East Tennessee State University

Arboretum Newsletter


Volume III, Issue 1
Arbor Day 2004


Asian-American Species Pairs Now on Display!

Many of the closest relatives of our southeastern plant species are native to far away China and Japan. This widely separated (disjunct) distribution of “sister species” represents the remains of a once-continuous forest which covered most of the northern hemisphere for millions of years. The world’s climate turned cooler several million years ago and many species survived only in the southern Appalachians and parts of east Asia. Thus, our Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is closely related to the Chinese Tulip Poplar (L. chinensis), and our sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a botanical next-of-kin to the Chinese sassafras (S. tsumu). In fact, the genera Liriodendron has just two species, and Sassafras only three. Each has one from eastern North America and one or two from China.

To demonstrate this remarkable turn of plant geography and evolutionary history the ETSU Arboretum has planted a selection of species pairs, each including one native tree or shrub planted close by the east Asian species. Among these are paired species of Black Gum (Nyssa), Sycamore (Platanus), Fringe Tree (Chionanthus), Ironwood (Carpinus) and Sweetshrub (Calycanthus), as well as the Tulip Poplars and Sassafras mentioned before. Some larger genera have more than one set of eastern America-eastern Asia species pairs, and these match-ups have also been planted to further illustrate this theme. The Maples (Acer), Dogwoods (Cornus) and Magnolias (Magnolia) each have multiple Asian-American disjunct species groups. Examples from each of these genera are also planted at the ETSU Arboretum.
Support for the Asian-American Species Pairs theme plantings has been provided by a grant from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust to the ETSU Arboretum.

Two Biology Classes Feature ETSU Arboretum Trees

The ETSU Arboretum tree collections are the subject of two special courses being taught by Drs. Foster Levy and Tim McDowell this semester. An inventory of the trees of the ETSU Arboretum is being conducted by a class of five undergraduate and graduate students. This inventory, including species identifications, measurements, photos, and mapping for all trees on the main campus will be placed on the ETSU Arboretum web site later this year. The second class is a graduate seminar on systematic biology, focusing on the evolutionary origins of the many plant distributions with a disjunct eastern Asia-eastern America pattern. The nine students in this class have made great use of the ETSU Arboretum’s new specialty collections in groups such as Magnolia, Hamamelis (witch hazels), Aesculus (buckeyes and horsechestnuts), and Cornus (dogwoods). Students examine live plants to better understand the often technical analyses of molecular phylogenetics (studies of ancestral relationships of species which compare their DNA sequences) presented in the scientific literature. Support from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust has been instrumental in developing the Arboretum’s collections for use in this and other classes.

Dr. Zack Murrell, plant systematics professor and Cornus (dogwood) expert from Appalachian State University, interprets morphological development of flower and leaf buds in dogwoods. The class is examining evolutionary and biogeographical relationships between Asian and American plants. Nine species of Cornus are now growing at the ETSU Arboretum.

Dwarf Conifer Garden Installed in front of Brooks Gym

The ETSU Arboretum has installed a Dwarf Conifer Garden in the quadrangle in front of Brooks Gym. The Dwarf Conifer Garden compliments the new ETSU Veterans Memorial which was commemorated last Veterans Day. Over 60 conifer varieties and species, mostly small and slow-growing “dwarf” cultivars, have been planted during the past year. A great assortment of color, texture, and form is available in dwarf conifers for year-round plant interest.

Support for the Dwarf Conifer Garden has been provided by the Mountainview Garden Club and the Northeast Tennessee Gulf War Veterans Association. Additional funds for identification signs (now being prepared) have been provided by the Urban Forestry grant to the ETSU Arboretum from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the USDA. Recently added to the Dwarf Conifer Garden is a selection of over twenty named cultivars of hollies (Ilex species), which were a gift to the ETSU Arboretum from the Holly Haven Nursery of Knoxville, Tenn.

The Veterans Memorial Dwarf Conifer Garden is located in front of Brooks Gym. Over 50 ornamental small evergreens are now planted, and identification signs will be installed this summer.


Trees for Tomorrow Display Now Planted!

The Trees for Tomorrow area, a display of 59 outstanding species or varieties of trees and shrubs, has now been planted. The two Trees for Tomorrow beds are located in the grassy slope along State of Franklin Road, across the street from the Carnegie Hotel and Wendy’s restaurant. Many unusual ornamentals provide excellent choices for home landscapes. Featured are summer flowering trees, plants with showy fruits and interesting bark, compact selections, shade trees, and fast-growing trees for evergreen screens. A brochure describing these trees (with map and species list) is now available. There are some real gems planted in these beds!

We gratefully acknowledge the Harris Fund for Washington County for supporting the Trees for Tomorrow plantings and brochure. Further funding for trees was provided by a grant to the ETSU Arboretum from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust. Signs for the Trees for Tomorrow beds were produced with support from the Urban Forestry program of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry and the United States Department of Agriculture.

The new Trees for Tomorrow display beds are located on the grassy slope along State of Franklin Road below Brown Hall. Some 80 trees and shrubs, including over 50 different species or varieties are planted there.

Non-Arboretum events of interest to plant enthusiasts:

The NETNA Annual Plant Auction will be held at the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 17. Hundreds of trees, shrubs, and perennials will be auctioned. Come prepared to see lots of interesting and unusual plants and pick up some bargains on the auction block. Admission and refreshments are free, but bring your checkbook to participate in the auction! This event is sponsored by the Northeast Tennessee Nursery Growers Association. Details on Sycamore Shoals State Park are available from Jennifer Bauer (423) 543-5808.

Fern morphology, taxonomy, and ecology, hands-on propagation from spores, and gardening with native ferns are the topics of workshops to be held on Saturday, June 12, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Shy Valley Farm Studio and Garden, just outside Fall Branch. Tom Goforth, a native fern expert from Rock Hill, S.C., will be the presenter. A $50 fee covers all three workshops, materials, and lunch. People may participate only part of the day, with reduced fees. A native fern sale will follow. Registration is limited. A fern hike with Goforth is planned for the following day, Sunday, June 13, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport. Please call Christy Shivell at (423) 348 -6570 for more information.

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Tax exempt donations are appreciated and can be sent to:

ETSU Arboretum
East Tennessee State University
Department of Biological Sciences
Box 70703
Johnson City TN 37614-1710