February 2015


In this issue
  • Document Seasonal Cycles with Nature's Notebook
  • Director's Series Talk Reveals Oldest Living Things
  • Japanese Snowbell Offered as Annual Plant Dividend
  • Talks Spotlight Genetic Changes and Mass Extinctions
  • Walks Focus on Winter Health and Conifers
  • Workshops: Grafting Techniques and Pruning Shrubs
  • The Invented Landscape Reimagines the Arboretum
  • Plant Spotlight on Acer griseum

  • Director's Series Talk Reveals Oldest Living Things
    Rachel Sussman

    Since 2004, Rachel Sussman has traveled the world to photograph continuously living organisms at least 2,000 years old. Her original index of Earth's oldest living things is a remarkable journey into Deep Time that has never before been created in the arts or sciences. On March 2 as part of the 2015 Director's Lecture Series, Rachel will showcase her amazing photographs and share what it means to bear witness to organisms that perhaps predate human history and that may survive long into the future. Her book, The Oldest Living Things in the World, will be available for purchase and signing.

    Japanese Snowbell Offered as Annual Plant Dividend
    Styrax japonicus

    Grow our Spring Plant Dividend and bring the Arboretum to your garden! Each spring we offer members at the Sustaining level ($100) and above the opportunity to receive a plant from our greenhouses. This year's distribution, Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus), grows as a small tree or large shrub, typically 20-30' in height and width. Native to China, Japan, and Korea, it is prized for its slightly fragrant, bell-shaped, white flowers and deep green foliage. Qualifying members will receive a plant dividend letter in the mail later this month, with additional information and a reply form. Join or upgrade your membership today to participate.

    Talks Spotlight Genetic Changes and Mass Extinctions

    Emily Monosson from UMass Amherst visits on February 4 (rescheduled from January 28) to discuss how human activity is altering the genes of a broad range of organisms in both intentional and unintentional ways. Expanding on the themes of her book, Unnatural Selection, she will show how chemicals are leaving their mark on plants, animals, and possibly humans for generations to come. On February 26, Phoebe Cohen from Williams College explores the five cataclysmic events we call "mass extinctions," in which a huge number of species died out in a short period of time. She will show how these events reshaped life on Earth, and how understanding them can help us see the future.

    Walks Focus on Winter Health and Conifers

    Get outside and enjoy the Arboretum in winter! February offers two opportunities to keep connected with plants and nature at this time of year. Join us for a winter wellness walk on February 8 and enjoy a brisk stroll to admire the bark and branch architecture of trees and encounter seasonal highlights along the way. On February 28, David Donovan leads an exploration of the Arboretum's conifer collection. Starting at the Bussey Street Gate, he will help you identify native and exotic conifers by observing their cones, needles, shape, and structure.

    Workshops: Grafting Techniques and Pruning Shrubs

    Take time out this winter to expand your practical skills for growing and caring for woody plants. On February 7, Arboretum propagator Jack Alexander offers a workshop on grafting, the technique of joining parts of plants so they unite and continue their growth as one. Spend the day at our greenhouses learning methods of grafting and practicing graft unions for both deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. On February 28, certified arborist Jen Kettell once again offers her popular pruning class, sharing basic techniques for pruning ornamental shrubs for optimum health and beauty. Learn to grow and expand your horticultural horizons at the Arboretum.

    The Invented Landscape Reimagines the Arboretum

    Just as the Arboretum is an invented landscape, so are the paintings in a new exhibition opening February 21 in the Hunnewell Building. While every work of art is an invention, Nancy Sableski (who is Manager of Children's Education at the Arboretum) takes this concept a step further by creating paintings that blend aspects from multiple photographs. This technique allows her to experiment freely with elements of the Arboretum landscape that most engage her artist's eye. Join Nancy for an opening reception on February 21 from 1-3pm, and view the Invented Landscape through May 29.

    Plant Spotlight on Acer griseum

    Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) from China is quite conspicuous in the winter landscape, with exfoliating bark that lifts and curls in thin, paper-like sections to expose rich shades of cinnamon, orange, and brown. The Arboretum's paperbark maples are not only beautiful, but two trees were collected by renowned plant explorer E. H. Wilson in China's Hubei Province in 1907, and are the oldest individuals of the species in North America. Visit one on Bussey Hill in the Explorers Garden, and the other (pictured) on the edge of the maple collection overlooking the Bradley Rose Garden. Find out more this month in our Visitor Center, or download an activity guide to explore on your own.

    All images from the Arnold Arboretum Archives except Rachel Sussman photograph by Laura Holder and Phoebe Cohen photograph courtesy of Williams College.

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    Document Seasonal Cycles with Nature's Notebook

    Walk down Meadow Road this month and you can't miss the awakening of one of the Arboretum's earliest bloomers: a large Ozark witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) near Dawson Pond is currently unfurling its yellow to dark red, ribbon-like petals despite the cold and snow. If you enjoy looking for seasonal changes in plants and animals (phenology) on your Arboretum visits, you can contribute to science as an observer for Nature's Notebook. A national, online project of the USA National Phenology Network, the program invites both amateur and professional naturalists to record observations of events like flowering, leafing-out, and bird migrations to generate long-term data for scientific discovery and decision-making. Emerging as an invaluable tool for tracking the impacts of climate change, Nature's Notebook aims to collect some 1.5 million observations from the public in 2015, to aid the critical investigations of climate scientists like Lizzie Wolkovich at the Arboretum. Sign up today and contribute to our understanding of how nature is responding to a warming planet.

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