A few years ago we were surprised to discover a large handsome Greek Fir in Ottawa’s Dominion Arboretum. How could a Mediterranean tree flourish so far north?
Cephalonica, its Latin species name, refers to one of the historic islands off N.W. Greece where Ulysses once ruled. Mountains there rise to 4-5000’ maintaining a cool habitat, though the southern Balkans provide this fir’s true refuge.
At Golden Bough Tree Farm, an experimental station disguised as a tree nursery, we often grow unusual trees for our arboretum. The excess seedlings are then sold to wily collectors, and in this case we even offer a bit of redemption.
Greece has earned a poor ecological reputation. Even Plato, in the 5th century BC. decried overgrazing and destructive forestry, while today’s Greeks are notorious for shooting migrating song birds. So anything green connected with Greece is probably positive.
The ancient Greeks did, however, appreciate fir lumber for its lightness and durability in building warcraft, including the 12 black ships that Ulysses sailed to Troy from his home island beside Cephalonia. Not every tree comes so laden with history.