Michael Dosmann, the keeper of the living collections and a narrator on Expeditions, shares the beauty of plants in their natural habitat in this excerpt about the Chinese plum yew (Cephalotaxus):
In 1980, a group of scientists and researchers embarked on a three-month trip through the Shennongjia Forest in central China. Representatives from five American institutions, including the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, joined colleagues from several Chinese institutions, tracing a route across Hubei Province … The seed for the Chinese plum yew was collected … in a thicket between a road and stream 5,000 feet above sea level … There’s something completely different when you see that plant growing in the wild, raw, unvarnished in its natural habitat. You get a broader appreciation and an understanding for what comprises that species’ essence.
Documenting the history of living objects, especially those extinct in the wild, offers a unique value, according to Jonathan Damery, Arnoldia editor and Expeditions narrator for the Franklin tree (Franklinia), first described by father and son colonial plant explorers John and William Bartram in 1765, and last seen in the wild in 1803.
This particular plant is just a mind-boggling specimen, in addition to being an important plant, [it’s] a plant that’s extinct in the wild … The collection of the Franklin tree by the Bartrams has outlived both the father and the son. It’s outlived Thomas Meehan, the nurseryman who sent it to the Arboretum. It’s outlived Charles Sargent, the founding director of the Arboretum. And I think it’s incredibly powerful to imagine that this particular plant will very well be here in 200 years and 300 years … This [is the] continuing living story of a relationship between people who observed and collected the plant and the plant as it has continued to grow.
Kate Stonefoot, the manager of visitor engagement, said the benefits of the Expeditions Mobile App are considerable, and include greatly broadening public outreach and education.
“Besides providing casual access to detailed, targeted information, there are profound benefits for individuals with hearing or sight impairments, as well as visitors for whom English is not their first language,” she said. “The Expeditions app allows us to share the story of the Arboretum and its world-renowned collection of trees in ways that will significantly enhance the visitor experience.”
“Behind each of our roughly 16,000 accessions lies a unique story — a story of journeys and collecting around the world, of amazing natural history, horticulture, and the aesthetic experience of observing our plants throughout the seasons and years,” said William (Ned) Friedman, director of the Arboretum and Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. “This app can enrich the experience of interacting with our photosynthetic brethren.”