By Robert Dowell and Kea Woodruff
During the last week of September, an Arboretum plant collecting team including Living Collections Fellow Robert Dowell and Weld Hill Growth Facilities Manager Kea Woodruff ventured through the diverse Ozark landscapes of Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri to secure living plant material for The Campaign for the Living Collections.
Highlights of this trip included visiting wild populations of Dirca decipiens (Ozark leatherwood) and Cladrastis kentukea (Kentucky yellowwood), both rare species in Arkansas; finding populations of three-foot-diameter Fagus grandifolia (American beech) in the Ozark National Forest; and collecting a two-pound Maclura pomifera (Osage orange) fruit! Our adventures included taking in breathtaking mountain vistas, exploring massive Platanus occidentalis (sycamore) groves along mountain streams, and a brief ride on Arkansas’ last operating public ferryboat to cross the White River.
Seed was hard to come by in many areas. Northwest Arkansas, the main focus area for the trip, experienced a pronounced drought in 2016 and has been experiencing abnormally dry conditions over the past few months, making hunting for viable seed an often challenging exercise. Despite their abundance in the region, target species such as Carya texana (black hickory) and Quercus velutina (black oak) offered few viable seeds. Yet, regardless of the drought, our team managed to secure combinations of herbarium vouchers and propagation material for 23 plant taxa.
Like almost every other Arboretum expedition, our trip owes a great deal of thanks to the local collaborators and other flora experts who assisted us in making our collections, namely Steven Foster, Crystal Bridges Horticulturist Cody George, and USDA’s NCPRIS woody plant curator Jeffrey Carstens.