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Yellowstone Arboretum

Quarterly Newsletter - SpringEdition


Crabapple 'Donald Wyman

Millenium Grove

Spring at the Arboretum
"A Seasonally Fresh Experience"

Catalpa Tree-Homestead


Crimson Cloud Hawthorne - Homestead

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Prairie Gem Pear - Sensory Garden

March 1 marks the meteorological beginning of spring and we can't wait to get started. In fact volunteers have been working on projects already with major late-winter pruning and trimming of trees in the playground area and the front entrance wall. Pruning was conducted to clear broken, dead or hazardous low branches and to make our visitors experience a safer one. Our curator has been busy updating accession records and website data, plus writing grants, giving presentations and everything else a curator does. Just what does a curator do ? Well, we've included some information in our newsletter that explains a few things. The inside working of an arboretum is just as busy as taking care of the trees.

Some of our feature articles are new and/or updated this quarter. We are highlighting Donald Wyman, past horticulturist, from the Arnold Arboretum. The arboretum has one of his discoveries, a crabapple named after him. It is a beautiful specimen and rather hidden from view but worth the extra effort to find it at the entrance to the Millenium Grove. See the photo at the top of the page. Enjoy !

Curator of an Arboretum


The curator of a botanical arboretum garden is the person who oversees the operation of the entire facility. He or she is involved in all aspects, including collection, preservation, and education. The successful curator of a botanical garden will have the opportunity to develop major plant collections. Unique plant collections may be obtained through plant expeditions or by exchanges with other botanical institutions and collectors. Field collecting is encouraged and the curator must have travel flexibility. A curator will interact with a talented staff and will meet interesting colleagues from many perspectives. The curator is responsible for the maintenance, development, and control of all collections, including living collections and herbarium and spirit-preserved collections. The curator is also responsible for periodic review and maintenance of garden design in the context of an overall plan.

Specific duties include:

Overseeing periodic review of live plants for damage or disease and general health, taking appropriate measures for improved health
overseeing periodic inventories to assess losses as well as to guide new acquisitions. overseeing periodic review of plant labels and making needed repairs or replacements, maintaining databases for all plant accessions , preferably linking both preserved and living collections reviewing the development of the garden facilities both to assure the well-being of the collections and to plan for growth
periodically reviewing the health of herbarium collections, guarding against damage by insects, seeing that loans of specimens to and from institutions are handled in a professional manner, periodically checking specimens preserved in spirits for loss of fluid, topping vials when necessary and interacting with the garden director and administrative staff to assure adequate staffing and resources for collections management.

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Arboretum Terminology

There are certain terms that come up in arboretum discussions that most people aren't aware of and that's understandable. They have a distinctive meaning in the daily conversation in the operation of an arboretum. So lets take this opportunity to introduce you, our readers, to a few arboreta terms.

The Living Collections comprise all plants formally accessioned, and in a broad sense also contain unaccessioned plants in natural areas and spontaneous flora. Maintenance, from a curatorial standpoint, is the practice of vegetatively repropagating an accession in order to preserve and perpetuate its genetic lineage. Our Living Collection does indeed include all core trees and woody shrubs (accessioned) and non-core trees and shrubs (inventoried).

Ex situ conservation involves plants being replanted in a controlled area (garden, greenhouse, nursery) for increased survival and sustainability of the species and is often done for those plants that are said to be endangered species.

In situ conservation is the on-site conservation of plant or animal species, such as forest genetic resources in natural populations of tree species. This process protects the inhabitants and ensures the sustainability of the environment and ecosystem.

An herbarium is a collection of preserved plant specimens maintained for scientific purposes. Specimen are collected, mounted on rigid paper (100 acid-free), and filed in cabinets using techniques perfected over several centuries. See example to right.

Spring Campaign

This year kicks off a new direction from our usual spring campaign tactics. The menu has been completed for the season seedling, bare root, seed propagation and transplant program. Stratification is in progress for seeds and spring bulbs and volunteer Nancy has ordered flowers for the pathway container pot program. There will be planting this spring as we kick off our Trial Species program, the Japanese Maple.


Remember, if you are interested in volunteering just go to our contact form and one of the staff will contact you with more information about this worthwhile opportunity !

Clean-up of Chickadee Trail and The Dell- Raking of leaves along pathways, Wild Bird Garden and Elm Tree Meadow. Plus, volunteer groups will be conducting a Buckthorn eradication program along Chickadee Trail in April. 

Signage Program- As part of the internship program we will be re-evaluating signage and updating identification of trees as part of the interns arboreta education. Look for new signage to be installed in the South Plaza to explain our Oak Initiative Project.


Japanese Maple - 2024 Trial Species Program

Detail Elm Meadow- Main emphasis will be mulching and staking of existing trees. Some pruning will continue.

Greenhouse- The remodeled section of the greenhouse will be painted this spring. Tree potting will start in March (weather permitting). Creation of a temporary nursery.

Observation-- We will be observing new and old specimens as outlined by the National Phenology Network and inputting data.


Tree School Workshop

Nationally known conservationist, Guy Meilleur, was the guest instructor for the 2024 Northern Rockies Tree School conservation workshop held in January at ZooMontana and the arboretum. It was attended by over 33 arborists from the Rocky Mountain region who inspected various species of trees on the grounds for health, safety and maintenance issues highlighting the Plains Cottonwood (populus sargentii). Discussions and recommendations followed the walks.


Featured Articles" 

This quarter features some new articles that are well worth the read. They include Spring Tree Tips, Seasonal Views, All About Conifers, Horticulturist Donald Wyman, Tree City U.S.A and Montana Tree Adventures. Go to Features to view the menu.




ZooMontana will be hosting their first ever "Party for the Planet" on Saturday April 20th from 10 am to 4 pm. This is an event hosted by zoos and aquariums throughout the country to celebrate "Earth Day". There will be activities, food, a beer tent, a fun run (if the weather cooperates) and much more. Come and join us as we celebrate planet earth !

Arbor Day - 2024

The arboretum will be participating in the City of Billings 'Arbor Day Celebration' at Riverfront Park May 9. This is a great opportunity to teach 4th graders the mysteries of arboreta. We're prepared for all types of questions as we set up our "curiosity table" of trees.


EAB Conference

The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the ISA is sponsoring a conference to alert the public to the Emerald Ash Borer and the damage we could experience to our Billings Ash trees.

April 2 2024 Northern Hotel - Billings

8:30 am - 4:30 pm

ISA and non-ISA members (charge)

April 2 2024 - Community Event

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Open to public (free)

Click here for more information



The arboretum started its herbarium collection this last fall with samples taken from all Acer and Crataegus species including accessioned labeling. Collections will continue throughout 2024 for future comparison studies.

Volunteers and Internships

We want to welcome the following to the arboretum team:


Nicholas W - Intern

Joshua M - Intern

Scott M - Intern

Laura E - Volunteer

Ralna C - Volunteer

We look forward to more new volunteers starting this spring.

Tree Moves

With the parking lot expansion four trees had to be moved to new locations including 3 Amur Cork Trees and 1 Brandon Elm. Stan Lambert was in charge of the moves, once again, and we want to thank him for his services !

Meet the Arboretum

Interested in an entertaining and informative meeting for your group or civic organization ? The arboretum is available for just that. Recent meetings with the Audubon Center and Kiwanis Club have had excellent turnouts. Your organization could enjoy the same.

Contact Scott at:

406-860-3160 or email at:


"The mission of the Yellowstone Arboretum is to cultivate arboreta appreciation and understanding of our local heritage through public education, organic preservation and stewardship of our natural environment."

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