Arboretum’s Dosmann receives horticulture award

Michael Dosmann (center), Keeper of the Arnold Arboretum Living Collections, receives the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration from Chipper Wichman (left) President, National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), Janet Mayfield, Director and CEO, NTGB, and Thomas Hewitt, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, NTGB. Photo by Lynda LaRocca

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Michael S. Dosmann, Keeper of the Living Collections at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, was recently named the 2019 recipient of the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration in recognition of his outstanding contributions to botanical exploration and horticulture.

Awarded by the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), the Fairchild Medal was presented to Dosmann at a black-tie dinner last month at The Kampong, the organization’s historical garden — and former residence of plant explorer David Fairchild — in Coconut Grove, Fla.

“What an honor to be recognized for the work I do as a plant explorer,” Dosmann said. “In a world where one out of five plant species is threatened with extinction, the importance of the field of botany cannot be understated.”

Dosmann, who curates and manages the Arnold Arboretum’s global collection of temperate woody trees, shrubs, and vines comprising some 15,000 accessioned plants, joined the Arboretum in 2007 as Curator of the Living Collections. In 2017 he was named Keeper of the Living Collections — only the second person to hold the title, following Ernest Henry Wilson, Arnold Arboretum plant explorer who received the distinction in 1927.

Established in 1872, the Arnold Arboretum is the oldest public arboretum in North America, and an important education, research, and conservation facility. Former director Peter Ashton was also a Fairchild Medal recipient.

“This is also a celebration of the Arnold Arboretum’s long history and legacy of sending plant explorers into the field to study Earth’s plant biodiversity,” Dosmann said.

William “Ned” Friedman, director of the Arnold Arboretum and Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University said he was honored to nominate Dosmann.

“Michael is an international leader in efforts to promote greater knowledge and preservation of wild-collected plants,” he said. “Because of this, visitors to both the Arnold Arboretum and public gardens around the globe, as well as scholars today and well into the future, will study the plants derived from these expeditions, helping to provide the last hope for species on the brink of extinction, and be drawn into the magnificent secrets of nature.”

Since 2007, Dosmann has led and participated in multiple botanical expeditions to China and Japan, as well as regions in the Eastern United States including the Adirondacks of upstate New York and the Ozarks of Arkansas. These expeditions to acquire wild-collected seed, focus on genera such as Acer (maple), Carya (hickory), Viburnum, and Fraxinus (ash), as well as species of conservation concern. The ongoing effort contributes significantly to the expansion of the Arboretum’s Living Collections and Herbarium.