The Maymont Arboretum

July 14, 2021 · 1 minute read
The Maymont Arboretum

There are lots of reasons to make a trip to Maymont Park: the Nature Center, the Farm, the historic estate, and, of course, the trees. If you’re a tree lover, and you haven’t been to Maymont or you didn’t realize just how special its tree assemblage is, you might start with the park’s website. Under Arboretum, you can learn all about the history of the park’s collection. Here’s the link to all the information, some of which is excerpted below.

Maymont’s one hundred acres are populated with thousands of stunning trees and shrubs. Species native to Virginia abound at Maymont, many notable for their size and beauty. However, Maymont’s Arboretum also includes more than 200 exotic species of trees and plants imported by the Dooleys in the early 20th century, when James Dooley began a planting program of considerable magnitude.

The Dooleys traveled around the world and visited gardens of international acclaim. It is presumed that these visits fueled their desire to develop a tree collection for Maymont. The Dooleys’ collection of exotic and native species indicates an unusual degree of sophistication, suggesting that trees were collected not only for their beauty, but also for scientific and educational purposes. The size and age of many of the national and state champion trees indicate that they were carefully placed to allow for optimum future growth. Among these are the False Larch, Pseudolarix kaempferi, from Japan, and the Persian Ironwood, Parrotia persica.

In 1986, Maymont’s tree collection was recognized by tree experts as one of the country’s notable arboretums. In a 1982 Museum Assessment Program survey report, Gordon Tarbox, Jr., Director of Brookgreen Gardens, noted that “the magnificent tree collection could not be duplicated in one hundred years.” Today, Maymont’s Arboretum is home to several national and state champions, including the Blue Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica; Cryptomeria, Cryptomeria japonica; Darlington Oak, Quercus hemisphaerica; European Vineleaf Linden, Tilia europea and the previously mentioned Persian Ironwood.

Book Review: ‘Finding the Mother Tree’

May 19, 2021 · 3 minute read
Book Review: ‘Finding the Mother Tree’

Over the past year or so of publishing this newsletter for Truetimber Arborists, I’ve received numerous emails about The Overstory, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 novel about trees. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and grab a copy immediately.

If you have read it, you’ll probably remember the character named Patricia Westerford, a scientist who discovers the ways in which trees communicate and cooperate with each other through linked networks of fungi in the soil. Well, that character was based on a real-life scientist named Suzanne Simard, who just came out with a book of her own — “Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest.”

Here’s the beginning of the review from Eugenia Bone of the Wall Street Journal. Follow the link at the bottom to keep reading:

For more than a decade I’ve had Google alerts set up for “fungi” and “mushrooms” and, until recently, most of the articles were about cures for athlete’s foot or recipes like stuffed mushrooms. There were annual notices of forays and festivals, and occasionally a poisoning, usually a curious puppy, sometimes an unfortunate family. But lately interest in fungi has swelled. Mushrooms seem to be the newest health and wellness trend and, judging from my Instagram feed, there’s a whole new crowd of gorgeous young people interested in mycology. These days I’m drowning in alerts about mushroom hunting, medicinal mushrooms, psychedelic mushrooms, fungi in fashion and fungi as a metaphor for the common good.

This last notion derives from predominantly 21st-century research showing that the forest is not merely a collection of trees but a community connected by fungi. The idea has captured the imagination of the public, through movies such as “Avatar,” books like Peter Wohlleben’s “The Hidden Life of Trees” and the mycologist Paul Stamets’s TED talk, “Six Ways That Mushrooms Can Save the World,” which has been viewed almost 10 million times. What all of these ideas have in common is research conducted by a shy Canadian forest ecologist named Suzanne Simard, whose doctoral thesis changed the way we understand the woods.

It has long been established that plants trade some of the sugar they make for micronutrients foraged in the soil by fungi, and there had already been some research done that showed the link between fungi and trees. Ms. Simard’s study discovered that fungi in fact attach to the roots of multiple trees of different species, creating pipelines by which a forest community might share nutrients and other molecules and thereby “challenge the prevailing theory that cooperation is of lesser importance than competition in evolution and ecology.”

Ms. Simard and her colleagues proved their theory with a simple, well-crafted field experiment: She labeled tree sugars with radioactive isotopes and then tracked them as they traveled through fungal tubes and into the root tips of other trees. Her paper was published in 1997 in the journal Nature and made the cover, beating out the discovery of the fruit-fly genome (more important than it sounds). The editors of Nature called it “the wood-wide web” and today it is shorthand for more than the communication networks of trees and their fungi in a given ecosystem: It has become what Richard Powers calls “the gospel of new forestry” (the character of Patricia Westerford in his novel “The Overstory” is based on Ms. Simard) and a metaphor for cooperation as a means to success and happiness.

Ms. Simard tells this story, and the story of her many other surprising discoveries (I stopped counting her scholarly papers at 150) in a vivid and inspiring new memoir, “Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest.”

Click here for the rest of the review.

Book Review: ‘The Journeys of Trees’ Shows Giants in Transit

October 13, 2020 · 1 minute read
Book Review: ‘The Journeys of Trees’ Shows Giants in Transit

I stumbled across a book review in the Wall Street Journal for a title every tree lover should consider putting on their shelf. The book, “The Journeys of Trees,” is by Zach St. George and the review is by Heller McAlpin.

Writes McAlpin: Trees, although they seem immutably rooted, are resourcefully shifty. Like all other living things, they are capable of movement from one place to another in search of better nourishment or safety. That’s the salient and perhaps surprising takeaway from science reporter Zach St. George’s “The Journeys of Trees,” a deeply researched book that is liable to change your perspective on the magnificent, tall, woody creatures that cover one-third of the Earth’s land.

Of course, trees are not exactly light on their feet. They move at an infinitesimal, glacial pace. “The migration of a forest is just many trees sprouting in the same direction,” Mr. St. George writes. Scientists call this sort of movement dispersal, and track the progress of trees over eons through the study of fossils that ancient forests have left behind. They have learned, for example, that fast-growing metasequoias lived in the Arctic during the temperate mid-Miocene era about 10 million years ago, when Alaska was as warm as New Jersey. That changed in the Pliocene and Pleistocene eras, as vast sheets of ice covered large parts of the world. Asa Gray, a prominent 19th-century American botanist, conjectured that plants were pushed to lower latitudes as the cold advanced, and later pushed northward again as the ice retreated. Among the species that moved south were the sequoias, which put down roots in the Sierra Nevada range.

Click here to read the rest of the review.

In Taipei, Families Bury Their Loved Ones Next to Trees

February 12, 2020 · 0 minute read

Welcome to Yong’ai Garden, an area of land stretching across 1.2 hectares and one of two public parks in Taipei where tree burials have been taking place since 2007. The concept of a tree burial is simple: family members place the ashes of the deceased into a biodegradable container, and take it to the garden. They then choose from 13 clusters of almost 8,000 trees: cherry blossoms, osmanthus, magnolia, and camphor are some of the more popular options. The caretakers of Yong’ai Garden provide the family with shovels and direct them to the burial area they have chosen. They are careful not to disturb specific sites, marked by small iron rods, where another tree burial has taken place recently. The family digs a hole in the ground that is approximately half a meter deep (1’8”), places the ashes into the hole and covers it with soil and stones. The entire process is completely free of charge. In an innovative turn on traditional Chinese funerary beliefs, the bereaved are also encouraged to set up online memorial tablets for their loved ones, in place of physical gravestones.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Grove Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines

January 22, 2020 · 0 minute read

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

That’s the year David Noble, an officer with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, rappelled into a narrow canyon and came across a grove of large trees he didn’t recognize.

Noble brought back a few twigs and showed them to biologists and botanists who were similarly stumped.

Click here to read the rest of the article.