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Research at Adkins Arboretum

Native Plant Propagation

In recent years, landscape professionals and homeowners have demonstrated an increased demand for sustainable, low-maintenance landscaping. As a leading public garden in the Chesapeake Bay region, Adkins Arboretum supports this movement by evaluating select native plants of local provenance in order to enhance the offerings of ornamental horticulture. This work is made possible through generous support from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust.

In addition to the more popular native plant species, new choices that provide numerous ecological benefits and are easy to care for are now being located, collected, and propagated as seeds or cuttings by a core group of Arboretum staff and volunteers. Plants under evaluation in the project will be grown to larger sizes for testing in trial beds and assessed for potential ornamental worthiness.

Native Orchids

Our Research

Pink lady's slipper orchid

Although many people are familiar with the tropical orchids grown indoors and used in flower arrangements and corsages, not so many realize that native orchids thrive in neighboring bogs and woodlands.

There are several species of native orchids at the Arboretum. Three of these can be observed along the Arboretum paths: the cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor), the downy rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens), and the pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule).

Arboretum staff and volunteers monitor populations of pink lady's slipper orchid for the number of plants, flowering, and seed set. This orchid has beautiful pink flowers in spring but often fails to set seed due to poor pollination. Orchids appear to flower more readily when there is more light. To promote flowering, the staff trim trees around the orchid populations.

Meadow Restoration

When Nancy's Meadow was being overrun by a native vine, trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage worked with the Arboretum to control trumpet creeper and other woody plants and to plant sections of the meadow with different mixes of grasses and native wildflowers. The planting mixes and maintenance techniques are monitored to determine which are most successful. 

Our Research

Eastern Bluebird Research

The Arboretum has maintained a bluebird trail of 23 boxes for several years. The Arboretum's meadows provide ideal nesting habitat for bluebirds.