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In 2021, the Arboretum took a major step toward preserving the living collections in the face of climate-induced drought by bringing automated, emergency irrigation systems to nearly 50 acres of collections on Bussey Hill and along Centre Street—an area home to more than 6,500 accessioned plants. Planning, design, and permitting work has been completed for the second phase of this comprehensive plan, which will protect more than 2,700 accessioned plants growing over 60 acres of landscape on Peters Hill—a region historically difficult to hydrate manually. All of this progress to safeguard our valued plants has been made possible exclusively through donor support. Image: Contract irrigation specialists and Arboretum staff work together to install a mainline through the oak collection on Bussey Hill, photo by Danny Schissler.
Throughout the Arboretum landscape, horticulture staff have adjusted maintenance practices and enhanced under-plantings and meadow environments to improve soils, support pollinators and other wildlife, and contribute to the Arboretum’s overall ecological health. A parallel effort in 2021 involved the dredging and restoration of Faxon and Rehder Ponds, removing thousands of yards of accumulated sediment and nuisance vegetation toward a richer environment for both plants and wildlife. Image: Researcher Matt Kamm from Zoo New England demonstrates the use of a trap for turtles and other wildlife at Rehder Pond as part of the pond restoration project, image by Danny Schissler.
The 1,152 solar energy panels installed in the landscape of our Weld Hill Research and Administration Building in 2019 gained an additional layer of sustainability and ecosystem service through the creation of a solar meadow. Some 40 species of locally-native, wild-collected seed were planted at Weld Hill, creating the first solar meadow of its kind of kind in Massachusetts serving as a model for efforts to combine renewable energy practices with ecosystem conservation. Image: 2022 Hunnewell Interns Nat Xu (left) and Ali Hennessey-Roberts plant locally-sourced native perennials beneath the solar arrays at Weld Hill, photo by Brendan Keegan.
In 2020-21, the Arboretum made significant strides in transitioning the fossil fuel-powered equipment it uses for horticultural maintenance to renewable alternatives. This includes deploying a number of electric bikes for horticultural staff transportation in the landscape, as well as the first battery replacements of diesel utility vehicles and mowers. Part of a comprehensive plan over the next five years, this transition will help further reduce our carbon footprint while providing a cleaner and quieter environment in our landscape for all. Image: Members of the Arnold Arboretum Committee join Director Ned Friedman and Arboretum staff to celebrate the advocacy group’s donation of an electric-powered mower, photo by Jon Hetman.
Over the past two years, the Arboretum’s Operations Department facilitated extensive repairs on hundreds of linear feet of historic stone walls around the Arboretum’s perimeter. Walls along parcels of Harvard-owned land on South Street—dry-laid with locally-quarried Roxbury conglomerate more than a century ago—follows work by the City of Boston in recent years to rebuild wall sections along City-owned portions of the Arboretum landscape. Image: Historic stone wall along the Arboretum’s South Street perimeter was repaired in partnership with the City of Boston, photo by Danny Schissler.