Listen in to this interview with Louise Clarke, our Bloomfield Farm Horticulturist, on Roots and Shoots Radio Perth.

Louise was asked to share her perspective as a horticulturist with Sabrina and Hilary of Roots and Shoots on Radio Perth in Australia.

Some of the topics discussed are the valuation of trees in America versus Australia and their importance in the urban landscape, purpose-built green roofs, and the similarities and differences between very unique flora of Western Australia and the Mid-Atlantic region of America.


Contributed by Joyce H. Munro, Morris Arboretum Archives Volunteer

Dr. McCloskey with son Tommy, circa 1935
Courtesy of the McCloskey family

On a Saturday evening early in the winter of 1932, a newspaper columnist happened to see Miss Lydia Morris at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Usually she appeared hearty and hale—“masterful” the columnist described her—but that evening Lydia looked very ill. During intermission, Lydia told the columnist about arrangements she had made to secure the future of Compton, but then cautioned the columnist not to write or talk about it. Lydia died three weeks later and the columnist told all the following week in the Philadelphia Public Ledger.

Lydia’s doctor at the time was John Francis McCloskey, a University of Pennsylvania medical school graduate of 1901, who, shortly after graduation, co-founded the Chestnut Hill Hospital. Fifteen years into his tenure at the hospital, he went to France during the war; in fact he was deployed three times, serving first as an ambulance driver, then surgeon at evacuation hospitals. He, too, could be called “masterful.” In fact, masterful may not be strong enough to describe a surgeon who gained a reputation for tackling dicey surgeries, including surgery on his brother “Dr. Edward,” also on staff at the hospital. When McCloskey made the newspapers, he was often described as, “a World War veteran and former All-American football star at Penn.”

After mustering out in 1919, McCloskey returned to Chestnut Hill and resumed treating his ever-increasing patient roster. By 1929, he was well aware of Lydia Morris’s failing health. But because Lydia was reluctant to speak of such things to anyone, it’s doubtful “Dr. John” was called to Compton unless she took a serious turn for the worse.

The good doctor was not only interested in her health—he was interested in what would become of her estate, the combined acreage of Compton and Bloomfield farm. Insiders claimed she planned to leave it (with substantial endowment) to the Philadelphia Museum of Art; others thought she had changed her mind and was negotiating with Penn State.

The summer prior to her death, Dr. McCloskey and Maurice Saul, Lydia’s attorney, motored up to Lake Placid, where Lydia was roughing it like a millionaire. They went at the urging of the President of their alma mater, who had taken a personal interest in expanding the university’s botany program and establishing a new landscape design program. All were well aware that the Morris estate would be invaluable and perpetually useful, since the university was in serious need of space for field work. Lydia, McCloskey and Saul found a quiet spot at the Whiteface Inn and spent a couple of days hashing out changes to her will, thus ensuring that the estate would be in the capable hands of—not the art museum or the public university halfway across the state, but the private university in the city—the University of Pennsylvania. When word reached President Thomas S. Gates, he expressed his gratitude to the two alumni for their great helpfulness. It had taken six years, but was well worth the effort.

After Lydia’s death in January of 1932, McCloskey was named to the Advisory Board of Managers of the newly organized Morris Foundation, charged with administering the new arboretum. Also named were Maurice Saul and Lydia’s banker. These three who had attended to Lydia’s health, wealth and legal matters were now attending to her property.

In 1951, with fifty years’ service at Chestnut Hill Hospital to his credit, McCloskey was feted at a reception and dinner. That event would prove to be the final tribute paid him by the medical community. Two days later, he died at his home on Germantown Avenue. But the city paid him a tribute as well—they built a new school on Pickering Street and named it for him—the John F. McCloskey Public School. Pretty soon, they were calling it the Dr. John School.

An Interview with Anthony Aiello | The Gayle E. Maloney Director of Horticulture and Curator of Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania

Contributed by Ashley Angell, Morris Arboretum Social Media Strategist

We are here today to speak with Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania's Director of Horticulture and Curator, Anthony Aiello, about a recent collaboration between the Arboretum and the University of Tennessee Knoxville's Institute of Agriculture, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

Cornus bretschneideri

Ashley Angell: Hello, Anthony. Thank you for sitting down with us today. Would you mind telling us a little bit of your background, including how long you have been working at Morris Arboretum?

Anthony Aiello: Sure, my background is in both botany and horticulture. I’ve worked in horticultural research at a university but have been at the Morris Arboretum in my current position for the past 18 years.


Angell: That's wonderful. So, onto the collaboration with the University of Tennessee's Institute of Agriculture. How did it begin?

Aiello: It was cold-call so to speak, or rather a cold email. Our plant catalogue is online and Marcin Nowicki and Robert Trigiano, the researchers from the University of Tennessee, contacted me to inquire about our dogwood collection. They are conducting research on the native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and wanted to expand their work to include the closely related kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa), that are native to Asia. He was especially interested in our kousa dogwoods because we have plants of know wild origin from Japan, South Korea, and China. Because of this he could get a sense of variations among different populations from across their native range.


Angell: Is it a common practice among gardens and institutes to shares species of plants with one another? How does the sharing process work?

Aiello: Yes, we do it frequently and that’s the beauty of having information about our living collection available online. We are a living museum and it is important to make sure that our holdings are available to a wide audience. Often I receive requests through Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), where our plant catalogue is listed, but I also have people contact me directly. With prior permission, horticulturists and researchers will come here to collect seed, cuttings, or leaf samples. All that we ask is that they let us know what they collect, and in the case of published research projects, acknowledge that they received material from us.


Angell: Very interesting. What plants is Morris Arboretum sharing with UTIA? What is significant about these specimens?

Aiello: As part of this project, we sent leaf samples from 48 plants of Cornus kousa. These include plants grown from seed collected in Korea (including three collections from the 1984 expedition), Japan, and China (six accessions, including four from our expeditions to Shaanxi and Gansu). In addition, we sampled 11 unusual species:

Cornus australis

Cornus bretschneideri

Cornus controversa

Cornus foemina

Cornus macrophylla

Cornus mas

Cornus officinalis

Cornus paucinervis

Cornus racemosa

Cornus walteri

Cornus wilsoniana

The assemblage of unusual species, coupled with depth in our holdings of Cornus kousa of known provenance make the Arboretum one of the few (if not the only) arboreta in North America positioned to help with this project.


Angell: Oh I see. And what length of time, from genesis to completion, does a project like this take? How many people are involved in the collaboration?

Aiello: It all depends. Some projects can take a year or two, while others can go on for several years. Usually if there is a graduate student involved it’s a shorter project, but other research efforts can take several years to complete. For example, a conservation project that we have been doing with paperbark maple (Acer griseum) has taken several years, mainly because we had to travel to England, China, and the West Coast of the U.S. All of that travel could not be completed in one year so we completed it over three years, from 2014-2016.


Angell: Could you share a little with us about the goal of the Cornus kousa collection for UTIA? How will the information be used once they have collected the data?

Aiello: The researchers at the University of Tennessee requested the leaf samples as part of their program to develop molecular (DNA) markers to study species diversity among populations of ornamental plants, in this case with dogwoods. Because the kousa dogwood samples come from geographically distinct regions (South Korea, China, and Japan), they are better able to understand the differences among the different populations of Cornus kousa. That is why our samples were so important–we are probably the only Arboretum with such broad representation of kousa dogwood.


Angell: Wow! Is there anything else that you would like add about the significance of this project and Morris Arboretum's role in the collaboration?

Aiello: It speaks to the value of our living collection, the importance of plant exploration, plant records, and the long-term effects of building and taking care of a collection. Very few places have this type of long-term view and it’s a pleasure to be part of this organization.


Angell: What a unique collaboration in the field of horticulture! Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania's execution is incredible. Thank you again for speaking with us today. We hope our readers will enjoy this interview as much as we have.

Aiello: My pleasure. I hope that this gives visitors a different perspective on the value of the Arboretum’s plants.


Photo credits:

  1. Cornus sanguinea subsp. australis (C. A. Mey.) Jáv. (Corniolo sanguinello)Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, Università di Trieste - Progetto Dryades - Picture by Andrea Moro
  2. Cornus bretschneideri L.Henry© Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, Università di Triestepicture by Andrea Moro
  3. Cornus officinalis Siebold & Zucc.2002 NACPEC Expedition, c/o Anne Barber, Morris Arboretum Research Project Coordinator
  4. Cornus kousa Buerg.1984 Herbarium U.S. National Arboretum, Washington D.C., c/o Anne Barber, Morris Arboretum Research Project Coordinator
  5. Cornus foemina P. Mill.2014 Herbarium of the Morris Arboretum (MOAR) University of Pennsylvania, c/o Anne Barber, Morris Arboretum Research Project Coordinator
  6. Cornus sanguinea subsp. australis (C. A. Mey.) Jáv. (Corniolo sanguinello)Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, Università di Trieste - Progetto Dryades - Picture by Andrea Moro
  7. Cornus controversa, Cambridge University Botanic Garden - photo by Magnus Manske
  8. Cornus foemina, Northern Forest Atlas - photo by unknown
  9. Cornus macrophylla - Wall.,, author - Wall.
  10. Cornus mas, Flickr - photo by enviroteacherbob
  11. Cornus officialis, Oregon State University, College of Agritculture Sciences - Department of Horticulture, author Patrick Breen
  12. Cornus paucinervis, U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley - Berkeley, California - photo by unknown
  13. Cornus racemosa, University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.
  14. Cornus wilsoniana - Wangerin.,, author - Wangerin.

Robert McCracken Peck, Senior Fellow, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, is the author of the new, profusely illustrated book The Natural History of Edward Lear.  Best known and much loved for "The Owl and the Pussycat" and other nonsense poetry, Edward Lear (1812-1888) was also a fine painter of birds, mammals, reptiles, and landscapes and an adventurous, worldwide traveler.  In his talk, Mr. Peck will detail the remarkable life and natural history paintings of this beloved children's writer, who abruptly and mysteriously abandoned his scientific work soon after he achieved preeminence in the field.  Mr. Peck is the curator of art and artifacts at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and was a guest curator of a bicentennial exhibition of Edward Lear's natural history paintings at Harvard University's Houghton Library. 

This lecture is being presented by Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania in partnership with the Ambler Theater and will be held at 2pm on November 15 at the Ambler Theater at 108 East Butler Avenue, Ambler, PA.  The cost for this lecture is $15 for Arboretum and Ambler Theater members and $20 for non-members, which includes a reception with refreshments.  Advance tickets are required. Register at:  or call 215-247-5777, ext. 125.

Morris Arboretum lectures are supported in part by the Klein Lecture Endowment given in memory of Dr. William M. Klein who served from 1977-1990 as the Arboretum’s first full-time director; the Laura L. Barnes Lecture Endowment of The Philadelphia Foundation, given in memory of Laura Barnes by students and alumni of her school of horticulture; and the Byron Lukens Lecture Endowment, given in memory of educator and Arboretum volunteer, Byron Lukens and his wife Elizabeth.

Photo Credit:  Courtesy, Robert Peck