Grinch steals Christmas, rare Asian conifer


Friendly holiday reminder, people: The local arboretum is NOT your personal Christmas tree chopping ground.

Last Wednesday, somebody entered the University of Washington's Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle and walked out with a rare south Asian conifer, called a Keteleeria, worth more than $10,000. It's genetic material is likely irreplaceable, Arboretum officials said, because it came from a part of China that's seen rapid development and lost much of its native plant life. As the tree was between 7 and 8 ft. tall and 3 in. at the base, officials believe it was chopped down to serve as a Christmas tree. Ironically, it was also a spindly, Charlie Brown-looking thing and wouldn't even be as attractive as the plentiful Douglas Firs usually used for such decoration. Meanwhile, species preservation suffers.

"We feel as if Christmas has been stolen from us," says David Zuckerman, horticulture supervisor for UW Botanic Gardens.

University Press Release

Pictured: The Keteleeria tree in happier times, photographed by the UW Botanic Gardens.