The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University has launched a 10-year initiative to expand and refine our collections of living plants–The Campaign for the Living Collections. This cross-institutional effort focused on plant exploration, collection, and production aims to enhance the Arboretum’s resources for research and conservation. Currently, Living Collections Fellow Jenna Zukswert and colleagues from several institutions are collecting plants in southern Kentucky. Below, read Jenna’s report from the field.
I just had the great privilege of joining a multi-institution plant collecting expedition to southern Kentucky this past week. Northeastern arboretum representatives Tim Boland (Executive Director, Polly Hill Arboretum), Catherine Meholic (Plant Recorder, Mt. Cuba Center), and I joined local arboretum representatives Phillip Douglas (Director of Horticulture, Gainesway Farm) and Todd Rounsaville (Curator, The Arboretum at the University of Kentucky) with three of his colleagues on an expedition to locate and collect seed and herbarium vouchers from populations of Stewartia ovata (mountain camellia) in the wild.
In addition to finding, mapping, and collecting Stewartia, we collected seed from 10 taxa from the Arnold Arboretum’s Campaign for Living Collections. Guided by local botany expert Julian Campbell and Georgia naturalist Jack Johnston, we explored the diverse banks of the Cumberland River, moist cove forests at Yahoo Falls, and the forests of the Big South Fork, among other locations. It was literally a fruitful trip, and one characterized by kind collaboration, beautiful forests and landscapes, and venomous snake sightings.
As the trip recorder, I took the field notes and GPS coordinates for all 44 accessions (each accession is a single species from a specific location) that we collected this week and will assemble the final report and maps. It’s important to have as much accurate data about these plants as we can to help researchers study changes in species distributions over time. Many years in the future when they’ve been placed in the Arnold Arboretum landscape, people will be able to know exactly where these plants originally came from. It was an honor to be trusted with this task, and wonderful to go on an expedition that supports plant conservation and the diverse temperate woody plant collections at the Arnold Arboretum.
Living Collections Fellow, Arnold Arboretum