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Keeper's Tour

Take a walk with Michael Dosmann, the Keeper of the Arboretum’s Living Collections. Click here to see this tour on Arb Explorer.

We suggest starting from the Arborway Gate.

  • 90 mins
  • Medium
  • 1.5 miles
1

Paperbark Maple

Acer griseum

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
146-2008*A
Sapindaceae
Acer griseum
SC - LINEAGE 767-94 - 1994
-
2008
Z - INDIRECT WILD ORIGIN -
CHINA - NACPEC '94 WD172
NACPEC HUBEI EXPD. '94
Paperbark Maple
3-NW
Paperbark Maple in the Hunnewell Building landscape.
  • Copper-colored bark.
    Copper-colored bark.
  • Compound leaves with three leaflets.
    Compound leaves with three leaflets.
  • Winged seeds, known as samaras.
    Winged seeds, known as samaras.

The Arnold Arboretum is a place where storied plants gather.

From the steps of the Hunnewell Building, to as far as you can see, grows a myriad of plants, living museum specimens, each with a unique story to tell. Interplay of plant and story, of object and information, is central to the Arboretum’s mission. As Keeper of the Living Collections, I am charged with stewarding this assembly of plants, collections of lore. On this tour, I’ll share stories of just a few of the plants that make up the Arnold Arboretum’s legacy.

Not far away grows a paperbark maple (Acer griseum) from the mountains of China, with its coppery bark flaking like cinnamon. It may be rare in nature, but is common to horticulture. The tree is surrounded by a mass of the herbaceous bluestar (Amsonia hubrechtii) that I collected in Arkansas in 2014. This bundle of feathery leaves gleam yellow in autumn, though the soft blue springtime blooms give it its common name. There is also ‘Gus Melquist’, a ground covering sand cherry (Prunus depressa) the Arboretum introduced to horticulture because the white carpet of spring flowers and fiery red autumn leaves should grace any garden. Viburnums and witchalders, magnolias and more maples also grow nearby. Each is a testament to its origin, or provenance, as well as its potential to inspire in this Arboretum landscape.

Want to dig deeper?
Explore the Paperbark Maple Plant Bio

Photos

|
  • 1 A closeup of the male flowers of the paperbark maple. They're light green, hang pointing down, with small leaves
    Male and female flowers.
  • 2
    Developing fruits.
  • 3 Emerging leaves of paperbark maple (Acer griseum)
    Breaking leaf buds.
  • 4 Autumn foliage of the paperbark maple is bright red
    Autumn foliage.
2

Mongolian Linden

Tilia mongolica

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
648-2010*A
Malvaceae
Tilia mongolica
SD - LINEAGE 648-2010 - 2010
-
2010
W - WILD ORIGIN - CHINA -
AIELLO, A. S., DOSMANN, M.,
WANG, K. NACPEC10-036
NACPEC SHAANXI, HEBEI, AND BEIJING PLANT EXPED. TRIP 2010
Mongolian Linden
4-SE
Young Mongolian linden in summer.
  • Newly emerged leaf with reddish hue.
    Newly emerged leaf with reddish hue.
  • Heart-shaped leaves along young stem.
    Heart-shaped leaves along young stem.
  • Small white flowers and flower buds.
    Small white flowers and flower buds.

Even old, established collections experience change and new plantings.

This spot illustrates that the Arboretum always changes, how in a timeworn linden collection, old trees give way to new. Sometimes, a storm topples a tree, and in other instances we remove because a replacement at the ready is of greater value, has a new story to tell. This Mongolian linden (Tilia mongolica), planted in 2016, grew from seed I collected with colleagues on a NACPEC (North America China Plant Exploration Consortium) expedition to Hebei, China. Already, it shows great promise to become an attractive and vigorous landscape tree, bearing bright golden-yellow autumn leaves. It also has a wealth of data we collected in the field that hot, dry day in 2010: photographs of the mother plant, the site’s coordinates and elevation, type of habitat and soil, even a list of nearby plant species. Judging by its growth rate, this tree will soon look like it has always been here.

Photos

|
  • 1 Leaves of Mongolian Linden
    Young leaves.
  • 2 Green leaf of Mongolian linden
    Underside of young leaf.
  • 3 Mature Mongolian Linden
    Trunk of mature Mongolian Linden.
3

Forked Viburnum

Viburnum furcatum

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
17988*B
Adoxaceae
Viburnum furcatum
PT - LINEAGE 17988 - 1915
-
1915
W - WILD ORIGIN - JAPAN -
WILSON, E. H. 7093
E. H. WILSON, ARNOLD ARB.
Forked Viburnum
11-SW
Forked Viburnum with summer foliage.
  • Large simple leaf.
    Large simple leaf.
  • Scale-less dormant bud in winter.
    Scale-less dormant bud in winter.
  • Large disc-shaped white flower.
    Large disc-shaped white flower.

The Arboretum is one big family reunion.

In this area we grow species that require moist soil conditions, including this trio of forked viburnum (Viburnum furcatum) collected by Ernest Wilson in Japan a century ago. Their large, rounded leaves and early spring clusters of white flowers are strikingly like the hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides), native to the eastern part of North America. In fact, on either side of the Japanese species we’ve planted several of its American cousin. Can you tell them apart? Their close relatedness is an example of one of the richest stories at the Arboretum, that of biogeography or the study of how species (particularly closely related ones) are now distributed across the globe. In the Arboretum, a cultivated family reunion, cousins from a hemisphere away now grow side-by-side. We not only can share stories about them, but also learn more – write new stories if you will – about their biology through research.

Photos

|
  • 1 Large breaking bud of Forked Viburnum
    Large breaking bud.
  • 2 Flowers of Forked Viburnum
    Open flowers and leaves.
  • 3 Forking stem of Forked Viburnum
    Forking stem.
4

Paperbark Filbert

Corylus fargesii

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
3-98*A
Betulaceae
Corylus fargesii
PT - LINEAGE 3-98 - 1998
-
1998
W - WILD ORIGIN - CHINA -
LEWANDOWSKI, R., CONRAD,
K., AULT, J., KIM, K., CUI, T. QLG231
MORRIS ARBORETUM, PA
ORIG FROM NACPEC SHAANXI EXPD. '96
Paperbark Filbert
22-NW
Mature plant showing pyramidal form.
  • Simple leaves with serrated edges.
    Simple leaves with serrated edges.
  • Pale flaking bark.
    Pale flaking bark.
  • Mature multi-stemmed trunk.
    Mature multi-stemmed trunk.

A new garden tree from the wild.

Nature possesses rich diversity with new things to learn around every bend, like finding plants of merit for the garden or managed landscape. This paperbark filbert (Corylus fargesii) is a tree recently brought into cultivation in North America, collected first in 1996 in China by colleagues representing NACPEC who shared seedlings with the Arboretum (including this one). The species has many attributes, and I am particularly drawn to its upright-to-pyramidal form and beautiful flaking bark. After several decades of horticultural evaluation by NACPEC, and distribution to nurseries, it is now finding its way into the home landscape. The filbert was collected on two additional NACPEC expeditions, including one I was on in 2015. I cannot wait to see how trees from all three trips perform in the Arboretum collections in the years to come.

Photos

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  • 1 Corylus fargesii 3-98*A
    Mature leaf-less tree in winter.
  • 2 Corylus fargesii 3-98*A
    Dormant male catkins.
  • 3 Corylus fargesii 3-98*A
    Delicate flaking bark.
  • 4 Corylus fargesii 3-98*A
    Multi-stemmed trunk with foliage.
5

Cultivar of Forsythia

Forsythia 'Meadowlark'

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
273-2002*A
Oleaceae
Forsythia 'Meadowlark'
DV - LINEAGE 844-35 - 1935
-
2002
G - CULTIVATED ORIGIN
UNIV. OF NORTH DAKOTA
ORIG FROM HAIG DERMEN, ARNOLD ARB.
Cultivar of Forsythia
21-SE
Mature plant with summer foliage.
  • Breaking flower buds.
    Breaking flower buds.
  • Bright yellow flowers with four petals.
    Bright yellow flowers with four petals.
  • Simple leaves with serrated edges.
    Simple leaves with serrated edges.

Selecting a cultivar sometimes takes many decades.

Cultivated varieties, or cultivars, find their way into gardens for many reasons, like brighter flower color or better growth form. Tolerance to environmental extremes, particularly low temperature, is another important trait. Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’ was introduced in 1984 by the Arnold Arboretum because its flower buds can withstand wickedly frigid temperatures of at least -35F! Harrison Flint (then on staff) discovered the plant’s resilience after the winter of 1966/67, when most other Forsythia blooms in the collection were killed. The plant in question grew near where you stand and was a hybrid crossed by Karl Sax (Harvard Professor and later Arboretum Director) in 1935. It escaped notice and interest until that fateful winter revealed its special value. Interestingly, one of the hybrid’s parents was Forsythia ovata, and had been collected by Ernest Wilson in 1918 from Mt. Kumgang on the Korean Peninsula. Sometimes, it takes not just time, but many people, to introduce a good plant.

Photos

|
  • 1 Flowers of Forsythia 'Meadowlark'
    Bright yellow flowers emerge in early spring.
  • 2 Forsythia 'Meadowlark'
    Leafless plant in bloom.
  • 3 Leaves of Forsythia 'Meadowlark'
    Silhouette of simple leaves.
6

White Ash

Fraxinus americana

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
552-2009*A
Oleaceae
Fraxinus americana
SD - LINEAGE 552-2009 - 2009
-
2009
W - WILD ORIGIN - UNITED
STATES - DOSMANN, M.
M.S. DOSMANN, ARNOLD ARB.
White Ash
27-NE
Young tree with summer foliage.
  • Trunk with opposite branch arrangement.
    Trunk with opposite branch arrangement.
  • Winged seeds.
    Winged seeds.
  • Developing terminal bud.
    Developing terminal bud.

Introduced insects may threaten our plants, but we intervene to collect before it is too late.

In 2002, emerald ash borer was discovered in Detroit. Since then, this insect from east Asia has spread across much of North America, devasting our native ash trees such that they are now threatened with extinction. In 2014, the borer reached Boston and the Arboretum. Luckily, ash seed can be preserved for decades or longer if kept in cold, dry conditions, and we have collaborated with the USDA to collect and conserve seed from populations before they blink out. The Arboretum also grows and preserves a few individuals of different ash species to be used for study, teaching, and storytelling. I collected the seed that became this American ash tree near the homestead of Vermont Senator Justin Smith Morrill, who authored the Acts of 1862 and 1890 establishing public Land Grant Universities and several Historically Black Colleges and Universities. I wonder if Morrill walked below this young tree’s great-grandmother?

Photos

|
  • 1 Stems of American Ash
    Opposite arrangement of young branches.
  • 2 Fall foliage of American Ash
    Autumn leaf color.
  • 3 Stems of American Ash in fall color
    Tree profile in autumn color.
7

Hydrangea longipes

Hydrangea longipes

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
640-2010*D
Hydrangeaceae
Hydrangea longipes
SD - LINEAGE 640-2010 - 2010
-
2010
W - WILD ORIGIN - CHINA -
AIELLO, A. S., DOSMANN, M.,
WANG, K. NACPEC10-013
Hydrangea longipes
EG-13
Young plant with summer foliage.
  • Large leaves in opposite arrangement.
    Large leaves in opposite arrangement.
  • Delicate white sterile florets.
    Delicate white sterile florets.

If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying!

Some species grow on the first attempt, others require multiple introductions. That seems the case with Hydrangea longipes, a rarely cultivated, beautiful summer-flowering shrub from central China. For almost a century, we have tried to grow it, but most plants resisted cultivation at an early stage, rarely surviving a few winters. In 2010 colleagues and I collected seed from two populations in Shaanxi Province in the moist understory at about 2000 m (6500 ft) in elevation. Interestingly, colleagues had collected the species just a few years before from the same mountain, but about 500 m (1600 ft) lower in elevation. The earlier plants failed to survive at the Arboretum, but so far plants from our 2010 introduction have. Perhaps our collection, just a bit higher up the mountain, lent them additional cold hardiness. Or maybe it was just luck. Regardless, I’m glad we made the multiple attempts!

Photos

|
  • 1 Flowers of Hydrangea longipes
    Large, disc shape inforescences.
  • 2 Hydrangea longipes white florets
    Delicate white sterile florets.
  • 3 Hydrangea longipes drid seedheads
    Dried seeds heads.
8

Katsura Tree

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
368-2016*A
Cercidiphyllaceae
Cercidiphyllum japonicum
SC - LINEAGE 12-2007 - 2007
-
2016
Z - INDIRECT WILD ORIGIN -
CHINA - DOSMANN, M., GRAVES, W.R.
M.S. DOSMANN, ARNOLD ARB.
ORIG FROM M.S. DOSMANN, IOWA ST.
Katsura Tree
EG-4
Young plant with summer foliage.
  • New leaves appear with a reddish tint.
    New leaves appear with a reddish tint.
  • New simple leaves with serrated margin.
    New simple leaves with serrated margin.
  • Furrowed mature bark and multipe trunks.
    Furrowed mature bark and multipe trunks.

Sometimes it is about the individual plant, and sometimes it is about the grove.

This path is home to a young, small grove of katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), a tree from China and Japan that I have spent over 20 years studying. I find the heart-shaped leaves a treat, emerging reddish in spring, darkening to blue green by summer, and then sparkling a rich tapestry of gold and apricot in autumn. And, just before they drop, those leaves emit the sweet smell of burnt brown sugar. This tree as well as nearby accessions are clones of one I collected in Shaanxi Province on my first expedition to China in 1999; another was collected by colleagues in Gansu Province further west in 2005. In nature, katsura are often found anchoring hillsides, so we have placed them here to replicate their habitat in the wild. In time, I hope the grove will provide an immersive experience and perhaps for a moment, transport visitors to a mountain in central China.

Photos

|
  • 1 Male flowers of Cercidiphyllum japonicum
    Male inflorescence just opening.
  • 2 Female flowers of Cercidiphyllum japonicum
    Female inforescence opening with pronounced stigmas.
  • 3 Seed pods of Cercidiphyllum japonicum
    Dried seed pods line a branch of a female tree.
  • 4 Yellow gold fall foliage of Katsura
    Golden fall foliage emits a sugary scent.
9

White Oak

Quercus alba

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
22886*B
Fagaceae
Quercus alba
EX - EXISTING PLANT,
-
1950
AGE PREDATES RECORD
LINEAGE 22886 - 1950
U - UNCERTAIN ORIGIN UNKNOWN
White Oak
32-SW
Mature profile during summer.
  • Dormant buds.
    Dormant buds.
  • Green lobed leaves.
    Green lobed leaves.
  • Rough mature bark.
    Rough mature bark.
  • Developing acorn.
    Developing acorn.

A few white oaks have seen it all, and then some.

The Arboretum has changed dramatically since its 1872 founding, when an old farm started to become what you see today. To assemble collections, plant explorers sought seeds from far away lands, while horticulturists scrutinized commercial nurseries for novelties. Some 17,000 plants grow in the collections today, while another 70,000 have come and gone. And as all this transpired, a half-dozen or so white oaks (Quercus alba) like this one watched. These stalwart specimens date to the early 1800s, and are memories of the old fencerows, farm fields, and woodlots of colonial New England. As accessioned plants, they are given expert arboricultural care, digitally mapped and databased, and routinely measured and monitored. In reality, however, the white oaks are the ones doing the monitoring. They have witnessed much in over 200 years, and I wonder just what they will see in the decades and hopefully centuries to come.

Photos

|
  • 1 Emerging male inflorescences and leaves of Quercus alba
    Male pollen-bearing inflorescences emerge with new leaves in spring.
  • 2 Trunk of Quercus alba
    Trunk with summer foliage.
  • 3 Autumn leaves of Quercus alba
    Copper-colored autumn foliage.
  • 4 Dried leaves of Quercus alba
    Dried leaves are sometimes retained over winter.
  • 5 Germinating acorns of Quercus alba
    Acorns germinate soon after falling.
10

Regal Lily

Lilium regale

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
407-2017*MASS-A
Liliaceae
Lilium regale
SD - LINEAGE 407-2017 - 2017
-
2017
Z - INDIRECT WILD ORIGIN -
CHINA - XINFEN GAO
NACPEC17-039
NACPEC 2017
Regal Lily
31-NE
The stunning flowers of Regal Lily.
  • Prominent, pollen-covered anthers surround a stigma.
    Prominent, pollen-covered anthers surround a stigma.
  • Slender leaves arranged around a stem.
    Slender leaves arranged around a stem.

The Arboretum grows woody plants, with the occasional exception...

At the time of its founding, the Arboretum’s original collections policy included herbaceous plants. However, founding director Charles Sargent quickly winnowed the scope to focus upon woody plants. This meant that China’s regal lily (Lilium regale), which Ernest Wilson proudly collected and named, after what proved a nearly life-ending expedition, was not accessioned when introduced in 1911: a lily is not a tree or a shrub, after all. But the species captivated me one June day in 2014 when I saw the ivory-white blooms adorning the cliffs above Sichuan’s Min River. The Arboretum needed plants, and in 2017 we were gifted seeds from Xinfen Gao of the Chengdu Institute of Biology, from plants she collected in the wild. I hope that Wilson’s ghost is pleased by their parade of flowers, and that Sargent’s understands why we planted them.

Photos

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  • 1 Opening flower of Lilium regale
    Slender, colorful flower buds elongate before opening.
  • 2
    The blossom opens gracefully.
  • 3 Flower of Lilium regale
    A warm blush of yellow illuminates the flower's interior.
  • 4 Flower of Lilium regale
    Stunning blooms open fully in June.
11

Persian Ironwood

Parrotia persica

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
2230*A
Hamamelidaceae
Parrotia persica
CT - LINEAGE 2230 - 1881
-
1881
G - CULTIVATED ORIGIN
HARVARD BOT. GDN., MA
Persian Ironwood
24-NE
Mature Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) with summer foliage.
  • Simple leaves show wavy margins.
    Simple leaves show wavy margins.
  • Mottled gray bark.
    Mottled gray bark.
  • Brilliant red flowers open in late winter.
    Brilliant red flowers open in late winter.

The gift of a plant is a powerful thing, and that is why we give them.

This Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica) is one of the largest known in cultivation, and is also one of the oldest plants in the Arboretum’s collections. It was a gift from the Harvard Botanic Garden in 1881, arriving in December of that year. Propagator Jackson Dawson coaxed the rootless stems to flourish, and soon thereafter this individual was planted among others in its family. Beyond the size, its mottled bark and striking autumn leaf color always stop me in my tracks. Its source–the University’s now-vanished, on-campus garden–reminds me of the generosity of public gardens in sharing plant material with one another and with scholars. The Arboretum maintains that tradition, providing plant material and plant knowledge to researchers, teachers, and visitors the world over.

Photos

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  • 1 Flower buds Parrotia persica
    Flower buds with brown felt-like exterior.
  • 2 Flowers of Parrotia persica
    Small but striking flowers open.
  • 3 Fluted trunk of Mottled gray bark of Parrotia persica showing mottled bark
    A powerful trunk showing mottle bark.
  • 4 Trunks of Parrotia persica
    Three co-dominant trunks of accession 2230*A.
  • 5 Parrotia persica in fall color
    Fall foliage seen from a distance.
  • 6 Fall color of Parrotia persica
    Brilliant fall color in reds and yellows.
12

Paperbark Maple

Acer griseum

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
Location
The location of the plant on the landscape.
Hover to Learn More
18148*C
Sapindaceae
Acer griseum
LR - LINEAGE 18148 - 1925
-
1925
Z - INDIRECT WILD ORIGIN -
CHINA - WILSON, E. H. 1883
T. A. HAVEMEYER, NY
Paperbark Maple
13-NE
Graceful profile of mature Acer griseum.
  • Compound leaves with three leaflets each
    Compound leaves with three leaflets each
  • Recently fallen winged seeds (samaras).
    Recently fallen winged seeds (samaras).

A grove to celebrate an endearing, beautiful, and rare tree species.

We began near a young paperbark maple, and end below the canopy of another that arrived in 1925. This tree is a clone of one collected in 1901 in China as seed by Wilson when he worked for Veitch Nursery. He collected this species again–as two seedlings–for the Arboretum in 1907 (you may have passed one of those two trees in the Explorers Garden). Almost a century would pass before it was collected again during a NACPEC expedition in 1994, with Arboretum scientist Peter Del Tredici participating. Over 20% of Earth’s plant species, including this one, are threatened with extinction, and in 2015 I participated on a NACPEC expedition focused entirely on the conservation of this imperiled species. You’ll see a number of young maples planted nearby, and room in the landscape for even more. This grove will eventually contain every lineage known in cultivation, a stark reminder of the threat faced by many species, and the critical role that gardens and arboreta play in their preservation.

Photos

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  • 1 Peeling bark of Acer griseum
    Characteristic peeling bark.
  • 2 Foliage and winged seeds of Acer griseum
    Foliage and winged seeds.
  • 3 Profile of mature Acer griseum
    Mature profile in summer.