Von Siebold’s Tree
In the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden Lilian Cooper made an intense study of a particular tree, the Japanese Elm. The detailed patterning characteristic of this species, gave a textual strength to her drawings.
For Cooper this tree project is a vehicle for the understanding of a particular tree specimen, a recognition of the history involved and von Siebold’s role as one of the foremost collectors of plants, whose collection today continues to have contemporary relevance and is the subject of research.
By focusing on an individual plant, its exact nature can be more closely understood on an aesthetic level. It is both nest-like, with upwardly extending tree trunks, and has a solidity tempered by the delicacy of its more fragile leaves. The contrast that exists from its massive scale and the etched patterns that dance within the bark makes it profoundly intriguing.
We quote Hanneke Jelles, Head of Education, Hortus Botanicus, Leiden:
Japanese elm (Zelkova serrata) belongs to the Ulmaceae family; its Japanese name is Keyaki. The two specimens in Leiden were imported by the famous traveller and scientist Phillip Von Siebold after his first visit to Japan (1823-1829). The leaves are lettuce green in the spring, they make the sound of sand on a beach in the late summer and grow as yellow as a lemon in the autumn.
They are the last trees in the garden to let their leaves fall before winter - very decorative, with the fine small twigs.
In winter the bark has a nice feature and fan shaped silhouette, remarkable are the small round buds waiting for next spring - and when the young leaves appear, one can spot the very tiny flowers and minuscule fruits.