Grad student’s thesis work benefits rare plants

December 26th, 2012 by Wendy Gibble
Ivy Clark plants Castilleja seedlings (photo by Wendy Gibble)

Ivy Clark plants Castilleja seedlings (photo by Wendy Gibble)

Reprinted from the Rare Plant Press

Graduate student Lauren “Ivy” Clark has been knee deep in seeds ever since
she started her Master’s work at University of Washington. She first came to work with Rare Care in 2009 to develop protocols for propagating ten shrub-steppe species from seed for a project Rare Care was working on with BLM. Having developed an interest in germination ecology, Ivy also started working with Rare Care’s rare plant seed collection, conducting germination tests on collections held in the Miller Seed Vault. This ongoing work dovetails nicely with her thesis work, in which she explores the potential for hybridization between golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) and harsh Indian paintbrush (C. hispida).

Both Castilleja species occur on Puget Sound prairies, and hybridization has been observed in a nursery setting. Recent golden paintbrush reintroductions have resulted in both species growing in close proximity to one another at out-planting sites. After ascertaining that the same pollinator species frequent both species, Ivy collected seeds from both species where they co-occur and is propagating them in the greenhouse. She will evaluate morphological features of the progeny to determine whether and to what extent hybridization is occurring at these reintroduction sites and whether the risk of hybridization is reduced by increasing the distance between neighboring individuals of the two species.

Ivy has had an interest in plants for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Texas, her interest in the natural world was nurtured by her parents. She’s held a variety of jobs since becoming a biologist, many of them restricting her to laboratories. Finding that she really enjoys being in the field, she hopes to use her skills and degree to work in the restoration ecology field. In the meantime, we are delighted to have her working on Rare Care projects and caring for our ex situ collection.

Leaves, Paint Swatches and Nature Connection: A Student Perspective

December 18th, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

Written by Mackenzie Urquhart, UW Service Learning Student

I had so much fun participating in the Fiddleheads Program these past couple of months. Through out the sessions we play games, explore, do arts and crafts, and teach the kids about their surroundings.  What is special about this program is the kids get to interact with the nature they are learning about directly instead of reading it from a textbook or in a classroom.

On our first walk through the Arboretum we taught the kids about fall and how the environment changes during that time period.  We explored how the leaves change colors and how the leaves eventually fall off the trees.  The kids were able to see the changes happening with their own eyes.  Through out the walk we gave them each a brown bag and they were to fill it with the leaves that fell off the trees.  At the end of the walk we reminded them why they fell off the trees and had them each do a leaf rubbing so they could take it home and have it be a reminder of what happens during fall.  All through out the walk the kids were asking questions, interacting with nature, feeling the leaves, and touching the trees.

One of my favorite games we played with the kids was called the color game.  Sarah and I each gave the kids a paint swatch and they were to find a plant, animal or anything in nature that was the same color.  This was a unique and fun way to get the kids to explore nature.  The kids were running all around and would show us what they found that matched their paint swatch.  If they didn’t know what the species or plant was we would tell them and have them share it with the other kids so they could all learn about each others.

Another game the kids loved was called the matching game.  Sarah and I laid out a bunch of leaves two of each kind and had the kids play a matching game and at the end we would have them guess what the name of the leaf was.  Then we would circle as a group and talk about each leaf and point out what the tree looked like that the leaf came from. In that kind of setting the kids are able to learn about the environment in a fun and stress free environment.  They retain the information better and see how humans and other species directly impact the environment.   Each session has an overall theme so the kids are constantly learning about different issues and topics related to nature.

Check out the Fiddlehead Forest School website for more information and to register for classes.

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

December 14th, 2012 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (December 10-24, 2012)

Seize the Bay!

1)   Bay Laurel    (Laurus nobilis)

  • From the Mediterranean region
  • A plant of great cultural significance (culinary uses, literary references, etc.)
  • Marginally hardy in the Washington Park Arboretum, located in the Mediterranean Bed (grid 21-3E)

2)   California Bay Laurel    (Umbellularia californica)

  • Native to the Pacific Coast, Oregon through California
  • Crushed leaves have intense odor
  • Re-seeds freely in the Washington Park Arboretum
  • Located near the Mediterranean Bed (grid 20-3E)

3)   Redbay    (Persea borbonia)

  • A relative of the avocado, native to southeastern U.S.
  • Used as an emetic (vomit inducer) by indigenous people
  • Located in the the Camellia Collection near the Reebs memorial bench (grid 11-4E)

4)   Rosebay    (Rhododendron maximum)

  • Native to eastern U.S.
  • Used in the early days of Rhododendron hybridizing to develop hardy hybrids
  • Growing steadily in the Rhododendron Seedling Bed (grid 22-1E)

5)   Sweet Bay    (Magnolia virginiana)

  • Eastern U.S. native
  • Typically evergreen in Seattle, but can be deciduous, semi-deciduous, or evergreen depending on climate
  • Located in the Magnolia Collection (grid 28-3E)

What the Cluck?!

December 11th, 2012 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Making Sense of Keeping Chickens in the Home Garden
Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 7-9pm 
Instructor: Jessica Bloom, NW EcoLogical Landscapes

Free Range Chicken Gardens by Jessica Bloom

Photo courtesy of Jessica Bloom

If you have ever thought about keeping chickens or you have chickens but are baffled by common problems, this class is for you. Jessica Bloom, award-winning garden designer and author of Free Range Chicken Gardens, will teach
you how to integrate chickens into your life and backyard. Believe it or not, chickens can be trained like other pets!

Learn how to share your garden with your feathered egg-producing friends, how to design habitat, and about the
“Top 10” must-have plants that you and your chicken will love. Chicken raising myth-busters and breeds will also be covered.

NHS Hall, Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St, Seattle, WA 98105
Early registration $35; $40 after January 23
Register online, or call 206.685.8033

Copies of Free Range Chicken Gardens will be available for purchase from the instructor at the class. See Bloom’s website for more ideas!

Celebrating evergreens with stories

December 10th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

 Join us Saturday, December 15 from 10:30 to 11:15 am  for stories and art.

In the Pacific Northwest, we treasure our evergreen forests, and today’s stories celebrate them. After the stories you’ll have time to color a tree picture or use homemade salt dough to sculpt your own evergreen tree. Free for kids ages 3 to 8 and their parents.

THE TREE by Dana Lyons
DOUGLAS FIR by Wendy Davis

Miller Library monthly Story Program happens once a month in the Children’s Corner.

Take an enjoyable holiday walk at the arboretum

December 6th, 2012 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

People often think that because it is winter there isn’t much to see in the park right now.  But this is a great time of year to walk through the arboretum with family and friends.  With the leaves gone from most of the trees, other features stand out that may not normally catch the eye.  Beautiful colors and patterns in bark are exposed, as are bird’s nests.  Interesting seed pods, berries, fruits and delicate catkins stand out.

The tree pictured is a deciduous conifer, the Metasequoia glyptostroboides or Dawn Redwood, in the pinetum.  With its needles gone, you really notice the beautiful striated cinnamon bark and ornament-like dangling pollen cones remnants.

So if you are looking for a quiet, free holiday activity, I suggest the following walk.  You can start out at the Graham Visitors Center and the friendly staff at the information desk can assist with directions and maps.   Start by heading West over the Wilcox Bridge and into the pinetum.  Continue South along the trail through the pinetum and into the holly collection – very Christmassy.  From the hollies you can cross back East over Lake Washington Boulevard to Azalea Way – there are new crosswalks installed along the Boulevard for pedestrian safety.  Then stroll back North along Azalea Way to the Visitors Center.  This walk is only a couple of miles and would take about an hour.  Happy Holidays!

December 2012 Plant Profile: Abutilon ‘Tiger Eye’

December 5th, 2012 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

This holiday season, we’re taking you indoors into our Douglas Conservatory and showcasing a plant to warm up our botanical curiosities. This unique and elegant flowering maple (though not technically a maple (that’s the genus Acer)) is best known as an annual shrub for containers and summer bedding, but I haven’t the heart to just chuck it into the compost. So we brought it in for the winter and given a little care, it has decided to flower for us.

Flowering maples come in an assortment of colors and have the distinct maple-like foliage that gives it its common name. They benefit from full sun/part shade and regular watering and fertilizing during the growing season. They seem to bloom on and off and gentle pruning keeps plants bushy and loaded with flowers. ‘Tiger Eyes’  isn’t as prolific a bloomer and stands taller and lankier than most other Flowering maples, but its flowers are too exquisite and makes up for it.


Common Name: Flowering Maple

Location: Douglas Conservatory

Origin: Unknown

Exposure: Full Sun/Part Shade

Height and spread: 6-8ft. tall x 3ft. wide

Bloom Time: Sporadically throughout the year. Heaviest in summer

December Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

December 5th, 2012 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (November 26 - December 9, 2012)


1)   Abies alba  ‘Hybrid’   (Silver Fir)

  • Silver Fir is the species first used as a Christmas tree.
  • A resinous essential oil can be extracted.  The pine-scented oil has soothing qualities and is used in perfumes and bath products.
  • This magnificent specimen can be found on Arboretum Drive.

2)   Cornus sericea  ‘Cardinal’    (Red Osier Dogwood)

  • Bright red twigs provide winter interest in the garden and a beautiful accent to holiday decorations.
  • There are many benefits to Red Osier Dogwood, including overall hardiness and wildlife habitat.
  • Native to the Pacific Northwest, this cultivar can be found in the Pacific Connections Entry Garden.

3)   Ilex opaca  ‘Emily’    (Emily American Holly)

  • Holly is a popular winter, Christmas and holiday season decoration.
  • In English poetry, holly is inseparably connected with merry-making.
  • American Holly is the perfect substitute for English Holly because it is not invasive.
  • Several cultivars of Ilex opaca can be found in the island beds of the Pacific Connections Garden.

4)   Picea brachytyla    (Sargent Spruce)

  • Many species of spruce are used as Christmas trees.
  • Spruce are important economically for timber, resin and Christmas tree production.
  • The Sargent Spruce is native to China and is threatened by habitat loss.

5)   Thuja plicata    (Western Red Cedar)

  • The flattened sprays of dark green foliage droop gracefully and are prefect for holiday wreaths and swags.
  • Strongly aromatic, the scent of crushed Western Red Cedar is reminiscent of pineapple.
  • A strong player in our native matrix, beautiful Thuja plicata can be found throughout the entire Arboretum.