November Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum
(Part II)

November 28th, 2011 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

1)  Cupressus arizonica var. montana   (San Pedro Martir Cypress) 

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for November 2011

Selected Cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (November 14 - 28, 2011)

  • This botanical variety of Arizona cypress grows at a high elevation in northern Baja California in
    the San Pedro Martir mountain range.
  • Has attractive bark and cones that open when ripe.
  • Listed as “vulnerable” in the IUCN red list.
  • Located in 2-6E, south end of Arboretum Drive along Broadmoor fence.

2)  Diospyros sp.  (Persimmon)

  • This small deciduous tree is laden w/ tiny edible berries.
  • Berries typically need frost to ripen and are astringent if unripe.
  • There are several Asian varieties that are sold in our local markets this time of year.
  • Located in 12-2W, north of Boyer parking lot.

3)  Magnolia virginiana   (Sweet Bay)

  • Coastal southeastern US semi-evergreen magnolia.
  • Small, scented white flowers in spring, hence its common name.
  • This specimen shows fruiting cones that have begun to split open exposing shiny red seeds.
  • Located in 27-2W, west of Azalea Way and north of Loderi Valley intersection.

4)  Osmanthus fragrans    (Fragrant Tea Olive)

  • Large evergreen shrub native to China.
  • Fragrant, small white flowers in fall are used to infuse green or black tea leaves, to create
    a scented tea called guì huā chá (桂花茶).
  • This specimen is located in the China entry garden of Pacific Connections Gardens, below
    interpretive shelter.

5)  Platycarya strobilacea

  • This walnut family member is a small deciduous tree native to Asia.
  • Female infloresence resemble a cone, as seen on this specimen.
  • Located in 30-4W, east toe of Yew Hill.

Fall Harvest Hunt

November 15th, 2011 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan


Fall is a magical time of year in the Washington Park Arboretum. The sun-breaks, though few and far between, cast a glow on the myriad shades of change as if looking through some sort of filter. The air is crisp and clear and smells like a fort built by small hands for big and imaginative reasons. Walking through the woods, trudging through the leaves sends one’s mind toward the snow to come. I happened upon a collection of families yesterday armed with rakes and aspirations to make the biggest leaf pile ever. Their shrieks of unbound enjoyment were music to my ears as they leaped and swam about – good clean fun at its finest. McDonald’s ball-pit, eat your heart out.

If you’re one of those families that likes to get outside and enjoy each others company in the company of trees and birds and squirrels, we’re making it easy for you. Come take part in our inaugural “Fall Harvest Hunt”, a self-guided scavenger hunt at the Arboretum. There will be 9 hidden gourds, each one possessing a secret letter. Pick up a clue sheet at the Graham Visitor’s Center to find all nine and crack the secret code. Then come back sometime during regular business hours to redeem your cracked code for a small prize. So if you’re looking for some good clean fun with the family this Thanksgiving, we’ve got you covered.


November 2011 Plant Profile: Acer griseum

November 13th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Fall color this autumn has been truly exceptional and this wonderful maple is no exception. Though more well known for it’s papery bark, Acer griseum is one of the most beloved landscape trees here in the Pacific Northwest. You see it more frequently these days as street trees and main specimen subjects in small urban gardens because of it’s slow-moderate growth rate.

Here it is just a few months ago. What makes this maple so distinct and easy identifiable is the bark, of course, but the foliage isn’t palmately dissected like the Japanese maples, but instead it’s a compound leaf with several leaflets.

Acer griseum fall color
Come fall, the foliage takes on a spectacular orange/red color that’s more pronounced when planted in full sun, but since this adaptable plant also thrives in part sun, the fall color is more yellow.

My friend Sean Barton with one of the largest specimens of Acer griseum I've ever seen at Bodnant Gardens in Wales, UK during a visit earlier this spring.

Common Name: Paperbark Maple
Family: Sapindaceae
Location: North of Merrill and NHS Hall
Origin: SW China
Height and spread: 18-20ft. high and 15-18ft. wide. Older specimens will ultimately reach 40-50ft.
Bloom Time: Early June
Bloom Type/Color/Fruit: Almost inconspicuous flowers appear in spring followed by dull green samaras appear in mid-summer.

Climate Change Impacts? Observe Cherry Tree Blossoms

November 9th, 2011 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin
UW Quad cherry tree

Photo by UW Photographer Kathy Sauber

UWBG professor, Soo-Hyung Kim, just published a paper in PLoS ONE that describes his study of the impact future climate change may have on the bloom dates of flowering cherries. The authors,  including Uran Chung, Liz Mack, Jin I. Yun, studied the cherry trees in Tidal Basin, Washington DC and the timing of the annual cherry festival. The cherry tree cultivars studied, Yoshino and Kwanzan, are the same cultivars growing on the UW campus campus (Quad: Yoshino, Rainer vista: Kwanzan). The authors state in the abstract:

“Our results demonstrate the potential impacts of climate change on the timing of cherry blossoms and illustrate the utility of a simple process-based phenology model for developing adaptation strategies to climate change in horticulture, conservation planning, restoration and other related disciplines.”

The full text of the paper is available on the PLoS website: Chung U, Mack L, Yun JI, Kim S-H. 2011. Predicting the timing of cherry blossoms in Washington, DC and Mid-Atlantic States in response to climate change. PLoS ONE 6, e27439.

November Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

November 7th, 2011 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

1) Callicarpa japonica   (Japanese beautyberry)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for November 2011

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (October 31 - November 14, 2011)

  • Native to Japan, the small metallic purple berries of this multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub are
    best viewed when the leaves have dropped beginning mid-to-late fall.
  • The berries are an important survival food for birds and other animals.
  • Beautyberry is just beginning to reflect its true glory in the Winter Garden.

2) Daphniphyllum macropodum

  • It is one of the most handsome evergreens for foliage effects.
  • Heat tolerant and remarkably cold-hardy, it is a distinguished addition to the Woodland Garden.
  • It prospers in shade in moist, well-drained soil and can grow 10′-12′ with equal spread.

3) Grevillea victoriae    (Royal grevillea)

  • The specific epithet victoriae was named for Queen Victoria.
  • Here in the Pacific Northwest, the flowers provide winter hummingbird food.
  • There are two Grevillea victoriae thriving in “Australia” in the Pacific Connections Garden.

4) Pyracantha rogersiana ‘Aurantiaca’    (Asian firethorn)

  • A spreading shrub with arching branches and small bright evergreen leaves.
  • White flowers in spring are followed by orange-red berries in fall.
  • Seeds may cause mild stomach upset if ingested.

5) Symphoricarpos albus    (White snowberry)

  • Snowberry is a lovely, deciduous sub shrub native to the Pacific Northwest.
  • Small, pink bell-like flowers appear in mid-spring and are much loved by hummingbirds.
  • The white berries have the size and consistency of mini marshmallows which are winter food for varied thrush.

One weekend, two dozen rare plant surveys

November 3rd, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

by Wendy Gibble [edited for the web; see complete article on page 3 of the Rare Plant Press]

Twenty-five volunteers, agency partners and Rare Care staff gathered in Klickitat County in mid-June to monitor known populations of rare plants in the Klickitat Wildlife Area, Conboy National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas. We knew from the outset that our survey plans had to be adjusted. Late wet spring conditions caused as much as a one-month delay in the onset of flowering for many species. We were too early to catch the long-bearded sego lily (Calochortus longebarbatus var. longebarbatus) in bloom. But we caught the tail end of Baker’s linanthus (Leptosiphon bolanderi), a tiny spring annual that normally blooms in April and May. Our timing was perfect for finding Pulsifer’s monkey-flower (Mimulus pulsiferae), another tiny annual found in seasonally moist areas that seemed to have benefited from the spring moisture.  

Barrett's beardtongue, photo by Janka Hobbs

Barrett's beardtongue closeup, photo by Betty Swift

Klickitat County was an ideal location for Rare Care’s fifth annual monitoring weekend. It’s at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge, a region that hosts some of the state’s most diverse flora. The Gorge is one of the few places in the northwest where moist Pacific air meets dry Columbia Basin air near sea level, providing a corridor for migration and a refuge for relict populations from previous glacial and interglacial periods. The Columbia River system also provides a significant corridor for species movement from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountain ecoregion of British Columbia, through the Okanogan highlands, Columbia Basin shrub-steppe, and east Cascades, and out to the wetter ecoregion of the west Cascades. The convergence of these topographic features is likely a major factor in the high number of endemic species found in the vicinity.

Keying rare plants on a steep slope, photo by Julie Bresnan

Gooseberry-leaved alumroot, photo by Julie Bresnan

Twenty-four surveys were completed over the three-day campout, including new populations of rare plants such as oblong bluecurls (Trichostema oblongum), western ladies-tresses (Spiranthes porrifolia) and common bluecup (Githopsis specularioides). Regional endemics such as Barrett’s penstemon (Penstemon barrettiae), gooseberry-leaved alumroot (Heuchera grossulariifolia var. tenuifolia), and Suksdorf’s lomatium (Lomatium suksdorfii) are locally common on the cliffs and steep slopes of the Klickitat River. We monitored several populations of each and documented several new sites while surveying for other rare plant populations. We also monitored blue-flowered diffuse stickseed (Hackelia diffusa var. diffusa) and the very rare Ames’ milk-vetch (Astragalus pulsiferae var. suksdorfii), found in Washington only from an area around Conboy National Wildlife Refuge.

Diffuse stickseed, photo by Julie Bresnan

Identifying rare plants in a cool June, photo by Bev Linde

Although we accomplished so much in the short three days we had, we wrapped up the monitoring weekend with the impression that there is still much ground to cover in the region. We look forward to more explorations in the basalt canyons and pine woodlands in the coming years.

Images from top left:

  • Barrett’s penstemon, photo by Janka Hobbs
  • Barrett’s penstemon, photo by Betty Swift
  • Keying gooseberry-leaved alumroot on a steep slope, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Gooseberry-leaved alumroot, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Diffuse stickseed, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Monitoring rare plants in a cool June, photo by Bev Linde

You may view additional photos on Rare Care’s page on Facebook.



Bioblitz 2011 (debrief)

November 3rd, 2011 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Bioblitz 2011 has come and gone, and like last year I find myself still thinking about how awesome it was a week.5 after the fact.  It’s a lot to pull together and 10 days seems about right as far as decompression goes.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but bioblitzes tap into so many different fibers of my genetic memory.  One of the things that has stuck with me since grad school is Howard Gardener’s multiple intelligence theory.  Gardener considered the standard IQ test limited and proposed 8 different kinds of intelligences to describe the ways people can be smart.  Originally, he only identified 7, but he went back several years later to add “naturalist intelligence” to the mix.  Self-diagnoses suggests I show strong tendencies toward this type, and I dare say many of those who attended UWBG Bioblitz 2011 last weekend express these character traits as well: “would rather be outdoors than in”, check; “can pick objects out of patterns”, check; “knows the names of plants & animals”, check; “observant of surroundings”, check.  All of us can find a little naturalist intelligence in ourselves, evolution wouldn’t have it any other way, but we seldom have golden opportunities to exercise such muscles as a bioblitz presents.

But aside from the obvious appeal to my nature-nerd side, this bioblitz hit me on a human level as well (Gardener’s “interpersonal intelligence”).  At one point on Saturday, I found myself on a mushroom team with a pair of traveling mycologist/photographers from Massachusetts, an energetic immigrant from the former Czechoslovakia, a Serbian visiting from Portland, a UW student from the French Alps, a family of four that included two inquisitive young boys, and the daughter of Fujitaro Kubota, of Kubota Gardens.  What brought this group together on this predictably soggy but clear fall afternoon?  I can’t be sure, but my hunch is that when these people heard about the opportunity to participate in biological inventory of the WPA, it triggered a response from their “naturalist intelligence” and like a moth to a flame could not help but be there.  Either that, or they were bored and in the neighborhood.

The highlight during that particular field session was the discovery of a stinkhorn fungus just off of Azalea Way.  The stinkhorns are a group of fungi that produce a smelly, slimy substance designed to attract flies.  The fly visits the source of the smell (a combination of gym socks and rotting fish), is covered in the spore-laden slime which later dries while the fly is in flight and in this way is dispersed far and wide.  Seed dispersal is a key concept discussed in our Plants 101 & 201 fieldtrips, but when we talk about spore producers like ferns and mosses, we typically teach that surface moisture is the only method of dispersal.  Stinkhorns obviously evolved a different approach every bit as advanced as the seed producers who rely on animals to get around.  I will never again sell these fascinating forest dwellers short, they are anything but primitive.

Noah showing Nikko the stinkhorn he found

Other highlights of the event included an illuminating dinner-time presentation from doctoral student, Rachel Mitchell, who spoke of the importance of and threats to biodiversity.  One thing that resonated from Rachel’s talk was the concept of redundancy – a characteristic of healthy ecosystems.  Rachel’s research focuses on meadow habitats where very similar but different grasses fill similar niches and serve similar functions.  Redundancy is an insurance policy that makes an ecosystem more resilient to environmental changes.  A slight change in temperature, for example, may be enough to affect one species of grass but not another, so while one species may crash, the ecosystem as a while continues to function properly.  This concept alone is enough to warrant our efforts to preserve biodiversity in the world.  To paraphrase E.O. Wilson, biodiversity is the fabric that holds the web of life together and when we tear at this fabric we risk having the whole web fall apart.

After the talk, we took to the water in search of the Arboretum’s nocturnal residents.  With help from our fearless leaders from Agua Verde Paddle Club, we paddled around Foster & Marsh Islands in small flotillas.  It didn’t take long to find what we were looking for as the first of many loud smacks echoed across the water.  All told, we accounted for 13 beavers, the bulk of which were hanging out by that funky metallic sculpture on the north side of 520.  The beavers’ tail slappings were punctuated by the occasional pterodactyl-like squawk of Great Blue Herons sent awkwardly skyward by our presence.  I felt a little bad about causing such a raucous and disturbing these and the other shadowy creatures of the marsh with our poking, but then again it’s only once a year.  The “owl-prowl” that followed our aquatic excursion was less eventful – only managing to scare up one brief conversation with a Barred Owl, but it was a lot of fun none the less.  On our way back to the greenhouse, we happened upon 3 of the chubbiest raccoons I’ve ever seen climbing straight up a Douglas Fir near the Visitor’s Center.  These ring-tailed residents have obviously figured out how to take advantage of our numerous trashcans.

raccoon signs: a dug-up hornets nest

The following morning, despite sideways rain at dawn, I was astonished to find a dozen eager birders ready to take the kayaks back out to observe the wetlands in the “daylight”.  They were rewarded for their tenacity with freshly made bagels from Bagel Oasis, and a nice list of birds that you can check out here on ebird.  The remainder of the day was devoted to mushrooms, insects and plants (those lists are still being compiled).  I would be remiss without sending out a big thank you to the Puget Sound Mycological Society for their participation, as well as to all the UWBG staff members who came out to help.  While there weren’t any earth shattering discoveries from the plant teams, it was a great opportunity to a) have a chance to engage with the public, and b) take a close look at our grounds in a non-work capacity.  After all, the mission of the UW Botanic Gardens is Sustaining managed to natural ecosystems and the human spirit through plant research, display, and education.  So not only does Bioblitz strike multiple chords with me personally, but it beautifully supports our reason for being.  We’ve decided to alternate yearly between spring and fall events to capture a more complete picture our biodiversity and avoid over-taxing our pool of specialists, meaning the next UWBG Bioblitz will be held in spring of 2013.  Stay tuned and I hope to see you there.