Category: Uncategorized

Open Position: Arborist

December 4, 2019


Performs tree maintenance, including pruning, cabling, fertilizing, planting, spraying, injecting and tree removals.  Climbs with rope and saddle and operates an aerial lift.  Performs a variety of other arboricultural and horticultural tasks as needed, such as plant pest monitoring and shrub pruning.


Support the Annual Fund

December 4, 2019

As a friend of Mount Auburn, you have your own story of how and when you first discovered the Cemetery. People return here for countless reasons, but they all reflect the bond that visitors have forged with this beautiful landscape and historic landmark. In this season of giving, we hope you will join us in supporting this special place by making a gift to the Annual Fund.

Everything that we love about Mount Auburn is supported by the Annual Fund. Your gift will enable us to maintain our status as a world-class arboretum and vibrant horticultural collection, maintained year-round by our skilled horticultural team. Annual Fund gifts also support ongoing preservation efforts which ensure that the Cemetery’s most significant monuments survive the pressures of weather and time, to continue to provide wonder and inspiration to future generations. Our ever-growing and popular slate of public programming, ranging from lectures and wildlife tours to musical performances and film screenings, are likewise significantly underwritten by your donations. And of course, your gift allows us to preserve our collections of documents, photographs, and historical ephemera that tell the story of Mount Auburn’s beginnings and evolution as the country’s first rural garden cemetery.

A gift to Mount Auburn’s Annual Fund goes directly to sustain all the wonderful elements of this unique place. In return for your support, you’ll receive special membership benefits including free access to public programs, invitations to special events, and discounts at partner organizations. We hope you will consider making a gift today at or calling our office at 617-607-1982. Your generosity ensures that everyone can continue to explore this welcoming urban oasis and discover why they love it as much as you do.

Horticulture Highlight: Nikko Fir, Abies homolepis

December 3, 2019

And houseless there the snow-bird flits

Beneath the fir-trees’ crape

            -Herman Melville

Beginning in December and throughout our winter we may take notice, often heretofore overlooked, of remarkable conifers throughout our landscape. Herein we grow many specimens of eastern white pine, Douglas fir, Norway spruce, Alaska yellow-cedar, Cedar of Lebanon, Japanese cryptomeria, along with a few young, diminutive giant sequoias. Remembering that not all conifers are evergreen, we even appreciate the framework bare branches of the deciduous bald cypress, larch, golden larch and dawn redwood

Another choice conifer is the Nikko Fir, Abies homolepis, native to the mountains of central and southern Honshu and Shikoku, Japan. In native-forest maturity this may reach 80 to 100-feet, but in landscape use often will achieve heights less than that. As with all the four-dozen species of Abies, the leaves are born singly and persist for five or more years. Its needles are 1 ¼-inch-long, dark green above, with two white stomatal bands on their undersides.

…Within a sparkling, emerald mountain chain

Where day and night fir-needles sift like rain

            -Ella Higginson

As with most conifers there are separate male and female flowers oneach Nikko Fir tree. The ½-inch, yellowish-green, male pollen producing flowers (strobili) are easier to see than the even smaller female flowers. But it is the fertilized female flowers which will produce the fir cones, containing seeds for the succeeding generation. Initially a purple-blue color, these in maturity become brown, 4-inch-long, and sit distinctly upright on the branches. Eventually all these fir cones disintegrate, releasing their seeds to the wind while still attached to the tree. It is rare to find an intact fir cone on the ground beneath these trees.

And fir cone standing stiff up in the heat

            -Edward Thomas

People have been entwined with plants for millennia, compiling untold numbers of compatible stories. Accordingly, our Nikko Fir, Abies homolepis may be woven as a distant tangent to our newly created Asa Gray Garden. Allowing for a bit of literary license, an initial connection is through Phillip von Siebold (1796-1866), German-born, physician-botanist. This surgeon with the Dutch East Indies Army was credited with performing the first cataract operation in Japan, while stationed there from 1823-1830. He additionally introduced Nikko Fir along with many other at the time unknown plants to Europe. In collaboration with Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini (1787-1848), a German professor of botany, they published a large format, illustrated Flora Japonica, first appearing in 1835.

Asa Gray (1810-1888), preeminent nineteenth-century botanist, wrote a review in 1840 of this two-volume flora that included hand colored illustrations of Japanese plants. Gray’s review of this Flora Japonica began his astute botanical observations of the striking morphological similarities between several Asian and Eastern North American genera. Building on this early biogeography with later obtained Japanese herbarium specimens helped Gray research/present a theory of disjunct temperate species having evolved from a common ancestor. This helped advance botany as a scholarly scientific discipline in the United States. This was as well a key tenant in Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) 1859 theory of evolution through natural selection. Our expanded, replanted Asa Gray Garden includes numerous pairs of Eastern Asia-Eastern North America plant pairings to help honor Gray’s legacy.

Now however circling back to Nikko Fir, Abies homolepis, our best specimens are found on Pilgrim Path, at Spruce Avenue and on Sycamore Avenue at Gerardia Path, two of our extensive winter arboreal nobility.

And thou, with all thy instruments in tune,

Thine orchestra

Of heaving fields and heavy swinging fir,

Strikest a lay

That doth rehearse

Her ancient freedom to the universe

            -Michael Field

Indian Ridge Habitat Restoration

December 2, 2019

Mount Auburn Cemetery has launched a major landscape restoration project around Indian Ridge Path designed to add horticultural depth and a critical new habitat to the area, offering more resources to resident and migratory birds as part of our larger efforts to enhance the landscape as an urban wildlife refuge. Located near the main entrance, Indian Ridge is one of our most popular areas to walk, featuring the burial site of one of our most notable residents, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as well as offering a high vantage point framing some of Mount Auburn’s most iconic views. Indian Ridge is also already a prime birdwatching spot during the spring migration each year, as a destination for neotropical warblers who stop at Mount Auburn to feed before heading north to Canada. Additionally, the path features some of Mount Auburn’s oldest oak trees, which date to the founding of the Cemetery.

Today, however, the landscape along the path lacks any unified design scheme or horticultural sustainability, and is characterized by a few ornamental trees, patchy grass sections, invasive shrubs, and the abovementioned oaks. Given the already high level of migratory bird activity, we have made it a priority to create a landscape design that adds visual appeal as well as plant diversity to the area.

The first step of the project (late fall 2019 through winter 2020) is the removal of selected invasive plants including Norway Maple trees, which have prevented other native, habitat-friendly vegetation from establishing over the years. After the 2020 spring migration concludes, replanting work will begin along the path, to install a new landscape designed by Mount Auburn’s Horticultural Curator Dennis Collins and horticultural consultant Patrick Cullina, with the help of landscape architect Craig Halvorson. Together, they have crafted a design that will add visual appeal and plant diversity through amplifying successful elements of existing landscape. A major highlight will be feature a dramatic progression of white-flowered trees including Silverbell, Dogwood, and Yellowwood, complemented by masses of lower vegetation which have been selected to offer habitat benefits to birds and other wildlife.

More details will be available as the project progresses, and we look forward to welcoming our visitors into this beautiful new landscape once it is complete!