Glimpse into the past – the Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree

September 22nd, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
David Zuckerman and the Centennial Tree in 2003, just after transplanting.

David Zuckerman and the Centennial Tree in 2003, just after transplanting.

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

On Thursday, October 29, 2015, the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington will honor Daniel J. Evans, on his 90th birthday, for his public leadership, scholarship, and service.  What an opportune time to mention the Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree at the Washington Park Arboretum…a coast redwood  (Sequoia sempervirens) which he planted in the south Pinetum as part of the Washington State Arbor Day program.   This tree has grown from a propagule (cutting) from the original tree named in 1989 during the State Centennial.  That tree was located at 201 Union Avenue SE, Olympia, WA, centered on a small knoll on property originally owned by Russell O’Brien, an Irish immigrant, and occupied by three generations of family thereafter.  The site is now called Centennial Park.  The tree was about 50 feet from the foundation of the old house that originally occupied the site, near a newer smaller home. (At this date, I have not been able to determine if the tree is still there, although I personally have visited it several times over the last 33 years.)

In 1998, the parent tree was at least 100 years old, 148 feet tall, and 67.2 inches in girth.  Ken Russell, Forest Pathologist, cored the tree and determined its age and wrote a description (1988) which is attached to our accession record. Other specific information can be found in the Washington State Historical Society records.  It is unknown how the tree arrived in Olympia and why it was planted on the O’Brien property.

Original certificate for the tree.

Original certificate for the tree.

In 1995, as Arboretum Director, I received an inquiry from Shelley Farber, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, asking if we would be interested in a propagule, since the DNR had several rooted trees which they wished to establish throughout the State of Washington. The official certificate is signed by Shelley on February 27, 1995 at 3:20 p.m.

The Arbor Day planting of the tree took place in a very heavy rain storm on the Washington State Arbor Day, April 12. 1995.  (The Washington State Arbor Day is a different day than the National Arbor Day).  The ceremony was attended by Dean David Thorud, UW College of Forestry, Clement Hamilton, Director of the Center for Urban Horticulture,  dignitaries from DNR, area high school students, and arboretum staff, myself included.  The arboretum staff (Christina Pfeiffer and David Zuckerman) had prepared a great planting site, with the tree (Accession #245-95) patiently waiting in its plastic pot.  After appropriate speeches, and with great gusto, the young tree was passed to David for planting preparation.  He lifted and tugged on the pot only to discover that it was totally pot bound, necessitating slicing off the pot.  Of course the roots were found to be one solid round core.   We all stood patiently for several minutes in the rain while David struggled to cut and loosen the roots, wanting to make sure the tree would survive. It has!  Finally, Governor Evans was able to plant the tree and we all quickly retreated for drier locations, leaving the staff to finish the planting job.

Governor Evans at the Arbor Day tree planting, April 12, 1995.

Governor Evans at the Arbor Day tree planting, April 12, 1995.

The Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree being transplanted, 2003.

The Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree being transplanted, 2003.

The tree flourished well, but on September 23, 2003, it was moved a few feet north, thus giving it more space.  Todd Holm, from Olympic Tree Farm, was the tree spade contractor. The tree has continued to flourish. In 2003, it was measured by Randall Hitchin at 30 feet tall, with a 6 inch dbh.  Today, it is 70 feett tall with 20 inch dbh.

I often see Governor Evans enjoying a milkshake at one of his favorite haunts, Burgermaster.   Occasionally we chat about his tree, and he tells me that he regularly visits it with his family, including his grandchildren.   This in indeed a superb tribute to a great man with a great tree which will remain a legacy for at least another 100 years, a milestone he himself is within 10 years of achieving.

Cool Seeds Abound

September 11th, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.26.25 PMPterocarya stenoptera, common name Chinese Wing Nut, has gorgeous lime green seed catkins 12-14″ long each bearing up to 80 seeds. That’s pretty amazing in itself but when these seed catkins are dripping off of each limb of a tall tree the effect is stunning.

The Wing Nut genus resides in the walnut family, or Juglandaceae, and is used for ornamental purposes in gardens around the world.   Its native habitats are in China, Japan, and Korea, growing in areas from sea level to elevations of about 1500 feet.  Like its cousin nut trees – the Walnut, Pecan & Hickory – this large deciduous tree has pinnate leaves and grows quickly with a rangy habit.Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.26.59 PM

We have a few different Pterocarya species in the Washington Park Arboretum collection.  I like to stop and admire the large P. stenoptera specimen along Azalea Way; it was acquired in 1951 and is now about 60′ feet tall.   Because it has many low-hanging limbs, you can touch the seed catkins, which are surprisingly rigid and tough.

You can learn about this tree and many others in our collection if you join our Free Weekend Walks for September.  Our tour theme is “Fruits, Nuts & Seed Pods” because right now is the time to marvel at the bounty which is the result of spring pollination.  Guides meet visitors at the Graham Visitors Center every Sunday at 1:00 pm and off you go to explore our great park.

A Wind in the Willows (and Cedars, Firs, Maples…)

September 5th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist

How some trees react to high winds.

A broken <em>Acer macrophyll </em> (Big Leaf Maple) um stem located at the east end of Loderi Valley in the Washington Park Arboretum

A broken Acer macrophyllum (Big Leaf Maple) stem located at the east end of Loderi Valley in the Washington Park Arboretum

1)  Pseudotsuga menziesii                Douglas Fir

  • The detritus lying on the ground following a wind event in the Pacific Northwest provides ample evidence of how P. menziesii defends itself against wind.
  • The wood of P. menziesii is brittle and can snap. When a strong wind acts on a Douglas Fir, the tree sacrifices small pieces of foliage to shed the wind’s energy.

2)  Thuja plicata                Western Red Cedar

  • In contrast to Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar limbs are fibrous and tenaciously strong. Long, bendable limbs whip and swing in the wind, but rarely break.
  • The wind’s energy is transferred to the trunk and the cedar relies on its massive girth and extensive root system to keep it upright.

3)  Populus trichocarpa                Black Cottonwood

  • In growth, P. trichocarpa sacrifices strength for speed.
  • Just to the northwest of our Overlook Pond, a massive black cottonwood demonstrates how weak wood tends to shatter under stress.

4)  Salix spp.                Willow

  • Often growing in wet bottomlands, the roots of willows can be shallow mats that are relatively easy to peel up when a strong wind levers a tall tree.

5)  Acer macrophyllum                Big Leaf Maple

  • The wood of Acer macrophyllum is strong but heavy. The massive, reaching limbs can shatter mid-limb when wind pulls on the sail-like leaves.
  • A recent example is located at the east end of Loderi Valley just above Arboretum Drive, although many of our big-leaf maples are festooned with “storm stubs.”

Pittosporum (Pitta=pitch, Sporum=seed) : August 17 – 30, 2015

August 23rd, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the New Zealand Forest in the Pacific Connections Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum (August 17 - 30, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the New Zealand Forest in the Pacific Connections Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum (August 17 – 30, 2015)

Native to New Zealand (and Australia, Asia, and Africa). Flowers are sweetly scented and seeds are coated with a sticky substance giving the plant its name, pitch-seed.
All plants below can be seen growing in the New Zealand Forest in the Pacific Connections Garden.

1)   Pittosporum eugenioides               Lemonwood

  • New Zealand’s tallest Pittosporum, P. eugenioides can reach 40 feet.
  • Its yellow-green leaves with curly edges have a strong scent of lemon when crushed.

2)   Pittosporum divaricatum

  • Divaricating (stretched or spread apart) branching patterns and small juvenile foliage protect this plant from beaked predators.
  • As the plant gains height, adult foliage emerges safe from predation.

3)   Pittosporum patulum               Pitpat

  • Endemic to the South Island of New Zealand.
  • Pitpat has been on the IUCN Red List as endangered since 1999.
  • IUCN stands for:  International Union for Conservation of Nature.

4)   Pittosporum ralphii               Ralph’s Kohuhu

  • Thick leathery, undulating leaves sport dense white tomentum on the underside.
  • Hermaphroditic flowers give way to orange-yellow seed capsules and black seeds.

5)   Pittosporum tenuifolium               ‘Tom Thumb’

  • This purple-leaved cultivar of P. tenuifolium is a dense, slow-growing evergreen shrub with a rounded habit.
  • You can find this plant in the newly-renovated courtyard of the Graham Visitor Center.

Leafless in Seattle

August 14th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (August 3 - 16, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (August 3 – 16, 2015)

1)  Clematis afoliata

  • Native to the dry, eastern side of New Zealand.
  • Now growing in our New Zealand Focal Forest.
  • Eventually becomes a wiry mound with fragrant spring flowers.

2)  Hakea epiglottis

  • Native to Tasmania and growing outside our Education Office.
  • Hakea needs sun and dry, infertile soil.
  • The round “stems” are true leaves despite their appearance.

3)  Phyllocladus aspleniifolius

  • Another Tasmanian native, this tree prefers moist lowlands. Its “leaves” are actually modified stems called “phylloclades”.
  • A related species, Phyllocladus alpinus is native to New Zealand and is growing in our New Zealand gardens.

4)  Ruscus aculeatus               Butcher’s Broom

  • The “leaves” of Ruscus and Danae are called “cladodes”: a subtle and not clearly defined difference from “phylloclades”, but still modified stems.
  • Ruscus aculeatus and Ruscus hypoglossum are both growing in the Witt Winter Garden.

5)  Danae racemosa               Alexandrian Laurel

  • Danae and Ruscus are members of the Asparagus family.
  • Danae is native to Asia Minor and is growing in our Winter Garden.
  • Ruscus is native to the Mediterranean region.

My First Free Weekend Walk

July 31st, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

This is the first in a series of blog posts we will be sharing from our summer communications volunteer, Saffron Hefta-Gaub. Saffron is a sophomore at the Bush School in Seattle, Washington, and we are delighted to share her perspectives on UW Botanic Gardens’ spaces and programs. 

July 19th, 2015


On this lazy, hot, summer day, I embarked on my first event with the UW Botanic Gardens: the Free Weekend Walk. The great things about the tour are that it’s free, every Sunday, and open to all ages. The walking was brisk, and despite the heat, our guide Catherine kept us entertained. The theme of this day was Hydrangeas and Other Summer Bloomers. Themes like this switch every month to best fit the season.

Because I can’t drive, I was dropped off at the Graham Visitors Center, just before one o’clock. After inquiring at the desk, I waited until our guide came right on time, starting us out with a few introductory facts. I learned that the park was 230 acres, the majority of the land being owned by the city with the collections belonging to the Botanic Gardens. We were a group of twelve, including me, horticulturalists  and tourists alike. To begin, we circled around the parking lot, stopping by the greenhouse to see the large-leafed “dinosaur food” bog plant native to South America, with long, almost Pinecone-esque petalless  flowers. Behind the greenhouse was a gorgeous pomegranate tree, which, with the warm season we’ve been having, bore fruit.

After we looked at the various trees in the bright sun, we circled back around to the main path, which thankfully had patches of shade. It was 90 degrees out, mind you, and I had stupidly forgotten a water bottle. Our guide was good at keeping our minds off the heat, though my thirst for water preoccupied a third of my thoughts. The rest of my mind filtered through facts and phrases for this post, while another small section wanted to be binge watching my favorite show, though I shouldn’t mention that here, have to be professional. 😉

The tour, after all, was focused on the blooming hydrangeas, and the first one we accounted on the path was drooping from the drought. In fact, many of the plants we passed had brown, forgotten leaves. Facts from my 9th grade biology class kept popping up, an unplanned refresher in photosynthesis and the food web. The dead leaves on the underside of the trees were the plants’ way of conserving energy and water; leaves with less light had more energy going into growth than coming out of photosynthesis. We also spotted snag trees, dead plants that had become homes for insects, decomposers who feed off the bark. The insects attract hungry birds and bats, and soon you have full ecosystems on one dead tree.

Back to the hydrangeas: interesting tidbit, there are three kinds of hydrangeas: lace top, mop top, and the cone-shaped paniculatas. The flowerettes around the base of the lace top, when lifted up, are a signal to the bees that pollination should occur, and drop once there is nectar. Nature is amazing!

Next in our walk up the shadow scattered hill were the magnolias. Yet another thing that I learned was that because magnolias, evolutionarily, predate bees; the flowers are shaped and hang in a way so that they can be pollinated by ants and beetles. The magnolias have a nice citrus smell, and because of the unusual heat, many of the trees we passed were on there second bloom of the season, which our guide had never seen before. The magnolias also provided a much needed shade. Another tree we saw was the sassafras tree, the origin of root beer. The cool thing about the sassafras  tree was that was only one of two trees with the three kinds of leaf shapes: mitten, flame, and ghost. Seeing all the differently shaped leaves on this tree and the other species we passed was strange and interesting.


Finally, we got to the large collection of hydrangeas. There were many beautiful bushes, colored blue and white. Catherine informed us that these hydrangeas did in fact change color based on the PH of the soil. We also spotted a hydrangea that grew vine-like on a tree, but in a safe way. By now, it was time to turn back, and we headed on a gravel path through the forest, where it was shady and cool. The final fascinating fact I learned was that many of the magnolias and other “tropical” plants that thrive in the southeast United States are related to the plants of Asia, an offshoot from back when the land was all one continent.

All in all it was a great way to spend my afternoon. Our guide Catherine made it entertaining, educational, and we got in some exercise! All three e’s! The Botanic Gardens have my interest, and I am sure they will have yours if you take the chance to visit. The Arboretum is beautiful, the paths are easy to use, and with these guided tours, navigating and fact-learning is easier. I’d highly recommend it. :)


Big Big Flowers

July 16th, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

maggrandifloraflwrThe Magnolia grandifloras in our collection are blooming now!  Who doesn’t love a 12-inch wide flower that smells great?   The commonly named Southern Magnolia or Bull-Bay is native to the SE United States from Eastern Texas, along the lower Gulf Coast to the Atlantic where it grows in loamy soils near water.  It has proven to be very adaptable to different soils and this has allowed for its ability to be cultivated in many different climates.  The largest M. grandifloras in their native habitat have been measured at up to 125′.  In non-native climate gardens they tend to grow to about 80′.

This tree is a valued ornamental in gardens around the world because of its large flowers and dark green glossy evergreen leaves.  It is used industrially for its beautiful hardwood to make furniture and cabinetry.  The seeds are food for native southeast squirrels, possums, quail and turkeys.  The leaves, fruit, bark and wood also are valued for their pharmaceutical properties.

Our collection M. grandifloras are located on either side of Arboretum Drive in the Magnolia section of the arboretum.   These trees are quite large and most of its flowers are high up, but there are a few on the lower branches accessible for smelling that nice citrusy scent.  Tour visitors from the Southern US assure me that this scent can be smelled at a distance down there, but up here in the Pacific NW one has to get up close to enjoy the scent.  And, speaking of tours, these trees and other summer bloomers like the Hydrangea are featured in our Free Weekend Walks for the month of July.  Join us any Sunday; we meet at 1:00 pm at the Graham Visitors Center.



Glimpse into the past – Dreams of an Arboretum at the University of Washington

July 15th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Recently, I was browsing The Long Road Traveled by Henry Schmitz, from 1973, in preparation for a presentation about the Washington Park Arboretum.  I believe it is important to review how the leadership of the University of Washington was the catalyst to create the Arboretum. Almost all of this “glimpse” is the writing of Dr. Schmitz, but in a very condensed form.

The University of Washington seems to have wanted an arboretum from very early in its history. Shortly after his election in 1891 as a member of the State legislature, Edmond S. Meany became chairman of the legislative committee concerned with the acquisition of a new campus for the University. There are indications that he promoted the project in part by claims that it would provide an arboretum for the State as well as a campus for the University. If this is true, it was undoubtedly a method to elicit support from the lumber industry, which was not entirely without influence at that time in the state legislature. The late Herbert Condon used to relate a delightful story about a member of the legislature whom Mr. Meany was attempting to interest in the selection of the Union Bay area for the new campus-arboretum. The legislator listened to the arguments and then said, “Meany, I will help you get the area, but tell me-what in hell is an arboretum?”

Professor Edmond S. Meany

Professor Edmond S. Meany

It seems clear that for some years after the University moved to the new (and present) location selected by Dr. Meany’s committee, the development of an arboretum on the campus remained an important aim. The text calls attention to gifts of trees from the Seattle City Parks Department for planting on the new grounds.  On Arbor Day 1898, the Parks Department had presented the University with fifty assorted oaks and honey locusts. Later, Parks contributed an additional 2200 fine trees embracing almost thirty species new to the grounds, as well as a donation of a thousand perennials. These donations, along with a collection of five hundred more perennials from other sources gave impetus to a plan for the beautification of the campus.  These donations were said to “represent 42 natural orders and 179 species.”

A seed and plant exchange with eastern collectors was established by Dr. Meany to secure for the campus “as many rare and desirable species as possible.” Contributions of seeds were received from California, the Canadian Department of Agriculture, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Dr. Meany’s home garden was used entirely for growing seedlings of tree seeds received through the seed exchange. Since the city water mains had not yet been extended to his home, it was necessary for him to carry water in pails to the nursery beds. He was especially proud of the relations he had established with Kew Gardens and was greatly concerned that the seedlings survive.

College of Forestry Dean, Hugo Winkenwerder

College of Forestry Dean, Hugo Winkenwerder

Sadly, when the campus was cleared for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, many of the trees planted in the early days by Professor Meany and others were destroyed. Nevertheless, the idea of an arboretum on the campus did not completely die. A few years later, Hugo Winkenwerder, Dean of the College of Forestry, with the enthusiastic support of Professor Meany, proposed to President Franklin Kane that the entire area below the railroad tracks be set aside for arboretum purposes. This proposal was approved by the President and the area was designated “Arboretum” on maps of the campus of that period.Progress was slow, and as the years went by, pressures developed on the campus for the construction of a golf course in the arboretum area. It was argued by the proponents of the golf course that the area could serve both purposes – the fairways and greens would occupy only part of the space and the remaining area could still serve as an arboretum. However, the golf course eventually took possession of the entire area and in late 1923 Dean Winkenwerder gloomily said that he “lost all hope of ever developing an arboretum on the University campus.”

Henry Suzzallo, UW President 1915-1926

UW President Henry Suzzallo

Although he recognized that an arboretum on campus was impractical because of the ever-changing patterns of land use by a growing university, Dean Winkenwerder did not for a moment give up the idea of developing an arboretum somewhere, and he conferred with President Henry Suzzallo to explore other possibilities. Even though it was President Suzzallo who had transformed the last campus arboretum into a golf course, he had a clear concept of the importance of a highly developed botanical garden and arboretum as a resource to the natural science departments of the University and to the people of Seattle and the State. He believed that the Arboretum should be developed jointly by the University and the City of Seattle.

Shortly after his conference with Dean Winkenwerder, Dr. Suzzallo addressed the Seattle Rotary Club to enlist the support of this important group of business and professional leaders for an arboretum in the Washington Park area. He said in part: “to the Board of Park Commissioners, that Board seems to have prepared Resolution No. 40 setting aside the entire area of Washington Park for a botanical garden and arboretum and giving the University of Washington certain privileges” (6th Day of February 1924).

Want to read the rest of the story? The Road Less Traveled is available for borrowing at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.


July Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

July 12th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (July 6 - 20, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (July 6 – 20, 2015)

1)  Itea ilicifolia                Holly-leaved Sweet Spire

  • Native to western China
  • Evergreen shrub growing up to 16 feet tall and 10 feet wide
  • Bears fragrant racemes of greenish-white flowers in late summer and fall
  • Located west of the Magnolia Collection near the south end of the Asiatic Maples

2)  Lomatia myricoides                Long-leaf Lomatia

  • Native to New South Wales in southeastern Australia
  • One of the hardier members of the Proteaceae
  • Honey-scented white flowers are much visited by bees in summer
  • Located across Arboretum Drive from the New Zealand Focal Forest

3)  Pterocarya stenoptera                Chinese Wingnut

  • Native to China
  • Deciduous tree to 70 feet or greater, with a trunk diameter as large as 8 feet
  • Located west of Azalea Way, north of Loderi Valley

4)  Quercus vacciniifolia                Huckleberry Oak

  • Native to western North America, mountains of the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Range
  • Leaves and acorns are an important food source for birds and mammals within its native range.
  • Located atop the rockery at the east end of the trail above the Gateway to Chile

5)  Rehderodendron macrocarpum                Mu gua hong

  • Native to Mt. Emei, Sichuan Province, China
  • Small deciduous tree 20 to 30 feet tall, related to Styrax
  • Located east of Azalea Way on the north end of the Rhododendron Hybrid bed

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

July 2nd, 2015 by Pat Chinn-Sloan
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 22 - July 5, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 22 – July 5, 2015)

1)  Quercus gilva                    Evergreen Oak

  • Native to China and Japan
  • Reaches heights of 90-100 feet in its native range
  • Located in the Oak Collection along the South Oaks Extension Trail

2)  Rhododendron calophytum           Beautiful-face Rhododendron

  • Native to China
  • Large species rhododendron capable of becoming a tree
  • Located along trail between Loderi Valley and the Woodland Garden

3)  Sequoia sempervirons  ‘Cantab’                     Coast Redwood

  • A cultivar of the coast redwood with unique needles
  • Specimens vary in form from shrubby to tree-like
  • Located in the north end of the Pinetum, along the Pinetum Trail

4)  Thujopsis dolobrata                    Hiba Arborvitae

  • A Japanese native
  • Capable of reaching 100 feet or more in Japan, yet large specimens are rare in the Seattle area
  • Located along the south slope of the Woodland Garden

5)  Viburnum rhytidophyllum                    Leatherleaf Viburnum

  • Native to China
  • Large evergreen shrub recorded to heights of 30 feet
  • Located along the trail through the Viburnum Collection