This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The following article will be read.with interest by the many admirers of the famous Deodar Cedar. It has frequently struck us as an important quality of this tree to "sport" when raised from seed. The robusta and viridis are two quite distinct varieties - the first distinguished by its vigorous habit, and the other by its deep green color. There is likely to be an endless variety among seedlings, which may be, in some respects, regretted, while in others it will add to its interest.
"When the Deodar was first raised from seed in this country, the graceful weeping habit of its branches, their glaucous hue and long tender shoots presented an aspect so different from, the ordinary appearance of seedling Cedars, that no one, we believe, who observed the two trees growing together, doubted their distinctness. Systematic botanists have, however, all along, found a difficulty in pointing out tangible characters to distinguish them; and travelers who had seen the trees in their native places of growth have, from time to time, reported that they are both liable to a very great amount of variation, and that both vary in the same way. If to this we add that among the myriads of Deodars which are now yearly raised in this country, many varieties are already beginning to appear, some of which are much nearer the Cedar than the original state, it will not appear surprising that an opinion should have arisen among botanists, which begins to gain ground even among cultivators, that the two trees are not specifically distinct.
" It is in all cases a matter of considerable difficulty to decide whether or not two closely allied forms are identical or distinct Accurate observation of the plants in their native places of growth, during all stages of their existence, is the only unerring guide in such a case, and where that is impossible a careful examination and comparison of extensive suites of specimens in all states can alone enable a botanist to decide on the identity or distinctness of two such forms. The difficulty of solving such a question, always great, is considerably enhanced when large trees form the subject of comparison, and is, perhaps, greatest of all with cultivated trees which, being placed in circumstances different from those in which they naturally grow, have a tendency to assume appearances different from those which are characteristic of the species. The question, indeed, is one in which the cultivator is as much or more concerned than the mere botanist, and it is one which the observant and philosophic cultivator is peculiarly qualified to answer, as from his acquaintance with the extent to which plants raised from seed are liable to vary, he is better than any other person able to decide what amount of variation may exist without specific difference.
"That the Cedar and Deodar are very closely allied to one another no one doubts. Both belong to the same section of the Pine tribe, characterised by solitary persistent leaves and erect cones. The male flowers in both are absolutely the same, and small branchlets of the two are in the herbarium almost undistinguishable - the mode of branching, insertion of the leaves, and color of bark being quite the same. The cones in both vary a good deal in shape, but the scales and broad-winged seeds are the same in both species. A difference in the shape of the scales, indir by Endlicher, seems to have no real existence, or rather to depend on the age of the cone before maturity the scales are closely pressed together and bent upwards, but as the seed 1 they spread out and become straight or even reflexed before they fall away from the persistent.
"The only points of distinction, then, which can be discovered between the Deodar an Cedar of Lebanon, are the generally greater length of the leaves of the latter, and a considerable difference of habit This difference of general aspect will, we believe, be found to be the ground on which most observers rest their belief of the distinctness of the two trees. But though variations in this respect may be admitted as a prima facie indication that specific differences exist, yet they are in themselves no proof of such difference; and if a minute comparison of two supposed species fails to show any peculiarities of structure, mere size of parts and mode of growth cannot of themselves make two plants distinct We all know how variable our forest trees are in these points; coniferous trees, indeed, to a greater extent than most others; and it would be within every one's experience that the Deodar is one of the most variable of a variable tribe. This may be well seen in any extensive plantation of Deodars, and any one may satisfy himself that it is the case by a visit to the fine avenue of these trees in Kew Gardens, in which may be seen many trees which are quite intermediate between the original state of the Deodar and the common Cedar, and one or two, which both in mode of growth and in rigidity and size of leaves, are almost identical with the Cedar of Lebanon. As permanency is the only test that can be applied to estimate the value of distinguishing characters, the occurrence of these intermediates forms the strongest argument against the distinctness of the two species; and if future observations should show a still further approximation of characters, what is now only probable will become a matter of certainty.
It is, however, a very curious fact that the Cedar is in this country much lees liable to vary than the Deodar; and it has been suggested to us by a practical gardener of great experience, that the explanation of this may be found in the fact that all our Cedars descend from one common stock, or, at least, are derived from the same district in Lebanon, while the seeds of the Deodar are collected from widely distant parts of the great Himalayan chain.
" Indian travelers unanimously testify that the Deodar is one of the most variable trees in its native country. Though probably confined entirely to the western and drier Himalaya, and not being known to occur in a wild state in any part of the chain east of the Ganges, it has a wide range in altitude, growing equally in warm and sheltered valleys as low as 5,000 feet, and on exposed slopes at a height of 12,000 feet, where, notwithstanding the elevation, the warm dry summer enables it to ripen its wood sufficiently to resist the intense cold of winter. In its native forests, we are assured that the Deodar is a tall conical tree, rising to a height of 100 to 150 feet, and sending out horizontal branches in all directions; or at times dividing close to the base into two or three trunks, which ascend parallel to one another to a great height It is, however, also common in a state of cultivation, being generally planted near temples in the province of Kumaon, in which it is nowhere indigenous. There, probably, from its isolated mode of growth, as the same thing is observed wherever trees grow in exposed situations, it has a quite different shape. Low and flat-topped it rises to no great height, but sends out long straight branches, which bend downwards and often sweep the ground.