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Washington Park Arboretum
Center for Urban Horticulture

Kids and Family Programs

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Family Fun

2014 Park in the Dark Dates

Night time is special at the Arboretum – the people and cars are gone, and the nocturnal animals move about. Night hikes are a chance for us to explore our senses, search for crepuscular and nocturnal movements in the forest and learn about night-related animal adaptations. Programs are designed for families with children aged 5-12. Meet at the Graham Visitors Center and BYOF (Bring Your Own Flashlight!)
Hikes are always from 8-9:30pm on the Saturday nights listed below:

2014 Summer DatesNight Hike Image

  • June 28 (New Moon)
  • July 12 (Full Moon)
  • July 26 (New Moon)
  • August 9 (Full Moon)
  • August 23 (New Moon)

Cost is $8 per person
Register online or call 206-685-8033

Pre-registration is required. This allows our instructor to properly plan and prepare for each class so that you and your family can get the most out of it. Drop-ins are not accepted.

Posted on 23 June 2014 | 3:09 pm

Weekend Walks

The Empress Tree is blooming

paulowniaflowerPaulownia tomentosa, Common name Empress Tree

Right now this tree’s large purple panicled flowers, which look similar to foxglove flowers, are blooming and the scent is wonderful. There are several in the UWBG collection, most located at the North end of the park where the wetlands trail begins.

It is a very fast growing tree that can reach 80 ft. in height, and is prized for its large heart-shaped fuzzy leaves. The large size of young growth can be enhanced if the tree is pollarded yearly; the pruning encourages growth of leaves up to 16” across.

It is classified as an invasive plant in the Southern United States, where it sends out invasive roots and can take over the area it is planted in. The Paulownia here in the Pacific Northwest do not behave invasively, probably due to our cooler climate.

The name Paulownia is in honor of the Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, with tomentosa being derived from the Latin meaning ‘covered in hairs’.

Paulownia is cultivated as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens. It has earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

In its native China, an old custom is to plant an Empress Tree when a baby girl is born. The fast-growing tree matures when she does. When she is eligible for marriage the tree is cut down and carved into wooden articles for her dowry. Carving the wood of Paulownia is an art form in Japan and China. In legend, it is said that the phoenix will only land on the Empress Tree and only when a good ruler is in power. Several Asian string instruments are made from P. tomentosa, including the Japanese koto and Korean gayageum zithers.

paulownialeaf

Posted on 4 May 2014 | 10:56 am

BioBlitz

Bioblitz 2013 – What’s hatching in the Arboretum?

Northwestern Salamander eggs discovered by our guest herpetologists from the PNW Herpetological Society.

Northwestern Salamander eggs discovered by our guest herpetologists from the PNW Herpetological Society.

May is a vibrant month at the UWBG’s Washington Park Arboretum.  The show that the Olmstead Bros. firm had in mind when they designed Azalea Way back in the 1920′s reaches maximum glory as fading cherry blossoms hand over the reins to innumerable phonograph-shaped blooms that wall the 1/2 mile promenade.  It’s easy to be swept up in the colors and scents of spring, so gaudy and distracting, but there is vibrancy beyond the blooms as well.  The soil has reached a consistent warmth, the night time air has lost its bite and everywhere is teaming with insects.  They’ve timed their reappearance perfectly with the lime-green growth in the park, as have the bats, birds and frogs to eat them.  What better time to hold a bioblitz.

 May 10th/11th marked our third full-on blitz, and our second spring-time one.  (We’re on an 18-month spring/fall cycle).  The inaugural UWBG Bioblitz took place around this same time of year in 2010 and focused on the north end, Foster Island.  Our focus this time was on the middle third of our 230 acres – the heart of our “native matrix”.

The "green zone".

The “green zone”.

Jenni Cena & Liam Stacey, guest entomologists, examine a catch

Jenni Cena & Liam Stacey, guest entomologists, examine a catch

Declaring a focal area is pretty arbitrary speaking to birders and mammal trackers – they cover as much territory as their quarry.  For the entomologists I tagged along with during the first taxa team shift on Friday afternoon, however, we’d hardly left the greenhouse before the Siren’s song crashed us on a grove of cedars to pick and dig and shake and catch.  They indulged and in the process trained their few citizen-scientist tagalongs, and then I pried them away to plunk them in the “green zone”, a 200,000 sq. ft. square in the middle third.  We made it through about 1.5 of the 100′ x 100′ grid squares on our map.

 

Greg Vargas and other UW students use clinometers to approximate the height of a large redcedar in our "Native Matrix"

Greg Vargas and other UW students use clinometers to approximate the height of a large redcedar in our “Native Matrix”

The plant team was moving at a similar pace because this year we decided to do something a little different.  The WPA has within it’s collection around 10,400 specimens.  We have information on all of them, information like where they came from, when they were planted, by whom, etc.  Also within the WPA, however, are acres of more or less natural areas, our “native matrix” comprised of big old native trees that regrew from seed after the site was last harvested in 1896.  About these trees, we have very little information.

So for bioblitz, we teamed up with Lisa Ceicko from Forterra to begin an inventory of our native trees using i-Tree protocols.  I-Tree is a program that when you enter in some basic data like tree type, diameter, height, etc., it spits out numbers representing various ecosystem services that a given tree is providing.  King County (also with Lisa’s help) is in the midst of completing their Integrated Urban Forest Assessment aimed to determine how much carbon is being sequestered, air/water  being purified, habitat provided, etc. by Seattle’s trees using the same program.  We aim to do the same with our big old natives.  During Bioblitz, we made it through almost three grid squares…only 592 more to go.

After that first shift it was time for dinner and a lecture with this year’s guest speaker, Paul Bannick.  If you haven’t seen Paul speak, you should, but regardless, you’ve ever opened up a bird book, you’ve probably seen his photographs as his work is featured in all the good ones.  His book, The Owl & the Woodpecker, inspired a traveling exhibit created by the Burke Museum and he’s won a couple really big awards over the past few years, one from Audubon Magazine the other from Canon.  His talk and slideshow focused on owls, and gave those in attendance a glimpse into his next book.  It was both fascinating and beautiful.

Paul Bannick's talk was filled with extraordinary shots like this one.

Michelle Noe of Bats Northwest, shares her passion for these misunderstood creatures of the night

Michelle Noe of Bats Northwest, shares her passion for these misunderstood creatures of the night

After the talk, half of the next taxa team shift focused on owls as well, the other half, bats.  There lives within the WPA a pair of resident Barred Owls.  They’ve been seen here consistently for the past several years and they’ve reared several successful broods.  It’s nesting season right now, and we know where they’re nesting.  Despite all this, however, the owl team got skunked.  Not even a “who cooks for you”.  The bat team, on the other hand, led by members from Bats Northwest, fared much better.  With their sonar equipment, they recorded hundreds if not thousands of these misunderstood echo-locators, mostly Silver-haired Bats.  I learned that there are 15 bat species in Washington State, 13 of whom live west of the Cascades.  We fear bats for their blood-sucking reputation, yet only 3 species worldwide actually suck blood, and two of those target birds.  Ironically, without bats, we’d lose countless more blood to mosquitoes.  Bats eat 40% of their body weight in insects per night, and as an added bonus they help pollinate night blooming flowers (such as agave for making tequila).

Saturday started with some early morning bird teams (one by land and one by kayaks provided by Agua Verde Paddle Club), a plant team and a mammal tracking team.  The kayakers were happy to see a Spotted Sandpiper as well as a Pied Billed Grebe nest floating on some lily pads.  The land-lubbers were happy to see the owls.  The tracker, Linda Bittle from the Wilderness Awareness School, was just happy to be out of the office.  The day continued with more of the same plus a couple spider team outings with Rod Crawford and one lonely mushroom team.  Sunny springs can be tough on mushrooms and there were several great events competing for mushroom folk attention – a lecture from local legend Paul Stamets Friday night, and Mushroom Mania at the Burke.  We look forward to another fungus-blitz this fall to give this taxa its deserved attention.  And we look forward to continuing our bioblitz tradition for many years to come.  We hope to see you at the next one, and in the meantime, we’ll be doing what we can from a management perspective to sustain and increase the biodiversity in this gem of the Emerald City.

A stinkhorn fungus discovered by our mushroom taxa team Saturday afternoon.

A stinkhorn fungus discovered by our mushroom taxa team Saturday afternoon.

Jonathan Goff and Mallory Clarke from the Cascade Mammal Trackers examine tracks in a tunnel under the Broadmore fence.

Jonathan Goff and Mallory Clarke from the Cascade Mammal Trackers examine tracks in a tunnel under the Broadmore fence.


Posted on 15 May 2013 | 11:42 am

All family programs we offer ...

The Elisabeth C. Miller Library has a Children’s Collection of 400 nonfiction and fiction books on gardening, botany, and science projects. The Miller Library hosts Story Programs once a month.

Washington Park Arboretum has 230 acres of landscaped gardens, natural areas, and wetlands, plus a world-class collection of 10,000 trees, shrubs, and other plants—plenty of material for wide-eyed, hands-on learning! Add enthusiastic, knowledgeable educators or loaner backpacks filled with field guides, magnifiers and activities, and you've got all the makings of experiences that will intrigue students of all ages while stretching their minds and legs.

For self-guided adventures, check out the Explorer Packs for groups of up to 15 students K-6th or our Family Adventure Packs. For guided adventures, our School Fieldtrips provide hands-on, inquiry-based explorations of Washington Park Arboretum’s 230 acres of woodlands, wetlands and trails, and are aligned with Washington State Standards of Learning (WASLs).

The UW Botanic Gardens is also committed to providing opportunities for teens and young adults to gain valuable skills and practical knowledge while providing service to UWBG. See GROW Program.

 


Last modified:
June 10 2014 15:46:42