(Guest entry by Mary Byrne, Botanist and National Coordinator of Seeds of Success)
In early April the annual Cherry Blossoms Festival in Washington, DC attracts thousands of visitors from around the world to the National Mall. This is truly an amazing event – thousands of people in one place to witness the peak bloom of a single species! However, this phenological event lasts only a few days, and by late May the delicate cherry blossoms are the far from the main attraction in the nation’s capitol. But what botanical beauty can be found on the National Mall to delight the next wave of visitors that flood the Capitol over Memorial Day weekend? This past weekend, I decided to talk a stroll around the Mall to find out what native species are ringing in the beginning of summer.
My first stop was the U.S. Botanic Garden at the base of the Capitol. The USBG recently renovated the three acres on the west side of the Conservatory, now known as the National Garden, which features species mostly native to the Mid-Atlantic region. Before reaching the National Garden I was stopped by the oak-leafed hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’) almost in full bloom at the front entrance. From the entrance into the National Garden I passed under an arbor covered in the purple and white inflorescence of American wisteria (Wistera frutescens) hedged with the feather like creamy flowers of Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Sprich’). Once in the full-sun of the Garden a myriad of other species were in peak bloom; snakelily (Dichelostemma ‘Pink Diamond’), evening primrose (Oenothera lindheirmeri), Small’s beardtounge (Penstemon smallii), lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata), and foxglove (Penstemon digitalis). I wasn’t the only visitor enjoying these flowers, the pollinators were busily buzzing among the garden too!
The path through the Garden leads one to a view of National Museum of the American Indian, just across the street. The Museum is surrounded by a garden, representing over 145 species native to the Western Hemisphere. Once at the Museum I observed blooming red columbine
These two botanical gems on the National Mall have a lot to offer both human visitors as well as pollinators. On my walk home I looked up and could make out the beautiful yellow flowers high in the tops of the tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) and the almost tropical white flowers of the southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides). So, summer is here and there are plenty of species to enjoy along the National Mall and in DC after the cherry blossoms!(Aquilegia canadensis), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and a variety of native viburnums.