Dick’s work in the 70s to revitalize the collections went a long way in helping the Arboretum ‘learn’ about itself, articulate its mission, and I would say, help make the institution whole again by bringing relevance to the living collections. Among so many others, the 1977 Weaver and Spongberg trip to Korea and Japan stands out as such a monumental event. He collected almost 1500 accessions for the Arboretum’s living collections during his tenure. And over 300 plants living in the collection bear his name as one of the collectors!
—Michael S. Dosmann, Keeper of the Living Collections
We are sad to report the passing of Richard E. ‘Dick’ Weaver, Jr. horticultural taxonomist and assistant curator of the Arnold Arboretum from 1970 to 1983.
Weaver was born in Richland, Pennsylvania in 1943 and received his bachelor’s degree in education in 1965 from Millersville State College (PA) and his master’s degree in plant Taxonomy from Duke University in 1968. He continued studying taxonomic botany at Duke earning his doctorate in 1970 with the thesis, “A revision of the neotropical genus Lisianthius (Gentianaceae),” which was published in the Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. [53:76-100 (1972)]
In late 1970, he was named horticultural taxonomist/assistant curator at the Arnold Arboretum, working with taxonomist Stephen A. Spongberg and horticulturalist Gary Koller. With Weaver joining the staff, the study of ligneous genera of eastern North America and eastern Asia was revived. Weaver played a key role in shaping the landscape and living collections, and directed planting for several seasons.
He organized and carried out several plant collecting expeditions, most notably in Korea and Japan with Spongberg in 1977, and in the Soviet Union as part of the Cary Arboretum’s reciprocal program in 1980. He taught many classes at the Arboretum and Harvard University Summer School, particularly in plant taxonomy. Besides his interest in temperate woody genera, Weaver’s botanical research centered on the Neotropical members of the Gentianaceae, and he published several articles on the group during his tenure.
He was closely involved with the Arboretum’s publication Arnoldia, contributing numerous articles to the magazine and serving as editor. From July 1, 1977 through September 30, 1978, Weaver served as acting director of the Arboretum’s Jamaica Plain and Weston segments (e.g. the Case Estates) during the transition between the directorships of Richard A. Howard and Peter Shaw Ashton. Weaver was also a driving force and project manager for restoration of the living collections—an ambitious plan to re-establish their original arrangement and to reconstitute plantings along the Arboretum’s pathway system (specifically Maple, Willow, Hickory, Ash, and Catalpa Paths). He also oversaw a five-year campaign to acquire all taxa listed in Alfred Rehder’s Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs not already represented in the living collections. His papers dating to his years at the Arboretum are held by the Arnold Arboretum Archives.
After leaving the Arboretum in 1983, Weaver and his partner, Rene Duval, started We-Du Nurseries in Marion, North Carolina. The nursery specialized in wildflowers from eastern North America and eastern Asia, both areas of horticultural interest to Weaver. In 1996, they sold the nursery, relocating to Puerto Rico where they purchased a coffee finca. In June 2002, they moved to Florida where Weaver took a position in the Herbarium of the Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, from which he retired in 2010.
This memorial was written with contributions from Sheila Connor, Liz Francis, and Lisa Pearson.