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Daimio oak

Quercus dentata 'Carl Ferris Miller'

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Quercus dentata
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In botanical Latin the name for an Oak is ‘Quercus’, the second part of the name describes a notable part of the plant, which in this case is the leaf. So the name tells us that it’s leaves are ‘tooth-like’ as that is what ‘dentate’ means. The remainder of the name tells us something about the species or cultivar. In this case it is named after the man who discovered it in Korea, whose name was Carl Ferris Miller.

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Carl Ferris Miller never set out to collect trees or start an arboretum. An American born in 1921 in Pittston, Pennsylvania he started his journey by learning Japanese when World War II broke out and becoming a Naval Intelligence officer.

When the Korean War began he was evacuated to Japan, returning in 1951. In 1953 Miller worked for South Korea's central bank, the Bank of Korea, until his retirement in the early 1980s. He became fluent in the Korean language and later worked as a financial advisor and broker.

Eventually he became a naturalized South Korean citizen and took the Korean name Min Byung-gal. He gave much of his time and money to good causes and personally helped many Koreans, including the continuing support of over 50 children. During a weekend getaway from Seoul in 1962, Miller was persuaded by a land-rich but cash-poor, villager to buy an area of barren land near the fishing village of Chollipo in Taean-gun.  He did nothing with it until 1970 when he became dismayed by worsening air pollution in Seoul and so decided to move his ‘honok’ which is a traditional Korean tile – roofed house from the City to this new location beside the sea.

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When Miller settled at his new haven, he decided it needed some trees. He planted a few and then added a few more. Other villagers approached him to buy their land, which he did and as he did so he planted even more trees. He later said he had had no idea he would create an arboretum recognized by international horticultural societies, end up giving up his nationality and being honoured by the South Korean government. He just wanted to plant a few trees!

Sadly Mr Miller died in 2002 but his work continues and today at Chollipo Arboretum there is a collection of millions of examples of more than 13,200 species of trees and plants that Carl Ferris Miller spent 40 years collecting,  growing and cultivating. One of the trees collected by Carl was Quercus dentata 'Carl Ferris Miller'.

It is a small, slow-growing oak tree which grows up to 10m tall, columnar in habit but spreads to form a rounded crown. It has stout shoots which bear very large, ovate, glossy green leaves with rounded lobes sometimes reaching 30cm long on mature trees.  The leaves turn red and orange in autumn before turning a warm brown.  Most remain attached to the tree over the winter before eventually dropping in spring.  Yellowy-green catkins follow, then clusters of brown acorns about 2cm long.  In Korea the acorns are often used to make an edible jelly called Dotori-muk.

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All photography copyright © Andrea Jones

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