Biology in the Wild

September 9th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Ginkgoleaves

 

I was amazed to learn that the Ginkgo biloba tree, which is thousands of years old but extinct in the wild, was saved by Buddhist monks who planted this tree in their monasteries so the species would live on!”

“We thought we would only hear the Latin names of a multitude of obscure plants,” she said, “but instead we heard amazing stories of survival and cooperation in nature.”

 

 

H.M Jackson High School teacher Stacey Hall

H.M Jackson High School teacher Stacey Hall

 

These were just two of the observations made by freshman and sophomore students who took one of the free guided tours at the Washington Park Arboretum.  The students were encouraged to take these tours with the promise of extra credit to boost their grades in the Biology class taught by Stacey Hall, their science teacher at H.M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek.

“I think it is so important to get kids out of the classroom to see how nature works,” says Hall of his Arboretum incentive program.  “When the learning is outside and hands on, it just sticks better.”

Hall offers the extra credit when the students participate in the guided Arboretum tour and then write up what they learned and present it to the class.

“You would be amazed at how many “aha” moments the students have had taking these tours,” adds Hall,  “the guides have a great way of connecting to people and the kids always come back with insights and connections to the learning we do in the classroom, whether it is plant diversity, ecology, genetics or evolution.”

 

 

UW Botanic Gardens offers free public tours at the Arboretum every Sunday at 1pm, as well as private tours which explore the various gardens and plants in our collections. There are also specialty tours such as the family program “Park in the Dark,” Twilight Tram tours for adults, tours of other area gardens like the Woodinville Lavender Farm, and tours highlighting those species that shine in summer or in winter.

Catherine Nelson leading a tram tour in the Arboretum.

Catherine Nelson leading a tram tour in the Arboretum.

“Six knowledgeable guides volunteer their time to lead tours,” says Tour Program Assistant Catherine Nelson.  “The tours take place primarily in the Arboretum, but also in the Union Bay Natural Area and the Center for Urban Horticulture.”

“Our plant collections are constantly evolving,” says Nelson with evident pride, “and feature diverse plants from around the world.”

There are miles of fantastic trails to be found throughout the UW Botanic Gardens—a boardwalk through Yesler Swamp, the Pacific Connections Garden at the Arboretum and a stunning fragrance garden at the Center for Urban Horticulture; there is also great bird watching in Union Bay Natural Area.

“We even have the UW Farm which gives students and visitors a place to learn about sustainable urban agriculture, and provides food for dining halls at the UW,” Nelson adds.

Clearly, the many trails found at the UW Botanic Gardens provide an amazing urban escape in the heart of Seattle.

One of the Arboretum guides, Kyra Kaiser, a freshman at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, has made special connections with the high school students in Stacey Hall’s biology class.

“The main goal of my tours is to encourage people to appreciate the natural world around them,” she says, “and I encourage young people to keep pursuing opportunities and new experiences because they might be surprised about what they like and what they learn about themselves.”

Good advice for about any age one might say.

 

Student Spotlight: Daniel Sorensen

March 18th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Dan_Sorenson_1Daniel Sorensen is a graduate student at the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, working in the lab of UW Botanic Gardens Director, Sarah Reichard, and researching the risk of invasion across Washington and Oregon of 2 two closely related grasses in the genus Cortaderia – pampas grass and jubata grass. Daniel works as the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Sustainability Coordinator for UW Grounds Management, and in that role he helps manage invasive species in the Union Bay Natural Area along with UW Botanic Gardens staff.  He is also a student member of the Arboretum Botanic Garden Committee.

Daniel grew up on Long Island in NY, close to the ocean and the salt marshes along the south shore. Family vacations–swimming, hiking and getting lost in the woods of Northern Vermont–sowed Daniel’s love for plants and nature.  Daniel earned a BS from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, in Syracuse NY.  He also worked in several states doing ecological restoration, natural resources management, and invasive plant management.

Starting a master’s program at the UW is what ultimately brought Daniel to Seattle, although he had longed to live in the Pacific Northwest.  He enjoys exploring Seattle neighborhoods by bicycle, hiking and camping the in the Cascades and Olympics, and going to antique/thrift stores to find vintage Pyrex for his collection. He also enjoys gardening, growing his own food, canning and being surrounded by plants inside his home.

Daniel’s favorite classes are Plant Ecophysiology and Landscape Plant Recognition. Plant Ecophysiology makes connections between the internal working of the plant with external influences in the landscape; it taught him how to ask research questions and set up experiments to answer those questions. Landscape Plant Recognition was a race to memorize the scientific names and identify over 250 plants in one quarter.

Daniel now gives talks and workshops for the UW Botanic Gardens Adult Education Program.

Although Daniel is often busy with classes and work on campus, he often bikes over to the Center for Urban Horticulture for a class or just to spend time in Elisabeth C. Miller Library where he loves “being surrounded by the community of professional staff, faculty, students, and volunteers on campus and UW Botanic Gardens.”

Daniel also loves to visit the Washington Park Arboretum to “get lost under the trees” of the Woodland Gardens, or go paddling in the marshes at the Union Bay Natural Area.

No one plant can be considered Daniel’s favorite, this changes seasonally and sometimes daily. With that said, one his favorite plants from his time in the northeast is Northern spice bush- Lindera benzoin– this small understory shrub has a delightful smell found in the leaves, stems, and fruit (hence its common name) but its small yellow blooms are the reason it is his favorite northeast plant. These small blooms are one of the first bit of color to in early spring and a dense stand of spicebush can glow strong against the drab brown and gray backdrop of the deciduous woodlands in the Northeast. “When I would see the spice bush in flower,” he says in glee, “I knew winter was definitely over!”

Dan_Sorenson_2

Trail Completion to Begin at Yesler Swamp

February 17th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans
Trailhead, Yesler swamp

Trailhead, Yesler swamp

Shovels, picks and hammers will be brought out this month to forge the final section of the Yesler Swamp trail, a much-anticipated finale to years of planning and fundraising.

Yesler Swamp, the 6-acre wooded wetland along the eastern border of the Center for Urban Horticulture has captivated local citizens, restoration ecologists and leaders at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens for close to a decade.

“The Yesler swamp is a perfect outdoor laboratory where students can study, investigate and take their classroom learning into nature,” states Fred Hoyt, Associate Director of UW Botanic Gardens.

And because the area is one of the last remaining swamp ecosystems along the Lake Washington shoreline (a swamp is a wetland dominated by trees and other woody species), scientists are keen to remove remaining invasive species, restore a multilevel canopy and study the natural succession of this marvelous public open space.

Bird watcher at Yesler Swamp

Bird watcher at Yesler Swamp

Hoyt, along with UW professor and restoration ecologist Dr. Kern Ewing, and a dedicated citizen group —the Friends of Yesler Swamp — have brought this amazing project to fruition.  It took an array of donors—from the City of Seattle to King County and numerous individuals—to get it this far.   The Washington Conservation Corps will begin the estimated 8-week project finale at the end of February.  The Friends group also still needs to match $11,000 in donations for the final City grant.

Trail work on new ADA-accessible entry path to Yesler Swamp. Photo courtesy of Friends of Yesler Swamp

Trail work on new ADA-accessible entry path. Photo courtesy of Friends of Yesler Swamp

Part of the trail has been completed in the last few years, so one can now follow a sturdy boardwalk out to the lake’s edge.  Ewing notes that over 200 species of birds have been seen here and in the adjacent Union Bay Natural Area, as well as raccoon, turtle, beaver, coyote and heron.  Last December, crews completed an ADA accessible entry to the path; once this final section is completed it will be a loop trail encircling the entire swamp area.  Graduate students of Ewing continue to study the area, which he describes as a “fantastic outdoor laboratory.”

This is an incredible transformation of an area that was once a sawmill and lumber business for Seattle pioneer and two-time mayor, Henry Yesler.

“The great thing about completing this trail,” says Dr. Ewing enthusiastically, “is that it is really just the beginning.” 

Ewing has numerous plans for future scientific studies, watching the transformation over time:  recently planted western red cedars and Sitka spruce will eventually grow into mature trees, enriching the canopy and species diversity, native plants will take root and crowd out the invasives, and the site will eventually return to a near natural state.

The Weekend Warriors of Centennial Woods

January 23rd, 2016 by Anna Carragee
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Jon and Martha Diemer, the weekend warriors of Centennial Woods.

Since the initial planting of Centennial woods in Union Bay Natural Area in 2007, in celebration of the first 100 years of the College of Forest Resource (now known as the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences), Jon Diemer and his wife Martha have become the weekend warriors. They devote every free Saturday to restoration work at the site. As the current UBNA Ranger, I was able to lend a hand and plant a few hemlocks and shore pines this past Saturday, January 16th, 2016. Along the way I learned about this great site.

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Jon doing a planting demo with a Western hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla.

Trying to find Centennial Woods? Centennial Woods is located on the western edge of UBNA, across from the former E-5 parking lot. (Labeled in green.)

CW map

Restoration work at Centennial Woods requires patience and perseverance because the site is threatened by tireless invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry, and also high mortality rates of planted trees. For example, from the initial school sponsored planting in 2007, only 40 of the original 400 bare root trees survived. The trees have also had some run-ins with mowers. A challenging site like this requires constant management to reach restoration objectives.

Despite having finished his Masters of Environmental Horticulture project and returned to a full time job other than managing UBNA, Jon has continued researching the best ways to control Himalayan blackberry and promote survival rates of the planted trees. Jon is trying out the efficacy of herbicide to control patches and shading out patches with a tarp (pictured below).

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Herbicide trial to eliminate blackberry.

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Shade trial to eliminate blackberry.

To increase survival rates, Jon is trying out different plant species native to more southern climates including redwoods from California! You can see one little redwood doing well in the picture with Martha and Jon. Species adapted to more southern climates are predicted to do well with the warming temperatures associated with climate change.

There are more trees that need to be planted this winter. If you are interested in helping out please contact me, Anna at carragee@uw.edu or Jon at jdiemer@uw.edu.

For more information, check out Jon’s MEH thesis Centennial Woods Restoration and Management Plan.

Seminar: Reconstructing Natural Areas in the Built Environment

December 8th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
garden photo

Prairie rain garden, Center for Urban Horticulture

Reconstructing Natural Areas in the Built Environment:

Linking design, function, and long-term performance for natural areas, restoration sites, and trail sides

January 25 & 26, 2016
9:00 am-4:00 pm

University of Washington Botanic Gardens
Center for Urban Horticulture
3501 NE 41st St., Seattle, WA 98105

 

PROFESSIONAL CREDITS: CPH-6/day, ecoPRO-6/day, NALP/WALP-6/day, APLD-4.25/day, ASLA-5.5/day

 

RESOURCES FOR SEMINAR ATTENDEES:

Day One: January 25, 2016

Day Two: January 26, 2016

Additional Resources from Presenters and Attendees

Safer Digs For Osprey Now In Union Bay Natural Area

June 12th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist

An Osprey nesting pole was installed yesterday in Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA). Located near Carp pond in the SE corner of UBNA loop trail. UW Athletic Dept funded the project when it was realized Osprey were being attracted to nesting in ball fields’ lighting across the way. Hopefully now, people will be safe from falling branches and Osprey will have more appropriate digs to settle into.

Jim Kaiser, consulting wildlife biologist and owner of Osprey Solutions, was hired to do the install. Jim has installed over 300 Osprey nesting poles in the PNW. He is one of the most knowledgeable biologists on Osprey and has quite a fascinating and experienced repertoire in creating new homes for them.

For more information on Osprey and their nests, please visit:

http://www.osprey-solutions.com/

Osprey fact sheet

Attaching nesting platform to pole

Attaching nesting platform to pole

Erecting Nesting Pole

Erecting Nesting Pole

Looking south along UBNA loop trail

Looking south along UBNA loop trail

 

 

Runoff Now Feeds Prairie Rain Garden at Center for Urban Horticulture

May 1st, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff
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Malcolm Howard standing in the prairie rain garden in its first spring after planting, looking west across the Union Bay Natural Area.

What to do about muddy puddles caused by rain runoff in the middle of a trail used by hundreds of people every day? Could a garden solve the problem?

Masters of Environmental Horticulture graduate student Malcolm Howard choose this problem area as his MEH project. He explains how the site was chosen: “The rain garden was placed along the trail to intercept runoff from the nearby parking lot. Instead of water ponding on the trail after rains, the rain garden helps retain this runoff and convey the remaining water under the trail.”

The prairie rain garden was installed just south west of the parking lot that is on the west side of Merrill Hallat the Center for Urban Horticulture. The trail leads to the popular Union Bay Natural Area where visitors enjoy watching birds and feeling immersed in a wild place.

What does Malcolm expect to accomplish with the Prairie Rain Garden? “I hope that the garden can help improve trail conditions, while displaying some interesting native prairie plants for people to enjoy and learn about.”

The Prairie Rain Garden received a small project grant from the UW Sustainability Fund in January 2015.

Prairie Rain Garden Summary with plant list.

MLK Day of Service: UBNA Work Party in Review

January 20th, 2015 by Elyse Denkers

1.19workparty-group

On Jan, 19, also known as the MLK Day of Service, a group of 7 volunteers helped remove ivy from cottonwood trees near the Union Bay Natural Area waterfront.
Just along the UBNA loop trail at the waterfront viewing area, many of the cottonwood trees have been suffocated by invasive English ivy. These trees may become a safety hazard for trail-users as ivy foliage weighs down branches.

Our goal was to create “life-rings” around the impacted trees by 1) cutting ivy at a 5 ft height around the tree, 2) peeling the ivy back off the tree, and 3) digging the ivy roots out of the ground around the tree base.
The ivy still hanging on the tree will eventually die without a soil sources.

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P1010224 We finished our goal of creating life-rings and removing some ground ivy, but we still have more ground ivy to remove in this area.
Another work party we be scheduled in the next few weeks to finish this area and move on to rescuing the cottonwood trees across the trail.

If you are interested in helping finish this project, please see the UW Botanic Gardens volunteer calendar. New volunteer events will be posted there. You may also contact Elyse Denkers, UBNA research assistant, directly at edenkers@uw.edu

After 

June 2014 Plant Profile: Philadelphus lewisii

June 3rd, 2014 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Philadelphus lewisii portrait 1The beginning of June boasts boisterous and abundant blooms and this native shrub is no exception. Starting in late May, an otherwise nondescript shrub begins to draw attention as masses of single white flowers suddenly begin to pop open creating a blizzard of deliciously scented clusters that cover a straggly shrub from top to bottom.

 

P. lewisii growing in the upland forest restoration site out in UBNA.

P. lewisii growing in the upland forest restoration site out in UBNA.

Found in open forests in low-mid elevations, Philadelphus lewisii is highly adaptable to the garden where it becomes a large shrub and requires only well-drained soil, moderate moisture, and full sun to part shade. It seems to tolerate competition from other plants very well, but requires some pruning to keep its size in check and to remove dead or non-productive  wood.

A established specimen in full bloom along the entrance into UBNA

A established specimen in full bloom along the entrance into UBNA

Philadelphus lewisii portrait 2

 

Common Name:  Lewis’s Mock Orange
Location: Union Bay Natural Area
Origin: Pacific NW Native
Height and Spread: 6-7′ tall and about 5-7′ wide
Bloom/Fruit Time: Late May – Early July

Art Exhibit: A Wetlands Affair, Drawings by Juliet Shen

January 29th, 2014 by Heidi Unruh, UWBG Communications Volunteer

JulietShen-FallReplenishment_sm

Artist Juliet Shen has adopted the Union Bay Natural Area as her outdoor studio, drawing there from her small folding stool through all four seasons. Her drawings of the area will be on display at the Miller Library from February 22 – March 31, 2014.

Please join us for the artist’s opening reception on Friday, February 28, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.

A portion of the proceeds from artwork sales benefit the Library.