Past Tree Mobs™
Tree Mob™! Oh My Gracious! It’s Herbaceous
At the Arnold Arboretum, we focus our collections on woody plants, but once in a while, we allow something herbaceous into this exclusive club. This has happened since the Arboretum’s early years…as some plants’ charms just can’t be resisted…even by the staunchest of gatekeepers. In this mob, Michael Dosmann, the newly named Keeper of the Living Collections, showed off some of the Arboretum’s hidden herbaceous gems and spoke about their provenance and why they are grown and curated here. The group gathered at the entrance to the Explorers Garden at Bussey Hill Road at 5:30pm on Thursday, June 8.
Tree Mob™! Syrup from Birches and Other Non-Maples
New England is famous for its maple syrup, but have you tried birch syrup? David Moore, founder of The Crooked Chimney in New Hampshire, has been making syrup from not only maples, but also birches, walnuts, and sycamores for several years. The group met on the southwest slope of Bussey Hill in the Birch Collectionat Acc. #12839*A, Betula papyrifera (paper birch) with David Moore on Tuesday, May 30 to hear about the differences between birch and maple syrup production, as well as the syruping research he’s been a part of.
Tree Mob™! Aronia Hybrids…The Next Novelty Fruit?
Interest in Aronia (chokeberry) has increased in recent years because its fruit contains high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, it is adaptable to various geographic regions, and it has little susceptibility to diseases and pests. It seems like a great match for commercial orchard production, but currently there is little genetic diversity in Aronia grown for fruit production and the fruit has an astringent taste, thus requiring some form of processing before human consumption. Jonathan Mahoney, a PhD student in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Connecticut and an Arnold Arboretum Visiting Fellow, is working on a breeding program to improve Aronia for the commercial fruit industry through intergeneric hybridization. His research group is crossing Aronia with other members of the Pyrinae subtribe within Rosaceae (the rose family) to create novel types of pome fruits for commercial fruit and ornamental crop production. Other important members of the subtribe include Malus (apple), Pyrus (pear), and Cydonia (quince), along with less commonly known fruits including Sorbus (mountain ash), Amelanchier (serviceberry), and Crataegus (hawthorn)—all potential hybridizers with Aronia. Jonathan demonstrated how he conducts controlled pollinations and discuss some of the reproductive barriers that the breeding program encounters when working with taxa in the Pyrinae subtribe. The group gathered at Gather at Acc. #759-78*C x Sorbaronia dippelii on Willow Path in the Bradley Rosaceous Collection at 4:00pm on Thursday, May 18.
Tree Mob™! Arbor Day Planting
The Arnold Arboretum’s Campaign for the Living Collections sets forth an ambitious ten-year plan to expand the breadth of plant holdings and increase their scientific and horticultural value. Magnolia acuminata (Acc# 334-2011*A), one of the roughly 400 taxa targeted for addition to the collections in this campaign, is native to eastern North America. Grown in our greenhouse from seed and pampered through various stages of growth, this cucumbertree is now sited in its permanent home in the Arnold Arboretum’s living collections. The group gathered with Horticulturist Greg La Plume and Horticultural Technologist Conor Guidarelli on Arbor Day to celebrate this addition to the Arboretum landscape and learn how to properly plant a tree. The group met in front of the Hunnewell Building at 2:00pm on Friday, April 28.
Tree Mob™! Worms–the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
What’s good for the garden isn’t necessarily good for the forest. Earthworms, for example, make nutrients accessible to annual and perennial plants in a garden, but disturb nutrient cycling in New England’s forest ecosystems. Most earthworms in New England are exotic, with some considered invasive. Some, like the crazy snake worm (Amynthas agrestis), have the potential to “…change forest structure and the decomposer community in the affected forests,” according to Josef Görres, PhD, at the University of Vermont. At a Tree Mob on Wednesday, March 29 at the Hunnewell Building, Arnold Arboretum Gardener Brendan Keeganspoke about local worms, vermicomposting, and worm management.
Tree Mob™! Resin or Not? Plant Exudate
Many plants, especially trees, ooze exudates (the gooey stuff, for example, dripping down the trunk of a white pine). Plant exudates include numerous organic products such as resins, gums, and kinos. Smithsonian paleobiologist Jorge Santiago-Blay was collecting samples from the Arnold Arboretum to add to his project to spectrometrically survey the plant exudates of the world. He explained why plants ooze and what that substance can reveal about ancient environments in Earth’s history. The group met in the Hunnewell Building Lecture Hall on Thursday, January 5 at 3:45pm.
Next Tree Mob™: Bark into Golden Hickory Syrup
For many from New England, the only syrup approved for pancakes is that which is locally-tapped from a sugar maple (Acer saccharum). However, sap isn’t the only tree source for making syrup. Arboretum horticulturist Sue Pfeiffer took advantage of a downed shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), gathered some bark, and then proceeded to bake and boil. The culinary result was a gorgeous amber-yellow delight. The group met in the Hunnewell Building to learn about turning hickory bark into gold and to taste a sweet sample at 3:45pm on December 14.
Tree Mob™! Mechanisms of Mortality: Dwarf Mistletoe along the Maine Coast
Eastern dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum), a diminutive plant parasite, can fell a mature white spruce (Picea glauca) in a matter of years. Drawing upon observations at scales from hormone metabolism through whole-tree growth, Barry Logan, a Visiting Scholar from Bowdoin College, proposed a causal chain of events leading to white spruce decline. He related the present-day ecophysiology of coastal Maine spruce stands to patterns of 19th century land use with relevance to the New England region. The group gathered at Accession # 611-93*A, Picea glauca, on Monday, November 7, 2016 at 2:30pm to learn more about this parasitic relationship.
Tree Mob™! Radishing, Simply Radishing
Vegetables are good for humans, but can trees benefit from them as well? This summer and fall, the Arboretum experimented with growing radishes, a first perhaps, since Benjamin Bussey was farming this land. Living Collections Fellow Jenna Zukswert spoke about the reasons for planting a taproot crop among our trees and whether there will be more vegies in the Arboretum’s future. The group met in the walnut collection at Acc. # 1181*D, Juglans nigra, on Valley Road across from the Centre Street Gate on Tuesday, November 1 at 3:00pm.
Tree Mob™! A Unilateral Contract: Epifagus
Walking under the beautiful American beech (Fagus grandifolia) on a gorgeous afternoon seems a lovely thing. But do you know that a sinister thief may be present? This freeloader, Epifagus virginiana or commonly beechdrop, is a parasitic plant that forms delicate connections to the roots of American beech trees. The brownish plant has no leaves for photosynthesis and instead depends solely on the tree’s roots for nutrients and water. Zhenzhen Yang, who completed her dissertation at Pennsylvania State University on this monotypic plant, spoke about its life cycle and singular dependence on the American beech. The group met in the beech grove at Acc. # 14585*B on Sunday, October 23 at 2:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Meadow Management
Kent Field, the grassy meadow that spreads out below the Conifer Collection, provides important habitat for birds, small mammals, and pollinators. Over the past several years, the Arboretum’s horticulture crew (and even staff at an all-staff work day) has been increasing the number and variety of perennial wild flowers that grow in the meadow and along Bussey Brook. Boneset, blue lobelia, asters, and golden rod are currently in bloom and attracting numerous pollinators. Earlier in the season, Joe-Pye weed, sunflowers, milkweed, and cardinal flower added a magnificent display of colors to the area. We heard from Arboretum gardener Brendan Keegan about efforts to broaden the number of meadow species in this area and how the Arboretum manages and expands this landscape as part of an adaptive management approach. The group gathered at Acc. # 351-79*E, Abies sibirica (Siberian fir), on Wednesday, September 28 at 3:45pm.
Tree Mob™! Goatscaping
In early September, goats became part of the scenery at the Arnold Arboretum, adding a pastoral accent to the already bucolic landscape. But these goats weren’t here, just sitting pretty. They were enlisted to help the Arboretum control invasive plants and overgrown brush…without the use of chemicals. Elaine Philbrick, co-founder of The Goatscaping Company, located at the Colchester Neighborhood Farm in Plympton, MA, spoke about the benefits of using goats to manage landscapes. Pam Thompson, Manager of Adult Education, spoke about the Arboretum’s decision to pilot the use of goats. The group met on Wednesday, September 21 at 6:00pm at Acc. # 683-84*A, Fraxinus pennsylvanica var. subintegerrima, a short walk from the Poplar Street Gate on the east end of Bussey Street at the edge of Peters Hill.
Read more about the goats.
Tree Mob™! Saving Monarch Butterflies
Jose Luis Alvarez is a nurseryman in Mexico, who for decades there has been growing trees for reforestation projects. In 1997, he created Forests for Monarchs (FFM), also known as La Cruz Habitat Protection Program (LCHPP), an innovative non-profit designed to restore monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) forest habitat in Mexico and at the same time give indigenous people a desperately needed source of wood.
Alvarez discussed monarch evolution, migration and population changes and reviewed the science which led to the discovery of over-wintering grounds in Mexico. He also addressed monarch habitat issues in the United States and the work being done to stabilize the monarch population.
Tree Mob™! Rockery Revelations
The Arboretum’s 2016 Isabella Welles Hunnewell Interns just completed their group project. An annual requirement for our horticultural training program, this year’s project focused on the outcrops of puddingstone along Valley Road known as the Rockery. Their assignment was to propose development of this area with clear direction for collections expansion, horticultural management, and aesthetic improvements. They created a vision and mission for the space as both an area with unique growing conditions for showcasing scree-loving plants and a compelling destination for visitors. We joined several of the interns at the Rockery to learn about their proposal and what they discovered as they researched the history of the site, tapped Sargent’s vision, and considered the list of plants targeted to expand the living collections of the Arboretum as part of the Campaign for the Living Collections. We met at Acc. # 16865*D, dwarf chestnut oak (Quercus prinoides) on Thursday, August 11 at 3:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Atmospheric Nitrogen Pollution in Urban Ecosystems
Nitrogen emissions from electrical power plants, automobile exhaust and fertilizer applications are the major sources of nitrogen deposition in rain and snow onto ecosystems of the northeastern United States. Small amounts of nitrogen deposition can serve as fertilizer and stimulate productivity of plants. However, high rates of atmospheric deposition can lead to a series of negative consequences, including reductions in plant diversity, acidification of soils and waterways, and negative effects on human health. Boston University Associate Professors Pamela Templer and Lucy Hutyra established an atmospheric deposition monitoring site at the Arnold Arboretum earlier this year to measure and monitor rates of atmospheric deposition throughout the year in the City of Boston. This site is now part of the national network of deposition sites, known as the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), made possible through a grant from the DaRin Butz Foundation. The group learned what their research reveals about nitrogen in the City of Boston. The group gathered at the top of Weld Hill, behind the Weld Hill Research Building at 3:30pm on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Tree Mob™! Pollinators Present
Pollinators are necessary for around 1/3 of the food that humans eat. Over 300,000 species of plants rely on animals for pollination services. Pollinators come in many sizes and shapes — birds, bats, moths, butterflies, flies, and of course, bees. During this tree mob with researcher Callin Switzer, who studies interactions between plants and pollinators, we looked for and identified a variety of common pollinators (mostly bees) found in the Arnold Arboretum. The group gathered at 6:00pm on Wednesday, July 20, in the Leventritt Garden at Acc. # 104-2007*E, oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), with Callin Switzer from the Hopkins Lab at the Arboretum and his guest, Avery Russell, another bee scientist and graduate student in the Papaj Lab at the University of Arizona.
Tree Mob™! Enigmatic Acer cappadocicum
Enigmatic Acer cappadocicum
Acer cappadocicum ‘Aureum’ (Acc. # 442-36*B), with its blond canopy rising above others in the maple collection, catches your eye as you stroll down Bussey Hill Road and look across the rosaceous collection. This curious tree, a cultivar of Coliseum Maple accessioned in 1936, has been experiencing rather dramatic summer leaf bleaching for the past several years, with many leaves in the upper canopy turning stark white and dropping from the tree. Multiple causes have been hypothesized, from a somatic mutation in part of the crown to innate susceptibility of the cultivar due to insufficient photo-protective pigments. Putnam fellow Chase Mason explained results of a phytochemical investigation of potential causes of this phenomenon. To appreciate the canopy from across the rosaceous collection, the group gathered by Carefree Beauty™ Rose (Acc. # 407-97*MASS) at the intersection of Forest Hills, Bussey Hill, and Meadow Roads on Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 6:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Endless Watermelons
Endless watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, and zucchini are ubiquitous signs of an American summer. How did that happen? Most of the foods in our diet, including the aforementioned summer staples, are recently introduced species that are not native to the Americas. In this Tree Mob, we considered the geographic and evolutionary origins of our favorite food plants and the changes that occur in certain plant traits during the process of plant domestication. Then, we discussed what the recent human-mediated movement of so many species of plants around the world means in an ecological context. The group met with Lori Shapiro of the Pierce Lab at Harvard University in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden at Acc. # 332-84*B, Vitis vinifera x amurensis ‘Beihong’ on Thursday, June 30 at 6:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Tinkering with Tolerance in Azaleas
Deciduous azaleas in North America are a valued group of ornamental plants, not only in the northeast where many are native, but in harsher climates such as the upper Midwest. To assist the development of cultivars suited to challenging environments, visiting researcher Alexander Susko is figuring out ways to use wild azalea populations for improving the stress tolerance of this group of flowering shrubs. Alex spoke about how we can draw useful inferences about stress tolerance in nature to guide the breeding of these beautiful plants. The group met on Meadow Road at Acc. # 3237*C, Rhododendron periclymenoides (Pinxterbloom azalea), accessioned in 1888, on Wednesday, May 25 at 6:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Jack’s Lilacs
Lilac season was off to a slow start with prolonged cool temperatures, but it edged toward peak bloom. “Lilac Jack” Alexander, the Arboretum’s propagator and lilac expert, visited the three lilac cultivars that he introduced. He began his story at one of the Arboretum’s oldest accessions, Syringa reticulata, the common Japanese tree lilac accessioned in 1876, and moved on to Syringa ‘Lilac Sunday’, ‘Purple Haze’, and ‘Foxey Lady’. (Yes, he’s a Hendrix fan.) The group met at Acc. # 1111*A, Syringa reticulata, on Bussey Hill Road on Tuesday, May 10 at 5:00pm.
Tree Mob! Tree Health and Safety
It can be difficult to determine when a tree becomes a safety hazard, but there are telling signs that inform our arborists’ judgment in the care of the living collections. Head Arborist John DelRosso spoke about damage caused by recent storms and how his team gives their best effort to keep Arboretum trees as healthy and safe as possible. The group met at Acc. # 12560*C Acer saccharinum at 6:00pm on Tuesday, May 3 on Meadow Road.
Tree Mob™! Cherries Galore
The Arboretum’s collection of cherry trees includes some rare native species, some plants collected early on in E. H. Wilson’s career, and many not easily found in the nursery trade. Horticultural technologist Kit Ganshaw, who cares for plants in the Bradley Rosaceous Collection, showed off some gems in the genus Prunus. We gathered near the Forest Hills Gate where, in a small area, we were able to explore a diversity of unusual cherries in bloom. Meet at Acc. # 706-31*B Prunus cyclamina on Tuesday, April 19 at 3:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Winter Moth
Winter moths (Operophtera brumata) are now a scourge in eastern Massachusetts and beyond. You may have observed them crowding your lighted entryway on November and December nights. But before they become moths, the winter moth caterpillars wreak havoc as they eat their way through buds and leaves of trees and shrubs in springtime. Some of their favorite food sources are maples, oaks, apples, birches, and blueberries, which they can significantly defoliate. Arboretum horticulturist Rachel Brinkman spoke about her research to determine how winter moth hatch timing affects the amount of defoliation of a host tree. The group gathered at Malus orientalis, Acc. # 213-2001*A, on Wednesday, April 6 at 4:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Spring Renewal at the Hunnewell Building
Spring Renewal at the Hunnewell Building
The landscape gracing the front of the Hunnewell Building has undergone renovations and renewals over the past century. Each change has been intentional, relating selected plants to the Arboretum’s history. The last major renovation took place in 1993 when both the building and the landscape underwent a major overhaul. To incorporate an accessibility ramp to the front doors, a berm was created and a planting design per former staff members Stephen Spongberg and Peter Del Tredici was installed. In March 2016, twenty-three years later, the Arboretum’s curation team and horticulturists are revamping once again. Crew members Jed Romanowiz and Greg LaPlume spoke about the reasons for replanting and the other changes they are making to the Hunnewell Building landscape, all in the name of improvement. The group gathered at the front of the Hunnewell Building at 3:00pm on Tuesday, March 24.
Tree Mob™! Synchronous Flowering and Fruiting: Franklinia alatamah
Synchronous flowering and fruiting is a rare phenomenon in deciduous trees, but is evident in Franklinia alatamaha. Kristel Schoonderwoerd, a Graduate Student in the Friedman Lab at the Arboretum, spoke about her research into the reproductive mysteries of the Franklin tree. The group met at Acc. # 2428-3*B on Bussey Hill in the Explorers Garden on Tuesday, October 27 at 3:45pm.
Tree Mob™! Pinus ponderosa: Icon of the West
Charles Sargent’s favorite pine was Pinus ponderosa. As he described it in the Silva of North America, it is “an emblem of strength, it appears as enduring as the rocks, above which it raises its noble shafts and stately crowns.” His good friend John Muir begged to differ.
Ponderosa pine is the most widely distributed pine species in North America. It thrives throughout the western United States and has five regionally based subspecies adapted to divergent growing conditions. Over the eons, fire has been essential part of the ponderosa forest life. Of the 18 trees planted at the Arnold Arboretum, the oldest was accessioned in 1902. The group gathered at this tree (Acc. # 16457*E) on Monday, October 19 at 3:00pm with mob leader Maggie Redfern, Assistant Director, Connecticut College Arboretum.
Tree Mob™! Prepping for Propagation
Collecting, storing, and triggering seeds to germinate is a tricky business. It requires patience, skill, and knowledge. It also requires an understanding of the various means of seed dispersal and the environments and processes that allow seeds to sprout in their native habitat. Mimicking nature is the key to success. In this tree mob, Propagator Jack Alexander and Manager of Plant Production Tiffany Enzenbacher showed some of the fruits, nuts, and seeds that are in line to become a new generation of Arboretum plants and spoke about the treatments that various seeds undergo to trick them into sprouting. The group met inside the Dana Greenhouses on Wednesday, October 14 at 1:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Seeds, Glorious Seeds
Arboretum educators Ana Maria Caballero and Nancy Sableski alongside Boston Public School teachers launched a variety of winged seeds from the arborists’ bucket truck to see which seed structures were most aerodynamic, compare surface area in relation to flight success, and even make some bets on farthest dispersal. After the seed drop, tree mob participants helped gather data from the seed landing grid. The group met near Acc. # 147-2000*A (Liriodendron tulipifera x chinense) on the Hunnewell Building lawn on Saturday, October 3 at 10:00am.
Tree Mob™! Crazy for Corylus
Arboretum Gardener Robert Dowell has a fondness for filberts and wonders why they aren’t more commonly grown in Massachusetts. Robert presented an overview of the Arboretum’s Corylus sp. collection including species from the US, Europe, Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea. The group met on September 8 at Corylus americana, Acc. # 1229*A, and visited several specimens in the Bradley Rosaceous Collection.
Tree Mob™! Maple Diversity
Jianhua Li, PhD, former research scientist at the Arnold Arboretum and now Associate Professor of Biology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, spoke about his research that is helping to define natural groups within the maples and trace the evolutionary pathways of important features, such as fall foliage, gene duplication and chromosome doubling in some maple species, as well as identifying cultivar parentage. The group met at Acc. #213-91*AAcc. # 213-91*A on August 19 at 6:00pm to learn about similarities and differences among the maples.
Tree Mob™! What’s Soil Got to Do with It?
Soil is the medium in which all of the Arboretum’s trees shrubs and vines grow. However, we don’t have comprehensive, up-to-date data about the composition of this soil as it varies across 281 acres. This summer, the Isabella Welles Hunnewell Interns focused their project on soil health assessment, historical soil data analysis, and the development of a soils management plan for the Arnold Arboretum. The Tree Mob gathered under the shade of a shellbark hickory, Carya laciniosa, Acc. # 12898*J, at 2:00pm on Monday, August 10 to learn how 9 interns tackled this undertaking, what they discovered in the process, and their recommendations for short- and long-term improvements for the health of the living collections.
Tree Mob™! When the Invasive Gets Tough…Make Beer?
Fallopia japonica, also known as Japanese knotweed, fleeceflower, Mexican bamboo, and other common names, is a highly successful, non-native perennial from eastern Asia. It can be seen along roadsides, riverbeds, and in empty lots in impenetrable stands up to 10 feet in height. It is indeed tough. But in the early spring, it is also tender…and edible. Pamela Thompson, Arnold Arboretum Manager of Adult Education, was joined by local wild edible enthusiast Pamela Kristan, Boston area beer enthusiast and conservationist Kristen Sykes, and brew master for the Cambridge Brewing Company Will Meyers, to share the history of this plant’s movement around the globe and the gustatory possibilities of this pernicious perennial, including beer. The group gathered on Hemlock Hill Road, near Acc. # 1126-68*A (Kalmia latifolia ‘Polypetala’), on Wednesday, July 29 at 6:00pm.
Tree Mob™! Genetic Giant: Sequoiadendron giganteum
Genetic Giant: Sequoiadendron giganteum
The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is the largest tree species on earth. Yosemite National Park’s Mariposa Grove in California has approximately 500 mature sequoias today. The oldest specimens there are over 3,000 years old. The Arnold Arboretum currently has six giant sequoias in its collection. The group gathered by the largest specimen, <a href="(Acc. # 1320-72*A, which stands at roughly 60 feet in height and has a diameter of over 55 inches and was transplanted to the Arboretum when it was 42-ft tall. Manager of Horticulture Andrew Gapinski and Curator of Living Collections Michael Dosmann spoke about the challenges faced by this western species growing in New England and the effects of a changing climate on the longevity of this particular specimen. The group met at 6:00pm on Thursday, July 23 in the conifer collection.
Tree Mob™! Citizen Science Advances Research
Citizen science is transforming research in the environmental sciences. Lizzie Wolkovich, PhD, Assistant Professor, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, and Ailene Ettinger, PhD, Putnam Fellow, both resident researchers at the Arnold Arboretum, explained the concept of citizen science, provided some examples of research programs that are using this populace-powered method of data collection, and discussed opportunities to participate via the Arboretum’s Tree Spotters program. The group met at Acc. #1323-82*A Tilia americana, American basswood, on Peters Hill at 1:00pm on Tuesday, July 21.
Tree Mob™! Stipules and bonus mob on Birches in full fruit
Arboretum Director and Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology William (Ned) Friedman focused on the Arnold Arboretum’s outstanding birch collection on Bussey Hill, shedding light on one of the largely unappreciated parts of the leaf, the stipule. This amazing leaf specialization helps ease this transition to adulthood for the leaves of many diverse plant species, including birches. He additionally discussed birch fruit. The group gathered at Betula grossa, Acc. # 199-2007*A at 7:00pm on Friday, July 10, 2015.
Tree Mob™! Costs and Benefits of Flowering First
Some plants, including some dogwoods, magnolias, and redbuds, among others, flower in the spring before they leaf out. Such precocious blooms tap a plant’s resources when it is perhaps least able to supply needed carbon and water. Jessica Savage, PhD, a Putnam Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum, is conducting research to examine carbon transport in plants in conjunction with flowering phenology to better understand why plants bloom when they do. The group gathered on Thursday, July 9 at 6:00pm at Acc. # 1916-80*A (Cornus kousa) to hear about Jessica’s research questions and techniques she’s applying in the Arboretum’s living collection to compare species with pre- and post-leaf out flowering strategies.
Tree Mob™! Culture, Collections, and the All-too-comfortable Guest
An intractable weed unleashed from its native forests in China, Ailanthus altissima, the Tree of Heaven, is perhaps the epitome of the invasive urban tree. Often maligned, what would it mean to reexamine our relationship with this once-invited, now-despised plant? As a splendid specimen in the Arboretum, a flourishing wild population in Bussey Brook Meadow, and in feral profusion at the edges of the Arboretum and the city beyond, Ailanthus is as provocative as it is successful. Matthew Battles, associate director of metaLAB at Harvard and Kyle Parry, a recent doctoral recipient from Harvard’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, delved into the history and presence of this ubiquitous urban “bad boy” as they pondered culture and collections. The group met in Bussey Brook Meadow.
Tree Mob™! Mixing It Up in the Rosaceae
Jonathan Mahoney, a researcher at the University of Connecticut, investigates intergeneric plants. At the Arnold Arboretum, he is specifically studying the intergenerics × Sorbaronia and × Sorbopyrus along with their parent genera Aronia, Sorbus, and Pyrus. Jon spoke about these plants that are not “faithful” to genus, as most plants are, but instead are able to interbreed with other genera in the same family. The group gathered in the Bradley Rosaceous Collection at Acc. # 759-78*C.
Tree Mob™! Charcoal Tales
Paleoethnotbotanist John (Mac) Marston, PhD, explained how archaeologists use small fragments of ancient, burned wood to understand environmental change and described some of the results from his collaborative work in central Turkey that show long-term human impacts on forests. The group gathered in the Conifer Collection at 6pm on Thursday, May 21 at Juniperus excelsa Acc. # 17-2003*C.
Tree Mob™! Expanding the Collection on Arbor Day
Staff and visitors gathered on April 24 as we added Magnolia stellata (Acc. # 393-2008*B) to the collection of magnolias that adorn the Hunnewell Lawn. Andrew Gapinski discussed the provenance of this plant and proper care for a newly planted specimen. Jordan Wood fastened on the official identification tag to this specimen that we hope thrives for a century or more.
Tough Decisions Make a Fine Collection
Removing a tree from this public arboretum can trigger a variety of questions and emotions, from visitors and staff alike. Acc. # 661-70*B, Stewartia pseudocamillia, situated next to the walkway to the Hunnewell Building, was removed. The decision, though considered with great thought, was not difficult to make for Curator of Living Collections Michael Dosmann and Manager of Horticulture Andrew Gapinski. A host of criteria and data are considered when adding to, as well as subtracting from, the living collections of the Arboretum. The group met to learn about the remedial care provided to this Japanese stewartia over the years, the importance of provenance when assessing a collection, and the steps taken in the de-accessioning process.
Bonsai specialist Glenn Lord repotted one of the oldest and largest dwarf potted plants in the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection. Bertha, as she is fondly called, was started in 1787 as a seedling in Japan. She was purchased from the Yokohama Nursery Company by the Honorable Larz Anderson and brought to his Brookline Estate in 1913. A Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Chabo-hiba’ or compact hinoki cypress, Bertha moved a few miles east to the Arnold Arboretum in 1949. Bertha (Acc. # 892-49*A) from her original pot into a new one. The group met in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden to watch the repotting of this 228 year old specimen. Read more about the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection [pdf].
Horticultural technologists Rachel Brinkman and Sue Pfeiffer demonstrated how we monitor moth populations, what we find, and how we use this information to guide the care of the living collections. The group met in the Hunnewell Building Lecture Hall.
When a tree falls…
During last week’s nor’easter, a large pin oak (Quercus palustris) fell, and we’re sure it made a sound. We believe this enormous tree predates the 1872 creation of the Arnold Arboretum, but since it was not tracked as a part of the collection until 1950, we don’t know how old it actually is. Join Arboretum Putnam Fellow Ailene Ettinger as we core this beauty of a specimen in hopes of determining its approximate age. The group gathered at Acc. # 22893*E.
Yellow on Yellow: American Witch Hazel
American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is an understory shrub that begins to flower in autumn and continues into December. Producing a subtle scent that wafts on the breeze, it has long petals that unfurl, creating asterisk-like flowers in pale yellow. The foliage at this time of year is changing from deep green to brilliant yellow. Andrew Gapinski spoke about this North American native and other witch hazels of merit. The group gathered at Acc. # 22947*B.
North American newbie: Heptacodium miconioides
The story of Heptacodium miconioides, or the seven-son flower, illuminates the trajectory of an exotic plant from discovery to propagation, to distribution and observation, and finally to the point at which it enters the nursery trade. Native to high cliffs in the western Hubei province of China, seven-son flower is rare in the wild. This large, arching shrub with exfoliating bark is covered with pale white flowers in late summer, but is most resplendent in the autumn when its calyces and fruits turn rose-purple. Maggie Redfern, Visitor Education Assistant, brought to light the role of the Arnold Arboretum and other botanical gardens in this plant’s debut in North American horticulture. The group met at Acc. # 1549-80*H.
Mushrooms of the Arboretum
Rosanne Healy, a post-doctoral fellow in the Pfister Lab at Harvard, identified some of the fungi that are fruiting and discussed their role in keeping the Arboretum healthy (or in some cases, not so healthy!). She spoke about fungi that are in mutually beneficial partnership with tree roots, fungi that are involved in recycling of dead wood, and fungi that are parasites on some tree species. The group met on Hemlock Hill at Acc. # 1350-98*A.
Acer rubrum ‘Schlesingeri’ is a beacon opposite the Hunnewell Visitor Center entrance, signaling the coming autumn as one of the first maples to color the landscape. Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections, spoke about the mechanics of leaf-color change and the local provenance of this venerable and colorful cultivar. The group met opposite the Visitor Center at Acc. # 3256*A.
Building with Bamboo
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are studying the mechanical properties of bamboo, with a view towards developing structural bamboo products, analogous to wood products such as plywood, oriented strand board, and glue-laminated wood. Bamboo is renewable, is widespread in countries with rapidly developing economies (such as China, India and Brazil), and grows remarkably quickly. Lorna Gibson, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, will discussed how bamboo grows, what its interior structure looks like, and how it can be used in structural bamboo products. The group met at the bamboo grove, at Acc. # 369-80*MASS, (Phyllostachys bambusoides).
Flower Power: Reproductive Isolation
Reproductive isolation is essential for maintaining species identity. Most flowering plants prevent fertilization by their own pollen to impede inbreeding, and also block fertilization by pollen from different species to avoid hybridization. Federico Roda, a post-doctoral fellow in the Hopkins Lab, used clovers to explain how flowers detect and reject undesired pollen. The group met at the top of Weld Hill.
The Big Reveal: 2014 Hunnewell Internship Group Project
What do you get when you present a landscape challenge to a group of young, intelligent, and creative horticulturists? In the case of this summer’s “group project” assigned to the Isabella Welles Hunnewell Interns, the result is a phenomenal new outdoor space for staff use and enjoyment. Though our interns typically develop a project to improve or revitalize a public area of the Arboretum, this year’s challenge took place behind the scenery. With a small budget and tight timeframe, the interns combined their backgrounds in arboriculture, horticulture, ecology, plant science, and landscape architecture to complete a major landscape renovation and reconstruction of the Hunnewell Building staff patio garden. Hunnewell Interns Chris Copeland, Olivia Fragale, Robert Dowell, and Kassie Urban-Mead gave an overview of their design-build process and toasted the end of summer for a project well done. The group met at the service gate located to the right of the Hunnewell Building.
How to tolerate your family: lessons all can learn from willows
Due to competition for water and resources, it is uncommon for closely related species to grow together in the same location. However, willows (Salix sp.) defy this pattern and appear content to grow alongside other members of their family. Jessica Savage, a newly appointed Putnam Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum, explained why and how willows maintain their high diversity while living in close quarters with relatives and sharing “one bath.” The group met at Acc. # 172-97*A, Salix schwerinii.
Pinus strobus—The Framework of New England
New Englanders who pay any attention to trees probably know a bit about white pine, Pinus strobus. Though not a native New Englander herself, Arboretum Curatorial Assistant Irina Kadis knows this species exceedingly well. Irina spends her free time exploring eastern Massachusetts, cataloging and describing the state’s native flora in its forests, meadows, barrens, and bogs. The group heard about white pine lore and botanical facts about an iconic species which fueled the growth of the colonies and continues to be an important natural resource today. The group met at Acc. # 875-2008*A at the northwestern base of Peters Hill.
Ashes to ashes…
On July 16, a single adult emerald ash borer (EAB) was spotted during a routine check of monitoring traps deployed in the Arnold Arboretum landscape as part of a cooperative detection effort with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Manager of Horticulture Andrew Gapinski and Curator of Living Collections Michael Dosmann spoke about the Arboretum’s ash (Fraxinus) collection with species from North America, Asia, and Europe; how the collection will be managed in the presence of EAB; and explained how to identify this iridescent green beetle and its telltale signs of damage. The group gathered in the ash collection at Acc. # 7033*F, Fraxinus tomentosa. Read an article about Emerald Ash Borer at the Arboretum.
Über Intriguing Virginia Roundleaf Birch
Richard Nixon. Wint O Green® Life Savers®. Questionable identities. These are just part of the interesting story behind Virginia roundleaf birch (Betula uber), a rare tree species that was once near extinction and remains threatened in the wild. Arnoldia editor Nancy Rose met the group in the Arboretum’s birch collection on Bussey Hill at Acc. # 1433-84*A.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening…
A plant’s flower shape and anther structure determine the type of pollinator needed and how successful pollination will be. Bees, responsible for pollination of many of the food crops we eat, seek out flowers to drink nectar or gather pollen. Last summer, Harvard University graduate student Callin Switzer closely observed and actually recorded buzzing frequencies of a variety of bee species at the Arboretum. Callin’s Tree Mob at Acc. # 287-96*A offered visitors a closer look at bees and the flowers they visit, including ways that plants have evolved to “serve” their pollen to the bees, how bees have evolved alongside flowers to meet their own nutrient needs, and the amazing physiology of buzzing.
The Snow Queen of Summer
Come July, many ornamental trees and shrubs have flowered and are putting their energy into seed development. Not so for oak leaf hydrangeas. The heat hits and they send forth showy panicles of creamy white contrasted against textured, deep green leaves. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’ ranks high on Supervisor of Horticulture Andrew Gapinski’s list of favorite shrubs. The group met at Acc. # 318-94*A.
It’s chilly out there…for the Mountain Hemlock
Mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) is native to mountains of the western US, where it can be covered in snow for up to 10 months of the year. It’s hard to imagine now that summer is finally here in New England, but much of mountain hemlock’s native habitat won’t be free of snow until mid-July or later! Putnam Fellow Ailene Ettinger spoke about this species’ adaptations to cold environments, how it may be affected by climate change in the future, and how research like hers, conducted in natural habitats and among the collections at the Arnold Arboretum can help us understand how this and other tree species might adapt to climate in flux. The group met at Acc. # 693-77*A.
Clematis: What a plant will do for love
The beauty of clematis may trick you into believing that these spectacular and bizarre flowers were bred to ornament your lampposts and trellises, but in fact, they evolved to attract bees. There are over 300 species of clematis that display incredible natural diversity of flower shape, color, and smell. This explosion of diversity attracts bee pollinators from the tropics to the sub-arctic. The seemingly endless malleability of form and color has enabled the creation of hundreds of cultivated varieties that now accent yards around the world. The Arnold Arboretum holds an exemplary collection of both natural species and cultivated forms of clematis. The group met at the heart of this collection in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden at Acc. # 372-2003, Clematis viticella ‘Betty Corning’, and heard from Harvard Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Robin Hopkins about form, color, and the science of attraction.
An American All-star: Yellowwood
As one of the seldom-planted but more beautiful flowering trees native to North America, yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea, deserves attention. Taking up to 20 years to first flower and only producing good shows every two-to-three years, it is a tree for the patient and committed gardener. Curatorial Fellow Jordan Wood spoke about its discovery by André Michaux in 1796 and the Carolina expeditions of Michaux and his son François André. The group met at Acc. # 13055*B, a broadly spreading specimen accessioned into the Arboretum’s collections in 1881.
You say Catalpa, I say Catawba!
The Arnold Arboretum’s catalpa collection holds 39 accessions, representing two species native to North America (Catalpa bignonioides and C. speciosa), three species that hail from China (C. ovata, C. bungei, and C. fargesii), and some cultivars. Often referred to as bean trees for their 6- to 16-inch slender fruits, they reveal their glory in June with clusters of sweetly scented flowers. Arboretum Director William (Ned) Friedman spoke about the catalpa collection and intercontinental (eastern Asia/eastern North America) disjunct species, so characteristic of many of the fine collections at the Arnold Arboretum. The group met at Acc. # 17664*A, Catalpa fargesii, a rarity in its native habitat and in horticulture.
Each year the many species of Amelanchier bring dramatic floral displays to New England in May and June. Amelanchier nantucketensis, the Nantucket shadbush, serves as a fascinating study in the interplay of natural hybridization, conservation, plant reproduction, and land use in New England. Arboretum scientist Dave Des Marais discussed the role that the Arboretum plays in preserving rare species, and how Amelanchier nantucketensis is serving as a valuable tool to understand the genetics and ecology of natural populations. The group met at the centerpiece of our amelanchier collection, Acc. # 934-89*A.
Malicious men may die, but [Malus] never.
I’ve toyed with Moliere’s quote about malice from Tartuffe in this Tree Mob’s title, however there may be some truth to my version. Apples (Malus), thought to have originated in central Asia, have been around for upwards of 7 million years. Visiting researcher and recipient of the Jewett Prize, Ling Guo, is a horticulturist, professor, and curator in the Department of Plant Introductions at the Beijing Botanical Garden. Ling has spent several months studying the Arnold Arboretum’s crabapple collection on Peters Hill and talked about her research. The group met at Acc. # 1645-52*A, Malus x arnoldiana.
Distinctively Deciduous Conifers
Deciduous gymnosperms that used to dominate vast areas of the earth in ancient times went through a dramatic reduction in species richness and ecological dominance due to climate change and competition from angiosperms. Now, extant conifers are overwhelmingly evergreen. Metasequoia glyptostroboides is one of the few representatives of the extant conifers with deciduous leaf habit. For this tree mob, Putnam Research Fellow Guang-You Hao talked about the ecology of deciduous conifers, which may provide clues to their extinction and habitat shrinkage as well as their persistence under certain conditions. The group met at Acc. # 524-48*Z.
It’s a Tree. It’s a Shrub. It’s Alnus!
The flower catkins paired with the pine-like pseudocones of the genus Alnus are a charm in the late winter and early spring months in Boston. The Arnold Arboretum’s diverse collection of Alnus showcases the variability of species from East Asia to Europe, and locally within Massachusetts. In this Tree/Shrub Mob, Curatorial Fellow Joyce Chery highlighted the world distribution, ecology, and lifecycle of this fascinating group—cousins to the birches—as well as some associated taxonomic horrors. The group met along Willow Path, where most of the Arboretum’s Alnus collection is situated, at Acc. # 125-2005*B, Alnus incana ssp. rugosa.
Conjuring spring with Hamamelis vernalis
In New England, it is a bit magical to see a plant flowering through the dead of winter and on into spring. Such is the beauty of Hamamelis vernalis, typically in bloom from January to March, allowing us to say, “There’s always something in bloom at the Arboretum.” Visitor Educator Maggie Redfern spoke about the horticultural history of the type specimen of Ozark witch hazel. The group met beside Rehder Pond at Acc. # 6099*D.
Sargent’s Weeping Hemlock
Contradictions, lost or unrecorded facts, and misstatements attributed to Sargent’s Weeping Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis f. pendula) shroud the plant’s origins in mystery. Senior Research Scientist Peter Del Tredici illuminated what has been discovered about this plant by digging into historical records, speculating about locations, and in some cases, taking core samples to count rings. The group met at Acc. # 1514-2*A, a sculptural beauty, on Hemlock Hill Road.
Techno Mob: Archaeological Mapping
Professors and students of Boston University’s Department of Archaeology are spending a few days this fall semester at the Arnold Arboretum to study the remains of historic archaeological sites. The team is using a variety of surveying equipment and geophysical instruments to map remains both on and below the ground surface. Professor Chris Roosevelt and his students met at the site of the former Bussey Mansion to learn about techniques used today to map and interpret what remains on the land. The group met on Beech Path at Acc. # 655-93*A, sugar maple (Acer saccharum).
Seduction and Dispersal: Euonymus Species
Arnoldia editor Nancy Rose spoke about seed dispersal in general and specifically about the fruiting structure of euonymus species. Nancy showcased some of the species in the Arboretum’s collection and compared native and non-native characteristics and discussed issues of invasiveness. The group met on Bussey Hill Road near its intersection with Valley Road at Acc. # 1518-83*A, Euonymus europaeus.
The Bitter and the Sweet of Vines
Research conducted by Putnam Fellow Stacey Young in the collections is flagged by blue tape that you may have noticed as you wander the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden. There, and elsewhere in the landscape, Stacey is examining biological, morphological, and ecological traits of both North American and Asian temperate lianas (woody vines). Come learn about the ecology of invasiveness and decline within the bittersweet genus, and in general, consider how vines climb. The group met in the Shrub and Vine Garden at Acc. # 269-95*A, anglestem bittersweet (Celastrus angulatus), a non-invasive (we believe) Asian relative of the highly invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus).
Actinidia polygama: The Next Superfood?
Rachel Brinkman, Horticulture Apprentice, has been keeping an eye on the various hardy kiwi vines (Actinidia sp.) in the Leventritt Garden, which displays seven different species. She will speak about Actinidia polygama, silver vine, whose fruit might be ripe for sampling. The group met in the Leventritt Garden at Acc. # 460-83*B and learned about this demure but vitamin-rich relative of the kiwifruit commonly found in grocery stores.
Landscape with Edibles: Prunus maritima
Kristina Jones, Director of the Botanic Gardens and faculty member in Biology and Environmental Studies at Wellesley College, spoke about beach plum, Prunus maritima. Interested in ecological approaches to growing food such as edible forest gardens, and partnering with permaculture experts to analyze productivity and sustainability of designed edible ecosystems, she spoke about the food value and horticultural uses of this stone fruit native to the eastern seaboard from New Brunswick to Virginia. The group met at Prunus maritima forma flava, Acc. # 262-92*C on Peters Hill.
A Landscape Transformed
In recent years we have assigned a group project to our Hunnewell Horticultural Interns as culmination of their experience in the Arboretum’s landscape. This year’s interns concentrated on an area just below the Explorers Garden, along Oak Path. Intern Joe Leonard spoke about the group’s design and process for transforming a once unwelcoming and challenging-to-manage area of the Arboretum. The group met on Oak Path near its intersection with Beech Path.
Cattail leaves stand nearly vertical and can be up to 6 feet tall. How do they do it? Professor Lorna Gibson from the MIT Cellular Solids Group spoke about the sandwich structures within these reeds that provide stiffness and strength and explained how such structures work in both plants and engineering. The group met along Meadow Road at the edge of the meadow.
The Seaside Alder
Alnus maritima, the seaside alder, is a bit of rarity, and our specimen of this plant is truly unspectacular. However, its story is intriguing. Endemic to the United States, it is found in three populations, remnants from a time when the plant was perhaps more widespread. Matt Jones, a 2013 horticultural intern at the Arboretum with an International Master’s in Horticultural Science and a Master of Science in Botany from the University of Oklahoma, spoke about this member of the Betulaceae. The group met at Acc. # 1217-4*A.
Get to know the oft forgotten pawpaw, Asimina triloba, with the largest edible fruit native to North America. It is the only species of the Annonaceae (a tropical family that includes cherimoya, guanabana, and soursop) that is hardy in New England. Research associate Iñaki Hormaza, visiting from Spain, spoke about this humidity-loving small tree. Meet at Acc. # 205-91*A along Peters Hill Road.
Dragonflies had wingspans of 60 centimeters 300 million years ago. Today, they are some of nature’s most accomplished fliers, spinning and flipping as they catch mosquitoes, flies, spiders, and more. This Insect Mob focused on dragonflies, their life cycle, flight patterns, and vital ecological importance. Led by Mary Salcedo, Harvard University Graduate Student in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, the group met at Rosa virginiana, Acc. # 106-2006*A.
Eastern Cicada Killers
Straying from our woody plant theme this week, we learned about the Arnold Arboretum’s resident population of Eastern cicada killers, Sphecius speciosus. Birder, photographer, and volunteer Bob Mayer spoke about the life cycle and habits of this native insect on Forest Hills Road near the weeping cherries, east of Dawson Pond, at Acc. #: 290-87*A, Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’. [pdf]
Clethras: Sweet Scents of Summer
The group met in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Collection for a comparison of Clethra species, both native and exotic, and their cultivars. Propagator Jack Alexander spoke about habitat, floral characteristics, and what he would look for in the quest to find the ideal summersweet shrub in the wild. The group met at Acc. #: 287-96*A. [pdf]
Lime or Linden: Tilia cordata
Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections, told the story of a cultivar of Tilia cordata, collected by dendrologist and longtime Arboretum staff member Alfred Rehder, whose birthday was 150 years ago this year. The group met at the summit of Peters Hill at Acc. #: 12112*A. [pdf]
Conifer aficionado Dennis Collins, Horticultural Curator at Mount Auburn Cemetery, talked about some of the reasons why Taxus, a genus of long-lived conifers, have captivated humans for religious, military, medicinal and horticultural reasons over the past few thousand years. The group met at Acc. #: 169-99*B, Taxus cuspidata. [pdf]
Plants and Climate Change
Boston University professor Richard Primack used Pinus aristata, bristlecone pine, to illustrate the timing of leaf-out as related to climate change. Dr. Primack has been using Thoreau’s notebooks, Arnold Arboretum herbarium specimens, and other historical records to compare leafing and flowering times through the past century to the present. The group met in the dwarf conifer collection at Acc. #: 721-61*A. [pdf]
Chionanthus Here and There
Nancy Rose spoke about disjunct species Chionanthus retusus and C. virginicus. These fringe trees are found on widely separated continents, one in Asia and the other in North America. She compared their similarities and differences, and considered how they have evolved and adapted in their disparate homes. The plants are located in the Explorers Garden on Bussey Hill at Acc. # 13051*A. [pdf]
Japanese Azaleas: Rhododendron molle ssp. japonicum
Join longtime Arboretum volunteer and rhododendron aficionado George Hibben to learn about the qualities of Japanese azaleas that endear them to hybridizers, with focus on the Arboretum’s Rhododendron molle ssp. japonicum. Meet at Acc. #: 28-98*A. [pdf]
Mutants in Our Midst
Ever wonder how new horticultural forms and varieties come to be? For example, how does a green-leafed shrub morph into a gold-leafed variety, or a white-flowered plant develop from a species with magenta blooms? Join Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum, for the first of three mobs he will lead this spring exploring naturally occurring plant mutations that are the source of most of our horticultural wonders. Meet at Acc. #: 10-68*B, Cercis canadensis, commonly known as redbud. [pdf]
Pyrus pyrifolia, Sand Pear
Senior Research Scientist Peter Del Tredici spoke about one of our older specimens, Pyrus pyrifolia, Acc. #: 7272*C. Native to China, Japan, and Korea, this plant was grown from seed that was collected in Hubei Province, China by E.H. Wilson in 1907. A standout in the Arboretum’s landscape, this plant has provided multi-season beauty on Bussey Hill for more than a century. [pdf]
Lilacs: Syringa oblata and Syringa x hyacinthiflora Hybrids
Lilac season has begun with the earliest of the lilacs coming into full bloom. Plant propagator and lilac expert Jack Alexander introduced us to Syringa oblata and told the story of the creation of the first cultivar of Syringa × hyacinthiflora. Met in the lilac collection on the slope of Bussey Hill at Syringa oblata, Acc. #: 381-2001*A. [pdf]
Dwarf Sweet Box, Sarcococca humilis var. digyna
Sue Pfeiffer, horticultural technologist, explained Sarcococca humilis var. digyna, Accession #: 667-2003*MASS a diminutive, sweet-scented evergreen groundcover, native to China. Sue will also discuss other members of the Buxaceae on display in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden. [pdf]
Jasminum nudiflorum, Winter Jasmine
Brian Leib, manager of the Arboretum’s research greenhouses at the Weld Hill Building, spoke about this species from northern China in the Oleaceae. Grown as a ground-covering shrub or trained as a vine, winter jasmine’s yellow flowers signal the coming of spring. See a specimen in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden at Accession #: 654-2003*A. [pdf]
Chimonanthus praecox, Winter Sweet
Chimonanthus praecox, a member of the Calycanthaceae, is a treasure introduced from Asia before this country was a nation. Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections, spoke about the plant’s history, its virtues, and the challenges it presents to northern gardeners. Find our one and only specimen at the entrance to the Explorers Garden, just off Bussey Hill Road at Accession #: 236-98*A. [pdf]
Bornean Trees in Boston
Cam Webb, an Arboretum researcher based in Indonesian Borneo, discussed tree genera that occur both in Southeast Asia and in New England, and what they tell us about the history of tropical rain forests and adaptation to the cold. He highlighted Accession #: 801-87*A, Diospyros virginiana, the common persimmon, south of Meadow Road and opposite Faxon Pond. [pdf]
A California Native Thrives in New England
The bright green foliage of California incense cedar can enliven the dullest winter day. Calocedrus gets its name from the Greek kallos, meaning “beautiful,” and cedrus, originally from Latin meaning “evergreen conifer.” Unlike most other conifers, male cones of incense cedar shed pollen on winter’s winds. Visitor Education Assistant Maggie Redfern presented a pair of trees laden with pollen cones at the base of Peters Hill along South Street, including Accession #: 450-86*G, Calocedrus decurrens. [pdf]
Most people who can identify trees have come to recognize them by their characteristic leaves, flowers, or fruit, present during the growing season. But with deciduous trees, one can’t rely on these features during the winter months. Fortunately, each species of tree has a unique signature which can be found by studying its twigs. Arborist Kyle Stephens discussed twigs and the information they hold about their identity and their growth habits, featuring Accession #: 695-80*B, Ailanthus altissima forma erythrocarpa, opposite the cork trees along Meadow Road.
Sleeping Beauty: A Flower Bud Fairy Tale
Deciduous trees appear bare, with no of leaves and flowers during the winter. However, the flowers and leaves that will appear in spring are already present, though hidden. These tiny flowers and leaves begin to grow at the end of summer and remain protected inside the bud in a state of dormancy through the winter. Then the warm kiss of spring wakes them from slumber. Visiting researcher Erica Fadon showed what is happening inside the buds of three different trees in the Bradley Rosaceous Collection, at Accession #: 931-51*A, Prunus sargentii ‘Columnaris’. [pdf]
Fagus sylvatica ‘Tortuosa’
The enigmatic cultivar of the European beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Tortuosa’, is a rarity in nature. Although now fairly common in cultivation, the tortuous habit of these trees still continues to puzzle botanists. Julien Bachelier shared the many mysteries yet to be solved at Accession #: 2420*A. [pdf]
Katsuras: Hearts of Gold
Curator of Living Collections Michael Dosmann spotlighted the katsura collection as a prelude to autumn. Some of the Arboretum’s oldest accessioned plants (including Accession #: 882*B), katsuras display amazing fall color, and senescing leaves emit the aroma of caramel or burnt brown sugar. [pdf].
The Mighty Oaks
Guest presenter Dave Barnett, President and CEO of Mount Auburn Cemetery, spoke about the oaks (Quercus spp.) that dominate the landscapes of both the Arnold Arboretum and Mount Auburn Cemetery. The talk took place in the Arboretum’s oak collection, north of Valley Road at the northern end of Oak Path. [pdf].
Locust, Legumes, and Nitrogen Fixation
Arnoldia Editor Nancy Rose discussed Robinia pseudoacacia, accession 321-48*A, located near the juncture of Meadow and Bussey Hill Roads. Known commonly as black locust, R. pseudocacia hosts nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its root system, a characteristic shared by many other members of the pea family. [pdf].
Stewartias: Natives, Exotics, and Hybrids
Senior Research Scientist Peter Del Tredici met visitors at the entrance to the Explorers Garden off Bussey Hill Road for a comparison between the many stewartias in the Arboretum collection. Members of the tea family of plants, stewartias are one of six species collected by the Arboretum in collaboration with the USDA and the North American Plant Collections Consortium.[pdf].
Keeping Track of Trees
Visitors to this Tree Mob™ at the summit of Bussey Hill were introduced to the Arboretum’s plant inventory program. Kyle Port, manager of plant records, and Stephanie Stuber, curatorial fellow, explained how and why our living collections are tracked and recorded using Pinus parviflora, accession 1539-71*D, as an object lesson. [pdf]
Senior Research Scientist Peter Del Tredici explained the reproductive biology of Ginkgo biloga at the time of day when the process is visible. Visitors met at Ginkgo biloba ‘Hayanari’, accession 824-83*A, just beyond the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center, and observed the phenomenon with hand lenses. [pdf]
Arboretum Apprentice Miles Sax Schwartz introduced visitors to Malus sargentii, accession 20408*D, on Peters Hill. Miles used this plant to illustrate the Arboretum’s long interest in cultivating crabapples, including his recent efforts to reassess and reinvigorate these plants at the Arboretum. [pdf]