Thursday, July 07, 2011

Weekend Storm Uproots Tree in Bartholdi Park

Jujube tree and bench
This past Sunday was a hot, sultry typical DC day. A friend and I waited on the U.S. Capitol lawn with several thousand others for a rehearsal performance of the Capitol Fourth concert. All of a sudden the sky turned black and the winds started to whip up. The concert organizers and the police got the crowd up and moving towards the House office building's garage across the street (next door to the U.S. Botanic Garden). I was one of those dragging my feet and griping about "losing our place," but as we reached the safety of the garage and the storm hit just seconds later, I saw that the authorities had indeed made the right decision. We were inside for an hour as the rains and winds pummeled the garage doors. The occasional sprays and gusts that breached the space around the metal doors gave us some indication of the storm's strength.

When we emerged from the garage, we all saw that the storm was far worse than predicted and we were grateful that we had been inside. Large tree limbs lay strewn about on the Capitol lawn where we had been sitting. Barricades, street signs, and even port-a-potties were toppled over or displaced. According to the U.S. Botanic Garden staff, the damage was even more extensive to one of the prize plants in their collection:

"The Chinese jujube (Zizyphus jujuba) that towered over Bartholdi Park was uprooted in the July 3 thunderstorm that struck Capitol Hill. While the tree itself was lost, its germplasm, or genetic material, lives on in clones that have been grown by the U.S. Botanic Garden staff. One of its genetically identical descendents will be chosen to replace the beloved tree. The Chinese jujube is thought to be part of the U.S. Botanic Garden’s founding collection.

Jujube Down
"As a museum with living collections, the U.S. Botanic Garden has collected germplasm from its most important plants to guard against irretrievable loss. Using a plant’s germplasm, horticulturists can grow a genetically identical plant.

“Each fall, people came to collect the fallen jujube fruit for use in traditional Chinese dishes,” said U.S. Botanic Garden Executive Director Holly Shimizu. “It will be at least 15 years before its replacement has a significant fruit set.”

"The 250 live plants brought back by Lt. Charles Wilkes from the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) formed the core of the founding plant collection of the U.S. Botanic Garden. He also brought back more than 10,000 herbarium specimens that later became the founding collection of the U.S. National Herbarium, a remarkable feat given the technology of the times. Wilkes was instrumental in the effort to reestablish a botanic garden on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, which has remained in continuous operation since 1850.

"The Chinese jujube is one of the four plants (or their progeny) still in the care of the U.S. Botanic Garden thought to have survived from this founding collection. Other Expedition plants on display in the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory include: the vessel fern (Angiopteris evecta) in the Jungle; the ferocious blue cycad (Encephalartos horridus) in the World Deserts; and the female sago palm (Cycas circinalis) in the Garden Court."

Photos provided by the U.S. Botanic Garden staff.

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Ibrar Hussain said...

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