Batdorf, a horticulturalist, has been curator of the arboretum's National Boxwood Collection since 1977, carefully tending about 150 different species and cultivars in one of the world's most complete boxwood collections. The arboretum is operated by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Batdorf, who recently discussed his boxwood collection efforts at the 46th American Boxwood Society Meeting and Symposium in Memphis, Tenn., in 2002 began exploring for boxwood in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic that is home to many rare species. Foreigners have only recently been allowed to visit that country for plant exploration. During an expedition to the Chirkan Nature Reserve, in the towns of Lankaran and Astara, Batdorf discovered Buxus colchica, a very large (30 feet tall) and ancient (over 250 years old) boxwood.
In January 2006, Batdorf registered a new Korean semidrawf boxwood (Buxus sinica var. insularis), dubbed Wee Willie, in the Boxwood Bulletin, a quarterly journal of the American Boxwood Society (ABS). This boxwood has straight, vertical stems with dense, dark-green leaves and excellent cold hardiness.
Other valuable boxwood in the arboretum's collection includes Vardar Valley (Buxus sempervirens) from Macedonia, a variety known for its fragrant flowers, shallow roots, and resistance to leaf miners and mites. Another notable variety is Curly Locks (Buxus microphylia), a medium-sized plant with small, curly leaves.
In addition to writing and illustrating the comprehensive Boxwood: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Batdorf recently compiled and released his latest findings in Boxwood Handbook: A Practical Guide (3d. edition). Both are available through the nonprofit ABS.