Schwanberg and the Pencil Cedar 6


The 'town' of Castell

In the 12th century my home town, Volkach, became part of the county of Castell, which belonged to – you might have guessed – the Counts of Castell1. Quite a bit later, in 1896, Alexander Graf zu Castell-Rüdenhausen married Ottilie Freiin von Faber and the name of the pencil manufacturer Faber changed to Faber-Castell.

Except this link to Faber-Castell there isn’t really much of a “pencil link” in the surrounding area of Volkach. All the exiting pencil stuff is happening about 100 km further South where you’d find the big pencil manufacturers like Staedtler, Faber-Castell, Schwan-Stabilo and Lyra.

 

Some branches the forest's caretaker removed. He also cut other trees nearby to give the Pencil Cedars more space.

 

I wrote there isn’t much of a “pencil link” here – well, the area around my home town can boast with one other link to the world of pencils, even though it is rather unknown. Trees from North America were planted in Germany to test the suitability of the wood for use in pencil production …and some of them were planted on Schwanberg2, an elevation not far from the town of Castell, by the Counts of Castell – to test the suitability of the wood for use in pencil production. The trees brought over from North America were the Pencil Cedar (juniperus virginiana) and the Eastern White Pine (pinus strobus). You can still find some of the Pencil Cedars near Castell. 100 years ago there were also many well established Pencil Cedars North East of Faber-Castell’s home town, Stein, planted by Faber, which probably didn’t survive3. These trees are not really used any more for pencil production, but if you have an old pencil that is more than 70 years old, the wood might be from a Pencil Cedar.

The Schwanberg, seen from Volkach



More about the Pencil Cedars at Lexikaliker’s blog post “Der Graphit” (German) (Link to the Google Translation)

  1. At that time it actually wasn’t a town yet, but documents show that by 1258 it was a town (‘in civitate nostra Volka’). []
  2. The Schwanberg isn’t really a hill, but an elevation (474m / 1555 feet) – about 200m above the surrounding area. According to legend Saint Hadeloga (sometimes called Adeloga or Hadla) built an abbey (nunnery) on Schwanberg. She was the daughter of Karl Martell (Charles the Hammer). He repudiated her when she vowed virginity (so she is not mentioned very often in history) but they reconciled many years later. She is actually an aunt of Charlemagne, King of the Franks, and she is the patron saint for fever. []
  3. This tree was first introduced to Europe in the 17th century. Faber is supposed to have planted, between several thousand and several tens of thousands of these trees in the 19th century, depending on which source you check. I assume many must have survived outside Schwanberg, but it is unknown how many are left and where they are. One of Lexikaliker’s blog posts indicates that the trees planted by Faber near Nuremberg did not survive. Other Pencil Cedars planted in Germany did not survive either. []

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6 thoughts on “Schwanberg and the Pencil Cedar

  • Sean

    What a great post, Memm. Wonderful pictures — what a beautiful place Volkach is. It makes me wonder if I shouldn’t try making a trip to Cedar Key while in Florida, where much cedar was harvested by Faber in America (Eagle, too), prior to the emphasis shifting to the pacific northwest.

  • Gunther

    Very exciting – thank you for that post! The story and photos are great, especially the last one. I assume it feels great to come from such a nice place with a special history!

  • Sean

    Update: it appears that it was actually juniper, which was mistaken for cedar, but harvested nonetheless.

  • Shangching

    Thank you for an interesting post, especially the tidbit on Saint Hadeloga. It is always nice to read something refreshing first thing in the morning!

  • memm Post author

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    Sean, are there still cedars left and can you just go there or is it a restricted area?
    About junipers, I think junipers and cedars are related and some species have different names, one with juniper and one with cedar as part of the name.

    Gunther, I am happy you like it. While the other photos were taken last week, the last photo was a few years ago. They just install a new bridge, the old one, a ‘provisional’ bridge that lasted for 70 years, will be removed in a few months.

    Shangching, thank you very much. I am happy that you liked it.