Michael S. Dosmann

Michael S. Dosmann

Keeper of the Living Collections

125 Arborway
Boston, MA 02130
Phone: 617.384.5209
Fax: 617.524.1418


PhD Horticulture and Ecology, Cornell University
MS Horticulture, Iowa State University
BS Public Horticulture, Purdue University

As the Keeper of the Living Collections, my primary role is to advocate for and soundly guide one of the finest collections of temperate woody species on Earth. The Arboretum constantly adds new germplasm to its legendary collection, and I consider it a true privilege to direct the Arboretum’s plant acquisition activities. I also work very closely with the rest of the Living Collections Management team to steward this dynamic landscape comprising some 15,000 accessioned plants. You may find me with our Manager of Horticulture placing stakes in the ground to design new planting areas, or reviewing the latest crop of new accessions in the nursery with our Manager of Plant Production. We do not curate objects (the plants); we curate associations of objects and information. Thus, to ensure these and other documentation needs are met at the highest of standards, I oversee a talented team of curatorial staff who are engaged in field checking, mapping, records management, researcher engagement, taxonomic reviews, voucher collection and preparation, and of course, good old-fashioned sleuthing.

Beyond studying the plants themselves, I enjoy scholarly activity that focuses upon collections curation. One of my objectives in the Curatorial Department is to explore new strategies and tactics that improve collections management in botanical gardens and arboreta, as well as other natural history collections. Recent and on-going efforts include initiating new systems for assessing and developing living collections; trialing novel fieldchecking and inventory protocols; improving the management of conservation-status taxa; enhancing access to archival and contemporary documentation; and conducting post hoc analyses to improve germplasm collecting expeditions. Additionally, I participate in floristic efforts through domestic and foreign plant exploration that in turn add to the Arboretum’s living collections.

Lastly, I work closely with the Arboretum’s senior leadership — namely the Director and Director of Operations — to strategically position the Arnold Arboretum to be at the forefront of its endeavors. This also extends to leadership and advisory roles with other botanical gardens and organizations, including the American Public Gardens Association, where I am a Director-at-Large.

A few interesting and selected publications

  • Dosmann, M.S. 2017. Planned, documented, and shared: Plant Collections Network’s next chapter. The Public Garden 32(Special Issue):30. [link]
  • Dosmann, M.S., and K. Port. 2016. The art and act of acquisition. Arnoldia 73(4):2-17. [pdf]
  • Friedman, W.E., M.S. Dosmann, T.E. Boland, D.E. Boufford, M.J. Donoghue, A. Gapinski, L. Hufford, P.W. Meyer, and D.H. Pfister. 2016. Developing an exemplary collection: A vision for the next century at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Arnoldia 73(3):2-18. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M.S. 2015. A history of minimum temperatures at the Arnold Arboretum: Variation in time and space. Arnoldia 72(4):2-11. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M.S., and L.E. Pearson. 2014. Charles Faxon: Botanical draftsman and interpreter of trees. The Botanical Artist 20(3): 32-33. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M.S., and A.S. Aiello. 2013. The quest for the hardy southern live oak. Arnoldia 70(3):12-24. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M. 2012. Climate Change & Collections: Preparing now will give our living collections the best fighting chance. The Public Garden 27(2):28-29. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M. and A. Groover. 2012. The importance of living botanical collections for plant biology and the “next generation” of evo-devo research. Frontiers in Plant Science 3:137. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2012.00137. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M. 2012. Banking on the future of Fraxinus. Silva (spring/summer):2-3. [pdf]
  • Kramer, A., A. Hird, K. Shaw, M. Dosmann, and R. Mims. 2011. Conserving North America’s threatened plants: Progress report on Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. Botanic Gardens Conservation International U.S. [pdf]
  • Aiello, A.S. and M.S. Dosmann. 2010. By the numbers: Twenty years of NACPEC collections. Arnoldia 68(2):20–35. [pdf]
  • Hird, A. and M. Dosmann. 2010. Getting the most out of your BGCI Plant Upload. BGjournal 7(1):18–21. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M. 2009. Sustaining our collections: Are we? The Public Garden 23(3/4):7–9. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M.S. 2009. Malus at the Arnold Arboretum: An ongoing legacy. Arnoldia 67(2):14–21. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M.S. 2008. Curatorial notes: An updated Living Collections Policy at the Arnold Arboretum. Arnoldia 66(1):10–21. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M., P. Del Tredici, and E. Hsu. 2007. The Arnold Arboretum Sextet: NAPCC Collection Profile. The Public Garden 21(2):40–43. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M.S. 2007. The Arnold Arboretum’s Living Collections: A Repository for Research. Arnoldia 65(2):30–39. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, M.S. 2006. Research in the garden: Averting the collections crisis. Botanical Review 72(3):207–234. [pdf]
  • Radford, E., M. Dosmann, and D. Rae. 2003. The management of ‘ad hocex situ conservation status species at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: A review of options. Sibbaldia 1:43–80.
  • Dosmann, M.S. and P. Del Tredici. 2003. Plant introduction, distribution and survival: a case study of the 1980 Sino-American Botanical Expedition. BioScience 53:588–597. [pdf]


Recent and on-going projects and collaborations of note

  • Consulting for and starring in a three-part documentary on botanist Ernest Henry Wilson for CCTV-9, the Central China TV Documentary Channel
  • Botanical exploration of the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, with the Polly Hill Arboretum, Morris Arboretum, and Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission
  • Biodiversity audit and conservation review of Acer griseum, with the Morton Arboretum, and Morris Arboretum
  • Botanical exploration of the woody flora of Aba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, with Beijing Botanical Garden, Morris Arboretum, Huanglong Nature Preserve, and Chengdu Institute of Biology.
  • “The North American Collections Assessment” to document ex situ conservation collections in North America to address Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity), with Abby Hird and Andrea Kramer (BGCI-North America), and Ray Mims (US Botanic Garden)