Steve Schneider, Director of Operations at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, has been scouting and collecting future plant accessions in the Republic of Georgia. The Arnold is teamed up with botanists from the Munich Botanical Garden, the National Botanical Garden of Georgia (in Tbilisi) and the Batumi Botanical Garden. Steve writes:
Plant diversity here is incredible. The people who work for the gardens (Tbilisi and Batumi) are passionate about the flora that they are studying and working hard to preserve. The upper photo is of the family of one of the Batumi Botanic Garden students who joined us in the field while we were in the western part of the country. His family prepared a traditional Georgian feast for us at their “summer hut” in the mountain village of Bicheneki, where grandparents and children from Batumi go in the summer to enjoy nature, while others who work get there when they can. I came here with the intention of losing weight and, as you can see, I’m pretty sure I’ve gained instead!
Lower left is me next to a field of Rhododendron caucasicum at about 2,200M, just north of the village of Bashumi, in the western part of the country. It grows on the northern side of the mountain slopes to take advantage of the protection of late winter snow (which you can see in the background). We managed to find some of last year’s capsules that still had plenty of seed in them. Chalk up a new species to add to the living collections of the Arnold Arboretum.
Lower right, when we are in Tbilisi, we process the day’s herbarium specimens at a fantastic nursery. Andreas, our collecting colleague from the Munich Botanical Garden is pictured. He and I have a great system for labeling the plants, getting them in paper, and changing the paper as needed. In and amongst those piles of plants is Acer heldrecii ssp. trautvetteri which is on our targeted list for the Campaign for the Living Collections.