Fiddleheads Forest Grove Dispatch: Sunny Days, a New Science Unit, and an Exploration of Friendship

March 6th, 2015 by Kit Harrington

The sun is shining, mosquitoes are buzzing, and blossoms are bursting open everywhere we look; it could just as easily be June in Seattle, but the calendar still tells us it’s winter no matter how incongruous that may seem. Students at the Fiddleheads Forest School are taking full advantage of the seasonal changes. The warm weather has meant that we are continuing to discover lots of mushrooms and fungus in and around the forest grove classroom. Stout slimy red-capped mushrooms and skinny stemmed little brown ones abound, but we are still uncovering occasional surprises here at the Washington Park Arboretum, like the astoundingly bright burst of buttery yellow caps we discovered off Azalea Way with the Magnolia class or the bulky purple mushroom we discovered growing under a spruce in the Mountain Ash Meadow with the Cedar class.


Despite temperatures more  suited to May, Fiddleheads still enjoyed learning about the "art of contrast" in the Winter Garden

Despite temperatures more suited to May, Fiddleheads still enjoyed learning about the “art of contrast” with Sarah in the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden.

We have also noticed an uptick in bird activity in and around the forest grove. Children in both classes spent a week in late January mimicking bald-eagle calls and behavior and incorporating it into their play. The eagles were going through a courtship phase, right on track with last year when we noticed the same sort of activity. Many of the children are remembering and looking forward with excitement to the time when the owls will hatch their little ones. Sarah recently uncovered a roosting spot for one of our barred owl friends, and we now stop to peek in on our sleepy owl friend whenever we take the trail to the stone castle. We’re anticipating the moment when those baby eagles and owls to start fledging in just a few months and have our fingers crossed that mama and papa owl will bring their little ones back to the forest grove again this year!

In science, we started out the year with a unit on our bodies before delving into the vertebrates theme that we will be continuing throughout the winter and spring. In early childhood we teach from the concrete to the abstract, and work to make new concepts as accessible as possible by relating it to the direct experience and world of each child. Therefore we began our study of mammals by examining humans specifically. We introduced numerous materials to the classroom for different learning levels and interests. We started by learning the major external parts of the body with a 3-part card matching activity. To complete this material, children matched the picture and then the word to a card featuring both. In this way, students not only learn the parts of the body, but also strengthen the discriminative ability that is a perceptual underpinning of early literacy development.  A picture-to-picture body-part matching work gave the children the opportunity to name and match the body parts with the rest of the body. Games and songs like “Simon Says,” “Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes,” and “The Hokey Pokey” help to reinforce kinesthetic as well as cognitive awareness of body parts and helped to our hearts pumping and our bodies warm on the cold, wet days.

Our unit on bodies segued quite nicely into discussing difference during the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. After drop-off, each of the children used a stamp pad to make a thumb print on a card with their name. We laminated these cards and used a magnifying glass at to examine them at circle. After taking the time to look at each Kit asked the class what they noticed about the fingerprints. In both the Cedar and Magnolia classes the immediate answer was “They’re different!” The children learned that indeed every human has his or her very own special, unique fingerprint and that no two prints are the same. We discussed the many ways in which our bodies our different, our voices are different, our needs and interests are different, and our families are different.

Taking a closer look at fingerprints.


Children naturally approach the concept of “difference” in a very straightforward and earnest way; as they see it, difference is interesting and remarkable and important and very worthy of discussion. It is, after all, what makes each of us unique, and how we define ourselves in relation to others. In both classes the children agreed that different hair, or skin, or eyes is just that—different. It doesn’t make us any better or worse than anyone else, they noted, it’s just who we are. The children also felt very strongly as a group that difference is important, and that if we were all the same “we wouldn’t be able to tell who anybody was from each other!” as one student exclaimed at circle.

Building a body from the bones up.

Building a body from the bones up.

We continued the conversation about difference as we learned about our internal organs and the important jobs they do. The children appreciated that no matter how different we are on the outside, we all have the same organs inside our bodies, and remarked upon it as they completed different activities. We used a model of the human body  in an object to picture matching work where children learned the names and functions of the brain, lungs, heart, stomach, liver, kidneys, and large and small intestines. A giant puzzle of the human skeleton and musculature offered us an opportunity to work together and problem solve as a group.  The favorite new material by far was a felt work with which the students built a person from the skeleton up; personalizing it with different skin, clothing and hair.

Throughout all of this we reinforced an awareness of the many things that our bodies are capable of—climbing, crawling, jumping, and running through our forest surroundings. The increased awareness of our bodies allowed us to develop new extensions in other areas as well. For example, we recently began engaging in mindfulness practice before heading to our magic spots, and one of our favorite new activities is to use our “mind flashlight” to think about and focus on how different parts of our bodies are feeling. This sort of understanding helps children to develop a heightened awareness of themselves and their own needs.



After spending a month learning about human bodies, the transition into our current mammals unit has been fairly straightforward. We began by learning the characteristics of mammals with the first verse of a song about animals that we’ll continue to add to throughout the spring:

Mammals have lungs that breathe the air

Warm blooded bodies that have skin and hair

Mammals give birth to their living young

Mothers feed milk to their daughters and sons!

We accompanied our lesson about characteristics with the chance to see and feel the fur of a real mammal, a very old Peruvian Jungle Cat pelt that Kit brought in. We learned that almost all mammals have some kind of hair or fur; even whales and dolphins. As a group we worked together to sort pictures and objects representing animals. Many children have taken the time to do the work on their own, and then color and complete an accompanying worksheet of mammals of the Pacific Northwest.

Kit explains how to look for signs that mammals might leave around the arboretum.

Kit and a group of students discuss characteristics of  some of the mammals they might find signs of around the arboretum.

In and around the forest grove we’ve been actively searching for and identifying mammals and looking for clues that mammals have left behind, such as middens of dove fruit scraps left by squirrels, or muddy tracks and scratched tree branches from raccoons. We’ll continue learning about mammals and how they are alike and different from ourselves, as well as the sort of homes they occupy, their life cycles, and their prey and predators. Sarah will be teaching us all about animal tracks, and we’ll focus on finding and identifying different mammals that we might encounter on a daily basis here at the arboretum.


“What zone are you in?”

In our social and emotional curriculum, we have been continuing to build upon our knowledge of zones and feelings with a “Zones Check In” chart. Children have the opportunity to put how they are feeling up on the chart each morning they are at school. The chart reinforces the children’s awareness of the Zones and offers an opportunity for the children to discuss their feelings with the group. We’ve also replaced the old zones necklaces with new ones that feature feelings on them. These further reinforce the connection between different zones and feelings and have created renewed interest in the material. We are continuing to work on developing executive functioning skills by practicing setting goals, making and sharing plans, and using flexible thinking. Throughout the day children are encouraged to work as a team, and when something goes awry, we remember that by “working together, we can make it better.”


As we move into the second half of the school year the children are approaching friendship in new and increasingly developmentally advanced ways. We have been incorporating a number of different activities, materials, and discussions that explore and reinforce the concept of friendship in preschool. As a group we have been singing songs about friendship including “The More We Get Together,” and “I Think You’re Wonderful.” At circle we read and discussed the books “Join in and Play” by Cheri Meiners and “How to Be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them” by Laurie Krasny Brown.

Valentine’s Day was a perfect opportunity to practice looking outward, and we introduced a friendship bracelet activity where children practice braiding and then give away half of what they made. We recently read the book “I am Generous” by David Parker, and are continuing to introduce new activities that focus on making our friends feel good. As teachers we are modeling and highlighting and reinforcing that doing something for another person often feels better than simply engaging in an activity for our own satisfaction.

Friendship bracelet braiding encourages the development of fine motor skills

Friendship bracelet braiding encourages the development of fine motor skills

In the coming weeks we will continue to focus on activities that support the development of empathy. In addition, we will begin building an inventory of tools that we can use to help navigate unexpected situations- our social skills “toolbox.” We’ll also be continuing to expand upon our mindfulness practice and take it out into the wide world around us. The sights and sounds and smells of spring are here, no matter what the calendar says, and we are looking forward to following the progress of fiddlehead fronds, sniffing stinky skunk cabbage, and spying new sprouts and saplings as they surge out of the mud. As weather allows we’ll begin documenting more of what we are seeing by nature journaling as a group. February may just have ended, but already it’s shaping up to be a spectacular spring here in the forest grove.

Best Wishes,

Kit and Sarah

2015 Spring Park in the Dark Dates

February 26th, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

Night time is special at the Arboretum – the people and cars are gone, and the nocturnal animals move about. Night hikes are a chance for us to explore our senses, search for crepuscular and nocturnal movements in the forest and learn about night-related animal adaptations. Programs are designed for families with children aged 5-12 though all ages are welcome! We will meet at the Graham Visitors Center (2300 Arboretum Dr E)
Hikes are always from 7:30-9pm on the Saturday nights listed below:

2015 Spring DatesNight Hike Image

  • April 11th
  • May 9th
  • June 13th

Cost is $8 per person
Register online or call 206-685-8033

Pre-registration is required. This allows our instructor to properly plan and prepare for each class so that you and your family can get the most out of it. Drop-ins are not accepted.

February Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

February 22nd, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (February 17 - March 1, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (February 17 – March 1, 2015)

1)  Camellia japonica      ‘Nina Avery’

  • Due to this year’s mild winter thus far, many plants here have begun flowering much earlier than normal, and Camellias are certainly no exception. Many specimens can be seen in bloom along Arboretum Drive near Rhododendron Glen.

2)  Camellia x williamsii      ‘Mary Christian’

  • Soon after C. saluenensis began to flower it was crossed with C. japonica, notably by J. C. Williams at Caerhays. One of the first plants raised there was named ‘Mary Christian’.
  • Trumpet-shaped, single, carmine-pink flowers are currently on display.

3)  Larix kaempferi      Japanese Larch

  • The needle-shaped leaves of L. kaempferi are just beginning to emerge.
  • Native to Japan and able to reach 80-100 feet in height, this species was introduced by John Gould Veitch in 1861.
  • A member of the family Pinaceae, this specimen is located in the Pinetum near the Stone Bridge.

4)  Magnolia      ‘Royal Crown’

  • This is a popular clone with dark red-to-violet flowers, white on the inside. It was first hybridized by D. Todd Gresham of Santa Cruz, California, who sometimes referred to plants of his cross as the “svelte brunettes” because of the dark color and sleek form of the flowers.
  • Located along Arboretum Drive within the Magnolias.

5)  Symphoricarpos orbiculatus      Coralberry

  • A dense, bushy shrub with ornamental fruit currently on display.
  • Native to the United States.
  • Specimen located within the Viburnums.

February Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

February 4th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (February 2 - 15, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (February 2 – 15, 2015)

Donald Culross Peattie in the Washington Park Arboretum

Staff horticulturist, Ryan Garrison recently listened to an audio version of Donald Culross Peattie’s book, “A Natural History of North American Trees.” He very much enjoyed its mix of science and literary art, and would like to share a few gems about trees in the collection with you.

1)  Carya ovata – Shellbark or Scalybark Hickory
“To everyone with a feeling for things American, and for American history, the Shagbark seems like a symbol of the pioneer age, with its hard sinewy limbs and rude, shaggy coat, like the pioneer himself in fringed deerskin hunting shirt. And the roaring heat of its fires, the tang of its nuts – that wild manna that every autumn it once cast lavishly before the feet – stand for the days of forest abundance.” 1

2)  Pseudotsuga menziesii – Douglastree; Douglas, yellow, or Red Spruce; Oregon Pine
“In the literature of forestry it has wavered between Douglas Fir and Douglas Spruce, though it is no Spruce and no true Fir, as botanist see matters. Some years ago the Forest Service officially settled on “Douglas Fir” and if this impaction seems to you to clear up matters, you may use it with the blessings of the Government Printing Office. The least misleading of proposed names is Douglastree, since it leans on no analogies and still does honor to that noble pioneer among explorer-botanists of the Northwest, David Douglas.” 1

3)  Sequoia sempervirens – California Redwood, Coastal Sequoia, Sempervirens, Palo Colorado
“Your footfalls make no sound on the needles and moss that have lain there for centuries. Your body casts no shadow in that green, lake like diffused light. The goose honking of a car, the calling of a child, fade into the immensity of silence. Time, the common tick-tock of it, ceases here, and you become aware of time in another measure – out of an awesome past. For this forest has stood here since the Ice Age, and here, together with this transfixed past, is the future too, for these immense lives will outlast yours by a thousand years or so.” 1

4)  Sequoiadendron giganteum – California Bigtree; Sierra Redwood; Mammoth-tree
“The summers are exceedingly dry; if rain does fall it is apt to come with violent thunderstorms and lightning bolts that have been seen to rive a gigantic Sequoia from the crown to its roots. Those who know the species best maintain that it never dies of disease or senility. If it survives the predators of its infancy and the hazard of fire in youth, then only a bolt from heaven can end its centuries of life. Perhaps, if this majestic tree had a will, it would prefer to go this way, by an act of God.” 1

1 Peattie, Donald Culross, and Paul Landacre. A Natural History of North American Trees. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print.

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

January 25th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist

Witt Winter Garden

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (January 19-31, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (January 19-31, 2015)

1)  Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’         Bloodtwig Dogwood

  • Young stems of this cultivar are orange-yellow with the sunny side turning carmine red.
  • Stem color of species is gray to purple, while the color of C.s. ‘Midwinter Fire’ is yellow-green in summer changing to winter colors rapidly at leaf drop in fall.

2)  Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’             Witch Hazel

  • This hybrid of H. japonica and H. mollis was selected for its pale sulfur-yellow flowers which tend to glow in the low light levels of morning and evening.
  • Cultivars of witch hazel can have flower colors from pale yellow to deep red, some being quite fragrant while others are much less so.

3)  Lonicera standishii                   Honeysuckle

  • This semi-evergreen shrub bears fragrant flowers from early winter to early spring.
  • Lonicera standishii is native to China.

4)  Ruscus aculeatus                    Butcher’s Broom

  • Lacking true leaves, what you are seeing are called “cladophylls” which are simply flattened stems.
  • The flowers of this plant are dioecious, only 2 mm across and are located in the center of the cladophylls.
  • Butcher’s Broom is native to Europe, Turkey, North Africa and the Azores.

5)  Viburnum tinus ‘Pink Prelude’                Laurustinus

  • This species has been cultivated in England since the 16th century.
  • V.t. ‘Pink Prelude’ has white flowers that age to pink.
  • The flowers of laurustinus are followed by small, but showy metallic-blue fruit.

January Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

January 11th, 2015 by Kathleen DeMaria, Arboretum Gardener
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum        (January 5 - 18, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (January 5 – 18, 2015)

“Piercing, sucking and galling!”

1)  Mites (on Sasa Bamboo and Skimmia)

  • Stippling and yellowing of leaves are often indicative of the presence of mites.
  • Feed by piercing underside of leaves and sucking chlorophyll out decreasing photosynthesis, reducing plant vigor and compromising the appearance.
  • Mites are not insects; they are arachnids.

2)  Galls (on Willow and Rose)

  • Abnormal plant growths caused by various organisms (insects, mites, fungi, etc.)
  • Galls are formed by increased production of normal plant hormones as response to feeding, egg-laying or disease infiltration and are often not harmful to the plant.
  • Galls can be on leaves, stems, twigs, buds, flowers and roots

3)  Blights (on Hazelnut and Cherry)

  • Refers to a symptom affecting plants in response to infection by a pathogen.
  • Blights come on rapidly and can cause complete chlorosis and browning of plant tissues such as leaves, branches and twigs; plant death is not uncommon.
  • Aided by cool, moist conditions and limited air flow to plants…perfect for the Pacific Northwest!

4)  Phylloxera (on Oak)

  • Microscopic, yellow sucking aphid relatives that feed on leaves and buds.
  • Yellowish spots on leaves in spring turn to brown by summer and defoliate.
  • Repeated defoliation abates photosynthesis and can lead to plant death.

5)  Armillaria root rots (shown on Bigleaf Maple, but many trees are susceptible)

  • Fungus cause stunted leaves, chlorotic needles, dieback of twigs and branches and eventually death.
  • Identified by white mats of fungal mycelium between the inner bark and wood and honey-brown mushrooms growing on or around the base of the tree.
  • A big threat to the lumber industry as the wood is unsalvageable.

Arboretum Event Rentals on Sale

December 23rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

We are offering 10% off the room rental fee if you hold a new event* at Graham Visitors at the Washington Park Arboretum between December 2014 and April 2015.

GVC Patio at Arboretum

Call 206-221-2500 to take advantage of this offer and to book your next event!

*This promotional discount is good for one meeting or social event per customer. Weddings or wedding receptions do not apply to this offer.



A glimpse into the past – Leissler’s 1934 design for the Arboretum

December 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

An historic document connected to the early “life” of the Washington Park Arboretum has been found.  It is the (believed) first design for the Arboretum, prepared in 1934 by Frederick Leissler, landscape architect in the Seattle Department of Parks.

photo of plan

Copy of the Leissler Plan for Washington Park Arboretum

Scot Daniel Medbury in his M.S. thesis The Olmsted Taxonomic Arboretum and its Application to Washington Park, Seattle (1990), documents this plan (pg 99). Scot was able to interview Mr. Leissler shortly before his death.  Notes from these interviews are located in the Miller Library and UW Library Special Collections.  Medbury states “[Leissler’s] design was monumental in the Beaux-Arts style, and included a gigantic conservatory rising above an axial and symmetrical series of planting beds.”  Medbury reported that Leissler had adapted a design he made when he was a student that won a national prize for the first Arboretum plan.  The plan called for an intensive development and as Leissler himself was later to recall, “the plan would have cost a fortune to build.”  In a later draft, Leissler emphasized three main rock gardens, the “Alaska Rock Garden,” the “Northwest Rock Garden,” and the “Rock Garden of the Orient.”

It’s an interesting story of how I learned of the document’s existence. Leissler passed the original copy (signed by both Frederick Leissler and Hugo Winkenwerder, Dean of the UW College of Forestry) to Jon Stewart, a friend and colleague at Oregon State University. Recently, Mr. Stewart shared it with Raymond Williams, professor emeritus from OSU and a personal acquaintances from my time at Purdue University.  It so happens that Steve Garber, a long-time Arboretum Foundation member, former Foundation president and Japanese Garden Society officer is Raymonds’s brother-in-law.  Mr. Garber, in turn, brought it to my attention, and all of us are now involved with finding a permanent home for the document.


Raymond Williams, professor emeritus, Oregon State University; Jon Stewart, owner of the document and donor, friend of Frederick Leissler; Steve Garber, Washington Park Arboretum long-time supporter. Taken August 2, 2013


Steve Garber; John Wott, Director Emeritus, UWBG; Brian Thompson, Miller Library Manager and Curator of Horticultural Literature; Julie Coryell, Japanese Garden Society enthusiast and long time supporter.
Taken July 9, 2014

Tool rules from a seasoned horticulturist for home gardeners

December 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

UW Botanic Gardens Horticulturist Neal Bonham has been gardening at the Washington Park Arboretum for years. He’s the go to person on staff for power tool repair. When asked if he had any rules for home gardeners for optimal tool use he grew philosophical, “I’m reminded of the anecdote of someone asking a Taoist butcher how often he sharpened his knife. He answered ‘I never sharpen it. I only cut between the joints.'”

tool photo

Use the right tool for the job for best results.

Neal’s practical rules for hand tools are:

“Use stainless steel tools whenever possible – they don’t need care.

“Never lay tools on the ground – that’s how you lose them.

“Don’t fight nature. That is, if a branch is too big for your pruners, use a saw. If your shovel or fork hits an object you can’t move with one hand, stop trying. Nature will win and your tools will lose.

“The old adage is ‘there’s a proper tool for every job.’ The value there is that is that you will appreciate the abilities of each tool.”

December Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

November 29th, 2014 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (November 24, 2014 - December 7, 2014)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (November 24 – December 7, 2014)

1)    Araucaria araucana      (Monkey Puzzle)

  • Native to Chile, no other conifer quite like it!
  • Seeds are used to make an alcoholic ceremonial drink called mudai.

2)   Picea glauca      (White Spruce)

  • Native to northern temperate forests of North America.
  • Captain Cook made a spruce beer, possibly curing his crew from scurvy.

3)   Pinus cembra      (Swiss Stone Pine)

  • Native to Alps of Central Europe.
  • Try a Royal Tannenbaum cocktail made with Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur!

4)   Pseudotsuga menziesii      (Douglas Fir)

  • Native to our “neck of the woods”.
  • McCarthy’s Clear Creek Distillery (in Portland OR) makes a green spirit from Douglas Fir buds called Douglas Fir eau-de-vie.

5)   Taiwania cryptomerioides      (Coffin Tree)

  • Native to eastern Asia.
  • Imbibe too much and you may wind up in a box made from this tree. :(


* All references to alcoholic drinks are from the book, The Drunken Botanist
by Amy Stewart, ©2013,  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

NOTE:  Use our interactive on-line map for location and other information on the above
[Enter Latin name in search box in the upper right corner.]