Sunday, November 08, 2009


The Word Arboricide

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines arboricide as "the wanton destruction of trees." The OED's earliest citation is dated 1899—H.G. Graham, Social Life of Scotl. 18th Cent. I. v. 199: "This crime of arboricide was distressingly frequent."

There are earlier examples of the word. The earliest example I can find is from 1844, in Asa Gray, "The Longevity of Trees," North American Review, Vol. 59, No. 124 (July 1844) 189-238, rpt. in Scientific Papers of Asa Gray, Vol. II: Essays; Biographical Sketches: 1841-1886 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1889), pp. 71-124 (at 84):
[T]he age may be directly ascertained by counting the annual rings on a cross section of the trunk. The record is sometimes illegible or nearly so, but it is perfectly authentic; and when fairly deciphered, we may rely on its correctness. But the venerable trunks, whose ages we are most interested in determining, are rarely sound to the centre; and if they were, even the paramount interests of science would seldom excuse the arboricide.
Related post: Ecology.

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