Monday, October 10, 2016

Autumn Splendor at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum

October brings cooler temps and a ramping up of fall colors in southern Michigan.

Over the next week or two, fall colors at the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum will unfold in all their majesty. Here are some sights----big-picture and small-scale---that Matthaei-Nichols staff and volunteer photographers captured at the Gardens and Arboretum. Click on any picture to see an expanded gallery of images.

Visit the Botanical Gardens: 1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48105; and Nichols Arboretum: 1610 Washington Hts., Ann Arbor. 734-647-7600. mbgna.umich.edu.

Volunteer photographer Zohair Mohsen took this shot at Matthaei Botanical
Gardens of a tiger moth caterpillar (Arctia caja) bristling with hairs.
(Photo taken 10-5-16.)

Volunteer photographer Zohair Mohsen captured the hidden beauty of
cow parsnip (
Heracleum maximum) seeds. (Photo taken 10-5-16.)

Poison ivy is a problem plant for a lot of reasons
but its fall leaves offer a bounty of subtle hues.
(Photo taken by volunteer photographer 
Zohair Mohsen: 10-5-16.)

Volunteer photographer Zohair Mohsen caught these elm leaves in
their startling transition between summer and fall. (Photo taken at
Matthaei: 10-5-16.)

The Alex Dow Field in Nichols Arboretum shows off its prairie grasses.
(Photo by Lars Miller: 10-9-16.)

The Alex Dow Field in Nichols Arboretum shows off its prairie grasses.
(Photo by Lars Miller: 10-9-16.)

The river front along the Huron River in Nichols Arboretum is a favorite spot for
contemplation and observation. An old box elder provides a
sitting spot for visitors. (Photo by Michele Yanga-10-7-16.)

Looking west up the Huron River along the river front at
Nichols Arboretum. (Photo by Lars Miller: 10-9-16.)

Always time for a selfie at the river front in Nichols Arboretum. (Photo by Lars
Miller: 10-9-16.)

The uncharacteristically quiet valley in Nichols Arboretum. (Photo by Lars
Miller: 10-9-16.)

Numerous benches in Nichols Arboretum offer a welcome place to
rest and contemplate. (Photo by Lars Miller: 10-9-16.)

The footpath along the prairie in Nichols
Arboretum is a favorite place to walk.
(Photo by Lars Miller: 10-9-16.)

Why not study next to the Huron River on a
perfect fall day in the Arb?
(Photo by Lars Miller: 10-9-16.)

Sumac turns a stunning red each fall. These are along the path that
circles Dow Field in Nichols Arboretum. (Photo by Lars Miller: 10-9-16.)

Hop hornbeam show its vivid yellow leaves and hop-like
seed pods. (Photo by Michele Yanga-10-7-16.)

The Gateway Garden at Matthaei blooms with vivid colors
right up to the first frost. (Photo taken 10/4/16)

Another view of the Gateway Garden at Matthaei. This garden
is a favorite of birds, butterflies, and brides, and it
blooms with vivid colors 
right up to
the first frost. (Photo taken 10/4/16.)

A viburnum at Matthaei begins to turn a beautiful shade of
purplish-red. (Photo taken 10/4/16.)

A cloud of white aster drifts across the landscape at Matthaei.
(Photo taken 10/4/16.)

Purple aster frames a bench at Matthaei.
(Photo taken 10/4/16.)

Sumac guarantees a show of red leaves each fall. (Photo taken Matthaei 10/4/16.)

White anemone stands above the landscape each fall in the perennial
garden at Matthaei. (Photo taken 10/4/16.)

Green for now, these gingko trees will turn a
dazzling gold almost all
at once as cold
weather nears. 
(Photo taken 10/4/16.)

Trees, reeds, grasses, woody shrubs, and water make a perfect fall palette
near Willow Pond at Matthaei. (Photo taken 10/4/16.)
Dogwood surprises with its purple hues at Matthaei. (Photo taken 10/4/16.)

Orange leaves against a blue sky at Matthaei. (Photo taken 10/4/16.)

A Matthaei vista with maple trees. (Photo taken 10/4/16.)

A Matthaei vista with maple trees. (Photo taken 10/4/16.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Birds, Bees, and Bonsai: October Programs at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum Highlight a Diversity of Topics

Each month throughout the year Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum offers a diverse selection of programs brought to you by our community and non-profit partners. Groups like Washtenaw Audubon Society, Sierra Club Huron Valley, Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Center, and Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers bring fascinating---and for the most part free---educational programs on topics relevant to what's happening in the world of plants, animals, horticulture, and more.

Read on for some of our October 2016 offerings. All programs held at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48105, unless noted otherwise:

Tues., Oct. 11, 7 pm
New Impetus from Old Germany: My Strange and Terrible Journey to the Heart of German Beekeeping
Andrew Mills, a lecturer in German at the University of Michigan and a member of UMBees in ANn Arbor, recounts his summer 2016 trip through Germany, meeting beekeepers along the way and discovering what it means to keep bees in Germany. 

Wed., Oct 12, 6-7:30 pm 
Catching Your Breath
A free monthly program for caregivers of adults with memory loss. Designed for learning skills for continued health and well-being. Program is free but please register directly with the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center: 734.936.8803. Presented by Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Free.

Thurs., Oct. 13, 1-2:30 pm

Photo of ichiyo school arrangement
courtesy Ikebana International.
Ikebana: Japanese Flower Arranging
Create your own seasonal Ikebana arrangement with guidance by a certified instructor. Workshops are the second Thursday of each month from 1:00 - 2:30 in room 125. Cost is $20.00 which covers flowers and instructor. Reservations required. Info:  a2ikebana@gmail.com. Presented by Ann Arbor Ikebana International Chapter.

Sat., October 15, 11 am
Vanda coerulea Orchids
Learn about the Vanda coerulea orchid, also called the blue orchid, and about how orchids are judged for the American Orchid Society at the Great Lakes Judging Center’s monthly program. Today’s session presented by Alex Challis, Great Lakes Judging Center accredited judge. Presented by Great Lakes Judging Center (Orchids). Free.

Mon., Oct. 17, 7:30 pm
Photo: One of the most famous dunes in the
world: Michigan's Sleeping Bear dune.
Dune Ecology and Restoration
Shaun Howard, Nature Conservancy Project Manager for Eastern Lake Michigan, discusses this well-known Great Lakes habitats and the Nature Conservancy’s efforts to restore them. Presented by Michigan Botanical Club. Free.

Tues., Oct. 18, 7:30 pm
Improving Trail Connectivity in Ann Arbor
Despite the many recent improvements in Ann Arbor’s non-motorized system, there are still some major discontinuities in the trail system. Larry Deck, a board member of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition, will present the organization’s proposal for how to close the gaps in the Border-to-Border (B2B) Trail and build the Campus-to-Campus (C2C) Bikeway. Matthaei-Nichols associate director Karen Sikkenga will also talk about the planned Dixboro Rd. trail. Free. Presented by Sierra Club Huron Valley. Free.

Photo: Resplendent quetzal, the
national bird of Guatemala. Photo
by Francesco Veronesi via Flickr.
Wed., Oct. 19, 7:30 pm
Birding in Guatemala
Join Bryn Martin for a program on Washtenaw Audubon’s most recent overseas field trip, to the Central American country of Guatemala, where there are a number of birds found nowhere else in the world. Bryn Martin is an avid world birder, a high school teacher, and Washtenaw Audubon’s field trip coordinator. Presented by Washtenaw Audubon Society. Free.

Sat., Oct. 22, 1:30-3 pm
Alpines with Peter Korn
Presenter: Great Lakes Chapter North American Rock Garden Society

Photo: Swedish rock gardener Peter Korn.
Renowned Swedish rock gardener Peter Korn discusses the natural history of alpines as it relates to their cultivation  in non-alpine environments. The gardening conditions in Sweden are more similar to Michigan than many parts of Western Europe, and his rock gardening experiences and techniques should be adaptable to gardening to our Michigan and Great Lakes region climates and soils. Besides that, Peter is an immensely energetic young gardener whose undertakes vast gardening enterprises that will inspire us all. Presented by the Great Lakes Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. Free. For more information: reznicek@umich.edu.

Wed., Oct. 26, 7 pm
Best Practices for Bonsai Fertilizing
Aaron Wiley, a local horticulturist with a penchant for bonsai, discusses the reasons, goals, timing, objectives, and kinds of fertilizing for bonsai. Presented by Ann Arbor Bonsai Society.

Photo: Satsuki azalea on display
at Matthaei Botanical Gardens,
June 2016. Photo by Michele Yanga.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Living Plant Dresses Sow Excitement at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Staff at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum are prepping for an unusual holiday exhibit that will open the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The exhibit is called "Avant Garden: Weaving Fashion and Nature Together."

The show was inspired by the influence nature has on fashion and couture and will feature exhibits on textiles, plant-based fabric dyes, and plants used as the basis of clothing, for example, bamboo, rayon, and linen.

One display sure to capture people's attention is the collection of "living dresses" the Matthaei-Nichols crew is putting together over the next weeks. At the end of September the dress made from succulents was really starting to come together. Staff attached sphagnum moss to a dressmaker's wire form. Over that they began painstakingly to apply succulents in alternating swaths in the dress part. The pictures below tell the story best. We're looking forward to the exhibit! Should be pretty cool.

Update, October 10, 2016: the succulent dress is nearly complete. Take a look:

Plants with exotic looks, such as succulents
and cactus, are all the rage. This dress is one
of six examples of "living couture" that staff at
Matthaei-Nichols are getting ready for the
holiday exhibit, "Avant Garden." Not all of the
outfits will be made of living plant material:
some will be constrcuted with bark, cut
evergreens, and moss.

Matthaei-Nichols visitor services manager
David Betz helps horticulturist Carmen
Leskoviansky apply sphagnum moss to a wire
dress frame. The moss will help hold the
succulents in place and retain moisture,
ensuring that the living dress will be both
lightweight and easy to care for.

All the moss is attached to the frame. ready for the

Carmen begins applying the living plants.

After she applies the "hem," Carmen begins
adding more plants in a whorled pattern.

Dress portion nearly done!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

200 Years, 200 Trees: Getting Ready for the University of Michigan Bicentennial at Matthaei-Nichols

The University is pulling out all the stops for its bicentennial in 2017. Departments and units across campus are planning events, discussions, programming, and more that will occur throughout the year.

Matthaei-Nichols is planning three activities for the bicentennial. The first is our "Grandmother Tree Walk" in Nichols Arboretum that features trees of significance or great age that are still growing in the Arb. Signs will be installed near each tre on the walk in the spring of 2017 so visitors can take the tour and read about the story of U-M from the perspective of the trees.

For the fall native plant sale in October 2017 we're giving away 200 white oak (Quercus alba) seedlings germinated from acorns collected from trees on our properties.  Staff, students, and volunteers raced to get to the acorns before they fell to the ground and the squirrels got to them. No easy feat, considering the hungry squirrels in the Arb!

We'll also be planting two white oaks at Matthaei and the Arb in the fall of 2017. Stay tuned for more information on these bicentennial activities as the new year approaches.

Collecting White Oak Acorns from Trees on Our Properties

In late September, volunteers, staff, and student caretakers at the Arb collected 300 acorns from trees growing in the Arb. Some pictures of the acorns and how we selected ones to keep and plant and ones to discard.

You'd think the number of acorns would be huge in any given year on any given white oak. Not necessarily, according to the US Forest Service:

"Seed Production and Dissemination- White oak can produce seeds prolifically, but good acorn crops are irregular and occur only every 4 to 10 years. Sometimes several years may pass without a crop. Acorn yields range from 0 to 500,000 acorns per hectare (202,000/acre) (7,22,28). This great variation in acorn production exists not only among isolated stands of oaks but also among individual trees within stands and from year to year."

Referenced from US Forest Service publication.

All the acorns collected for the bicentennial white oak giveaway.

Sorting the acorns. Plenty of insect damage, never mind the squirrels!

Can't use these. Infested with insects and therefore damaged.
In the bag: the good acorns, getting ready for planting.

Fall Native Plant Sale at Matthaei

The birds and the bees and the environment will thank you for planting native species in your garden. Native plants are low-maintenance, often drought-tolerant, and suited for our local climate. They also attract beneficial pollinators, insects, and birds. Join us for our annual Native Plant Sale, October 1 & 2, 2016. See below in this post a list of plants we're offering.

Local grower Native Plant Nursery will have woody plants and shrubs for sale.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens 
1800 N. Dixboro Rd. 
Ann Arbor, MI 48105


Native Plants—A Heritage Worth Protecting 
Learn what a native vs. an invasive plant is and why planting natives is a good idea. 

What is a native plant?
Plants that are “native” to Michigan have grown here for thousands of years. Michigan’s native plants have adapted over the centuries as glaciers, rivers, storms, and fire have shaped the landscape. Our native plants evolved together with other plants, animals and fungi, forming complex webs of relationships known as ecosystems.

What is an invasive plant?
Non-native plants, on the other hand, evolved in other parts of the world. When humans travel, we often carry (both intentionally and unintentionally) plants from other parts of the world. Some of these non-native plants have become invasive, spreading into natural areas. A non-native plant that spreads aggressively and crowds out native plants is called an invasive plant.

Why are native plants and ecosystems important?
Since native plants co-evolved with our native animals, these plants provide the ideal food and shelter for our native wildlife. Native plants are also especially adapted to our soil and weather conditions; so native plants are perfectly designed to filter water and produce oxygen for our region.

Biodiversity—a variety of living things—keeps ecosystems healthy. A diverse animal community needs a wide variety of plants. When an invasive plant, such as buckthorn, enters an ecosystem it can replace hundreds of native plant species with one monotonous stand of buckthorn.

If we cultivate and protect native plants, we can preserve the precious biodiversity of our state!


Images of some of the plants for sale (click on the common name to see an picture of the plant form the University of Michigan Herbarium):

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Great blue lobelia (Lobelia silphitica)

Nodding wild onion (Allium cernuum)

2016 Native Plant Sale list – Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Sat. & Sun., Oct. 1 & 2

Plant Name     Common Name           
Allium cernuum                   Nodding Wild Onion   

Andropogon gerardii           Big Bluestem   

Aquilegia canadensis           Columbine       

Asclepias incarnata              Swamp Milkweed        

Asclepias syriaca                 Common Milkweed     

Asclepias tuberosa              Butterfly-weed 

Carex grayi                         Gray's Sedge
Echinacea purpurea            Purple Coneflower      

Eryngium yuccifolium        Rattlesnake Master      

Eurybia macrophylla          Big-leaved Aster          

Fragaria virginiana             Wild Strawberry           

Heuchera americana          Alum Root       

Liatris aspera                     Rough Blazing Star      

Lobelia siphilitica              Great Blue Lobelia      

Monarda fistulosa             Wild Bergamot            

Monarda punctata             Dotted Mint; Horse Mint        

Penstemon digitalis           Foxglove Beard-tongue           

Ratibida pinnata               Yellow Coneflower      

Rudbeckia triloba             Three-lobed Coneflower          

Solidago flexicaulis           Zig-zag Goldenrod      

Sorghastrum nutans         Indian Grass    

Thalictrum dasycarpum    Purple Meadow Rue    

Verbena hastata                Blue Vervain   

Friday, September 16, 2016

Foreshadowing - Endangered and Threatened Plant Species

By Jane Kramer

Foreshadowing, an exhibit of botanical portraits in a surprising medium, is on display at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Created by Michigan artist and photographer Jane Kramer, the works illuminate native and invasive plant species in a different light. Kramer spent weeks exploring Michigan’s nature preserves and botanical gardens, including Matthaei, taking pictures of the shadows cast by native plant species. The shadow images were then transferred to handmade paper created from invasive plant species. For Kramer the shadows speak to the fragility of threatened plants and their struggle to survive in a changing environment that includes invasive species. The coupling of shadow and paper underscores the complex relationship between invasive and endangered plant species.

For Kramer the artistic process of capturing the shadows and laying them down on paper was a learning experience. The process itself was arduous and tricky and reminded her of the struggle that native species experience as nonnative or invasive species compete with them for resources.

“For me, it's the images of the endangered and threatened plant species that have the most important story to tell,” say Kramer. Some of these plants are nearing extinction in Michigan, she notes, “and once they are gone, they are just that—gone.” Kramer hopes that through the exhibit people “will feel this connection and be compelled to take action, no matter how small, in preserving Michigan's ecosystems—and not just for the plants, but for all the animals and insects that rely on them.”

Read an interview with Jane Kramer below.

Exhibit dates and location:

September 17-November 13, 2016
Matthaei Botanical Gardens
1800 N. Dixboro Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

The exhibit is free and open daily 10 am–4:30 pm;
Wednesdays until 8 pm.

Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris) by Jane Kramer

Golden Alexander (Zizea aurea) by Jane Kramer

Houghton's goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii)
by Jane Kramer

Matthaei-Nichols: What inspired your original idea: photographing the shadows of native plants and then transferring those images onto handmade paper? The process is so multi-layered. Did the idea come to you all at once or in stages?

Jane Kramer: The idea came together when I was writing the proposal for Art from the Lakes [an art exchange program between the State of Michigan and Shiga Prefecture, Japan]. I had been experimenting with the shadows of plants for a few years, but they were random plants and I didn’t have a theme. It really was just for fun. As soon as I heard that the Art from the Lakes theme was “The Nature of Michigan,” I knew I was going to do plant shadows. Then I was trying to figure out what kind of plants would speak to an environmental concern that Michigan is dealing with right now. That's how I came up with the endangered plant focus. Since the final artwork would be representing Michigan and traveling to Japan, I wanted to create something that was 100% (or close to) Michigan-made. I didn't want to use paper that was made in China or Japan, but decided I was going to make my own paper from plants. I was thinking out loud about what kinds of plants were abundant and no one would mind me using, and my husband suggested invasive plants. (He's a conservation biologist at MSU.)

MN: You’ve written that the shadow of the native plant laid down on the paper made from invasive plants represents a struggle in our ecosystems between native plants and invasive species. Can you expand on that?

JK: I knew the process would be labor-intensive and challenging and require a lot of research. I hadn't found anyone who was printing photographic images on homemade paper, and even when I figured out how it could be done, it wasn't easy to do. One day when none of my transfers were working, I realized that my difficulty in putting these plants together in a print was reflective of their relationship in nature. I laughed at the irony, but also found it to be extremely frustrating. Most of the time, I can't get the ink of the endangered plant to transfer properly and the invasive paper wins. And even when the image transfers, it's transparent with the invasive paper fibers showing through. I like how this looks, but it's difficult to accomplish and completely unpredictable. As an artist and not a scientist, it has actually made me wonder why we are trying so hard to rid our natural areas of invasive plants when some are so clearly dominant. Should we try? Can we succeed? I've met so many interesting and knowledgeable people over the course of working on this project, and they all have different answers to these questions. That has been the biggest eye-opener for me. It's left me with the intent to do what I can to preserve our local ecosystems while also keeping an open mind.

MN: Did you experience other “aha” or learning moments about plants, the environment, or invasive species while working on Foreshadowing?

JK: I knew what invasive species were, of course, but I really had no idea how many there were, how abundant they were and what harm they can cause to the environment and to our economy. It was fascinating to learn that there were four species growing right in my neighborhood! I'm starting to see my surroundings in an entirely new light. Whenever I'm out driving now, I find myself scanning the roadsides for invasive species.

I also wasn't aware that so many of the species available at plant stores aren't the ones we should be planting. I had assumed they wouldn't be selling them if they were harmful to the local ecosystem. It has reminded me yet again that I have to be a conscious shopper when it comes to the products I buy for my home—and garden!

It was also interesting to learn that the locations of some endangered and threatened plant species communities are kept secret because of the fear of people taking the plants or their seeds.

MN: What can Foreshadowing help our visitors and members---many of whom are passionate about plants---understand?

JK: For me, it's the images of the endangered and threatened plant species that have the most important story to tell. Some of these plants are nearing extinction in Michigan and once they are gone, they are just that—gone. I'm hoping that people will feel this connection and be compelled to take action, no matter how small, in preserving Michigan's ecosystems—and not just for the plants, but for all the animals, insects, etc. that rely on them. 

Jane Kramer is a fine art photographer in East Lansing, Michigan. She has a degree in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota and photography training from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana.

Jane's projects are created with a conceptual approach and are motivated by a story, message, or education element. They require extended periods of time and focus on subjects that are delicate, overlooked, discarded, forgotten or underappreciated.