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Rare Tree Stolen From Seattle Arboretum, Probably For Christmas Tree

First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 03:55 PM ET

Stump

SEATTLE -- Whoever cut down a 7-foot conifer in the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle got a lot more than a typical Christmas tree.

It was a rare, imperiled species from China that may be impossible to replace.

University of Washington Botanical Gardens manager Randall Hitchin told The Seattle Times that he nurtured the tree, a Keteleeria evelyniana, since it arrived as a seedling in 1998 from Yunnan province. Hitchin explained to The Seattle Times how special the tree was:

"A Keteleeria is something that even most arborists have never heard of," Hitchin said. "Or if they have, it's just a reference in a book. To have a specimen in the flesh is just a tremendous thing."

This isn't the first time thieves have struck the park. Several years ago, an employee of a local restaurant made off with an unusual fir tree and set it up in his workplace, said David Zuckerman, horticulturist for the UW Botanic Gardens. When the eatery's manager realized the tree was stolen, he turned the worker in.

The university manages the 230-acre Arboretum as a collection of 20,000 trees, shrubs and plants used in classes and educational programs.

Officials have considered fencing or dousing at-risk trees with paint or foul-smelling animal urine in an attempt to prevent them from being sawed off for Christmas.

According to an

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

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Filed by T.J. Ortenzi  |