought it back from China.
I was surprised to discover that she knew this information and she was excited that I had actually met the botanist who brought this tree, which was thought to be extinct, back to America from China. I told her that I bought a Metasequoia at an annual Thornton Burgess plant sale and that I would check this year for her if she wanted one. So the Metasequoia in the picture I recently posted is for her, and this story is for you.
Years ago, I had a route that I'd go on to get out of the house with the kids and take my neighbor, Tammy, for a ride. I'd do the thrift shop circuit. I knew exactly which days to go to each shop and I was pretty lucky at finding what I needed.
One of the thrift shops I visited, my favorite, was Cape Cancer Thrift Shop in Barnstable Village. When pulling in the driveway, all that was visible was a huge circle of bamboo. I was always fascinated by this plant, as were many other patrons. They'd often be standing around it in awe, admiring it's vast beauty and stature.
One day, I was standing by myself admiring it and I felt a presence next to me. To my left, there in his khacki knee-length shorts, gingham shirt, and tan safari hat was Charles Clagg.
"You see that tree in the center there?" he pointed as he spoke.
I squinted and looked through the forest of bamboo to see it. I was always taught to be polite to my elders so I respectfully replied "Yes" but I thought to myself 'Who is this guy?' I also knew from experience that old people are very wise so I knew whatever it was he had to say was going to be interesting.
Peering through the bamboo more carefully I viewed this elegant tree, about 13 feet tall, with fringed-like dainty leaves. The bark was sort of red like the bark of a cedar that peels.
"It's a Metasequoia (genus, species all that included)" he said.
I recognized that name as one that belonged to the California Redwood so I inquired as to whether they were related. He explained that they were but that this particular species was a deciduous conifer which loses its needles in the winter unlike the typical evergreen that remains green for all seasons.
He reached out his hand and introduced himself to me as Charles Clagg. He told me he was a botanist. He told me a story of how he had gone to China during WWII and that he brought back this tree which was known as a fossil until he and some other botanists had brought it back to the USA. He explained some details about the discovery of the tree and he included some interesting facts about the bamboo as well because he brought the bamboo back from China with the tree.
He took me for a walk around his property pointing out other interesting plants like the phragmites communis, which is a tall grass that grows in marsh areas. I asked him if I could purchase some bamboo and he told me if I gave a donation to the thrift shop of $20.00 that I could get some if I came back in April.
When I enthusiastically told the ladies in the thrift shop they just rolled their eyes because they had heard the story so many times that they were bored with it.
Two or three Aprils passed before I could actually get the bamboo because Charles was very particular about the precise time to successfully transplant the bamboo. I finally got it planted and now I am overwhelmed with this beautiful invasive plant.
I have looked into the sites that have and still are doing research on the Metasequoia and I noticed that Charles has not really been recognized for bringing this tree back from China. I know by the way he told me this story that he definitely was along with that team of botanists and I have contacted the organization to make sure he is also recognized for this wonderful discovery.
Someday soon I will break up the bamboo and offer some to others that are interested. It doesn't transplant well but once it is established it truly goes wild. It's a good thing that it doesn't come out of the ground too easily, otherwise, I'd have none left because people are always trying to get some.
Here are a few pictures of the bamboo:
And here is my Metasequoia tree:
Thank you all for dropping by. Have a great day.