Plants collected on this Expedition
- Event Type
- Collection Type
- Arnold Arboretum Participants
- Robert G. Nicholson
In September 1982, Arnold Arboretum assistant plant propagator Rob Nicholson set off for North Africa to the Atlas and Rif Mountains of Morocco. He was studying biogeography biogeography: and disjunct tree populations, and was interested in conifers that were pushed into Africa during the last ice age and continued to survive on high mountain habitats in the northernmost reaches of the continent.
Taxa Taxon: In biology, a taxon (plural taxa) is a group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms seen by taxonomists to form a unit. Collected
Nicholson took care to collect seeds from trees growing at the highest elevations. He speculated that these plants would be the hardiest in the Boston climate.
Spanish juniper (Juniperus thurifera), Mediterranean rose (Rosa sicula), and dog rose (Rosa canina) seeds were collected in the Atlas Mountains near Jebel Toubkal, south of Marrakech.
Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica) and purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea var. mauretanica) seeds were collected on Mount Tidiquin near Ketama. Nicholson accessed the mountain on a motorcycle with the guidance of some local youths.
Nicholson collected seed from one of the trip’s target species, the Moroccan fir (Abies pinsapo var. marocana), in the mountains near the northwestern city of Chefchaouen.
Mount Tazot yielded a number of other collections including the Tazaotan fir (Abies pinsapo var. tazaotana).
Much of the trip was done by bus, where passengers were being searched for kif, a cannabis product. Luckily, Nicholson was able to explain his plant materials to the officials despite a language barrier.
Back in Boston
An admirable specimen (Accession 1435-82*A) of Moroccan fir (Abies pinsapo var. marocana) grew in the Conifer Collection from September 1993 until its unfortunate demise from disease two decades later. Rhizosphaera needle cast and stem blight from Sirococcus were first observed on the plant in 2014. It was cut down to the ground in 2015, with hopes that the stump would resprout. Unfortunately, it did not. Cuttings were taken for repropagation and young plants are now growing at the Dana Greenhouse.
Nicholson had high hopes for the dog rose seed he collected:
“The latter grew among some boulders, was of fine habit, and possessed a large orange hip. Its seeds germinated readily at the Arboretum’s Dana Greenhouses and should provide some interesting hardiness testing in our nurseries.”
Today one of his dog rose collections (Accession 1085-85*A & B) may be seen in the Bradley Rosaceous Collection.
Read Rob Nicholson’s in-depth Arnoldia article about this trip.
Learn about his expedition to the American west in 1981 to collect seeds from American trees in disjunct populations.
Where could seed for a cold hardy cedar-of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) be found? Learn about the quest to find hardy trees in Turkey in 1900.