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Botanist's Lens: Happy New Year

Willow Oak tree

"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

New year, new beginnings, maybe small beginnings. Every beginning counts! Take an example from the forests around us. The quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn," sums it all up. A single mature Oak can drop thousands of acorns, and it takes only one acorn to grow into an enormous Oak. Well, that's if the squirrels don't find the acorn first.

Lets look at the obvious "Oaks" referred to in the above quote. Oaks (Quercus sps.) are a major keystone species in an ecosystem. A keystone species is a plant which plays a crucial role in an ecosystem. Without these keystone species, that ecosystem would be drastically impacted and might even cease to exist. There are many animals, birds and over 200 insects that rely on Oaks. Sadly, the BGCI (Botanical Gardens Conservation International) reports that over 78 wild oaks are in danger of extinction.

What can you do to contribute towards preserving these keystone species? Here is a great link from the University of Maryland which talks about The Great Oaks of Maryland Initiative: "The Great Oaks of Maryland Initiative seeks to provide, in the face of habitat loss, limited retail selection and other difficulties, tree choices for the public that preserve species diversity among woody plants and broaden and deepen plant-based food web interactions."

Every small beginning counts. Whether your take a step to learn about the habitats around you or if you volunteer to restore a neighboring habitat.

Now let’s have a look at the deeper meaning of the quote "The creation of a thousand Oaks is in one acorn." As a public garden professional, to me this quote refers to the connection between people and gardens. For public gardens, every hour contributed by a volunteer has a huge impact. At London Town, we are fortunate to have a fabulous group of volunteers who help in preserving the gardens. The volunteers in the horticulture department range from dedicated volunteers contributing hands-on in the gardens to trained University of Maryland master gardeners contributing in propagation and plant identification. We also receive environmental service day volunteers coming from local organizations, church groups and Eagle scouts. Every hour contributed by these volunteers counts and makes a huge impact in creating and sustaining the whole garden. Without the help of each volunteer hour, the gardens wouldn't thrive. (Want to become a volunteer? Learn more here!)

Gardens are transient, but the impact it can leave on someone isn't. Engage, experience and enrich yourself by immersing into nature. And what better way to begin that small step than to engage and stroll through London Town’s gardens!

Sharing with you today, pictures of Willow Oaks (London Town has couple of Willow Oaks that are over 180 years old!) and fragile tree Peonies.

Also, leaving you with another quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit." Seems to me that the peonies in the pictures are wearing the bright colors of our cheerful volunteers spirit! Looking forward to working with all our dedicated garden volunteers and meeting new volunteers in 2020!

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