This is the time of year at the Arnold Arboretum’s Dana Greenhouses when a lot of seed is exiting the stratification cooler. This year is no exception, especially since the Arboretum was involved in two collecting trips in the fall of 2019. With all this seed finishing cold treatments and with some going through a second round, a boom of germination occurs and the seedling house is full of new individuals. It’s a happy time when these seedlings are able to graduate to their own pots! An important step is getting this milestone documented in our collections database (BG-BASE); this is performed by the curatorial staff.

Among these plants is Magnolia obovata, 405-2019*A, up-potted (transferred to a larger container) by greenhouse staff about two weeks ago. It is commonly referred to as whiteleaf Japanese magnolia. These seedlings come from seed the Arboretum wild-collected in Japan during the 2019 Plant Collecting Collaborative expedition in Honshu, and are among thirty accessions collected on this trip. Alongside the magnolia at the greenhouses is Halesia tetraptera, 289-2018*A, another plant of wild origin but from the United States. Commonly known as Carolina silverbell, the seeds for these babies were collected in Arkansas in October 2018. Even though these two seed lots were collected nearly a year apart, they germinated at similar times, and were up-potted on the same day in late March.

Normally, a weekly visit is made by curation staff to check for newly potted seedlings at the Dana Greenhouses and create their first records. Since the curatorial department is working from home, bi-weekly videos showing the seedlings’ condition and numbers are sent to staff members that would normally perform these checks. This is a very important form of secondary documentation here at the Arnold Arboretum, and this new workflow helps to get the job done.

A unique plant you may not have heard of, Thujopsis dolabrata, or Hiba false-arborvitae, is easily recognizable even as a seedling. The foliage is very distinct. This is 410-2019*A, another collection from the 2019 Honshu Expedition. It germinated very quickly, and has grown quite a lot since being potted in December. Its name is also very fun to say!

Thujopsis dolabrata
Thujopsis dolabrata, or Hiba false-arborvitae, is easily recognizable, even as a seedling. These individuals were grown from seed collected in Honshu, Japan last fall.

Some particularly vigorous seedlings are Aesculus glabra, 318-2019*A, the Ohio buckeye. During weekly checks it seemed as these seedlings were growing before my eyes. The first we saw these large-seeded plants was just days after germination, still in their seed flat with palmate leaves unfurled. Only a week later (see above), these seedlings are in new pots and look so robust! This lot of seed was collected in Kentucky during the NACPEC North America 2019 Expedition.

Though the curatorial staff cannot be on site at this time, the seed and seedlings will not wait for us to return. Workarounds to continue our critical functions as curators have been innovative, and to date, we have completed all first field checks (virtually!) of newly potted seedlings.

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.

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