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Why should we not, when deliberating the well being of our planet, make every effort to pursue a course leading to a better stewardship of the environment? One definition of utopia is “an imaginary and indefinitely remote place”. Striving for an impossibly ideal condition is a lofty goal for any individual, group or society.
An initiative titled Youtopia introduced by APGA (American Public Gardens Association), entices public garden leaders to pledge to reduce their climate change impact. This is a national leadership incentive for public gardens. APGA invites its 500 institutional constituents of which the arboretum is a member, that effect over 80 million visitors annually to join in. The arboretum pledged to take part in August and was the 14th establishment to do so. We join the early ranks of organizations from Massachusetts, Arizona, Alabama, North Carolina and Ontario, Canada.
Haverford College, as an institution, has signed on to various national endeavors such as The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and AASHE STARS, (The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education), (The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) this is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. At the grass roots level on campus daily we buy energy from renewable resources like wind, initiate recycling campaigns, encourage alternative transportation methods like Philly Car Share, encourage biking, many electric vehicles are in the facilities fleet, Bi-Co buses run on natural gas, and support student/staff/faculty efforts in the Committee for Environmental Responsibility and Earth Quakers.
Youtopia is the first program offering public gardens a standardized method to build awareness. The arboretum staff will illustrate how it has and will take measures to reduce our climate impact. Participation requires the completion of three benchmarks:
1- Lead by example and illustrate how the arboretum is reducing net climate impact.
2- Educate and engage in climate impacts and sustainable solutions
3- Monitor and share results.
The many steps taken by the College to this point and the anticipated efforts of the arboretum, will enable us to carry out the action plan. Through the many efforts of the arboretum, we will move forward toward this goal.
Utopia is at our fingertips, close to our hearts and where we call home. The arboretum is poised to offer civic leadership by offering relevant lectures and tours, in addition to sustainable solutions to our peers and the Haverford community. We will keep the college community updated as we move toward a more sustainable institution.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was created in 1934 by President Roosevelt, to protect the area from logging. The park consists of 521,895 million acres and is visited by more than 9 million people annually, the largest attendance of our national parks. My family spent four wonderful days in the area of Mt Leconte, near Gatlinburg, TN. hiking last week. While the east coast was broiled in the oppressive heat wave, I pulled out a sweatshirt for the cool mountain evenings.
It all started about 1 billion years ago. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP) is situated within the Appalachian Blue Ridge geologic and physiographic province. At it’s core, these rocks were the building blocks of the ancient Appalachian Mountains. Within this province is Mt Leconte at 6593′. Most of the sedimentary rocks in GSMNP formed 800-450 million years ago. The last “building” phase of the Appalachian chain took place about 300-200 million years ago. This was during the time when the North American continent collided with African and European land masses. It is believed that the mountains may have been much higher than they are today, with elevations similar to the present-day Rocky Mountains.
The highlight of the trip was a 5.5 mile hike up Alum trail to Mt Leconte lodge. The lodge is the highest lodging east of the Mississippi at 6593′ These lodges are primitive, built in the 1920s. Alum Cave Creek is at the trail head, 3830′, the ensuing 5.5 mile hike is strenuous and dangerous at times. Nicknames accompanied the trek; monikers such as Arch Rock, Inspiration Point, Alum Cave Bluff, Gracie’s Pulpit, Old Man’s Stump, Grassy Slide and Old Horse Gate.
I was not only excited for the next 4 hour vertical adventure but wanted to watch the plant speciation change with elevation. Moving up in elevation is like traveling north in latitude. I had also read that these forests are under sever threat due to non-native insects and air pollution and wanted to see first hand.
The major tree species at the trail head, 3830′ were Betula alleghaniensis, yellow birch, Tsuga canadensis, Canada hemlock, and Aesculus flava, yellow buckeye. There were some beautiful specimens as we began the ascent. The shrub layer was vigorously growing with 15′ tall Rhododendron maximum, great laurel and R. catawbiense, Catawba rosebay. In addition, Leucothoe racemosa, dog hobble filled out the shrub layer. The ground was complete with numerous remnants of early spring ephemerals and blooms yet to open.
A heath bald was a curious ecotype and geologic formation at about 4700′. Growing on this exposed rocky site were Vaccinium corymbosum, blueberries, Diervilla lonicera, northern bush honeysuckle and Leiophydium buxifolium, sand myrtle. When the trail moved off the bald and back to high forest the occurrence of Picea rubens, red spruce and Abies balsam, balsam fir were more apparent. With this was the troubling sight of ghost trees. Long dead, standing silhouettes of spruce, fir and hemlock, devastated by non-native insects and air pollution. Rhododendron minus, piedmont rhododendron was seen at some high altitudes and was very stunted in growth, more than likely do to its growing on sheer rock out droppings with little soil and constant exposure to wind.
I was fortunate to spy on the trail two perennials that are endemic to the Smokies and one to the Mt Leconte peaks. These were seen at high elevations. Regelia nudicaulis, Rugel’s ragwort is a curious looking flower without petals. Resembling a common dandelion, Krigia montana, mountain Krigia was growing on the grassy slide at 6000′ among an unknown to me grass species. This perennial is known only to be growing in this locale on Mt Leconte, seeing something so scarce was very special.
We spent the night in cabin high atop Mt Leconte and descended early the next morning. The 5.5 mile hike back down the mountain was easier on the lungs but tougher on the legs. A hot shower and lots of rest was not far off.
After the long ride back to PA, back to work !
While the month of June went in the history books as the wettest in Philadelphia history, the area accumulated 10.55 inches of liquid sunshine. the average for June is 3.43 inches. This total spilled over the previous mark of 10.06 inches set back in 1938. When it wasn’t raining we were granted with many days of temperatures in the 90°s and high humidity. Quite soggy on both accounts.
An energetic group of students workers are busy assisting the Horticulturists this summer. This summer we are happy to have working with us Helen Wistman, Sociology, Class of 2014 and hailing from Belmont, MA. Josh Servellon, Class of 2014 is a Russian major and joins us from Ontario, Canada. Splitting her time between the arboretum and a geology lab at Bryn Mawr is Abby Fullem, Class of 2016, from Albany, NY. Finally, St. Joseph’s University and Manaynk, PA has on loan to the arboretum Joe Campbell, Class of 2015, a Food Marketing major. Joe’s dad is Don Campbell, Director of Facilities at Haverford. I’d like to thank all the students that spend their summer working with us, Grounds and all the other departments in Facilities.
Dodging rain, lightning and falling trees the college welcomed the arrival of our new President, Dr. Daniel Weiss and his family. There were some violent storms that did cause damage to the collection. Mother Nature does not discriminate. She blew down a water logged 110 year old Quercus rubra red oak, along the nature trail and tore limbs off trees of all ages.
The weather could not have been better. Friday was Arbor Day in our part of the country and the Arboretum carried out a tree planting ceremony for the 113th time. Faculty, students, staff and retirees turned out to take part and receive a plant dividend.
Last summer a massive red oak that graced the south west corner of Barclay Hall had to be relieved of its duties. We believe the oak was planted soon after the completion of Barclay in 1878. The tree’s shade and ultimate maturity was enjoyed for more than a century. The Arboretum chose a Japanese umbrella-pine, Sciadopitys verticillata to be planted in the area of the old oak. Arboretum Director, Bill Astifan and Horticulturist, Carol Wagner both addressed the participants and everyone pitched in by putting a shovel of soil in the hole.
Haverford’s trees serve a thankless role. Their presence is quiet and comforting. Trees planted as the last stones of Founders were being laid stand side by side with the newest kid on the block.
Earth Day celebrations began this year in the Duck Pond meadow. Students, faculty and neighbors joined in to assist the horticulturists planting hundreds of native plants. Once the hands were sufficiently dirty, the activities migrated west to the front of Founders. For the last five years I’ve been reading the story of The Lorax by Dr. Suess. The participants enjoyed the sun-warmed front steps as I settled in to a rocking chair for the reading. Music, frisbees and food kept people on the great lawn well in to the afternoon.
Thanks to the Arboretum for supplying a popcorn machine, the Earth Quakers for cookies and clementines and the 8th Dimension. Thanks to the Arboretum student workers as well as everyone else involved.
Every day is Earth Day!
Last Sunday was a beautiful day. Jeanne Quinn ’16, a volunteer student worker for the Arboretum office and Arboretum Director, Bill Astifan stationed themselves at a busy intersection between the Dinning Center and Founders. In an effort to promote the up coming Earth Day events and bring awareness to the Arboretum, Jeanne and Bill assisted passers-by with potting a pansy for their windowsill and sold Arboretum t-shirts.
Earth Day on campus will be celebrated on Monday, April 22. The perennial favorite popcorn machine will be on hand! Here are the day’s events:
10:30am – Horticulturist, Carol Wagner will give interested students and faculty a half hour walking tour of center campus.
11:00am-1pm – The sixth year of planting native plants in the Duck Pond meadow is always a favorite of students and faculty.
1pm – I will be reading the story of The Lorax by Dr. Suess on Founders front porch. Make sure you bring fifteen cents, a nail and the shell of a great-great-great grandfather snail!
Yes, but it is much more than that. Stachyurus praecox, commonly called Spiketail, is one of those shrubs that are not often encountered in gardens and can easily be overlooked in the wash of everything yellow this time of year. The small flowers hang from the stem on 4-5 inch racemes. They are formed in the fall of the previous year and stay exposed all winter. For us they have fully opened in this second week in April. The shrub on campus is located at the top of the walk approaching the GIAC. It is planted in combination with Cornus ‘Mid Winter Fire’, a nice orange-apricot colored red stemmed dogwood.
The Arboretum obtained this plant as a gift from local friend Sue Langer. At the time, about 6 years ago the plant was outgrowing its space in her garden. My colleagues and I dug the plant and transported it to its current location on campus. Now, it has adjusted well to life in the arboretum and is reaching a height of 9 ft x 6 ft.
There is not much in the way of aroma, it disappears as greenery through the summer and fall color is ho-hum yellow. I know this is not a beaming endorsement but grow the plant for its uniqueness and wonderful spring flowers.
Everything yellow is not a forsythia!
Let’s play word association. I’ll give you three things and tell me what you think: robins banging their beaks in the ground in search of worms, shamrock shakes and the flowers of Black Pussy Willow. How many of you immediately thought of spring? Since I’m not an ornithologist or epicurean, I’ll talk about the Black Pussy Willow, Salix melanostachys. Salix is the botanical genus for all of the willows and source of salicylic acid, the chemical derivative of the bark and leaves, the precursor of aspirin. Melanostachys breaks down to black (melano) spike (stachys).
There are not too many plants whose flowers give the illusion of being black. Take a close look at the male catkins (flowers) of this willow. You’ll see the purple-black catkins opening to bright red anthers. This is no common member of the all too familiar image from movies and literature of the weeping willow growing at the water’s edge. The Black Pussy Willow is by no means as graceful and pendent as its cousin. This black sheep is nothing short of a neatly behaved blob ! It will reach 10 ft. in height and tolerates a wet site. Every three to four years cut the plant to the ground to rejuvenate.
To enjoy the beauty of the classic weeping willow, you need to look no further than the Duck Pond on campus. Our Black Pussy Willow is located in the mixed shrub border at the south end of the track known as the Seamus McElligott garden.
And you know where to get your shamrock shake.
When the population of a little town swells to more than three times its 364 day head count, there must be a big deal. That one day is February 2. Travelling south from Interstate 80 takes people to Gobbler’s Knob in Panxsutawney, PA. For 127 years Panxsutawney Phil has been a boom for the local economy and now is quite a TV and digital media event. The world waited for Phil’s prediction and he predicts an early spring!
I like to keep a close watch on the ground. Waiting for the early signs of plants breaking ground is all the cue I need. Alas, there won’t be 20,000 people flocking to campus in anticipation of the Hellebores blooming. However, I am happy to announce the hellebores and witchhazels have woken up and are inviting us to put on an extra flannel shirt, go outside and see what’s new in the garden.
Helleborus orientalis, oriental hellebore is a tough and treasured small perennial that is at home in a shady garden. The flowers emerge through last year’s foliage so a quick cutting back of the leaves on a warm January day sets the stage for their arrival. There is a nice planting on the back side of Hall building behind a bench. This locale is a bit warmer than some garden settings in that it receives a bath of warming winter sun and reflected heat off the stone building. Native to Asia, they are in the Buttercup Family and every part of the plant is very poisonous to eat. Combine this with any of the early spring bulbs like snowdrops, crocus, winter aconites and the like.
For those of you who are reading this locally, you can join Arboretum Director, Bill Astifan this Sunday, February 10 at 1:30pm. Bill will lead a walk titled “After the leaves are gone…fine beauty in the winter landscape”. The tour departs from in front of Whitehead Campus Center.