The Threat to the National Arboretum

Just What Do Americans Value, Anyway?

The Threat to the National Arboretum

6 January 2011 at 7:01:16 PM

"The U.S. National Arboretum in Beltsville, Maryland, has plans next summer to destroy several thousand azaleas because of cuts to the agency's budget.

The arboretum also has said that because many of the plants in the popular azalea collection can't be identified, they must go.

If these plants are uprooted it could mean the loss of some rare varieties of azaleas that might not be enjoyed by future generations of Americans.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, along with the Great Gardens of America Preservation Alliance, has started an effort to save this azalea collection. But in the event that our efforts fail, we have requested that the destruction of the collection be postponed so we can take cuttings next summer to re-establish the collection in Charleston and at our 30 sister gardens around the country.

If the arboretum does not want the azaleas, why not allow them to be put in our garden in Charleston, a city known worldwide for its preservation efforts?

There is a ray of hope. Last week the arboretum got a new director. Colien Hefferan has accepted the position. Numerous websites and articles are popping up around the country. A Save the Azaleas at the National Arboretum page is on Facebook and a humorous cartoon is on YouTube.

The arboretum touts the azalea collection it wants to destroy. Admirers come to the arboretum each spring "to witness one of Washington's premier spring attractions," according to the arboretum's website. "Thousands of azaleas cover the flanks of Mount Hamilton in a blaze of color. The first warm days bring out the flowers, and the slopes take on a surreal, almost luminescent glow."

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