There is no better time to come and enjoy our impressive evergreens. Mount Auburn’s conifer collection is noted for its size and diversity. With more than 80 different taxa and more than 1,500 plants, it is comparable to the conifer collections at … Continue reading


Now is a great time for a second look at many of our deciduous trees and shrubs. Even without their more showy foliage and flowers, many of our plants have something to contribute to the winter landscape. From the the impressive size and shape of some trees … Continue reading


Early signs of spring appear throughout the landscape in March.  The cheerful yellow blossoms of witchhazel that appear early in the month and the beautiful carpets of scilla  that emerge by month’s end remind us that warmer days are soon on their way. … Continue reading


Mount Auburn is painted in shades of yellow, pink, white and lilac thanks to the daffodils, forsythia, magnolias, and redbuds now blooming.  For many, though, it is the April flowering of Mount Auburn’s 20+ varieites of ornamental cherries that truly signal spring’s arrival. … Continue reading


It is no wonder that Mount Auburn welcomes so many visitors each May.  Flowering dogwoods, crabapples, lilacs, and azaleas are just some of what is on display.  If you’ve never been to the Cemetery, now is the time to make … Continue reading


Though May might be the peak of spring bloom, there is still plenty of interest in June.  Rhododendrons, Mountain Laurel, and Kousa Dogwoods add plenty of late-spring color to the landscape. The annual and perennial plants planted in flower beds throughout … Continue reading


In July, make your way out to Willow Pond for a glimpse of our butterfly garden at its peak. As you walk at to the pond, you’ll notice a number of summer-blooming trees and shrubs adding seasonal interest to the … Continue reading


Late summer blooming ornamentals provide plenty of reasons to visit Mount Auburn, though perhaps the best reason to visit the Cemetery in August is to seek shade beheath the Cemetery’s dense canopy of shade trees.  Maples and oaks are among our shade … Continue reading


As the last of our summer-blooming plants make a showing in September, other plants begin showing the tell-tale signs of autumn’s approach.  Our wildflower meadow, located at  Washington Tower, is now at its peak as we bid farewell to one … Continue reading


By mid-October Mount Auburn’s landscape is awash in color.  As our many deciduous trees and shrubs begin to transform their foliage into jewel-tone shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple, other plants set out their fall fruits and nuts. Here are some … Continue reading


The diversity in Mount Auburn’s collection of trees ensures an prolonged foliage season each fall.  Even in November, there is still plenty of color in the landscape. From our noble oaks displaying autumn color to the fall-blooming witchhzel, there is plenty to see at the Cemetery.  Here are … Continue reading


As our deciduous plants drop their last leaves we welcome the winter season. Now is the time to explore Mount Auburn’s many plants displaying four season interest.  The diversity in our horticultural collections ensure that a visit to Mount Auburn at … Continue reading


Horticulture Highlight: Abies balsamea, balsam fir

November 1, 2023

Balsam (5)

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower 

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see I will comfort you because you smell so sweetly…

                                -e. e. cummings

 Abies balsamea, balsam fir is familiar as the traditional, fragrant, Christmas tree among many people. The human nose can detect thousands of different odors – a whiff of the ocean, freshly cut grass, vanilla, coffee, lilacs, roses, – but many of us experience distinct emotions, reaching back to childhood memories of Christmas when smelling a balsam fir. To quote Helen Keller (1880-1968), “Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.” (more…)

Horticulture Highlight: False-cypress, Chamaecyparis pisifera

Horticulture Highlight: False-cypress, Chamaecyparis pisifera
October 31, 2023

Birds small enough to nest in our young cypress
Are physicians to us
They burst from the tree exactly
Where the mind ends and the eye sees

Donald Revell
Chamaecyparis pisifera

Scientific identification of plants was dramatically changed and formalized by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) when he successfully introduced the concept of binomial classification: each thing would have just two-names in Latin. However, since that historic era in the 1750’s, periodic revisions have occurred, even until today, resulting in accepted botanical changes. One example involves the genus Cupressus, cypress which in Linnaeus’s time included some plants different than today. In the 1840’s,updated analysis created the new genus of Chamaecyparis, False-cypress, from within the latter. Another example of such a change from Linnaeus’ time led to the creation on the genus Tsuga, hemlock from within the then larger genus Pinus, pine.


Horticulture Highlight: Ladies Tresses, Spiranthes sp.

Horticulture Highlight: Ladies Tresses, Spiranthes sp.
October 3, 2023

We highlight the genus Spiranthes, with its common name of Ladies Tresses. This is a genus presently with about 30 worldwide species of terrestrial perennials occurring in North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, north Africa and Australia. These perennial orchids can be and have been perplexing to taxonomists. Their list of common names, each with differing accompanying Latin names include nodding ladies tresses, fragrant ladies tresses, slender ladies tresses, hooded ladies tresses, woodland ladies tresses, marsh ladies tresses, little ladies tresses, grass-leaved ladies tresses, lacelip ladies tresses, long lipped ladies tresses, spring ladies tresses, summer ladies tresses, autumn ladies tresses, reclusive ladies tresses, Appalachian ladies tresses, great plains ladies tresses, Atlantic ladies tresses, Nepalese ladies tresses, etc.

We quote from orchid authority, Robert L. Dressler in his The Orchids: Natural History and Classification, “In our present state of knowledge, no classification can be the final word.

A classification should be viewed both as a hypothesis to be tested with new information and, ideally, as a guide in search for new information…”. One example of this floristic transitoriness comes close to home for us with Spiranthes grayi, Gray’s ladies tresses, named as a species, in the early twentieth-century by Harvard University’s renowned orchid expert, Oakes Ames (1874-1950). He named this to honor the earlier notable Harvard botanist, Asa Gray (1810-1888), namesake of our Asa Gray Garden and buried on Holly Path.  However, with advanced analysis this species status was rescinded, combined within Spiranthes tuberosa as var. grayi.

Taxonomy aside, October is the time to seek out the delicate, fragrant, small flowers of our native and rare Spiranthes odorata, Marsh Ladies Tresses. During this commencement of autumn, asters and goldenrods may attract much more attention throughout our landscape, but we turn to Emily Dickinson to capture the delight of aficionados of these rare and eye-catching plants.

If you were coming in the fall,
I’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.

            -Emily Dickinson

Ladies Tresses, Spiranthes sp.

Spiranthes odorata, Marsh Ladies Tresses are recognizable by their unique vertical rows of tiny flowers (as with many of the differing species within the genus), sometimes braided spirally around their 8-18-inch, unbranched stems. Each flower, slightly curved downward, is about 1/3-inch long, with 3 white petals and 3 white sepals.  The etymology comes from Greek speira meaning spiral or twisted and anthos meaning flower. Odorata of course alludes to fragrance.

Bumblebees, Bombus sp., are the most frequent pollinators of Ladies Tresses.

As the fainting bee,
Reaching late his flower
Round her chamber hums,
Counts his nectars-enters,
And is lost in balms!

            -Emily Dickinson

On an early autumn visit to Mount Auburn look for Spiranthes odorata, Marsh Ladies Tresses, and maybe a few bumblebees, at the Gardner Tomb on Oxalis Path.

Withered orchids scatter the highroad as the officer rides away
Heaven itself will wither in pity

            -Li Ho

I desire that you would remember the ladies,
and be more generous and favorable
to them than your ancestors

            -Abigail Adams

Illustration by Blanche Ames Ames

What’s In Bloom 2023

What’s In Bloom 2023
September 1, 2023

What’s in Bloom: Week of November 6, 2023

Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, Hazel Path

Autumn Joy sedum, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, @ flagpole

Mum, Chrysanthemum sp., several locations

 ‘Knockout rose’, Rosa ‘Radrazz’, Spelman Rd.

Rose, Rosa sp., several locations

Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis, Pine Ave.

Aster, Aster tartaricus, Asa Gray garden

Aster, Aster ageratoides ‘Eso Murasaki’, Asa Gray garden

Snapdragon, Antirrhinum sp., Greenhouse garden

Strawflower, Xerochrysum bracteatum, Greenhouse garden

Cosmos, Cosmos sp., Greenhouse garden

Mexican sunflower, Tithonia sp., Greenhouse garden

Marigold, Tagetes sp., Greenhouse garden

Azalea, Rhododendron ‘Lemon Lights’, Halcyon Ave.

Trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, Azalea Path

Bee blossom, Gaura lindheimeri, Ash Ave.

Search our online plant collections database with Flora Mount Auburn.