juniperus virginiana


The search for the pencil cedar

You might remember my 2011 blog post about the Schwanberg and the pencil cedar. If you visit the castle grounds, mentioned in that blog post, you’ll have a chance to look for the pencil cedar as part of an organised tour this Sunday.

 


Two more blog posts that mention the pencil cedar:

Schön gespitzte Bleistifte from Lexikaliker

and Juniperus virginiana

 

The newspaper article has been taken from the Kitzingen Section of the Main-Post newspaper from 14th February 2013. I believe that the use of the fax of the article in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.


Juniperus virginiana 5

…just arrived in Germany today. Travelled by ferry again, so lots of space for stationery in the boot1 8^)

In the evening my mother called me because pencils were featured on prime time telly…

Rette die Million! (Image © Endemol/ZDF)

 

In the German version of The Million Pound Drop Live, called Rette die Million!, candidates were asked for another name of juniperus virginiana (Virginische Wacholder). The correct answer was pencil cedar (Bleistiftzeder). The candidates lost more than half of their money on this question.

Great to see something pencil related on prime time telly!

…taking photos of TV shows is so much better on my mother’s flat screen compared to our CRT at home2.

 


More about juniperus virginiana in the blog post Schwanberg and the Pencil Cedar.

 

The photo of the pencil has been taken from the ZDF TV show ‘Rette die Million!’. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. AE: trunk (just in case you thought of shoes…) []
  2. Just look at the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ photos I took from the CRT. []

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. []