While so much of the world is now closed, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University remains open, and is busier than usual. Parents are flocking to the grounds to have time in nature with their children, couples still walk hand in hand, and I am getting as much time as possible capturing the magical moments of bud break and early spring flowering. Our signage is clear about social distancing and wonderfully, everyone is doing their part to make it safe to leave the headlines and angst behind, and become immersed in the world’s most magnificent collection of temperate woody plants.
Yellow and gold are the dominant colors right now, ranging from the not-so-subtle forsythias (for example, Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’—an incredible hybrid between Forsythia ovata and Forsythia europaea bred and introduced by Arnold Arboretum; upper image; 273-2002*B), to the Cornelian cherry (not a cherry, but a relative of the dogwoods; Cornus mas 354-87*A) seen here with a pollinating fly likely slurping up the copious sugary nectar in each flower, to the very subtle western leatherwood (Dirca occidentalis 311-86*A), a rare endemic native to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Most Arboretum departments are working remotely from home (IT, finance, HR, archives, curation, education and public programs, institutional advancement), but a skeleton crew of facilities staff, plant growers, horticulturists, and arborists are here every day, still caring for this wonderful 148 year-old institution (today is the Arboretum’s birthday). Garbage receptacles are gone (we don’t have the staff to empty them) and the public has been asked to carry out all of their trash. The grounds are spotless, and I am reminded of the deep power of community in a world that daily fragments and self-isolates and can seem lonelier than ever. Thank goodness for the sheer audacity of the Arnold Arboretum.