Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Treasure trove of conifer seeds from the past: three boxes full

As part of the continued improvement in the Arboretum's physical plant, the ancient walk-in cooler in the basement of the headhouse is being replaced this winter. We use it for both seed storage and cold stratification; also occasionally for storage of dormant plant materials. All of this will have to go somewhere while the new cooler is being installed. The new propagator, Young, was tasked with making sense out of the results of years and years of laissez-faire cooler management. George and I volunteered to help her sort things out. After connecting just about everything to a curator or collection, we found three good-sized boxes of conifer seeds on a top shelf. The dates on the seed packets are fron the 1970s but nobody here seems to know how they came to be in the cooler. While some may be the result of Arboretum collectors, it seems likely that most came from other Institutions likely via Index seminum, a seed exchange program wherein Botanic Gardens, Arboreta, Colleges, Universities, etc. produce lists of the seed they can provide to other like institutions. Everything we saw was native to this country but we didn't dig down so who knows whats in there.

Apparently George and Pat found one of the boxes a few years ago and George tells me that they germinated Pinus rigida without any problems! Because we had other duties to attend to, we didn't spend any amount of time exploring the boxes, but I took a few quick pictures and just the packets visible in the top layer of one box showed taxonomic and geographical range. Reading the labels is a lesson in obscure American place names. There were Douglas Fir seeds fron Curry Oregon, Snoqualmie Falls and Trout Lake, Washington. Three different pine species: Longleaf from Mississippi; Slash from Jackson, not Jacksonville, Florida; Loblolly from Jefferson, Mississippi. Noble Fir from McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. Because he works in the Conifer Collection, George will examine the boxes to see what might be of use to our collections. I just want to read the names of the collection sites!

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