UW Today

This is an archived article.

August 27, 2004

Botanist known internationally for research, plant dictionary joining UW

News and Information

A former dean with Oxford University — who oversaw refurbishment of gardens in the heart of Oxford that are visited by many thousands every year and managed one of the most historically significant herbarium collections in the United Kingdom — has been named director of the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture and Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum.

David J. Mabberley, an expert in plant taxonomy and ecology who has written 14 books and for more than 200 publications, will be a professor of economic botany in the College of Forest Resources and hold the UW’s Orin and Althea Soest Chair in Horticultural Science while he serves as director. He is expected to start later this year depending on the length of time it takes to satisfy new visa and Homeland Security requirements.

In recent years there have been separate UW directors for the Center for Urban Horticulture, an outreach and research unit of the university, and Washington Park Arboretum, a Seattle city park of 230 acres where the UW owns and manages the plant collections and works cooperatively with the city and the not-for-profit Arboretum Foundation.

“Having one director will support integration of the often related outreach, research, curatorial and development activities of the center and arboretum,” says Bruce Bare, dean of the College of Forest Resources, of which the Center for Urban Horticulture is a part. “It will build on the solid horticultural reputations of both units to support the college’s vision of world-class programs focusing on sustainability, of which the sustainability of urban ecosystems is a key element.”

Mabberley is currently based in Sydney organizing international projects for his firm David Mabberley Consulting and pursuing his Australian academic writing and research though an honorary research associateship at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. He currently is in Europe and Asia for up to half the year executing contracts as part of his consulting business and maintaining his positions as professor with the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, and honorary director of the Joseph Banks Archive Project with the Royal Society and Natural History Museum in London.

“I hope to bring a fresh, broad-based, international perspective to the directorship,” Mabberley says.

As dean of Oxford University’s Wadham College for 10 years, Mabberley was directly concerned with financial management including fundraising, estate management, investment policy, building maintenance and new facilities design. As keeper of the Wadham College gardens, which is considered to have the finest collection of trees outside the Oxford botanic garden, Mabberley devised a rolling a program of refurbishment overcoming problems of aging and disease.

He was responsible for the reorganization of the Oxford University Herbaria, a collection of more than a million dried specimens and wood samples.

Mabberley teaches and studies biodiversity, the interlocking disciplines of ecology and conservation, and systematic botany and evolution. He largely focuses on the management of forest trees and other plants of economic value, especially Rutaceae, the citrus family.

Among his publications is the Plant Book: A Dictionary of Vascular Plants, which is designated by the European Union as the standard dictionary of plants and plant products and is a bestseller among botanists and gardeners worldwide.

His appointment was approved by the UW regents July 16. His salary will be $126,500.

At the UW’s Center for Urban Horticulture and he will oversee programs with 14 faculty, 22 staff and numerous volunteers. The center conducts work on such things as preserving Washington’s endangered plants, finding ways to re-establish native grasses and plants in the region’s prairies, rehabilitating wetlands and natural areas in cities, and helping home gardeners and landscape professionals.

Thomas Hinckley, professor of forest resources and center director for four years, recently returned to full-time teaching and research. John Wott, professor of forest resources and director of the Washington Park Arboretum for more than 10 years, is currently serving as acting director of the center in addition to his duties as arboretum director.

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For more information:

Mabberley, david_mabberley@yahoo.co.uk

Bare, (206) 685-1928, bare@u.washington.edu