$500,000 Grant for The Morton Arboretum, CollaboratorsSedges Are Among The World’s Most Ecologically-Important Plants
LISLE, IL (April 3, 2008) – The Morton Arboretum and Washington State University will split a $500,000 federal grant to study sedges. These grass-like plants are most often found in wetlands and have grown in popularity among home gardeners and landscapers.
It’s vitally important to understand sedges better, says Dr. Andrew Hipp, Morton Arboretum Plant Systematist and Herbarium Curator.
“They build soils, feed animals, carry fire through woodlands, and enhance biodiversity, and some are keystone species in wetlands, meaning that if you lose those species, the structure and function of the whole system are damaged,” Hipp says.
Hipp and Eric Roalson at Washington State University submitted a collaborative proposal for funding. As a result, the Arboretum and WSU will each receive $250,000 from the National Science Foundation. Research will include field work in North America and China, and, through a collaborator, in Mexico. The funding will also support a two-year post-doctoral researcher at the Arboretum, a graduate student at WSU, DNA sequencing, chromosome counting, and the training of undergraduate students at a collaborating institution, Taylor University in Indiana.
Specifically, researchers will study the classification and evolution of sedges in the Carex subgenus, Vignea, which is found mostly in North America, almost exclusively in the North Temperate Zone.
“It’s difficult to identify sedges because they are so numerous,” Hipp says, adding that “we are going to be collecting plants extensively.”
The largest sedge genus, Carex, makes up about 7 percent of the upper Midwest flora.
The research is expected to yield an updated classification of about 300 species worldwide, including online tools for identifying and classifying major groups within the subgenus.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of 4,134 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission – the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time or sunset, whichever is earlier. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through October, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., November through February. Visit www.mortonarb.org or call 630-968-0074 to learn more.