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Veneman Launches Arboretum's 75th Anniversary CelebrationBy Amy Spillman
March 8, 2002
WASHINGTON, March 8Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman kicked off a year-long celebration of the U.S. National Arboretum's 75th anniversary today and paid tribute to the arboretum's contributions to U.S. and world horticulture.
Veneman commemorated the event by participating in the planting of a Sun Valley red maple on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol with the ceremony's co-sponsors, including Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), arboretum director Dr. Thomas S. Elias and members of the Friends of the National Arboretum.
"This tree symbolizes the contributions of the National Arboretum to our country over the last 75 years," Veneman said. "The arboretum is truly a national treasure located right here in our nation's capital."
The arboretum covers 446 acres in northeast Washington, D.C. It was established by an act of Congress in 1927 to conduct research, provide education and conserve and display trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants to enhance the environment.
The arboretum has achieved international recognition through cooperative research programs with many countries including Austria, Japan and Russia. Recent renovations to its grounds and facilities have made it one of Washington's most popular tourist destinations. Approximately 600,000 visitors tour its gardens annually.
The tree planted during today's ceremony is one of the numerous award-winning cultivars bred by arboretum researchers. Some of the most well received have been elm trees resistant to Dutch elm disease (DED), a scourge that has wiped out nearly 80 million prized American elms since its appearance in the United States in the 1930s.
By painstakingly screening thousands of elms for resistance to the fungus that causes the disease, arboretum researchers succeeded in propagating and releasing two DED-resistant American elms in the mid-1990s, along with eight resistant elms bred from Asian and European species. One of the American cultivars, the Valley Forge, was planted on the grounds of the Capitol in 1996.
The Sun Valley red maple, an American native, was bred as part of a research project examining the inheritance of fall color and pest resistance. The tree has exceptional, long-lasting fall color and significant levels of tolerance to potato leafhopper, a plant pest that feeds on the underside of leaves. In tests conducted in Maryland, Sun Valley's brilliant red color lasted about two weeks, peaking in the third to fourth weeks of October. USDA officials expect the tree to be available for sale to the general public next year.
During its 75-year history, the arboretum has released more than 650 different woody and herbaceous plants to the American public through the nursery and floral industries. The Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief scientific research agency, operates the arboretum.
In addition to Washington, D.C., the arboretum has research locations in Beltsville, Md.; Glenn Dale, Md.; and McMinnville, Tenn. For more information about the National Arboretum, visit http://www.usna.usda.gov/.