Washington Park Arboretum Soil is More Than Dirt

September 26th, 2014 by Kathleen DeMaria, Arboretum Gardener

This past April the Camellia area of the Washington Park Arboretum was paid a scientific visit by UW SEFS professor Dr. Darlene Zabowski and students from her Advanced Soil Genesis and Classification course (SEFS 513). Their goal was to learn how to excavate a soil pit and mine the walls for information about the history of the site, the current state of the soil and potential issues that may need mitigation. The site was chosen by David Zuckerman, Supervisor of Horticulture, as our Camellia collection is in need of a renovation, and he’s a strong proponent of soil analysis prior to any work being done in an area.

As with any good assessment, photos of the site were taken prior to any disturbance:

Camellias before dig

 

This site is located in the south end of the Arboretum just north of the gravel path leading to the newly refurbished lookout in the New Zealand garden. After the leaf litter and duff were cleared, the students started digging, and digging until a 3 foot deep pit was completed (notice the clear separation of ‘horizons’, or layers of soil):

Soil Pit2

In this area 3 feet was needed to ensure that the students got down to the ‘parent material’, or the underlying geological material in which soil horizons form. Soils inherit structure and minerals from their parent material through processes of physical or chemical weathering. This parent material remains the basis of the soil structure as other factors contribute to the soil’s texture (e.g. compaction, amendments, tillage).  According to Dr. Zabowski and her students, our Camellia soil has a parent material in the ‘Alderwood series’, and it shows evidence of compaction and large quantities of amended materials in the upper horizon. There was charcoal found in the middle/upper horizons indicative of a fire in the area (perhaps post-logging) or the charcoal could have come in with amendments added to the soil years ago. The parent material is glacial, composed mostly of ablation till and basal till and the years of amending and alteration can be seen even down into these lower horizons.

Soils layed out

As each horizon was unearthed, Dr. Zabowski (pictured above) had her students lay out a sample of the soil in ascending order to show and feel the difference from one layer to the next. The students were then charged with the task of coding out these samples by color using Munsell Soil Color Charts flip book. Soil color indicates the makeup of the soil within a given geographic area, which can influence the land’s fitness for usage. Samples of each horizon were also brought back to the lab and analyzed for chemical composition, bulk density, base saturation, and Cation exchange capacity (CEC). The Camellia soil was found to have a pH in the slightly acidic region (5.7-6.3), which is good for Camellias, as they like slightly acidic soil. The upper horizons of the soil were found to contain high levels of Ca, suggesting that there had been some CaCO3 added to the soil in the past (the high pH was also indicative of amending with CaCO3). The CEC of the soil was very high in the upper horizons, but this was to be expected at CEC is a measure of the soil’s fertility and nutrient retention capacity and this soil had been amended with organic matter for decades before this assessment (organic matter can have up to 3x the CEC of clay). The bulk density of the soil in the upper horizons suggests that there has been some compaction (likely due to foot traffic as there is a bench near the site) and that remediation of this density should accompany any work done in this area.

The UWBG horticulture staff welcomes and encourages university use of the arboretum for educational purposes as we curate and maintain 230 acres of urban forest as short walk from main campus. Got an idea for research in the arboretum? Contact David Zuckerman at dzman@uw.edu to get your shovels into our soil!

 


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Student Poster Exhibit 2014

May 7th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

posterExhibit_Kim2008Wonder what goes on in the labs of Merrill Hall or in the study plots sprinkled throughout Union Bay Natural Area? Find out at the annual UW Botanic Gardens graduate student research review May 9 to June 13 in the Library.

Want to meet the researchers? Then join us for the public reception Friday, May 9 from 5 to 7pm. Light refreshments will be served. The public is invited to this free event.

 

 

Participating students and research topics

Crescent Calimpong Elwha Revegetation 2013: A Plant Performance Study
Natalie Footen How do parasites affect prairie plant communities?
Nate Haan Interactions between hemiparasites, hosts, and herbivores
Alex Harwell The Restoration of Sweetgrass (Schoenoplectus pungens) in the Nisqually Delta: An Ethnobotanical Restoration Effort
Kathryn Hill Effects of prescribed fire on the spatial structure of butterfly habitat in South Puget Sound prairies
Eve Rickenbaker UW Student Perception of the Washington Park Arboretum
Kathleen Walter Amphibian Use of Union Bay Natural Area
Christopher Wong The Sisyrinchium Common Garden Study
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Rare Care Wraps up a Productive Year and Preps for 2014

January 10th, 2014 by Wendy Gibble
Rare plants

Washington’s rare plants monitored by Rare Care volunteers.

2013 was another busy year for Washington Rare Plant Care and Conservation (Rare Care). Our corps of volunteer citizen scientists contributed their expertise and time to monitor over 150 rare plant populations across Washington State. Some of these sites were visited during our annual monitoring weekend, which took place at Hanford Reach National Monument last year. We also added 20 collections to the Miller Seed Vault, including eight new species to the collection. You can read all about our 2013 monitoring and seed collecting efforts in our annual reports.

Rare Care will be offering a volunteer trainings on March 1, 2014 for our rare plant monitoring project. This citizen science project provides critically needed information on the status of Washington’s rare plants. Volunteers visit rare plant populations throughout the state and provide information on population sizes, habitat characteristics, and potential threats to the populations. Because many of these populations are visited once every decade or less, the data contributed by volunteer monitors are critical for long-term conservation of Washington’s rare plants.

Would you like to become a part of this valuable effort and have an opportunity to become familiar with some of the rare plants of Washington State? Volunteering with Rare Care provides an opportunity for you to explore Washington’s native flora, visit premier examples of Washington’s native ecosystems, and continue to build your plant identification skills. To participate in the program, volunteer rare plant monitors need to have some experience identifying native plants in the field, have a commitment to native plant conservation and good observation skills, be able to commit a few days during the spring and summer, and be able to provide their own transportation. Visit our volunteer page to learn more!

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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.

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Supporting LIDAR research in the Washington Park Arboretum

May 17th, 2012 by Heidi Unruh, UWBG Communications Volunteer
graphic
Three‐dimensional 
visualization 
of 
the 
Arboretum
 derived 
from 
LiDAR 
and 
aerial
 photo. Graphic by Jeff Richardson

Did you know that the Washington Park Arboretum often serves as a research site for researchers at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences? Recently, researchers at UW have been using the Arboretum to study LiDAR and its applications. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a method of airborne laser scanning that can be used as a tool to inventory and manage forests. Below are some of the research papers discussing their findings.

Akira Kato, L. Monika Moskal, Peter Schiess, Mark E. Swanson, Donna Calhoun, Werner Stuetzle, Capturing tree crown formation through implicit surface reconstruction using airborne lidar data.  Remote Sensing of the Environment. Volume 113, Issue 6, 15 June 2009, Pages 1148-1162.

Kim, Sooyoung; Hinckley, Thomas; Briggs, David. Classifying individual tree genera using stepwise cluster analysis based on height and intensity metrics derived from airborne laser scanner data, Remote Sensing of Environment. Volume 115, Issue 12, 15 December 2011, Pages 3329-3342.

Moskal, L.M.; Zheng, G. Retrieving Forest Inventory Variables with Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) in Urban Heterogeneous Forest. Remote Sens. 2012, 4, 1-20.

Richardson, Jeffery J.; Moskal, Monika; Kim, Soo-Hyung. Modeling approaches to estimate effective leaf area index from aerial discrete-return LIDAR. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 149, Issues 6–7, 15 June 2009, Pages 1152-1160.

Vaughn, N.R.; Moskal, L.M.; Turnblom, E.C. Fourier transformation of waveform Lidar for species recognition. Remote Sensing Letters, 2011, Volume 2, Number 4, 347 – 356.

Vaughn, N.R.; Moskal, L.M.; Turnblom, E.C. Tree Species Detection Accuracies Using Discrete Point Lidar and Airborne Waveform Lidar. Remote Sens. 2012, 4, 377-403.

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UWBG Student Works Poster Exhibit May 11 – 31

May 4th, 2012 by Caitlin Guthrie

Come learn about many of the fascinating graduate student research topics at the annual UWBG Student Poster Exhibit.

Nisqually Delta dike footprint tidal freshwater swamp revegetation. Photo by Caitlin Guthrie.

Join us at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library (at the Center for Urban Horticulture) for the opening reception on Friday, May 11th, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm.  Light refreshments will be served.  All are welcome to come meet the researchers and browse the posters.

Student posters will remain on display in the Library from May 11th to May 30th.

Poster topics include:

  • Elwha Dam Removal Revegetation: Lake Aldwell Seeding Trials
  • Tidal Freshwater Forested Wetlands: Assessing Restoration Effectiveness After Tidal Dike Removal
  • Project E-PIG: Studying the Ecology of Pollinators in Gardens at Multiple Scales
  • Alternate hosts of threatened Castilleja levisecta (golden paintbrush): Improving PNW prairie restoration.
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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.

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One weekend, two dozen rare plant surveys

November 3rd, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Communications Specialist

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.

 

 

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Foster Island spider appears to be new species

February 16th, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Communications Specialist

You may recall that last spring’s BioBlitz in the Washington Park Arboretum resulted in some interesting finds, thanks to the efforts of more than 100 citizen scientists, university students and professionals. Here’s an update on one of those discoveries.

Foster Island Philodromus spiderRod Crawford, Curator of Arachnids at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, reports, “I just finished fully curating the spiders from last May’s Foster Island bioblitz. The unusual Philodromus crab spider from the Waterside Trail, is not P. imbecillus nor is it P. insperatus (only member of the imbecillus group known from Washington). It is very similar to an Atlantic-states species Philodromus marxi, but is more likely to be an altogether new species. Full confirmation will have to await more specimens including males, but we can tentatively consider it new.”

The Foster Island female spider’s reproductive organs don’t match those of Philodromus insperatus, a spider found in this state but mainly in sagebrush country. And the Atlantic states’ P. marxi’s body coloration is metallic, very different from that of the spider found on Foster Island. And so the research continues.

Rod Crawford maintains a website called The Spider Myths Site. Interestingly, two of the myths are “Spiders are easy to identify” and “The spider you found has to be a species you’ve already heard of.”

Photograph by Rod Crawford

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BioBlitz reveals potentially rare stinging ant, mushroom, spider & possible new plant invaders

May 29th, 2010 by Jennifer Youngman, Communications Specialist

With more than 100 citizen scientists, university students and professionals scrutinizing Washington Park Arboretum’s nooks and crannies during Seattle’s first BioBlitz, there were bound to be a few surprises. A potentially rare native stinging ant, a potentially rare Amanita (mushroom) not often seen on the west coast, a potentially new species of spider and a couple of unexpected plants displaying suspicious behavior are just a few of the discoveries. Plus, a spider that is regionally rare appears to be common on Foster Island.

The inventory of the Arboretum’s birds, bats, lichens, fungi, reptiles, amphibians and plants (not counting the Arboretum’s plant collection, which is already documented) started at 3:00 PM May 21 and lasted 24 hours, including night-time shifts for cataloguing nocturnal life. One nocturnal lesson: participants collected regurgitated barred owl pellets, dissolved all of the material but bones, and identified bones and skulls to determine that the Arboretum’s owls dine primarily on Norway rats.

BioBlitz plants & animals mapped using handheld devicesThe après-BioBlitz is now in session. Data is being processed. Plant and invertebrate identification continues. Rare species are being confirmed. And plants such as Lonicera periclymenum, an ornamental Eurasian vine not known to be invasive here but found scrambling over plants, will be investigated to see whether they are potential new invaders in this region.

BioBlitzes have served as vehicles for biodiversity data collection for several years in locations ranging from the Nisqually Delta to Cape Cod and New York City’s Central Park. Seattle’s BioBlitz will be useful in establishing baseline data before the Highway 520 bridge project gets underway. Dr. Sarah Reichard, professor and co-associate director of the UW Botanic Gardens, worked with the Washington NatureMapping Program to organize this major undertaking, and the Arboretum Foundation funded it. Although insects were underrepresented due to cold weather and no bats were netted, more than 400 species of plants, animals, lichens and fungi were recorded. View the species tally to date and a list of predicted vs. observed birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

Check out the photo gallery accompanying this Seattle Times article. Thank you to all who contributed time, effort, expertise and enthusiasm to the BioBlitz.

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