August 14, 2020

Exploring the Rhododendron Research Network (R-RN)

The Rhododendron Research Network (R-RN) was founded at Holden in 2017 to increase collaboration and dissemination of Rhododendron research, to connect scientists with each other and with plant enthusiasts from across the globe.

With 900+ species in the genus, representing a broad range of physiology and ecology, Rhododendron is the focal point of studies all over the world, ranging from horticulture and breeding, to conservation and restoration, to ecology and evolution, to medicinal chemistry and ethnobotany. In addition, Rhododendron’s popularity as ornamental and medicinal plants dates back over 500 years, highlighting the enormous potential of these plants to connect seemingly-distant problems like conservation and medicine, or gardening and climate change, to solve the big mysteries of how biodiversity arises, why it matters to humans, and how to preserve it.

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Exploring the Rhododendron Research Network (R-RN)

August 6, 2020

World-renowned outdoor sculpture Stickwork will arrive in Northeast Ohio this Fall

Holden Forests & Gardens (HF&G) will open an outdoor sculpture experience at the Holden Arboretum on Saturday, August 29, 2020. Patrick
Dougherty’s Stickwork – twisting mazes, towering castles and hedges full of faces – have been featured in more than 300 locations around the world from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States. This is the first time he is coming to Northeast Ohio.

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World-renowned outdoor sculpture Stickwork will arrive in Northeast Ohio this Fall

July 31, 2020

Science on Friday: One Fruit, Two Fruit, Red Fruit, Blue Fruit

By Alexa Wagner, Doctoral Graduate Student

Ohio’s forests have changed over the last 200 years. Few old-growth forests remain as much of the land was timbered and cleared for agriculture in the early 19th century. Most forests in the northeastern U.S. sit on land used for agriculture as recently as 40 to 85 years ago. After years of disturbance from farming activities, there are challenges for forests trying to regenerate. These young forests tend to have high numbers of introduced species (originating from other parts of the world) that compete with native species. They also tend to be crowded with smaller trees which happens when many trees began growing all at the same time. To restore the historic integrity of these forests, forest managers remove non-native plants while thinning dense tree stands through timbering. These management actions aim to improve the health of the forest and increase their ability to act as ecosystem superheroes – combating climate change by storing carbon, protecting biodiversity by providing habitat for wildlife, and improving water quality by regulating rain water.

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Science on Friday: One Fruit, Two Fruit, Red Fruit, Blue Fruit

July 24, 2020

How does “the early bird gets the worm” play out in plant communities?

By Katie Stuble, PhD, Scientist

You’ve heard the phrase “the early bird gets the worm”. We use it to indicate that getting somewhere first can come with big benefits. It’s snagging the choicest donuts in the office lunchroom, or the best seats in the movie theater. And so it goes in the natural world. Being the first species to get to a new place has advantages. Early plants can grab the space, shade out species that come later, take up valuable nutrients from the soil, and establish large root networks for water uptake. In ecology, we have a term for this sort of early-bird benefit – priority effects. And these priority effects can play an outsized role in determining what species you’ll find in a certain area.

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How does “the early bird gets the worm” play out in plant communities?

July 3, 2020

The surprising way Jack-in-the-Pulpit initiates pollination…

By Sarah Kyker, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Some of the most fun stories we have in science are about surprising discoveries. Most people think of these as “eureka” moments. We can picture a scientist in a lab seeing something unexpected and shouting with excitement. “Eureka!” But, in science, these “eureka” moments don’t really exist. When we make a surprising observation, it’s not always immediately clear that what we have witnessed is, in fact, surprising at all. Today for #ScienceonFridayswithHolden, we’d like to share an observation made by our department chair, David Burke. It is a story about an unlikely pollinator and is fitting as we wrapped up #NationalPollinatorMonth earlier this week.

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The surprising way Jack-in-the-Pulpit initiates pollination…

June 26, 2020

Pollinator Research at the Arboretum with Dr. Na Wei

By Na Wei, PhD, Scientist

Why do we care about pollinators? Pollinators are important creatures in natural ecosystems and our daily life because they provide vital services to wild plants and our crops. Pollinators carry and deliver pollen to facilitate plant fertilization to produce fruits and seeds. These fruits serve as food for many animals in nature, and the seeds are next-generation offspring to maintain plant persistence. Nearly 300,000 wild plants (87% of flowering plants) depend on pollinators and their services. For humans, 75% of our leading crop species and 35% of global food production depend on pollinators, including our favorite ones (e.g. apples, strawberries, pears, tomatoes, coffee, etc.)

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Pollinator Research at the Arboretum with Dr. Na Wei

June 19, 2020

Science on Friday: Spring phenology monitoring wraps for the year

By Katie Stuble, PhD, Scientist

As spring transitions to summer, we’re wrapping up this year’s spring phenology monitoring in Bole Woods at the Holden Arboretum. Have you heard the term phenology before? Phenology is the study of the timing of natural phenomena – anything that has a seasonal signal. When does Trillium flower? When do hummingbirds arrive in northeast Ohio for the summer? Over the past few decades, phenology has been the canary in the coal mine for ecologists studying the ecological impacts of climate change. Phenology has been one of the earliest ecological parameters observed to shift with the changing climate, and continues to shift ever more strongly as the climate continues to warm.

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Science on Friday: Spring phenology monitoring wraps for the year

June 12, 2020

Science on Friday: Plant–pollinator interactions and the role of the flower microbiome in crabapples

By Na Wei, PhD, Scientist

Today we are continuing our story of ornamental apples (crabapples). Plants are living in a microbial world. They interact not only with microbes in the soil but also the ones living in their flowers. These microbial partners can be beneficial or harmful, and thus hold the key for plant disease resistance and health. Our research aims to understand the factors that determine which microbes and how many of them are in flowers (i.e. flower microbiome).

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Science on Friday: Plant–pollinator interactions and the role of the flower microbiome in crabapples

June 12, 2020

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

By Na Wei, PhD, Scientist

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

June 5, 2020

Science on Friday – Intern program

By Katie Stuble, PhD, Scientist

As a scientist at the Holden Arboretum, I wear many hats, but one of my favorites is mentor to our summer interns. Each year, Holden’s Research Department brings in students from around the country to join us in our labs, gardens, and forests. These students help us collect valuable data used to make new discoveries about the role of plants in our natural world, and in turn, get to try their hand at being a scientist. Many of them will go on to become scientists themselves.

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Science on Friday – Intern program

May 29, 2020

Promoting Healthy Forests Through Research at Working Woods

By Rory Schiafo, Research Specialist

If you have been hiking on the Bole Woods loop in the last two years, you may have noticed some strange white pipes sticking out of the ground, or perhaps a group of eager young ecologists measuring trees or counting seedlings. “What is this all about?”, you may ask yourself. This is Working Woods, a 76-acre living laboratory where a 40-year-old forest is currently undergoing a transformation, and in the process is teaching us how to manage Ohio’s valuable forests.

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Promoting Healthy Forests Through Research at Working Woods

May 26, 2020

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

May 15, 2020

How genus Rhododendron became my favorite plant species

By Juliana S. Medeiros, PhD, Plant Biologist

As a plant scientist I am often asked the question, “What is your favorite plant species?” The truth is, I can’t pick just one. What I love about plants is their diversity, so, this is the story of how an entire genus of plants became my favorite, and how our research on genus Rhododendron at Holden Forests & Gardens helps us to conserve biodiversity and solve the mystery as to why there are so many different kinds of plants on Earth.

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How genus Rhododendron became my favorite plant species

May 8, 2020

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?

May 1, 2020

Coding in plant biology, who knew?

By Juliana S. Medeiros, PhD, Plant Biologist

I never viewed myself as a math person, let alone a computer coder. I have always loved nature, animals and plants, these are what drew me to plant biology. But somehow, coding has become one of my favorite parts of my research at Holden Forests & Gardens. Looking back, maybe it isn’t too surprising. In 1977 my mother was one of the few women in the world working on a graduate degree in computer science, with 7-year-old me in tow as she taught her evening course. She jokes about how I used to doodle with my markers and then raise my little hand to ask and answer questions in her class, and now I often reflect on this as the first moments of joy I found in coding.

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Coding in plant biology, who knew?

April 17, 2020

Long-term Research in Forest Ecology in Stebbins Gulch

By David J. Burke, PhD, Vice President for Science and Conservation

We began our long-term climate research in Stebbins Gulch in 2006. Our goal was to monitor how plants and soil fungi that associate with plant roots (called mycorrhizal fungi) respond to changes in air and soil temperature and moisture. This shows one of our two weather stations in the old-growth beech-maple forest in Stebbins. The beech tree in the background that toppled over in 2015 was more about 219 years old when it fell based on tree ring data – the tree began to grow in 1796.

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Long-term Research in Forest Ecology in Stebbins Gulch

April 10, 2020

Research Spotlight: Exploring Fire Blight in Ornamental Apple Trees

By Na Wei, PhD, Scientist

Plants are living in a microbial world. They interact not only with microbes in the soil but also the ones living in their flowers. These microbial partners can be beneficial or harmful. One of the most devastating epidemics in ornamental apple trees – fire blight – is caused by bacterial infection initiated during bloom, and can be spread from flower to flower by visiting pollinators. Breakthrough in suppressing this pathogenic microbe is needed.

At Holden, we aim to develop plant probiotics against fire blight using beneficial flower microbes from the resistant cultivars of ornamental apples (crabapples). Holden has established an invaluable resource of crabapple cultivar collection for over 30 years. At Holden’s long-term experiment plot of crabapples, every single tree has been permanently tagged. These cultivars differ in their flowers such as color and smell and diPlants are living in a microbial world. They interact not only with microbes in the soil but also the ones living in their flowers. These microbial partners can be beneficial or harmful. One of the most devastating epidemics in ornamental apple trees – fire blight – is caused by bacterial infection initiated during bloom, and can be spread from flower to flower by visiting pollinators. Breakthrough in suppressing this pathogenic microbe is needed.sease resistance. We will monitor their flowering and study flower microbes.

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Research Spotlight: Exploring Fire Blight in Ornamental Apple Trees

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