May 14, 2021

Presenting Science Virtually

By Sarah Kyker, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Information sharing is the cornerstone of science. Scientific conferences are a key venue for this information sharing – places where scientists present recent findings and hear what others are working on. Scientists, including the researchers at Holden,  travel around the globe to share information with colleagues. As a scientist myself, attendance at conferences and invited seminars has become one of the best ways to learn about new research in the field ! However, in March of 2020, when it became necessary for us to stay socially distant due to COVID-19, in-person scientific conferences were cancelled.

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May 7, 2021

Conifer trait study using multiple arboreta as common gardens

By Randy Long, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar

We are excited to announce a new project using the conifer collection at the Holden Arboretum led by postdoctoral researcher Dr. Randy Long. He is using arboreta and botanic gardens across the United States to examine trait variation and plasticity in conifer species and how they are influenced by native range distributions.

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Conifer trait study using multiple arboreta as common gardens

April 21, 2021

Holden Scientists and Volunteers Gear Up for Spring in the Forest

By Katie Stuble, PhD, Scientist

I had a moment of panic last week. It was the crocuses that did me in, if you can believe it!  Well, the crocuses and climate change. I’m a scientist, and an experiment was on the line.

This year will mark four years of spring phenology monitoring in Bole Woods. Phenology is the study of the timing of natural events, and we’ve been monitoring the timing of the spring greening of Holden’s forests. This sort of monitoring helps us understand how species may (or may not) be able to track the changing climate, and anticipate potential changes in our natural world.

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Holden Scientists and Volunteers Gear Up for Spring in the Forest

April 21, 2021

Holden Scientists were Wildly Curious about Wild Leek

By Sarah Kyker, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate

The old growth remnant forests in Stebbins Gulch are locations at Holden Arboretum that David Burke and his lab have been studying for years. Burke first began hiking to the old growth portions of Stebbins Gulch back in 2006. One thing that he and Charlotte Hewins noticed every spring was the immense cover of wild leek (Allium tricoccum) on the forest floor. “Come April when the leeks are fully emerged, there is nowhere to step that isn’t completely covered in them,” Hewins once told me. In April of 2008, I saw it for myself and it took my breath away. Forest floors were supposed to be brown and covered in decaying leaves. But, the forest floor of Stebbins Gulch that April (and every April after) was green due to numerous wild leek leaves unfurling toward the sun!

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Holden Scientists were Wildly Curious about Wild Leek

April 20, 2021

What makes a native tree become invasive?

By Randy Long, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar

Invasive species. The term brings to mind organisms that have been moved around by people, either accidentally or for a purpose, that are now causing problems. For example, here in Ohio we are plagued by invasive plants like garlic mustard, which was introduced by European settlers, that outcompetes native plants and is costly to remove. But in some occasions native plants become invasive and expand their ranges and replace other native species. One such plant is eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), which is expanding its range westward into remnant grasslands as well as expanding into new niches within its historic range. The range expansion of native plants does beg the question, does it matter? Does the replacement of one native with another native harm the ecosystem? Our case of the slow invasion of red cedar (unaffectionately called the green glacier) is causing concern since it is expanding into historic grasslands, many of which have already been converted to agriculture or urban areas. Replacement by red cedar in these areas may cause endemic species to become endangered or go extinct. To better understand why this native plant is becoming invasive the ecology and physiology of red cedar needs to be examined more closely.

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What makes a native tree become invasive?

April 20, 2021

Understanding How Trees Respond to Their Urban Environment

By Sharon Danielson, MS, Doctoral Graduate Student

As urban areas expand, they leave isolated forest patches in their wake. The effects of urban areas such as higher temperatures, water flow changes, and increased pollution are not limited to the city, however, and can cause a ripple effect through the surrounding areas. I want to know how forests are shaped by their neighboring cities. I study the anatomical and physiological traits of trees that will help us understand if, and how, trees are able to respond to the urban environment. I also plan to investigate one of the most under-studied aspects of urban forests—Can the seedlings from urban trees, such as the red maples shown in the photos here, inherit traits from their parents that differ from those in rural forests? To do this I am collecting samaras (maple seeds) from red maple trees growing in urban and rural forests. I will grow them in a greenhouse and, when the seedlings have grown, I will see how they differ in leaf structure and function. This is the very first step to exploring how urban forests of the future will function.

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Understanding How Trees Respond to Their Urban Environment

April 19, 2021

Urban Trees

By Sharon Danielson, MS, Doctoral Graduate Student

Urban Trees have been getting a lot of attention in the scientific and sociological worlds lately. Trees provide many benefits including shade in the warm urban areas, mental health improvement, and particulate matter capture. While the benefits trees provide for humans are numerous, we also need to understand how the stress of the urban environment affects tree function and survival. The urban environment can be a stressful environment for plants due to the elevated temperatures, compact soils, and elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. These stressors have the potential to negatively impact the benefits the trees provide. Urban foresters are keenly aware of the impact on tree growth and lifespan and have been studying the success of urban tree species and planting techniques for decades. Many have explored the best tree species and cultivars to plant in an urban environment and how trees in the city (i.e. street trees) are negatively impacted by the heat and compacted soil of these areas.

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Urban Trees

March 29, 2021

Harnessing microbiomes in crabapples: II. Getting seeds for testing microbiome functions

Plants are associated with numerous microorganisms in the wild. Some of these microorganisms are beneficial but others, such as pathogens, can be harmful to plants. Thus, maintaining a healthy microbiome is key to plant health. For crabapples (i.e. the wild apples, Malus), we have observed that some crabapple cultivars/species are more disease resistant than others at the National Crabapple Evaluation Project Plot at Holden. Our previous work published on the Malus: International Ornamental Crabapple Society Bulletin with Holden students Jessica LaBella and Eve Kaufman has identified many fungi associated with crabapples.

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Harnessing microbiomes in crabapples: II. Getting seeds for testing microbiome functions

March 29, 2021

Detecting Changes in the Natural World

The Holden Arboretum is a stunning place to explore with its beautiful gardens and forests. I love to hike the trails with my family and watch the gardens transform over the seasons. But, as a scientist who studies the impacts of climate change, the Arboretum is also a treasure-trove of information. Natural areas like the ones protected by the Arboretum are increasingly rare and hugely important not only as sanctuaries for wildlife, but also as spaces in which to study it. And, given the stresses currently placed on the Earth, this role is perhaps more important today than ever.

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Detecting Changes in the Natural World

March 29, 2021

A Lady’s Slipper Update on the Eve of Orchids Forever

A lot of science and conservation is learning by doing, so I would like to provide an update on our lady’s slipper orchid conservation project. This is our first time growing orchids from seed. On December 11, 2020, Field Station Specialist Jing Wang and I sowed seeds of Cypripedium reginae, the showy lady’s slipper, collected in a Holden natural area. Details of the first steps can be seen in a previous blog entry here. It has now been nine weeks since we sowed the seeds, and we have good news to report. We have germination!

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March 28, 2021

Biotic Homogenization – Changes in biodiversity with urbanization in vacant lots

The current biodiversity crisis seen in headlines has many overarching implications for ecosystems worldwide. Humans frequently aid in the dispersal of non-native species through both accidental and intentional introductions. Urban areas, as hotspots of human activity and disturbance, are thought to contribute to the spread of non-native species and create similar environmental pressures worldwide. Altogether, urbanization is thought to contribute to the increasing similarity of biotic communities, a process known as biotic homogenization.

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March 28, 2021

The Life Beneath the Snow

The month of January, with its freezing temperatures and leaf-less trees, is a time when it’s easy to think of nature as dormant. While this might be true for deciduous trees and hibernating animals, this is far from true for soil organisms, such as fungi. These decomposers are very active during the winter decomposing the leaf litter that fell just months prior! Snow cover is beneficial for this decomposition because it insulates the ground and keeps the soil from freezing. Snow cover does more than just keep the soil from freezing, it keeps soil temperatures stable. The soil ecology lab at HF&G has been monitoring soil temperatures in the forests of Stebbins Gulch since 2006. Soil temperature loggers record soil temperature every 8 minutes throughout the year. Year after year, soils in the winter are stable and typically just above freezing. Once the spring arrives and the snow cover is no longer constant, soil temperatures become much more variable. The now exposed soils can more easily freeze with cold night-time air temperatures and then thaw with the warmer air temperatures of the day.

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The Life Beneath the Snow

March 28, 2021

Meeting the Grand Botanic Garden Challenge at Holden Forests & Gardens

When we consider the major challenges facing humanity today, it is exciting to think that plants can provide a myriad of sustainable solutions. Problems with water quality, our dependence on fossil fuels, food insecurity, and even emerging human diseases can all be addressed, if only we can find the right plant for the job. Plants have amazing capabilities to alter ecosystem function and soothe our ailments, and over evolutionary time they have adapted and acclimated to inhabit nearly every environment on earth, with their ability to capture energy from sunlight forming the basis of life as we know it.

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Meeting the Grand Botanic Garden Challenge at Holden Forests & Gardens

March 28, 2021

How do deer and forest edges shape Northeast Ohio forests?

One of Northeast Ohio’s most charismatic consumer of plants within our forests is the white-tailed deer. Perhaps you’ve even noticed their impacts in your own backyard garden. As yards and people take up more space, there are fewer large tracts of intact forests to support predatory animals (e.g., bear or bobcat) relying on those habitats. This lack of predators combines with an abundant supply of food for deer (possibly the hostas planted in your backyard), to drive high numbers of white-tailed deer in most Ohio forests (and beyond).

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How do deer and forest edges shape Northeast Ohio forests?

March 28, 2021

Sowing Orchid Seeds In Vitro

Orchids are among the most ornamental and diverse groups of plants in the world. We often think of them as epiphytes, growing on trees in the tropics. Many would be surprised to know that there are orchids native to Ohio and that they do not grow in trees. Our native orchids grow in the ground and are called terrestrial orchids. Ohio has approximately 47 native orchid species, and of them, the lady’s slippers may be the showiest.

Ohio has 5 native species of lady’s slippers (genus Cypripedium) and one naturally occurring hybrid. Holden has three of these species growing in our natural areas. Lady’s slippers are characterized by a modified sepal, or labellum, that is shaped, you guessed it, like a lady’s slipper. This labellum serves to attract pollinators, mainly bees, to the orchid. Once a lady’s slipper is pollinated, a fruit called a capsule forms and maturity splits open to disperse thousands of tiny, dust-like seeds.

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Sowing Orchid Seeds In Vitro

March 28, 2021

The Biodiversity Belowground: Celebrating World Soil Day

When we think of all the organisms on Earth, it’s soil that holds a substantial portion of this biodiversity. In just one teaspoon of clean, uncontaminated soil there can be up to 1 billion bacterial cells and close to 1 million different microbial species. Soils can harbor tens of thousands of species of fungi that can help plants acquire essential nutrients, decompose organic matter, and fight pathogens belowground. Antibiotics, such as streptomycins and tetracyclines, are produced by soil bacteria and fungi. Soil biota can be essential for bioremediation, a process where pollutants are degraded and ecosystems are cleaned. Soil bacteria and fungi, along with a number of invertebrates, decompose organic matter, such as rotting logs and fallen leaves; this decomposition may be key for sequestering carbon belowground and helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

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The Biodiversity Belowground: Celebrating World Soil Day

March 28, 2021

Bridging the Diversity Gap in Plant Science Internships

On November 18th Dr. Juliana Medeiros was invited to make a presentation about the Holden Research Internship Program for The Morton Arboretum virtual workshop: Bridging the Diversity Gap in Plant Science Internships. This workshop represents the first steps in building a network of science-based institutions that provide research internships, with the goal of promoting and enhancing diversity in the STEM workforce.

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Bridging the Diversity Gap in Plant Science Internships

March 28, 2021

Our Workhorse Forests and Acid Rain

Our forests are not only beautiful, but also environmental powerhouses, pumping out oxygen, filtering runoff, and storing carbon that would otherwise collect in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. In fact, forests are our most promising tool to naturally mitigate climate change. But, not all forests are created equal and they vary in their ability to take up and store carbon.

Last week, Holden scientist David Burke introduced you to an amazing and long-running experiment manipulating acid rain deposition within Holden’s forests. This experiment, running for 11 years now, deacidifies the soil in large forested plots at Holden to explore how forests likely functioned before the impacts of acid rain. David and his team have explored everything from tree growth and nutrients, to soil microbes in response to these experimental treatments. But, what might these sorts of chronic changes in our forests mean for their ability to store carbon, and ultimately mitigate climate change?

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Our Workhorse Forests and Acid Rain

March 28, 2021

Ecological Paths Through a Yellow Wood

It’s that time of year when the woods turn yellow – or orange and red depending on where you live – and shine with the vibrance of fall color. This perennial autumn display represents the process of nutrient recycling and recovery by trees before they lose their leaves for the season. A process that results in the recovery of nitrogen and phosphorous, major plant nutrients that can be costly to obtain from soil, from dying leaves. This process of recycling is what reveals the yellow, orange and red pigments normally masked by the green plant pigment chlorophyll. But not all nutrients within a leaf can be recycled and many are lost when they drop from the tree onto the forest floor. This presents an opportunity for other organisms to use those nutrients lost by the trees (a process called decomposition which we’ll explore next week) and also an opportunity for plant scientists to explore how human change to our environment affects and alters tree biology. And that is the subject of this week’s post.

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Ecological Paths Through a Yellow Wood

March 28, 2021

Curating a Collection

As Rhododendron collections manager at Holden Forests & Gardens I wear many ericaceous hats, but at the core of my job is curating the Holden Rhododendron Collection. This role differs from most of the other folks in the Holden Research Department, who are actively trying to create new knowledge and solve problems. My job is to build a plant collection that facilitates this.

Having one person to curate a collection of one group of plants is a unique role at a public garden, but it makes sense for us. Between the David G. Leach Research Station, Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden, and the Eliot and Linda Paine Rhododendron Discovery Garden, HF&G has nearly 60 acres dedicated to Rhododendron collection and display. When we think about building a collection, we think about four main institutional focuses: research, conservation, education, and display.

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Curating a Collection

March 28, 2021

Crabapples: a ripe system for research

Crabapples, the wild apple species and cultivars (Malus spp.), are important members of the rose family. Crabapples produce profuse blossom (Fig. 1) and small fruits (Fig. 2)1. Many crabapples are cultivated as ornamental trees or rootstocks, and their apples can be used for preserves1. Common crabapples1 (Fig. 1) include the European crabapple (Malus sylvestris), the Caucasian crabapple (Malus orientalis), the Siberian crabapple (Malus baccata), and the crabapples native to North American such as Malus angustifoliaMalus coronariaMalus ioensis, and Malus fusca.

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Crabapples: a ripe system for research

March 28, 2021

Science on Friday: the Art and Science of Grafting

Grafting is an ancient technique of joining two distinct plants together. Grafts occur naturally or they can occur through human intervention. In practice, grafting usually involves the joining of the shoots of one plant (termed the “scion”) to the roots of another (termed the “rootstock” or “understock”).

In ornamental horticulture, some of the most recognizable plants are grafted. The redbud you purchased at your local garden center is grafted. Your favorite Japanese maple is grafted. The weeping cherry tree in your front yard is grafted. Food crops like apples, cherries, and grapes are also grafted.

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Science on Friday: the Art and Science of Grafting

March 28, 2021

National Mushroom Month Continues – Lessons in Fungal Ecology and Conservation

My name is Claudia and I’m the newest member of the team here at the Long Science Center at Holden Arboretum. I’m a recent graduate of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry with a Master of Science in Forest Pathology and Mycology. I am joining Holden Forests and Gardens to continue my education and earn my Ph.D. through a joint program with Case Western Reserve University. My research centers on a type of fungi known as mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi form mutually beneficial relationships with plants (mutualisms!). Mutualism means that both organisms benefit. In exchange for photosynthates (i.e., fixed carbon) from the plant, mycorrhizal fungi provide the plant with nutrients from the soil, especially nitrogen and phosphorus.

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National Mushroom Month Continues – Lessons in Fungal Ecology and Conservation

March 28, 2021

Mushrooms: the hardest working recyclers in the forest

September is one of our favorite months in the Holden Forests and Gardens Soil Ecology lab. Why? Because it is National Mushroom Month. Many people celebrate National Mushroom Month by cooking and eating their favorite mushrooms. And we do too! But, in the Holden Research Department, we also celebrate National Mushroom Month by appreciating all that fungi do for forest health.

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Mushrooms: the hardest working recyclers in the forest

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