Friday, 12 November 2010

Twenty years of NACPEC celebrated in 'Arnoldia'

The current issue of Arnoldia, the excellent magazine of the Arnold Arboretum, is devoted to celebrating the achievements of NACPEC - the North America-China Plant Exploration Consortium - over the past twenty years, and looks forward to its ambitions for the future.

NACPEC was started in 1991 as loose confederation of American institutions with an interest in collecting new material of Chinese plants, and started off with a preliminary, mostly diplomatic visit to China that autumn. Twelve expeditions have now been completed, each bringing back valuable material that has strengthened the plant collections of many of North America's most important collections, including the US National, Arnold, Holden, Morris and Morton Arboretums, Longwood Gardens and the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. NACPEC has also benefited Chinese institutions and botanists who have taken part in expeditions or received training in the United States. Reciprocation of plant material to Chinese gardens has also been possible, making this a very positive collaboration in every way.

Corylus fargesii NACPEC05-047, at the Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia, April 2009

Corylus fargesii bark
This issue of Arnoldia records the triumphs and disasters of the expeditions, and provides a record  and analysis of a sustained period of plant exploration across China in a way that is far too seldom done: where is a similar record of the collecting effort by the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and Edinburgh over a similar period, for example? As well as general articles recording the aims, results and ambitions of NACPEC, several focus species are discussed separately, among them Corylus fargesii, with bark that peels like a birch, and Kolkwitzia amabilis. Of this, the well-known Beauty-bush, it is fascinating to learn that, until NACPEC's 1994 expedition to the Wudang Shan, this species had only been collected once before, by Ernest Wilson in 1907, and that all material in North America had been propagated from a single bush. NACPEC's collection brought new genetic material that introduces some variability to gardens, particularly in its earlier flowering period. It was unfortunate, however, that the Arnold Arboretum's plants from this introduction were inadvertently sold off in a plant sale...

Printed copies of Arnoldia are provided to Members of the Arnold Arboretum, but the journal is very generously - and most usefully - made available online by Harvard University. I heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of plant introductions, and congratulate the authors and expedition members on this important anniversary.

1 comment:

  1. First of all I would congratulate them for the twenty years of the NACPEC. And they are celebrated in the Arnoldia. And they will get their goal.

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