National Public Lands Day: Orchards and Fruit Trees

September 23, 2014

The leaves on the trees are changing colors, pumpkins seem to be popping up everywhere, and it is getting darker earlier. Fall is in the air and coinciding with the beginning of fall is National Public Lands Day, a celebration that began in 1994 and takes place on the last Saturday of September where volunteers across the country work together to beautify public lands. Also coinciding with the season is the annual trip to the orchard to pick apples and drink cider. In the spirit of fall, apple picking, and National Public Lands Day, we are looking at two companion publications from the National Park Service about orchards and fruit trees.

024-005-01266-4Fruitful Legacy: A Historic Context of Orchards in the United States, with Technical Information for Registering Orchards in the National Register of Historical Places

This 2009 publication follows the history of fruit trees, their presence in national parks, and how to properly register the trees. The first half and more interesting half of the publication informs readers on how fruit trees came to the United States:

  • From 1600-1800, European settlers planted seeds in irregular patterns to grow fruit trees for the purpose of producing cider and animal feed, not to produce edible fruit.
  • During the 1800s, commercial orchards were established where trees were planted in a specific pattern with the purpose of eating raw fruit. This practice started on the east coast and migrated west along with the expansion of the country.
  • From the late-1880s to mid-1900s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was established and a new generation of growers started using pesticides, mechanical irrigation systems, cold storage, and mechanized equipment.
  • From the mid-1900s to present, the practice transitioned from amateur, small-scale farm orchards to professional commercial orchards. It was determined that small, dwarf trees produced greater yield and were more profitable.

024-005-01304-1014Historic Orchard and Fruit Tree Stabilization Handbook

Published in 2012, this publication follows Fruitful Legacy and specifically focuses on preserving orchards and fruit trees in California. Orchards and fruit trees are growing across 15 percent of California State Parks. Established overtime by Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, and the settlers from the Gold Rush, orchards and fruit trees can live from 50-200 years depending on the type of tree. The publication goes in depth on how to grow, maintain, and protect orchards and fruit trees and is intended for professionals who work for the California State Park Systems. However, the information can be adapted by anyone who wants to know best practices for growing fruit trees whether it is an entire orchard or a single tree.

Embrace fall and celebrate National Public Lands Day with a trip to your local orchard!


About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs.

A Botanic Garden for the Nation: “National benefits to be derived from exploration”

September 20, 2011

Guest blogger Nancy Faget sheds some light on a little-known Federal agency.

It’s always interesting to see what kinds of things I can learn from a Government publication. For example, I just found out that President George Washington asked the city commission to incorporate a botanical garden into the plan for Washington, DC.  He suggested the square next to the President’s House as a possible site. But it was President James Monroe who passed the bill to set aside five acres on the National Mall for a national botanic garden.  Thus, a living museum of plants was created as an oasis on Capitol Hill.

This National Garden is a living laboratory which includes the Rose Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the Lawn Terrace, the First Ladies’ Water Garden, the Regional Garden, and an outdoor amphitheater.

The founders of the country had an understanding of plants and gardens as a national benefit.  In the beautifully produced A Botanic Garden for the Nation, published by the U.S. Botanic Garden, I learned many interesting facts that I didn’t expect to find. For example, Thomas Jefferson emphasized that the Lewis and Clark expedition should look for plants and vegetables.  The U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1842 also was charged partly with gathering plants and seeds from around the world.  As the expedition traveled 87,000 nautical miles charting oceans and coastlines, the botanists and naturalist aboard the ships collected plant and seed specimens.Although the color photographs in the book are spectacular, it’s also a fascinating read.  Here are some other bits I discovered:

  • The Botanic Garden houses more rare plants all the time as gifts are received from foreign governments and (incredibly) as a result of law enforcement actions!   When rare or endangered species are confiscated, they often are sent to the Botanic Garden for its collection.  For example, The Vietnamese orchid in the Garden’s collection was seized by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).  It’s now working with FWS and a commercial grower to produce marketable quantities of this orchid for sale and distribution to other public gardens.
  • The Garden also was established as an important plant rescue center for orchids and succulents.  Through a program, present species may be prevented from going extinct.  It has a production facility that works to propagate plants for exchange with other institutions.
  • In the Garden’s Medical Collection, visitors find the saw palmetto, from which fruits are studied to treat prostate cancer.  Turmeric is included in the collection because of the anti-inflammatory benefit.   In cultures where turmeric is used regularly, rates of Alzheimer’s disease are significantly lower.

Best of all, the photos of Bartholdi Park and the National Garden look so inviting, they make me want to grab A Botanic Garden for the Nation, sit in the sun, and just ponder the seasons!

You can buy your own copy for garden reading on the U.S. Government Online Bookstore, or find it in a library.

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