Staff from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and colleagues from the North America-China Plant Exploration Consortium are embarking this fall on a plant collecting trip in the Appalachian Mountains region, the conservation partnership’s first expedition in North America in its 30-year history. Our intrepid explorers–Head of Horticulture Andrew Gapinski, Propagator Sean Halloran, and Living Collections Fellow Jared Rubinstein—are sharing their experiences in the field through a series of blogposts. This is their second transmission; see the first here.
Our 2019 collection expedition to the Appalachians started off with the safe arrival of our Chinese colleagues and a few days of visiting member institutions of the North American China Plant Exploration Consortium (NACPEC).
Our first day began with a visit to the Arnold Arboretum Library and Archives, where Lisa Pearson (Head of Library and Archives) had curated a set of historic photos of China. Lisa was able to find photos from E. H. Wilson and Joseph Rock in the archives taken of the provinces where Professor Xinfen Gao of the Chengdu Institute of Biology, Dr. Kang Wang of the Beijing Botanic Garden, and Dr. Deng Tao of the Kunming Institute of Botany now live and work.
We then toured the grounds of the Arnold Arboretum, visiting plants that had been collected on previous NACPEC expeditions. The most exciting aspect of our tour was a visit to the Bradley Rosaceous Garden, where Kang and Xinfen were presented with two rose bushes that they had helped collect, and got to assist in their planting. “I feel very honored to get to plant something that I actually helped collect!” Kang told us.
We also visited the Dana Greenhouse to look at other NACPEC collections that aren’t yet in the Arboretum’s landscape. Particularly exciting was a katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) grown from a seed collected by Kang, Andrew Gapinski, and Michael Dosmann in Sichuan Province in 2017.
Our day ended with a tour of the Weld Hill lab space and a long meeting to finalize the logistics of our trip.
After a good night sleep, we flew to Ohio for our next visit to a NACPEC member institution. We spent the day touring the Holden Arboretum outside of Cleveland, with Charles Tubesing, Plant Collections Curator. The Holden was a great introduction to the native flora of the Northern Appalachian foothills, including Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), and umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala). We also enjoyed the canopy walk and the Emergent Tower that brought us up above the tree canopy and gave us a great view of Lake Erie.
We also picked up many boxes of equipment that we’d shipped ahead to the Dawes—pole pruners, herbarium supplies, even a 50’ telescoping pole. All the boxes (15 in total!) managed to somehow fit into the trunk, and we continued on our way. The next morning we got up early and drove to the Dawes Arboretum outside of Columbus, OH. Greg Payton (Director of Living Collections), Richard Larson (Nursery Manager), and Luke Messinger (Executive Director) guided us through their beautiful collection of wild collected plants from around the world.
Of particular interest were the hundreds of metasequoia trees (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) that make up the Dawes’ nationally-accredited metasequoia collection. This planting represents one of the largest ex-situ conservation plantings outside of China—very exciting for our Chinese participants!
Afterwards, we had the opportunity to meet David Brandenburg, Taxonomic Botanist at the Dawes, and author of Field Guide to the Wildflowers of North America. David kindly autographed three copies of his book for Kang, Xinfen, and Tao.
After the visit to the Dawes, we headed back to the hotel to pack up for our first full day of collecting. Many days of work lie ahead!