UW News

April 17, 2008

UW Botanic Gardens’ maple collection gets national recognition

The North American Plant Collection Consortium has granted member status to the UW Botanic Gardens’ Acer (maple) collection at the Washington Park Arboretum. The latest addition to the UW collection, known as the moosewood maple (Acer pennsylvanicum), is native to the eastern United States and is grown from wild-collected seed, making it especially valuable for conservation purposes.

“For many people, the maples are one of their favorite things to see in the Arboretum because they are so beautiful,” said Sandra Lier, interim director of the UW Botanic Gardens. “What they may not know is that we have the second-largest collection of maples in North America.”

The consortium’s decision recognizes the maple collection as one of the best in North America in terms of diversity and institutional commitment to manage and expand the collection. The UW Botanic Gardens maple collection is the second largest in the North America in terms of number of different types (or taxa, which includes species and cultivars), at 209. In making their descision, consortium reviewers considered the maintenance of plants, database maintenance, mapping, and other features. By participating in the consortium, the UW Botanic Gardens will make its maple collection available for greater distribution and research and will work to increase public awareness of plant conservation.

Randall Hitchin, collections manager for the gardens, said, “Because we have relatively mild winters and relatively mild summers here, that allows us to grow a broad range of maple species, and it’s probably the best climate for that in North America.” The collection includes Asiatic, Himalayan, Indo-Malaysian, North American, European, and West and Central Asian species — “basically, species from all the places maples grow,” he said.

The North American Plant Collection Consortium is a network of botanical gardens and arboreta working to coordinate a continentwide approach to plant conservation and to promote high standards for plant collections management. In August 2007, it accepted the UW Botanic Gardens’ Quercus (oak) collection, and in 2002 the Ilex (holly) collection.

The UW Botanic Gardens, part of the UW’s College of Forest Resources, is home to many of the nation’s most significant plant collections. Besides maples, hollies, and oaks, there are also significant collections of mountain ash (Sorbus), conifers, and camelias. The collections are also growing. In addition to the new moosewood maple, one dozen additional Japanese maples (Acer palmatum cultivars) will be planted this spring.

UW Botanic Gardens is committed to sustaining managed to natural ecosystems and the human spirit through plant research, display, and education. For more information, visit online at www.uwbotanicgardens.org.