Plant diversity, whether for conservational or aesthetic value, is the recurring theme in botanical gardens that connects our displays, research, and visitor experiences to our missions. While the domestication of crop species has significantly altered their genomes from that of their wild crop relatives, the majority of horticultural crops are not that far removed from their wild relatives. Thus, we still explore, document, and cultivate the untapped diversity in the world’s temperate floras to enrich our gardens.
Richard Olsen, Director of the US National Arboretum, considers what legacies remain from early plant explorations, how we document and capture diversity, and the future of botanical gardens in a century that will see so much lost to globalization.
BIO: Richard Olsen
Richard Olsen is a Research Geneticist and served as Lead Scientist in the Floral and Nursery Plant Research Unit (FNPRU) at the USNA. He served as
Acting Director of the USNA in 2014 and most recently as Acting
Assistant Director of the USDA-ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research
Dr. Olsen has a bachelor of science degree in landscape design (NC State
University), a master degree in horticulture (University of Georgia) and a
doctorate in horticultural science (NC State University). He joined the
USDA-ARS in 2006 as a research geneticist for the urban tree breeding
program at the FNPRU. He reinvigorated the USNA’s urban tree
program and developed new woody ornamental breeding projects
utilizing genetic tools such as ploidy manipulation and interspecific and
intergeneric breeding strategies. His research has focused on the
development of superior landscape trees with pest and disease resistances
combined with non-invasiveness.