Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer


Minshall Painter around town

In 1857, when brothers Minshall and Jacob Painter inherited the property that is now Tyler Arboretum from their father, Enos Painter, they set about establishing a collection of over 1,000 ornamental plants for their own scientific study.  They even built the Painter Library to house their growing natural science collections and equipment, as well as their extensive and valued book collection.  The Minshall and Jacob Painter private collection was key in laying the foundation of the beauty that is Tyler Arboretum today.

My Minshall Tour around Media, PA

But Minshall Painter left his mark not only on Tyler Arboretum but around Media, PA.  Minshall is also credited with serving on the local school board and getting the Delaware County seat moved from Chester (City) to Media.  In fact, on Orange Street across from the intersection with Linden Street, you can find a sign that credits Minshall with naming the town “Media.”  However, it is not clear why “Media” was chosen – some report that it was because of the central location of Media borough in the county, while others report that the name may come from the biblical area of Medea.

My Minshall Tour around Media, PAPersonally, I feel the most valued contribution outside of Tyler Arboretum that Minshall Painter made to Media was being one of the founders of the Delaware County Institute of Science.  On September 21, 1833, a group of five individuals with an interest in science and natural history came together to establish DCIS.  Minshall Painter was one of the five founders and the first secretary of the organization.  He purchased a half block of land along South Avenue from Jasper to Front Street and secured the funds (much out of his own pocket) to construct the building that still stands today.  You can learn more about the history of DCIS from their website.  Admission to the museum is free and open on Monday, Thursday, and most Saturday mornings.

Minshall also recorded weather observations and was an enthusiastic genealogist – he compiled notes and collected deeds and other papers pertaining to many Quaker families of Delaware and Chester Counties.

Jacob Painter was not as active in the community as his brother Minshall.  As noted on this website from Swarthmore College:

Jacob Painter, while sharing Minshall’s scientific interests, was a student of language and a poet … The brothers acquired a printing press which they used to publish a number of essays on language, a system they developed for scientific nomenclature, and genealogical compilations. They were active in civic and Quaker affairs and members of Chester Monthly Meeting, attending Middletown Meeting until their resignation in 1842. While no longer formally members of the Society of Friends, they continued their interest in “liberal” Quaker concerns, including abolition and women’s suffrage, and collected classic Quaker texts.

My Minshall Tour around Media, PAAnd what about the Minshall House?  Located at the intersection of Providence Road and Front Street, the Minshall House (circa 1750) is believed to be the oldest house in Media, approximately 260 years old.  The house is located on the land Thomas Minshall purchased from William Penn in 1681, but there is no record that Minshall Painter (the great-great-great-grandson of Thomas Minshall) ever lived in the house.  The house is open for tours on Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Minshall lived to 72 years of age, but his hard work and impact still lives on in Media, PA!


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Tyler Arboretum is an Official Holly Arboretum

Photos at Tyler on 12/18/13

Sign on the front of the Visitor Center at Tyler Arboretum

When I arrive at Tyler Arboretum, I usually just park my car and walk right in to the Visitor Center to start my journey for that day.  But recently, my eyes did a double-take when I approached the Visitor Center and noticed a sign I previously had never stopped to read.  I never knew that Tyler was an Official Holly Arboretum!  I found this to be exciting news, but then I asked myself… OK, so what exactly does it mean to be an “official holly arboretum”?

I started my online search at the website for the Holly Society of America.  Below is a summary from the HSA website main page:

The Holly Society of America, Inc. is an active, non-profit organization with members throughout the United States and numerous foreign countries. The purpose of the Society is to stimulate interest, promote research, and collect and disseminate information about the genus Ilex. The society provides the medium for all people interested in hollies, including both novices and skilled growers, to communicate and exchange information through scientific studies, publications, lectures, meetings, visiting holly collections, and other educational endeavors.

Photos at Tyler on 12/18/13

A photo of the Winterberry, on the right-side of the path leading away from the Visitor Center

To be an official holly arboreta:

An organization recognized by the Holly Society of America as an official Holly Arboretum or Experimental Test Center is a public or semi-public institution that educates plant lovers in the use of holly in the landscape and that complies with set HSA guidelines. Its holly collection is properly labeled and it maintains accurate records of its hollies so that each plant can be identified by location, valid name, source, date received, size or age when received, and other pertinent facts. Annual reports submitted by Official Holly Arboreta and Experimental Test Centers are included in the Holly Society Journal.

Photos at Tyler on 12/18/13What I am very excited to see under the list of recognized organizations is that Tyler Arboretum is one of only 20 organizations from across the globe honored with this distinction!  I encourage you to check out the range of holly that are growing at Tyler.  Just along the pathway from the Visitor Center towards the Butterfly House, look to your right to see Winterberry, American Holly, Japanese Holly, English Holly, and a large American Holly tree on the left before the Butterfly House.  What beautiful plants, especially in the winter.

And I can’t resist… I have to end this post with…

Happy “Holly”-days, everyone!

Photos at Tyler on 12/18/13

One of the branches of an American Holly tree, near the Butterfly House

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Tyler’s living fossil, the Ginkgo biloba

Although you won’t find any fossils contained in the rocks at Tyler Arboretum, you will find an example of what scientists refer to as a living fossil.  What’s a living fossil, you might ask?  A term coined by Charles Darwin, a living fossil is an organism that has essentially remained unchanged in its structure through a period geologic time, typically without any close living relatives.  Examples of living fossils include the horseshoe crab, snapping turtle, pelican, and Asian elephant.

IMG_7529Right below the retaining wall of Lachford Hall at Tyler Arboretum is where you will find a living fossil that also happens to be one of the designated Painter Plants – the Ginkgo biloba.  From Tyler’s website:

The ginkgo is the world’s oldest living species of tree whose fossil records date back 150 million years when dinosaurs roamed the earth. This multi-trunked specimen has a massive trunk, measuring just over 21 feet in circumference. The fan-shaped leaves turn bright yellow in the fall and often seemingly drop overnight when temperatures dip below freezing. Female trees produce seeds with a foul-smelling fleshy seed coat; luckily the Painter brothers planted a male.

Did you know… The specific species Ginkgo biloba is most commonly characterized by the appearance of its leaves. It wasn’t until 1771 that the species was defined as “biloba” by Carl Linnaeus; bi– meaning two, and loba– meaning lobes. The Ginkgo tree is sometimes termed Ginkgo biloba L. or Ginkgo biloba Linnaeus, in reference to the scientist who defined the leaves.  This is the only species of Ginkgo alive today and found on all continents except Antarctica, but many other species were around over 200 million years ago, back when the dinosaurs roamed the planet.  But the fossil record provides more evidence that the earliest ancestors of the Ginkgo most likely date back to before the dinosaurs, over 270 million years ago.  (from UW-LaCrosse)

Other fascinating Ginkgo facts include:

  • The word “Ginkgo” is actually a mistake made by Engelbert Kaempfer (the man who originally described Ginkgo). He wrote down how the Japanese phonetically addressed this tree (as “Ginkyô”) and incorrectly wrote it as “Ginkgo.”
  • The first Ginkgo tree planted in the USA was in Philadelphia, specifically in Woodlawn Cemetery.
  • Legend has it that one Ginkgo tree in China is over 3,500 years old.

For additional information on the Ginkgo biloba, check out these additional websites:

Photo of fallen leaves from the Gingko on the Lachford Hall patio, taken November 2013.

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The Country Gardeners Annual Greens Sale

DSCN2894Today was the Annual Greens Sale by The Country Gardeners at Tyler Arboretum.  Founded in 1949, The Country Gardeners is an organization based in Lima, PA, with a mission to stimulate the love of gardening, help protect native species, and assist in good civic planting.  Each year, The Country Gardeners holds a one-day sale of fresh wreaths, pine roping, poinsettias, centerpieces, natural ornaments, and more.  The holiday greens can be pre-ordered or purchased on site, but a warning to those that think they might come at any time during the 9:30AM to 1:30PM sale time – these beautiful items go fast!

In the past, I had purchased my items on site, but this year, I decided to pre-order a wreath for my front door.  The description for the wreath read: “full, fragrant noble fir, decorated with pine cones, and a red velvet bow.”  I was not disappointed with my purchase!

I unfortunately was not able to stay for the second activity being held at Tyler today, the Woodland Winter Wonderland event.  But I look forward to the next event I have signed up for, the Natural Ornaments workshop taking place next Saturday at Tyler.

My wonderful wreath on my front door.  Happy holidays, everyone!

My wonderful wreath on my front door. Happy holidays, everyone!