Southern Highlands Reserve Partners with Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, Contributes to “The Campaign for Living Collections”

October 18, 2016

In early October, Southern Highlands Reserve had the distinct honor of welcoming Robert Dowell and Jenna Zukswert, Fellows of the Campaign for Living Collections at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum for a tour of the Reserve and to share seeds for native plants grown on the Reserve. Established to expand the Arboretum’s collection through exploration, collection and production, the Campaign’s leadership envisions its living collection to encompass a broader, more diverse collection of plants with extensive documentation, making the collections more accessible to the public and scholars.

Founded in the 1870’s during the golden era of plant collections, the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University places a high value on the documentation on all plants accessed into their collection. They seek plant material in the wild to maintain a living representation of its habitat within the Living Collections Campaign. The Campaign is a concentrated push to bolster plants that have high conservation value. Its two geographic areas of interest are East Asia and the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North America.

Known for their biological diversity and unique climate conditions, high elevation forests of the Southern Appalachian Mountains attracted the attention of Campaign for Living Collections Fellows Dowell and Zukswert for their next phase of collection and exploration. During a week-long expedition through high-elevation forest ecosystems of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, they visited Southern Highlands Reserve to tour the gardens and collect seeds to bring back to the Arboretum’s collection. SHR contributed seeds from our Southern Red Oak seed bank to represent the Southern Appalachian Mountains at the Arboretum.

Partnerships are a critical component to the Campaign’s success as Fellows Dowell and Zukswert travel seek plant material to fulfill their goal of 395 new accessions of plants over the next 10 years. By visiting SHR, they were very pleased to forge a new partnership with us to ensure a supply of healthy seed material for the collection. The seeds collected during their week-long botanical road trip will be sown in the Arboretum’s greenhouse and in the landscape several years from now.

While seeds from SHR will soon be nurtured in the Arnold Arboretum’s nursery and thereafter in the landscape, the seeds of partnership were sown during their visit. Robert Dowell commented on his immense appreciation for SHR: “Absolutely stunning and unforgettable. I will never forget the time we spent there. SHR has a beautiful collection of plants. It’s very heartwarming to see the love and care the Balentines and the staff have put into caring for the land.”