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Arboretum Seed Control Experimental Station St Petersburg, Russia

Volume 3 Number 9 - December 2002

N. Buligin, A. Vekshin and G. Firsov

There are four main dendrological collections in St Petersburg. BGCNews has reported on the two largest: the Arboretum of the Komarov Botanical Institute (BGCNews 2(5) 1995) and the Forest-Technical Academy (BGCNews 2(6) 1996). Compared with these, the dendrological collection of the Seed Control Experimental Station (SCES) is unknown. However, this Arboretum for ornamental horticulture has existed since 1926. The Department of Naturalisation of Plants of the All-Union Institute of Plant Breeding, with the personal participation of Academician Nikolai I. Vavilov established it. The Arboretum of the Seed Control Experimental Station was founded in 1933 and is at present under the supervision of the Municipal Committee of Road and Garden Maintenance of the St Petersburg Administration.

In the middle of the nineteenth century there was a private botanic garden on this land belonging to A. Fero and also a field used for pharmaceutical crops belonging to a well-known Professor of Chemistry, A.V. Pel. Several trees, such as specimens of Quercus robur, Prunus maackii, and Larix sibirica have survived since then and are now more than 100 years old. The Arboretum is 23 km south of St Petersburg, in the town of Pushkin (Zarskoje Selo before 1918, Detskoje Selo before 1937). Pushkin is situated in the southern environs of the St Petersburg conurbation, and is currently administered as one of the city's districts.

The Arboretum has an average temperature of 3.6ºC with a minimum of -38ºC (January) and maximum of 32ºC (June – August). The average precipitation is 569 mm per year and the humidity is 80%. Its latitude and longitude are 59º44 N, 30º23 E respectively. The Department of Arboriculture of SCES occupies a total area of 3.2 ha, of which 2.2 ha directly belong to the Arboretum. Originally plant material of decorative trees and shrubs were received from the world’s best nurseries and arboreta: Spaet, Hesse, Vilmorin, Pein, Lemuan, Seton, James Detrich, Arnold Arboretum, and also from China, Japan, North America and other countries. In the early years, more than 500 species were cultivated and tested. Unfortunately, during the Second World War a considerable part of the collection was lost.

At present the Arboretum has a unique dendrological collection including conifers, broad-leaved trees and shrubs; there are more than 230 species, varieties and cultivars of 69 genera of 26 families. The average age of many of the specimens is between 50 and 70 years. Young plants are dominant among the cultivars due to recent accessions of decorative plants. As regards species, introductions from Eastern Asia (the Russian Far East, China, Korea and Japan) and North America dominate. The coniferous taxa most fully represented are Picea (7 species and 10 cultivars), Pinus (9), Thuja (9), Abies (6). Species such as Abies concolor, A. fraseri, Picea asperata, P. engelmannii 'Glauca', Pinus contorta, P. strobus, and Taxus cuspidata are rare amongst tree introductions in the St Petersburg area. Nearly 160 species, varieties and cultivars of 61 genera in 23 families represent broad-leaved plants. There are 9 taxa belonging to Acer and Spiraea, 7 to Lonicera, Rosa and Ulmus and 6 to Betula, Malus, Ribes and Salix. Specimens of Acer rubrum, Betula davurica, Quercus rubra, Juglans cinerea, Armeniaca mandshurica are notable for their scientific interest and significance for city planting . Recently the collection has been replenished with such attractive cultivars as Picea abies 'Inversa', Pinus mugo 'Mops', Sambucus racemosa 'Laciniata'. The majority of tree specimens produce fruits and seeds of good quality which can be used for propagation.

The main aims of the Arboretum and the Experimental Station are:

  • the organisation of introductions of, and promoting greater use of, new decorative plants;
  • the testing of new cultivars;
  • seed and vegetative propagation of the trees and shrubs in cultivation to enable their introduction for wide-scale city planting;
  • the development of agro-technology and new methods of cultivation;
  • the investigation of seed quality.

Many trees and shrubs in cultivation serve as parent plants for propagation and distribution to the gardens and forest nurseries of North-west Russia, where young plants can be propagated on a large scale for city planting. Many trees growing on the streets and parks of Pushkin were originally introduced from the Seed Control Experimental Station. The Arboretum is interested in comparing its woody plants with those from other arboreta of the city and adjacent areas. The Arboretum in the town of Pushkin is of considerable scientific, business and educational interest and there is an urgent need to publish a full catalogue of the trees and shrubs under cultivation there.