This is Bob Doughty.
And this is Steve Ember with Science in the News, a VOA Special
English program about recent developments in science. Today,
we tell about the United States National Arboretum. It is a
peaceful natural area in Washington, D-C. Yet the Arboretum
is an active center for both scientific research and public
Many people who come to Washington act surprised when they
first visit the United States National Arboretum. The National
Arboretum is only a short drive from the center of the city.
However, visitors to the Arboretum often feel like they are
far from the busy American capital.
The National Arboretum covers one-hundred-eighty hectares of
green space in the northeast part of Washington. The area is
famous for its beautiful flowers, tall trees and other plants.
About nine-thousand different kinds of plants and trees grow
One of the many award-winning daylilies.
(Photo - U.S. National Arboretum)
An arboretum is a place where trees and plants are grown for
scientific and educational purposes. The National Arboretum
was established by an act of Congress in Nineteen-Twenty-Seven.
Today, the United States Department of Agriculture¡¯s
Agricultural Research Service operates the Arboretum.
The goal of the Arboretum is to carry out studies and provide
education in an effort to improve the environment. The goal
includes protecting trees, flowers and other plants and showing
them to the public.
The National Arboretum is a popular stop for visitors to Washington.
The grounds are open every day of the year except December twenty-fifth,
the Christmas holiday. It does not cost money to visit the Arboretum.
More than five-hundred-thousand people visit the Arboretum
grounds each year. Another five-hundred-thousand visit with
the help of computers. They use the Arboretum¡¯s
Internet web site to learn about how to care for plants and
current research programs.
Director Thomas Elias says Arboretum officials would like to
see even more visitors. He says they believe that many people
do not know it exists.
Part of the problem may result from the fact that there is
no local public transportation train station near the Arboretum.
Many famous places in Washington are a short walk from the city¡¯s
Metro local train system. The Arboretum is easy to reach by
automobile or bus, however. About fifteen kilometers of roads
have been built on the property. The roads connect to major
collections and seasonal flowers.
The Arboretum also welcomes people on bicycles. Disabled people
or those who want to walk only short distances may visit four
beautiful areas that are close to each other. People who like
longer walks will enjoy the Arboretum¡¯s many pathways.
There is a small eating place on the property or you may bring
food to eat during your visit. There also is a small gift store
that sells books and other things.
Early this year, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman opened
a year-long celebration in honor of the National Arboretum¡¯s
seventy-fifth anniversary. Mizz Veneman praised the Arboretum
as a national treasure.
As part of the celebration, Mizz Veneman assisted in the planting
of a tree near the United States Capitol building. The tree
-- a Sun Valley red maple -- is one of the many award-winning
plants developed by Arboretum scientists.
The Sun Valley red maple was developed as part of a project
to study the genetic qualities of leaf color and insect resistance.
The tree produces leaves that remain bright red late into autumn.
It was tested in the state of Maryland. The Sun Valley maple
kept its colorful leaves for about two weeks before they fell
to the ground. The tree also resisted the potato leafhopper,
an insect that feeds on the leaves of trees.
Agriculture Department officials say they expect the Sun Valley
red maple will be ready for sale to the general public next
Scientists at the Arboretum have developed many of the trees
and flowers now found in the United States and many other countries.
Over the years, the Arboretum and the Agricultural Research
Service have released almost seven-hundred different plants.
Each year, they offer several new plants. In the past, scientists
there have developed new flowering plants and improved other
kinds plants. They also have developed virus-resistant plants
with processes of genetic engineering.
In September, the Arboretum started a research program that
examines national issues linked to another kind of plant --
turfgrass. Turfgrass often grows in open, green spaces around
American homes and businesses. It also is grown near many public
roads and other areas.
Scientists at the Arboretum will carry out long-term studies
to improve the quality of turfgrass. They hope to strengthen
the grass¡¯s resistance to dry weather, insects and
disease. The program is being carried out with the industries
and groups directly involved in turfgrass development, production
The Agricultural Research Service operates a number of centers
and laboratories across the United States. The National Arboretum
is best known for its beauty. Visitors can always find flowering
plants. You can start looking for flowers in the Arboretum¡¯s
Asian Collections, Friendship Garden and National Boxwood Collection.
This past summer, the unusual flowers and huge leaves of the
Victoria water platters were extremely popular. The hotter than
normal weather in Washington this past summer made the plants
grow especially well. For the first time, all the Victoria water
platters in the Arboretum¡¯s aquatic garden area
came from seeds. The Arboretum successfully grew enough plants
to place sixteen in a large container filled with water. The
other plants were given to other plant centers across the country.
Last year, a severe wind storm damaged areas near the Arboretum,
in Prince George¡¯s County, Maryland. The storm caused
major damage at the Agricultural Research Service laboratories
in Beltsville, Maryland. Cars were destroyed, and parts of several
A-R-S buildings were damaged. Many trees were damaged so badly
that they had to be removed. Arboretum officials and scientists
offered the Beltsville center plants to replace those lost during
The Arboretum also has become famous through cooperative programs
with other countries, including Japan, Russia, South Africa
and South Korea.
Each year, the Arboretum offers a number of educational programs
and special events. For example, last month there was a talk
by a man who wrote a book about famous trees. There was a program
about caring for small evergreen trees. Children were invited
to a talk about the importance of composting. A scientist explained
how plant remains can help other plants grow.
An orchid show and sale also was held at the Arboretum in October.
Visitors enjoyed botanical art and walked through a building
filled with the beautiful flowers. Visitors talked with guides
to learn more about growing orchids. Some of the plants were
offered for sale.
Officials say it would be difficult for the Arboretum to operate
as well as it does without the support of private organizations.
The Arboretum has about one-hundred employees. Yet it depends
on many other people who offer their time and effort without
For example, the Friends of the National Arboretum is a non-profit
group that provides financial support. The money is used for
Arboretum training programs, the gardens and collections and
special projects. The group also reports to Congress about the
Arboretum¡¯s special needs.
Another support organization is the National Capital Area Foundation
of Garden Clubs. The group has its headquarters at the Arboretum.
Its members offer their time to help with the Arboretum¡¯s
plant collection. They also serve as guides for visitors. They
help thousands of people enjoy the National Arboretum, this
beautiful natural area in the nation¡¯s capital.
This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written and produced by
George Grow. This is Bob Doughty.
And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for more news
about science in Special English on the Voice of America.
This Science Report is published courtesy