SER President's Notes June 2012

by Sue Hamilton, Southeast Region President.

It's June and we are a few weeks away from the 2012 National Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, July 12-14, 2012. Something new this year will be Conifer College; an optional pre-meeting education program on growing and caring for conifers. See the ACS website for details. I'm really excited about attend-ing this conference and hope you can attend too.

Our Southeastern regional meeting in Asheville NC from August 17 -19, 2012 is in the final planning stages. I can tell you that this conference will treat you to some truly special and beautiful private gardens showcasing the beauty of coni-fers in the Southern landscape. Noted horticulturist and grower, Rita Randolph, will be our guest speaker for our Friday night opening session where she will talk about using conifers in con-tainers along with the conifer propagation she has been doing with the Biltmore House & Gardens plant collection. A pre-conference guided tour of Biltmore Gardens is an option during Friday before our meeting starts. Conference details and registration will be mailed soon and posted on our national and regional websites. We need volunteers and auction plants to make this conference a success. See details in the highlighted box below.

During my springtime travels I got to see two special and rare conifers that I'd like to share with you. In April, I had the opportunity to visit the Netherlands and see the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens. While there, I saw behind a locked cage, the rare Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) being kept safe from theft. My photo says it all about how special this conifer is to this Botanical Garden and its role in conservation of this plant. The Wollemi Pine is one of the world's oldest and rarest tree species belonging to the 200 million-year old Araucariaceae plant family. It was known from fossil records and presumed extinct until it was discovered in 1994 by a bushwalker in the Wollemi National Park just outside Australia's largest city, Sydney.

Dubbed the botanical find of the century, the Wollemi Pine is now the focus of extensive re-search to conserve this ancient species. You now can grow your own Wollemi Pine and be part of one of the most dramatic comebacks in natural history.

In May I traveled not too far from Knoxville, TN to Nashville to visit the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Museum of Art. While there, I discovered they have an amazing specimen of the rare Torreya taxifolia. Known commonly as stinking cedar, it was one of the first federally listed endangered plant species, designated in 1984. Today, due to fungal disease and habitat change, it is rarely found in the native area of the Florida Panhandle. Its common name is derived from the pungent smell of the evergreen needles when crushed. Cheekwood's specimen is about 20-feet tall and growing in a moist, damp soil along a stream where it receives morning sun. You'll also find two new fantastic gardens added over the past year that make a trip to Cheekwood to see its Torreya this summer worth your time. - Sue