On Thursday morning, I headed straight to the Arboretum to see the damage done by an intense microburst that hit just before six the previous evening. That night, it seemed like a peaceful light rain was all that was on order. But, as I watched from my window, the storm suddenly intensified and lightning bolts descended from the skies just above the Arboretum, heavy rain flying sideways. Ten minutes later, it was over and the damage was significant. A magnificent healthy 80-year old pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis22641*A) came crashing down on Valley Road, literally yanked out of the ground with its roots. Two old and gnarled willows were leveled in the North Meadow, cracked at their heavily rotted bases (Salix x rubens199-80*A and Salix x sepulcralis528-33*B). An 1889 hybrid of shingle oak on Bussey Hill (Quercus x exacta3673*B) took a direct hit to its venerable crown. An 1891 dimplecone fir (Abies homolepis var. umbellata12417*B) on Peters Hill was sheered some 40 feet up, leaving only the straight trunk. Looking up into the oaks, plenty of large branches were still dangling from the canopies. 

Of course, the Arboretum’s horticultural team and four arborists mobilized immediately, and now just the stump of the pecan tree remains.  Wood chips are piling up in our old rock quarry, soon to be reborn on the grounds as new trails. And Thursday morning could not have been more beautiful. The highlight for me was the Schlesinger red maple, Acer rubrum ‘Schlesingeri’, a cultivar introduced by the Arnold Arboretum more than a century ago. It was at its glorious peak (as was a precocious female ginkgo tree in full gold on Peters Hill, 1115-89*D).

Schlesinger maple leaves at the Arnold Arboretum

The Schlesinger red maple foretells peak red maple season. It develops fall colors a few weeks ahead of its kin and never fails to put on an amazing run of vibrant reds, often starkly sectored with obstinate patches of green (lower left, 408-91*A). Eventually, all green must go, and even most of the red (lower right, 361-2008*A). Of course, the rest of the red maples will catch up and with the sun aglow in the coming weeks, will put on an amazing show, just as one wild-collected red maple off of Willow Path did for me back in 2016 (upper image, 207-2005*B).

To read up on the fascinating and very local discovery of the Schlesinger red maple, head here.

From “free” to “friend”…

Established in 1911 as the Bulletin of Popular Information, Arnoldia has long been a definitive forum for conversations about temperate woody plants and their landscapes. In 2022, we rolled out a new vision for the magazine as a vigorous forum for tales of plant exploration, behind-the-scenes glimpses of botanical research, and deep dives into the history of gardens, landscapes, and science. The new Arnoldia includes poetry, visual art, and literary essays, following the human imagination wherever it entangles with trees.

It takes resources to gather and nurture these new voices, and we depend on the support of our member-subscribers to make it possible. But membership means more: by becoming a member of the Arnold Arboretum, you help to keep our collection vibrant and our research and educational mission active. Through the pages of Arnoldia, you can take part in the life of this free-to-all landscape whether you live next door or an ocean away.

For more tree-entangled art, science, and writing, subscribe to Arnoldia by becoming a member of the Arnold Arboretum.