University of Maryland Maile C. Neel  
Natural Resource Sciences & Landscape Architecture
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Alyxia

Woody Plants for Mid-Atlantic Landscapes

I taught two courses in plant identification and appropriate uses in Mid-Atlantic landscapes. These courses covered basic scientific principles uniting plant relationships, plant physiology, and plant ecology with landscape principles. The courses are required for Landscape Architecture, Landscape Management, and Urban Forestry majors in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and for students in Institute for Applied Agriculture.

This geographic area is ideal for teaching these courses. The diversity of woody plant species that grows here allows us to study many species up close and in person, using the University of Maryland campus as a living laboratory. Beyond campus, students have access to many outstanding natural areas and public gardens and arboreta. Places like the National Arboretum, Brookside Gardens, Dumbarton Oaks, and the National Capital Mall are all within 20-30 minutes of campus. The urban centers of Washington, DC and Baltimore and surrounding suburban communities provide countless opportunities to learn how to use plants to make these environments more sustainable.


The classes had lecture and lab components. Through lecture students learned how to choose the right plant for the right location by studying plant distributions, their physiological requirements, and their ecological effects. They also honed their knowledge of plant-related music. A strong grounding in plant families helped students organize the information they learned. Weekly labs provided opportunities to learn to identify the plants and to see them being used in the landscapes. Most labs took place on campus but we also took field trips to the National Arboretum. The courses also took advantage of computer-based learning tools including online quizzes and resources on the World Wide Web.

We covered ~200 plants each semester. Fall semester included mostly deciduous species and mostly species that are native to this area. In the spring semester we started out with conifers and evergreen broadleaf trees and then cover the spring bloomers like cherries, dogwoods and redbuds that make the Mid-Atlantic spring so beautiful.

The 'beloved' display case and twig board - where students spend many late night hours immediately before each lab exam. TAs John and Kim are smiling because they are about to clean out the display case after the final exam.


Students reinforce what they learn in class and make a difference in our local natural areas (not to mention earn bonus points!) by participating in organized invasive plant removal projects. Invasive plants are plants that have been brought into this area by humans (i.e., they are not native to this area) and that have escaped into our native ecosystems. This group of students removed invasive vines and shrubs including multiflora rose, porcelainberry, English ivy, and Japanese honeysuckle from a watershed on the boundary between Takoma Park and Silver Spring, MD with the Friends of Sligo Creek (represented by Sally Gagne in the upper right of the photograph). Students from left to right are Chase Townshend, Jarrett Grosskettler, Corinne Lynch, Meghan Cook, Nathan Workman, Bobby Tjaden, and Chad Dilla.

Let John Prothro and the other students share the love with you. They have developed some outstanding plant walks that will take you around the University of Maryland College Park campus and teach you many of the plants that they have learned in class.

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