Friday, 16 October 2009

The Maple of Ratibor

On the internet there are a couple of images of "The maple of Ratibor" - a remarkable living building.
The maple of Ratibor. Digital ID: 835253. New York Public Library

The New York Public Library has the same picture in two contexts, "the Maple of Ratibor" dated 1893 from "The picture magazine".
"Un érable à matibo, prés de Savigliano, dans le Piémont, Etates Sardes." (A maple in Matibo, meadows of Savigliano, in Piedmont, Sardinia) dated 1841

There is further info available when looking for "The Maple of Matibo"
e.g. "The wonders of vegetation" says


This plant, the type of the " Lower trees " with
which the skilled horticulturist ornaments our gardens,
is especially remarkable for its architectural form.
It is to be seen in its perfection at Matibo, in the vi-
cinity of Savigliano, near Coni, in Piedmont. The
skill and perseverance of the horticultural architect
has made an astonishing metamorphosis of it. In its
cultivated state it appears like a structure of two sto-
ries. Each of these has eight windows naturally form-
ed and can contain twenty people. The flooring is
managed by a skilful arrangement of the branches,

According to
the same picture was used to illustrate a short article in 'The Ladies' Treasury' 1860

The maple is described as being 70 or 80 years old, with two floors, each lit by eight windows and easily able to accommodate twenty people (is that 20 on each floor?), its floors were made from the branches, with their 'leaves forming a natural carpet' (unlikely, shaded or thick branches don't produce foliage). 'The thick foliage also forms the walls, and in it a number of birds have built their nests. Every care has been taken to guard against any inconvenience being offered to these joyous songsters, who contribute so much to the Arcadian attractions of the place.'

The text that appeared under The NYPL image of The maple of Ratibor (1893) is probably derived from the same source - except it sensibly gives the age as approximately 100 years. The same picture is at but dated 1894

However there the trail runs cold - I can't find Ratibor or "Matibo, in the vicinity of Savigliano" on Italy maps and no current references to a two story maple living building (should be many more if the maple is still alive at 200 years -- which would be remarkable given the relatively short lifespan of this tree)


  1. Looks like there is a refernce to this at Ratibor - Ratibor is the German name for a town in Silesia, now in Poland. says
    One of the most curious trees in Germany stands on
    the left bank of the River Oder, in Ratibor, Silesia. It is a
    Maple, at least one hundred years old, which has been
    twisted and cut into a sort of circular two-storied house.
    A flight of steps leads up to the first level, where the
    branches have been gradually woven together so that
    they make a firm leafy floor; above this is a second floor
    of smaller diameter, formed in the same way; and the
    ends of the branches have been woven into solid walls,
    and cut so that eight windows light each of the apartments
    Below the first floor, at the level of the second,
    and at the top of the tree the boughs have been allowed
    to grow out naturally, while the intermediate walls and
    the edges of the window-like openings are kept closely
    chpped. [7 /1894): 270]

  2. - "Fab tree hab" mentions as a source of inspiration "J. F. Wiesener. “Maple of Ratibor.” circa 1815. (image)"

    In searching for "J. F. Wiesener" I only found a painting called / Nocturnal Landscape with Thunderstorm / circa 1815
    i.e. the same date as the reference - but not a maple

    The image in the post above shows "F. Wiesener"

  3. The blog post at

    has another reproduction of the picture described as "Belvedere tree house - Maple Tree of Matibo in Sevigliano, Piedmont. Etching by F. Wiesener (published in Magasin Pittoresque, 1841)."

  4. I think the 1815 picture was by J. F. Wiesener. The picture of the tree-house may have been by Pierre-Felix Wiesener, who graduated from a French School of the Arts in Chalons, in 1827.

    The picture then, was first printed in 1841, in the Mag. Pittoresque. I think that Ratibor could be a typo because the prints are exactly the same. Somebody just added the information that Ratibor is on the banks of the Oder, once they say the name spelled that way, instead of as Matibo. That's my guess anyway.

    I put the whole article with a new English translation online, and then found this page and got curious.

    the original French, can be linked to it at the top of the page.

    Great bit of research, Henry, and I hope you are still blogging.