Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kudos to Matthaei-Nichols Caretakers

We hire many students throughout the year to work outside and inside in every department. Caretakers, who generally look after the Arboretum, are the unsung heroes of our student workers. So we're taking this opportunity to give a shout to these incredibly hard-working and dedicated students. Did you know that---

*  Caretakers led 20 volunteer workdays this past fall semester. These were our public eco-restoration workdays held at Matthaei and at the Arb on the second and third Saturday of each month, year-round, plus many special/private workdays.

*  Caretakers worked with 269 volunteers (most of them U-M students) and logged 833 hours!

These numbers are very impressive, and we couldn't welcome so many students and community members to the Arb and Gardens without caretaker leadership. They not only lead these groups but also provide education about our natural areas and the importance of restoration.

In keeping with the Matthaei-Nichols' mission, we hope that this work helps the volunteers to connect with nature on a deeper level and inspires them to participate future stewardship activities.

Thank you, caretakers!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mentor, Advisor, and Professor: A Student’s Impression of Matthaei-Nichols Director Bob Grese

Guest post by Dan Buckley

I met Bob Grese two years ago while researching master’s programs in landscape architecture (MLA). After a few back-and-forth emails, Professor Grese graciously invited me to his office at Matthaei Botanical Gardens to discuss the MLA program at the University and, of course, to give me a tour of the grounds. I applied to the University’s MLA program a month later with the request that he be my advisor. Since then, Bob—as he prefers to be called—has been my advisor, professor and twice my supervisor during my summer internships at Matthaei-Nichols.

Bob’s passion for nature and the environment shows in every facet of his work—professor, director, and author alike. With a rich portfolio inspired by the works of influential landscape architects such as Jens Jensen and O.C. Simonds, Bob has been exploring the aesthetic potential of ecosystem restoration and management at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum for over fourteen years. Through the cataloguing and mapping of the various ecosystems and collections at each of the Matthaei-Nichols properties, Bob says he hopes to create research opportunities that will “exemplify the University as a leader in field research and teaching and a model for land stewardship and conservation.”
Bob Grese in the Alex Dow Prairie, Nichols Arboretum. Photo courtesy Dave Brenner.

As the newly appointed Theodore Roosevelt Professor in Ecosystem Management, a five-year appointment awarded to one professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE), Bob hopes to work with students and faculty to develop a research and management framework for other natural lands at the U-M. His ultimate goal, he observes, “is to enable much more active integration of the University of Michigan’s natural lands for research and teaching, to build effective programs of stewardship, and to engage neighbors and other supporters who currently use these lands.”

Professor Grese’s experience with ecological restoration in the field and the classroom as professor of landscape architecture certainly qualifies him for this professorship. He believes that landscape architects can play a critical role in ecosystem management. “We have the potential to have much impact in how the built landscape relates to broader ecosystem processes and can use creative design to create a much more positive relationship,” he says.

SNRE held an acceptance ceremony on Tuesday, December 3 at the School of Natural Resources. Students, fellow faculty, and many friends attended a presentation on the history of landscape architecture as it pertains to the Midwest region. Professor Grese is very passionate about his work, and it shows in all that he does. I personally look forward to witnessing the progression of his work over the next few years.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum has just started a program of blog posts created by our student interns, work studies, and Arboretum caretakers. Today's guest post was written by Dan Buckley. Dan is a grad student in MLA – graduation deferred for detached study.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh Camellia, You're Breaking my Heart!

The camellias are blooming in the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens! The camellia (Camellia sp.) is native to eastern and southern Asia. Most camellias are fall-to-spring bloomers. Remember that the tea plant in the conservatory (Camellia sinensis) is a camellia, too. We have our camellias planted under the silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) which is dormant right now. The silk tree was planted there purposefully—to provide filtered shade in the hot summer and let the camellias have as much sun as possible in winter when the silk tree is leafless.

Note that our camellia plants are cultivars selected/bred by humans. Camellias have been cultivated by humans for centuries in China and Japan. Also note that while the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is a camellia, not all camellias are used to make tea. They are very distinct as far as which is used to make tea, and there are different types of tea-making camellias and different parts of the plant are used to make various types of tea. Two of the camellia flowers are pictured below.

Camellia flowers are also a common subject of art in China and other Asian counties. What a rich connection the camellia has with humans!
Camellia 'Asomusume'

Camellia 'Kumagai'

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Curious Case of the Conjoined Walnuts

Staff at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum discovered over a dozen double walnuts on an individual black walnut tree at Matthaei. Experts from U-M and Clemson University were consulted but the jury is still out as to the cause of the unusual double fruits. 

Matthaei-Nichols horticulture manager Mike Palmer asked U-M Professor Emeritus Burton V. Barnes for his opinion. Barnes taught the popular Woody Plants class for years at U-M and co-wrote the definitive Michigan Trees with Warren Wagner. Barnes noted that it was a good idea to check out the crown of the tree to see if there were additional double fruits, and told Palmer that this probably suggests a particular characteristic of this tree, with a likely genetic cause. "It might be a classic 3:1 ratio of a recessive gene," Barnes added, "that is if you have 3 singles to every double."

Palmer cut the conjoined walnut in half with a coping saw to reveal two separate nuts inside. See picture for detail.

A rare double black walnut from a tree at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Over a dozen fruits were discovered to be conjoined. Experts from U-M and Clemson were consulted but still don't know the cause.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tea Time in the Conservatory at Matthaei

The tea shrub (Camellia sinensis) is blooming in the Temperate House of the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens (late September 2013). Note that tea blooms in the fall — after its growing season is finished and before the plant goes dormant.
A flowering tea plant---Camellia sinensis

The tea plant (Camelia sinensis) — the source of tea leaves used to make the drink — is a camellia.  But not all camellias are tea.  Different parts of this plant are used to make tea, including the leaves, the leaf buds, and  the twigs. The leaves (picked at various times), leaf buds, and twigs are all used to make various drink types such as black tea, white tea, green tea, etc.

We also will have tea plant (shrub) in the new Medicinal Garden which will begin next year sometime in the former Exhibit Garden area outside the Conservatory.  Tea has been used to prevent dental caries(decay), and the antioxidants in tea are being studied in the prevention of cancer and for other medical uses.

Tea is not winter hardy in Michigan, so we’ll have to bring it inside before cold weather sets in.

Visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens and the conservatory today!

Friday, September 6, 2013

One Hundred Years of Cherry Blossoms

The planting of cherry tree seedlings at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and in Nichols Arboretum commemorates Japan’s 1912 gift of cherry trees to America—and reveals two University of Michigan connections

The National Park Service, which runs the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., describes the cherry blossom as a symbol of the fleeting nature of human life that also “epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.”

In celebration of that symbolic power and of Japan’s 1912 gift of trees, Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum is planting nearly 30 cherry-tree seedlings at Matthaei and in the Arb near the Peony Garden. The seedlings, germinated at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska from seeds donated by Japan, were later delivered to 23 arboreta and botanical gardens in 21 states. The Arb & Gardens is the sole Michigan recipient of seedlings.
The weeping Higan cherry tree in full bloom last spring, Nichols Arboretum near Alex Dow Prairie. This magnificent tree was one of many cherry trees donated in the early 1950s by University of Michigan alumni living in Tokyo.

The seeds came from groves in Tokyo and Nara in south-central Japan, reportedly from the same groves where the original 1912 cherry trees were grown, according to Woodrow Nelson, Vice President Marketing Communications for Arbor Day Foundation, which germinated the seeds last year. (The Japanese name is Prunus jamasakura Siebold ex. Kidzumi. In the west, this tree is usually referred to as Prunus serrulata var. spontanea (Maxim.) E.H. Wilson.)

Timing drove the decision to send seeds, according to Nelson. When it heard about the centennial promotions, “Japan wanted to make the gift during the 2012 Cherry Blossom Festival but didn’t have trees to send,” Nelson says, so they sent seeds instead.

The new trees not only provide a connection to the widely celebrated Washington plantings and the friendship with Japan that they represent, says Matthaei-Nichols Director Bob Grese, “they remind us of our strong cultural connections with the people of Japan both at the University and in Michigan.”

The cherry trees also enrich our collections of culturally significant plants, such as the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden, the Julie Norris Post Collection of Ericaceous and Appalachian Plants, and the Centennial Shrub Collection in the Arb.

A National Event that Nearly Wasn’t
Today a pilgrimage to see the cherry trees in bloom is a bucket-list essential, with millions of visitors flocking to Washington each year to capture a lasting memory of an ephemeral flower. Yet it took 24 years of letter writing by Elizah Scidmore—an American writer, photographer, and geographer who had lived in Japan—to get the U.S. government to plant them in the first place. The original proposal to plant cherry trees in Washington was Elizah’s brainchild. Beginning in 1885, she embarked on her long letter-writing campaign to convince the U.S. government to plant cherry trees in the capital. Finally, in 1909, Scidmore’s letter to first lady Helen Taft bore fruit when Taft promised to make the trees a reality.

Unfortunately, when the first shipment of trees from Japan arrived the following year, a USDA inspection team, which included nematologist Nathan Cobb, discovered that the trees were infested with nematodes. The trees had to be destroyed.

In 1912 Japan sent new cherry trees that passed inspection, and several were planted around the Tidal Basin. Workmen continued planting trees there for the next seven years, but it wasn’t until 1954 that the National Cherry Blossom Festival officially began.

In a 1946 letter, Harlow Whittemore wrote to A.C. Marshall, Detroit Edison’s past president, “We have had inquiry recently from Tokyo with regard to the donation made some years ago . . . for a Japanese cherry collection given by the University alumni in that city.” Whittemore, a Professor in the University of Michigan Department of Landscape Architecture from 1914-1958 and then U-M Chairman of City Planning, envisioned “a great collection of flowering trees” donated by Michigan alumni, one of which is the magnificent weeping Higan cherry near the Alex Dow Field (pictured above). Today Arb visitors make their own yearly pilgrimage to see the nearly 60-year-old tree. In a few short years, new cherry blossoms will grace the Gardens and Arboretum, dazzling visitors with nature’s display of renewal and transformation.

Go Pink—and Blue
What does the U-M have to do with Japanese cherry trees? Turns out there are two Michigan connections—to the 1912 gift from Japan and to the idea of planting cherry trees in the United States. The first is Frieda Cobb Blanchard, daughter of Nathan Cobb, an inventor, scientist, accomplished artist, and “father of nematology.”

As a member of a United States Department of Agriculture inspection team, Cobb discovered the 1912 shipment of cherry trees to be infested with nematodes—small, often microscopic worms, many of which are parasitic. Because of the nematodes, the cherry trees had to be destroyed. Frieda, who was born in Australia, moved to Ann Arbor in 1916 and, while earning her doctorate in genetics from the U-M, was appointed assistant director of the Botanical Gardens at its location on Iroqouis Street. Blanchard lived in Ann Arbor until her death in 1977.

The other U-M connection is the Grand Rapids-born O. C. Simonds, the celebrated landscape architect who studied at U-M and who designed Nichols Arboretum. Simonds was a colleague and advisor of the noted plant explorer David Fairchild, an early promoter of Japanese cherry trees long before they became a fixture in American gardens. Fairchild’s efforts to promote the plant likely helped inspire an American passion for the flowering cherry tree.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fine Early-September Birding at Nichols Arboretum

Birders---and just bird lovers, too---pay a visit to Nichols Arboretum for a spectacular late-summer show.

A birder from one of the local birding groups posted the following sightings, recorded on these dates:

Monday evening, Sept. 2, between 6:30-8 pm:
Mourning warbler


Sunday morning between 9:00 AM and 12:00 PM at the Arb:
Black-throated green warbler

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (heard near the Riverview Rd. cul-de-sac)
Yellow-billed cuckoo


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Conservatory Chronicles: Just Two Leaves on This Conifer

The welwitschia is coning in the arid house of the conservatory. If that sounds like a ceremony involving some kind of dark magic, no need to worry. Welwitschia mirabilis, otherwise known as the tree tumbo (its Angolan name), is actually a plant found in arid regions of Namibia and Angola.

Welwitschia mirabilis in Namibian desert (Image: Andrew McRobb, RBG Kew)

Bearing a species name that sounds like a miracle, welwitschia is named after the Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch, who discovered it in 1859. Welwitsch saw the plant in the Namibian desert and reportedly fell to his knees, experiencing a mixture of awe and fear, “lest a touch should prove it a figment of the imagination,” according to the Kew Royal Botanic Garden website.

Another botanist, Thomas Hooker, proposed the botanical name to honor Welwitsch (genus) and mirabilis (species), the species name referring to its extraordinary, wondrous appearance. Though it looks somewhat like a bedraggled or shriveled green ribbon, the tree tumbo is a conifer that is dioecious, meaning there are male or female plants. Welwitschia has only two leaves, which grow out from its base. There are individual welwitschia in the wild thought to be 1,000 years old.

In times of drought mammals such as oryx, springbok, the endangered Hartmann’s zebra, and the critically endangered black rhino chew on tree timbo leaves for moisture, the Kew website states. Reptiles use the shade it throws to shelter themselves from the hot sun.

Ecologically welwitschia is highly specialized. It grows under conditions where it receives regular fog that provides moisture, and it has a deep taproot to reach moisture in the desert. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) rates this species as “near threatened.” (The IUCN states that 1 in 5 species of plants in the world are threatened with extinction.)

Recently scientists have discovered a fungal pathogen that infects the female cones; the fungus subsequently reduces seed viability. 

Check out this very unusual desert-dwelling plant in the arid house of the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens!

The conservatory is awash in bloom, by the way.  (Remember the welwitschia is a conifer so it doesn’t count!)

Look for these plants in bloom:

Rangoon creeper (Quisiqualis indica) - on the east balcony of the tropical house.
Rangoon creeper (Quisiqualis indica)

The Malaysian orchid tree (Medinella magnifica)---not an orchid at all!
Malaysian orchid tree (Medinella magnifica)

The Umckaloabo (Pelargonium sidoides) in the northeast herb display bed.

The bat flower (Tacca chantrieri)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, a Living Classroom

Campus Farm Manager Parker Anderson poses in front of one of the honeybee hives in the area he calls a "bee sanctuary."
Campus Farm Manager Parker Anderson is a gardener on a mission. Anderson, a dual degree master’s student at U-M (Sustainable Systems and Landscape Architecture), has been hard at work at the Farm this summer creating a laboratory of sustainable agriculture in a modest plot on the Matthaei Botanical Gardens property.

The project fills an educational gap, says Anderson. “Students have a need to connect to local food,” he says, “and our farm offers the side benefits of learning and community.” Students can take away ideas for how to create gardens and how to grow food locally and sustainably, he adds, desires borne out in a recent survey of U-M students.

An herb spiral. The idea of the herb spiral is both aesthetic and biological/horticultural. The spiral creates microclimates—in the case of this spiral it does so through the use of materials such as stone that hold heat longer. For the spiral, Farm manager Parker Anderson used salvaged pieces of concrete and set them upright. The herb spiral itself is a popular permaculture feature. It often starts higher---in the middle---than the outer rings of the spiral and slopes down toward the edges.

The “seed bank” at the Campus Farm lets manager Parker Anderson know what was growing in the plot in the first place.

Anderson has incorporated the principles of permaculture into the Campus Farm. A significant goal of permaculture is the development of agricultural systems that are based on natural ecosystems, in effect mimicking nature’s designs. You can see that concept in action in the area devoted to honeybees and pollination Anderson calls the “bee sanctuary,” and the future plans for a “food forest”—a plot of food-producing and nutrient-enhancing plants—near the Farm. Other elements, like the herb spiral and potato snake, are as much about artful delight as they are horticultural, says Anderson. And soon, he hopes, the farm will grow enough herbs to supply the U-M Dining Services. If you haven’t been out to the Farm yet, stop by any time the Botanical Gardens is open. And look for announcements on the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum website about seasonal farm-related events like the fall 2013 Harvest Celebration and other programming.

The Campus farm is always looking for student volunteers. If you're interested in helping out, please contact Parker Anderson at campusfarm@umich.edu.

Farm Manager Parker Anderson is experimenting with different kinds of bed coverings or mulch to see which ones work best, what effect they have on unwanted plants, and how the mulch benefits---or not---the intended plants. Anderson has covered some beds with wood chips, some with straw, and some with no mulch at all.

The potato snake is designed for aesthetics and also to prevent weeds. Newspaper is laid down in a design (in this case, a snake), then seed potatoes are laid on top, followed by alternating layers of compost and straw. There will be three levels altogether. Potatoes spout through many layers and when covered produce more potatoes.

The future "food forest" is an area beyond the fenced perimeter of the Farm. A food forest is a gardening or land management technique that mimics a woodland ecosystem but uses edible trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals.  Fruit or nut trees are at the upper level; below, berry-producing shrubs, edible perennials, and annuals are planted. Companion or beneficial plants are included for natural pest management while some plants amend the soil, providing nitrogen and mulch. Together these plants form an ecosystem capable of producing high yields with less maintenance.

This plastic-covered bed acts as a hothouse that bakes any plants or seeds underneath. It's an experiment in weed control: next year, with all of the  plastic-covered plants and seeds killed off, there will be fewer weeds.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lunch, and a Rattlesnake, Too: Matthaei-Nichols Volunteers Learn about Our Native Massasauga

Nearly 20 volunteers along with several student summer interns gathered in the auditorium at Matthaei Botanical Gardens June 20 to learn about the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. The meeting was part of the “Lunch & Learn” educational sessions for our volunteers. These quarterly sessions help build a sense of community outside of the volunteers’ regular work days and show appreciation for the amazing service they provide.

Volunteers settle in for a presentation on the eastern massasauga trattlesnake .
Matthaei-Nichols natural areas specialist and massasauga expert Steve Parrish introduced the native massasauga to the audience. The word “rattlesnake” invariably gets a few worried looks and lots of questions. Fortunately, the massasauga is a smallish, placid, shy snake that would rather be left alone. Approach the massasauga, and it turns rattle and heads for the underbrush.

A massasauga at Matthaei Botanical Gardens
The massasauga, explained Parrish, is a pit viper, meaning it has two heat-sensing pits on its head that help the snake detect prey. You can also identify a pit viper by its vertical, slit-shaped pupils.

Meadow voles make the lion’s share of the massasauga’s diet, although the snake has been known to eat frogs, insects, and even other snakes. The massasauga gives birth to live young after a gestation period of about three to four months. The snake is born with just one rattle, or “button,” as they’re called, growing additional buttons with each molting. Unlike the full-on rattle of its more aggressive cousin the western rattlesnake, the massasauga’s rattle is more of a cicada-like, intermittent buzz.

The massasauga often overwinters in crayfish burrows. If a crayfish or two are present, they usually get along and the massasauga doesn’t eat the crayfish. In fact, Parrish attended one survey where naturalists used scopes to sight down the burrows. One burrow was being shared by the snake, crayfish, and frogs.
The massasauga often makes its winter home in a crayfish burrow.

The massasauga’s historic range includes nine states plus Ontario. A healthy population of massasaugas inhabits Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and a survey from 2010-11 uncovered 27 snakes on the property. “Massasauga” is Ojibwe for “great river mouth,” Parrish said, possibly because of the wetland areas it lives in. Massasauga lookalikes include the eastern fox snake, eastern hog-nosed snake, and the northern water snake.

If you see a massasauga, keep a safe distance of at least several feet. Though it’s a timid snake, like many wild animals the massasauga prefers to be left alone. Don’t try to pick up the snake or play with it. And please report your sighting to the front desk at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Staff here as well as the DNR like to know when and where one’s been spotted.

Why do we protect a venomous snake, you may ask? The massasauga is a keystone species, that is, it fits into the ecosystem like a puzzle piece. It helps control the population of meadow voles and the massasauga itself is food for other predators.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Conservatory Chronicles: Sausage Tree Update

The north sausage tree (Kegelia africana) has begun to flower and is overlapping with the south sausage tree's blossoming. We've begun to pollinate them by hand back and forth using a paintbrush. Pictured is the first tiny fruit. The second picture shows our paintbrush pollination method, in which the The hairy paintbrush fibers act like the hairs of a bat that would pick up the pollen when visiting one flower. The pollen is moved by the bat to the next flower of another tree, thus cross-pollinating two flowers of different trees.

A new sausage forming

Hand-pollinating with a paintbrush

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hogweed vs. Cow Parsnip: Which Botanical Animal Is It?

A note from Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum natural areas manager Jeff Plakke on the difference between hogweed and cow parsnip---

A lot of people have been asking lately and the answer is: No, we do not have the exotic giant hogweed growing on our properties. What some people are reporting is the native cow parsnip, which looks similar. The obvious distinction is that giant hogweed grows much much larger. Cow parsnip can get up to 7 feet tall, giant hogweed up to 14 feet tall. Leaves of cow parsnip can get almost 3 feet wide, giant hogweed leaves up to 5 feet wide. Giant hogweed has been in the news a lot recently and is intriguing because it is so big and the sap is very toxic. So far it is not widely spread in Michigan. It's just in Ingham County (Lansing) and Gogebic County (borders Wisconsin in the upper peninsula). 

Here's a good website with pictures for comparison, and a good, short video on both hogweed and cow parsnip that shows/explains a lot about both species.

You can find cow parsnip growing in a number spots at MAtthaei Botanical Gardens including along the trails in the Fleming Creek floodplain, and along the edge of Willow Pond. At the Arb there are colonies of cow parsnip growing along the River Rd. (Nichols Dr.) and in the wetland boardwalk area. A large patch near School Girl's Glen bridge has been reported to us numerous times over the past few years. It's good that people are paying attention to the plants.

Spread the word and help to educate!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Conservatory Chronicles: The Sausage Tree

Update June 11: a reader asks if the fruits of the sausage tree are edible. No - it would be "like eating a doormat" - all fiber - according to our curator.

Matthaei-Nichols horticulture manager Mike Palmer reports on the progress of the sausage trees (Kigelia africana) in the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Palmer notes that there are two flower stalks on what he calls the “north” sausage tree. The compass point refers to the fact that there are two sausage trees, one on the north end of the tropical house and one on the south end. The presence of flowers on the north sausage tree indicates that we will eventually have new fruits on a plant whose gigantic, sausage-shaped fruits are perennially popular with visitors.

The Sausage Tree Back Story
What’s up with the flowers, and why does it matter that the north tree has flower stalks? A sausage tree (Kigelia africana) is self-incompatible, which means that the pollen of any flower from the same tree cannot successfully pollinate its own female flowers. Two trees that are not genetically identical are needed for cross-pollination to occur and for the plant to set fruit. Fortunately the north and south sausage trees are genetically different plants.

Above: Two sausage tree flowers, one with all its parts (A stigma and four anthers) and the other minus the anthers that contain the pollen that Matthaei-Nichols staff preserved in the freezer.

Adding another layer of complexity, the species of sausage trees in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens conservatory are bat-pollinated. Since we have no bats in the conservatory, mere humans—Matthaei-Nichols staff—must hand-pollinate the flowers, bringing pollen from one plant to the other to get fruits to form on each tree.

Above: The fruit of the sausage tree.
Finally, in order to fruit, two different sausage trees must also be flowering at the same time. Last year the north sausage tree didn’t flower at all, hence no new fruits. This year the two trees are a bit out of sync. Hedging his bets, Palmer collected and froze pollen from the south sausage tree when it was in bloom. When the north sausage tree finally blooms we can use the preserved pollen to pollinate it. “It works!” says Palmer, who has used the technique before.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What's Happening in the Great Lakes Gardens at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Matthaei-Nichols horticulturist Connie Crancer reports that things are stirring in the Great Lakes Garden.

According to Connie, several of the Cirsium pitcheri (Pitchers Thistle) made it through growing in 24-inch PVC tubes for two years and being planted last fall. Even better, she notes, is that there will be one in bloom this year. One is in bud. C. pitcheri is a threatened endemic species in our dunes. We don't have the beautiful magenta form as pictured below but perhaps someday we will.

Also, enjoy the show of Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin (small yellow lady slipper) at the end of the boardwalk in the newly developing orchid area. The cages with burlap are protecting newly planted orchids.

Pictured is the magenta form of Cirsium pitcheri. Photo from University of Michigan Herbarium by E. G. Voss.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden Update, May 31

Peony garden starting to show. All buds have color. Several plants are blooming. Possibly 10% bloom, give or take. A day or two more of this weather and things will really get going.

Visit the garden June 1 & 2 for the Peony Festival and Peonies Galore Sale. Events include free live music in the garden at 7 pm, Sat., June 1; crafts for kids; tours; and more.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Everything's Coming Up Peonies

May 30, 2013, 7 am---

At last, the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden is beginning to bloom in earnest. Cooler weather and a more "normal" spring (whatever that may be in these parts) have kept the blooms at bay, but this morning, several plants are showing, including 'Postilion', 'Helen', and 'Crusader'. Blooms should begin to appear in greater number beginning today and tomorrow, but the optimal peony viewing time is still several days away. And the double-edged sword of weather, so to speak, is that it will simultaneously slow bloom down for a longer bloom period but also delay overall blooming. Weather!

Be sure to visit the peony garden this weekend during the Peonies Galore Sale & Peony Fest. We've partnered with local nursery Northfield Farms to bring you some of the same varieties of heirloom peonies growing in the Arboretum garden---the largest collection of heirloom peonies in North America.

Dr. W.E. Upjohn, founder of Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company in Kalamazoo, Mich., and an avid peony collector, donated the original collection of peonies to the University of Michigan in 1922. The Peony Garden opened to the public in 1927, and some of the peonies are still growing in the same place they were planted nearly 100 years ago! The peony is truly a long-term perennial.





Monday, May 27, 2013

Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden Close, but Not Quite Yet

Monday, May 27, 7:30 am---

The peony garden is getting ready but the buds are on hold, with a few blooming at the back of the garden. Cooler weekend weather to blame, likely. Azaleas and rhododendrons on the Julie Norris Post Collection on Laurel Ridge Trail are worth a trip today, for sure.

Near the back of the garden away from Washington Hts.


The yellow ones smell like gardenias, we swear.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Little Fly with a Fierce Appearance

Matthaei-Nichols natural areas specialist and Massasauga rattlesnake expert Steve Parrish also likes to take pictures in his spare time. While working for the Arb and Gardens he's taken some pretty amazing pictures of the flora and fauna that live in, around, and on the properties.

Below is Steve's take on a wasp-mimic fly in what he believes to be the soldier fly or Stratiomyidae family. Check out the amazing iridescent pixellation of the fly's eye up close. Here's looking at you!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Follow the Great Lakes Garden's progress on Tumblr

Native Plant Volunteers planting Mitella diphyllum (bishop's cap) in the Upland Wet Woodland
Re-planting native iris in the Wet Woodland 

Eastern Massasauga finding a new home in the Prairie-to-be (photo credit: Steven Parrish)

Follow the Great Lakes Garden on a new side site: http://mbgnagreatlakesgarden.tumblr.com/
This blog will be a database and log that details the phenology, plantings, and overall progress of the new Great Lakes Garden, a one-of-a-kind collection of native, endemic, and endangered plants from around the Great Lakes.
[Photos above from the May 17th Native Plant Volunteer day]