Dear Arboretum Friends,
Trees need champions today. They face challenges including habitat loss, species extinction, urban development, and climate change. You are among the champions who help us research and teach others about the care that trees need. By supporting The Morton Arboretum as a living laboratory, a beautiful sanctuary, and an outdoor museum, you show your commitment to securing the future of trees, and we thank you for it.
In this year’s Perennial Report, you will see how Arboretum staff, researchers, volunteers, and supporters together fulfilled our goal to encourage the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world.
We advanced knowledge on tree planting and cultivation, the care of trees in urban sites, and the conservation of trees threatened with extinction. We took steps to improve the urban forest in the city and suburbs where many of you live and work, improving education, outreach, and support for planting and protecting trees. And we enhanced our own world-renowned collections, while record numbers of members and visitors enjoyed the Arboretum and supported our efforts to champion trees.
We accomplished goals and set new initiatives in motion because of you. As Arboretum supporters, you are among tree champions going back to our founder, Joy Morton. Thank you for your support in 2014. I am proud to be a champion of trees, and I hope you are, too.
Gerard T. Donnelly, PhD
President and CEO
The Morton Arboretum’s research extends around the globe and investigates how trees grow in urban areas to gain knowledge to guide tree care and conservation.
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Arboretum researchers published 28 articles in peer-reviewed journals.
When Andrew Hipp, PhD, senior scientist (far left), was named a Fulbright Scholar, it was the first time a researcher from the Arboretum had received the honor. It was also an opportunity to exchange knowledge with scientists in France and around the globe who, like him, were studying how oaks are related and how their genetic relationships reflect their evolution. He spent nine months through May 2014 at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine 9, where he combined his large set of data with that of French scientists and established a stronger relationship for working together to understand the descent of oaks—their tree of life. Hipp also is the primary investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded project on oak biodiversity, in collaboration with four other leading oak researchers at universities in the U.S. and Mexico, and works with colleagues in China on how the form of oaks reflects their evolution.
Scientists of the Future
In the summer of 2014, the Arboretum’s Center for Tree Science hosted its first Undergraduate Research Fellows. Under the direction of staff scientists, eight undergraduates considering careers in tree science spent 10 weeks at the Arboretum developing and executing research projects. Their topics ranged from trees’ volatile organic compound emissions to the effectiveness of volunteers in urban forestry projects.
Spanning the World
The Arboretum increased the reach of its research collaborations around the world, as its scientists worked with scientists from China, Singapore, Mexico, Canada, Spain, and other nations. Nicole Cavender, PhD, vice president of science and conservation, and and Gary Watson, PhD, head of research, participated in the International Union of Forest Research Organizations Congress. Exploring questions such as how tree branches break in storms, how Midwestern forests shift over time, how much carbon is stored in Chicago-area trees, and how oak species evolved, Arboretum science makes important contributions to the knowledge needed to care for trees into the future.
GLOBAL TREE CONSERVATION
The Morton Arboretum works around the world to help save tree species whose very existence is in jeopardy because of habitat loss and other threats.
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The Arboretum's Living Collections include 92 threatened and endangered species of trees and plants.
Saving the Paperbark Maple
In the summer of 2014, Kris Bachtell, vice president of collections and facilities, and collaborators traveled among British arboreta and botanical gardens collecting DNA samples from paperbark maples (Acer griseum), some of them more than 100 years old. Gardens hope to conserve this graceful species, which is endangered in its native habitat in China. They can only succeed if the collected trees have enough genetic diversity to give the species a future, and Bachtell and his collaborators learned that all the trees in U.S. and British gardens are derived from just four individual trees, brought to the West beginning in the 19th century. His next expedition, in 2015, will be to China to compare the genetic range of the garden trees to that of paperbark maples in the wild. It’s an example of the careful scientific work that lies behind the Arboretum’s efforts to conserve threatened and endangered species of trees in its collections and in the wild.
The Arboretum became a Patron Garden of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, committing to build support in the U.S. for the Global Trees Campaign, which is dedicated to saving the world’s threatened tree species. Nicole Cavender, PhD, vice president of science and conservation, coordinated efforts between BCGI and Flora and Fauna International to develop strategies to support the Global Trees Campaign.
Conservation and Research Leadership
Murphy Westwood, PhD, tree conservation specialist, was appointed a Global Tree Conservation Officer for Botanic Gardens Conservation International. Her special focus is on assessing threats to the world’s oak species and carrying out practical conservation work for native American oaks.
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture appointed Cavender to the Forest Research to the Forest Research Advisory Council, which helps guide research in federal and state agencies, forestry schools, the forest industry, and nongovernmental organizations.
ArbNet Champions Trees Worldwide
Nearly 100 arboreta from Ethiopia to Tasmania to the United Kingdom and all across the United States have been accredited by ArbNet, the international community of arboreta led by the Arboretum. The accreditation encourages arboreta and botanical gardens to conserve threatened tree species in their collections and aims to raise professional standards in arboretum administration. The ArbNet community helps them share knowledge, experience, and other resources through a new website launched in 2014.
BE A CHAMPION OF TREES
Outreach for Trees
Reaching out to communities and homeowners, The Morton Arboretum encourages the planting and preservation of trees throughout the Chicago region.
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Representatives from more than 100 local agencies attended Community Trees Program outreach events.
Chicago Region Trees Initiative
In July, more than 150 conservation leaders gathered at Thornhill Education Center to launch the Chicago Region Trees Initiative, a new collaboration working for a measurably healthier urban forest by 2040. In partnership with government, industry, and conservation groups, CRTI aims to protect trees by improving local, regional, and state policies and to promote tree planting with a diverse range of species. The vision of CRTI is to develop and implement a strategy that builds a healthier and more diverse urban forest by 2040. The Arboretum is providing CRTI’s staff and leadership.
Helping Community Trees
The Morton Arboretum’s Community Trees Program held more than 65 outreach events in 2014 to support the care and preservation of the millions of trees that grow along streets and in parks, schoolyards and downtowns, office complexes and grounds maintained by homeowners associations. The program provides nuts-and bolts training and expertise based on the Arboretum’s research to foresters, land managers, public works crews, and utility workers—the people who care for trees by the thousands in the Chicago area. Its May workshop on managing invasive pests, diseases, and plants was a sellout.
Arboretum researcher Robert Fahey, PhD, a forest ecologist, played a leading role in developing an Oak Recovery Plan for the Chicago region by working with Chicago Wilderness, an alliance of which the Arboretum is a founding member. It is one of many conservation and research projects at the Arboretum centering on oaks, a keystone species in the Midwest and around the world.
BE A CHAMPION OF TREES
At the heart of The Morton Arboretum’s work is the care of a 1,700-acre landscape, with world-renowned collections of 222,000 plants and 900 acres of natural areas.
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The Herbarium contains dried and recorded specimens of 178,000 vascular plants and 17,000 lichens.
Miles of Tiles
Visitors may have wondered when mysterious slits appeared in the turf all over the Arboretum last summer. They were evidence of meticulous detective work that tracked and mapped more than 16 miles of underground drain tile pipes, which had been installed to drain away water when the property was farmland. Locating the pipes allows the staff to control soil moisture conditions for sensitive trees. Where the drainage wasn’t needed, about three miles of pipes were disabled, allowing the natural water flow to return so wetland plant and animal communities can return.
The Arboretum earned platinum accreditation—the highest of four levels—from the Chicago Wilderness alliance for conservation efforts in its East Woods and Schulenberg Prairie. The accreditation is based on rigorous, science-based standards that recognize best practices in natural resource management.
New Head of Collections
Matt Lobdell joined the Arboretum as head of collections and curator in charge of managing the Living Collections, including six that have earned special recognition from the North American Plant Collections Consortium. They are the Oak, Elm, Maple, Magnolia, Crabapple and Linden Collections. Lobdell brings the Arboretum particular expertise in magnolias.
Pooling Plant Knowledge
The Arboretum is the first in the United States to adopt BRAHMS, a flexible plant records database used around the world to manage plants in herbaria, botanic gardens, and seed banks and to pool information for research. With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the new database will make it easier for the Arboretum to gather, edit, analyze, and publish information on its collections and share that information with scholars and other institutions worldwide.
BE A CHAMPION OF TREES
The Morton Arboretum’s education programs connect children, families, and adults with the natural world and provide science-based knowledge and practical expertise about caring for trees and plants.
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35,651 people took part in Arboretum education programs, including school-based programming.
Advancing Science Education
When 149 students from Herrick Middle School in Downers Grove came to the Arboretum for a full-day field trip, it was part of a new technology-infused environmental science curriculum that the Arboretum had developed with the teachers to advance education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). In the fall, Andrew Hipp, PhD, senior scientist, and Marlene Hahn, Herbarium assistant, worked with 130 students from Avery Coonley School and Downers Grove North High School to generate data scientists will use to classify sedges. These programs represent a number of Arboretum initiatives to anchor environmental science education as part of the school curriculum. More than 29,000 students participated in school programs at the Arboretum in 2014.
Grappling With Climate Change
More than 110 tree care professionals and land managers attended a two-day conference, “Managing Urban Forests in a Changing Climate,” gaining practical knowledge on how to select, plant, and care for trees that will live into a time when the climate is likely to be hotter and stormier than today’s. It was among a number of Arboretum meetings and workshops that helped professionals gain knowledge and skills to better care for trees in communities.
Where did the plants we see today at the Arboretum and in our back yards and neighborhoods come from? Many were collected around the world by intrepid explorers, including staff and researchers from The Morton Arboretum. From John Bartram, who introduced American plants to Europe in the 18th century, to E.H. Wilson, who brought back trees from remote areas of China at the turn of the 20th Century, to the Arboretum’s own Kris Bachtell and Andrew Hipp today, these adventurers are profiled in the Plant Hunters exhibit installed in 2014 in the Sterling Morton Library. The interactive installation tells the story through artifacts from the library’s Special Collections such as journals and sketches, as well as graphics and video games.
When tents sprouted like mushrooms after rain and filled with families gathered for a campout on a summer evening, the Children’s Garden was offering them one of its many openings to nature. A wide range of activities drew 269,446 visitors to the Children’s Garden in 2014—29 percent of all visitors to The Morton Arboretum. Families and children encounter nature at the Arboretum not just through camping but through especially adventurous tram tours, crafts projects, story times in the library, scout visits, splashing in Wonder Pond to examine tadpoles, watching food grow in the Children’s Garden vegetable patch, and simply playing. When they frolic and climb among majestic trees, marvel at visiting butterflies, or wade in a burbling stream, children learn to feel at home in nature and to value its wonders.
BE A CHAMPION OF TREES
Engagement and Visitors
The Arboretum’s message about the importance of planting, caring for, and conserving trees reached more people in 2014, with record numbers of visitors and members in 2014 and increased visibility in the media.
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3,162 people participated in youth and family programs.
More Visitors and Members Than Ever
The Arboretum’s 932,500 visitors in 2014—37,000 more than in 2013—set a new record. Each visitor provides the Arboretum with an opportunity to introduce someone to knowledge and appreciation of trees. Arboretum membership reached 39,250 households, a record and an increase of more than 600 over the previous year.
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
"We truly saw trees in a different light,” wrote one mother after attending Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum with her family. “My fifth-grader commented how beautiful the trees were and how surprised he was that the shape of the trunks and branches could be so beautiful and interesting in the winter. I was floored—and I also agreed with him.” They were among more than 124,000 people who attended the 2014 event; 42 percent more tickets were sold than in the first year. Illumination showed it is a gateway event, attracting more people who had never before visited the Arboretum, and gained national media accolades and attention on social media.
New Ways to Discover the Arboretum
Several new events brought visitors to learn and enjoy in 2014. Lively festivals celebrated the culture, music, food and trees of Europe and Asia. A new Craft Beer Festival was successful even in the midst of chilly October weather. The theme of the popular Wednesdays, Woods, and Wine evenings inspired a new experience, Arboretum developed into Arboretum Uncorked, which gave adults a chance to try painting, gardening, or photography over a glass of wine. A sold-out series of Full Moon Tram Tours and a Halloween Tram invited visitors to experience the transformation of the Arboretum after dark.
Music Among the Trees
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra returned to the Arboretum for another successful series of summer concerts. Six popular Chamber Concerts provided serene music in the lovely setting of the Arbor Room at the Thornhill Education Center.
In the News
The Arboretum continues to be seen as an expert source on trees and tree care, as was demonstrated when staff members were asked to shared their knowledge and passion in 195 media interviews. The Arboretum was mentioned in about 5,300 media stories in 2014, in print, in broadcast, and online—an increase of 19 percent over 2013—and its fan base on key social media channels grew by 54 percent.
BE A CHAMPION OF TREES
True Tree Champions
The support of the Morton Arboretum’s donors, members, and volunteers is vital to its beauty, science, and mission.
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Volunteers donated more than 61,000 hours to the Arboretum in 2014.
A record 1,276 volunteers helped the Arboretum in 2014, from the research labs to the natural areas, from the Children’s Garden to symphony concerts, in settings from the serene beauty of woodland trails to the dazzling lights and sounds of Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum. All the Arboretum’s work, from science to outreach to education to special events and the care of its unique landscape and magnificent trees, depends on their work.
Trees need champions today. Their survival depends on people—people taking action to protect and preserve them. You can take action by supporting the vital work of The Morton Arboretum. Donate now.
More Members and Donors
The Arboretum ended 2014 with a record 39,250 member households, an increase of more than 600. Supporters at all levels help us work toward a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. View donor list here.