OpEd

Story published: 07-22-2014 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Arboretum: A ‘Thank-You’ to donors


By Frances Lamberts

America’s most well-known land-surveyor naturalist, Henry D. Thoreau, delighted in the wildflowers he encountered and noted his observations in a journal.

In August (1856), the wild senna surprised him, being “so obvious and abundant” that he could see it “yellowing the field 25 rods off.”

Its leaves, locust-like, he notes, have six or eight pairs of juxtaposed leaflets each and an odd one at the base, and it “resounds with the hum of bumblebees.”

This wildflower in the bean-plant family is at home in Tennessee as well, though quite uncommon.

The larval food source for a long-tailed skipper and three of our region’s sulphur butterflies, it is among new wildflower plantings at the Ardinna Woods arboretum in Jonesborough.

Blazing star, another of Thoreau’s favorite plants, was blooming earlier along some of the landscaped Highway 11E sections in the town. Its “rich, fiery rose-purple flower, like that of a sun at his rising,” Thoreau thought, makes liatris a great show wherever it grows. With fluffy purple flowers resembling thistles or ironweed, he judged it “handsomer than any of them” and so exquisitely beautiful that “anyone to whom it is new will be surprised to learn that it is a wild plant.”

As a nectar-and-seeds food source, it also attracts birds, especially hummingbirds and butterflies.

A species now in the arboretum, Liatris cylindracea is quite rare in the wild.

Listed as threatened and vulnerable to extirpation in Tennessee, we hope to help it spread and survive.

Corydalis, a wildflower annual in the bleeding heart family receives many mentions in Thoreau’s journal. He found it blooming amid the stubble of harvested fields and noted that, as a cut flower, it keeps “fresh and remarkably well in water.”

A small, delicate woodland plant with finely dissected leaves, it can now also be seen in the arboretum.

With delicate, bright flesh-colored and pink blossoms and relative rarity, it seemed to “suggest gentility” to Thoreau.

In Tennessee at this time, Corydalis sempervirens is critically endangered.

Two additional, perennial wildflowers and a native honeysuckle vine (Lonicera flava) that were added to the arboretum’s native plants collection face extinction risk in the wild in our state.

Each wildflower plant’s unique beauty, so eloquently described by naturalist writers, their threatened status and importance to pollinating insects, avian and other wildlife suggest opportune conservation roles for all of us, individual gardeners on private land and municipalities in public spaces.

An intensively chemicals-driven agriculture system leaves no room or living right, amid stubble, row or along farmland edges, to non-crop wild plants.

Urban development adds a continuing toll as green landscape acres are sealed under asphalt by the thousands every day.

To municipalities’ efforts in native-plants landscaping, and individual landowners, thus falls a greater share in helping to forestall further endangerment of many members of our state’s flora.

Contributions from citizens made a substantial enlargement of the wildflowers collection at Ardinna Woods arboretum possible this year.

To all donors, the deepest appreciation and a heart-felt “Thank You” from our town.