Research, along with horticulture and education, is part of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ three-pronged mission. Since purchasing our initial 128-acre waterfront property in 1996, we have undertaken several long-term research projects that continue to this day. We will undoubtedly be adding new research initiatives both on the original property and on the adjacent 120 acres donated to the Gardens by the Pine Tree Conservation Society in 2005.

Pink Lady’s Slipper Survey: In 1998, highly regarded botanist Dr. Joanne Sharpe initiated a research project in which, each spring, Gardens volunteers recorded information about our population of Pink Lady’s Slippers between the Shoreland Trail and the Birch Allée.  After leading the effort for eleven years, Dr. Sharpe handed over the task of management of the project to our horticulture staff in 2009, but continues with her guidance and assistance.

Each year, staff members and volunteers join forces to count and measure each and every one of these wild orchids within a grid laid out in the primary growth area. Data is compared from year to year to determine what conditions are advantageous, or detrimental, to these lovely plants, thereby adding to the body of research on wildflowers in general, and on Lady’s Slippers in particular. See a PDF of the findings for 2013. full of fascinating information about this effort, provided by Dr. Sharpe and Sharmon Provan, Plants Records Coordinator and Plant Propagator.  

Vernal Pool: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has a fine example of a vernal pool, located roughly across the main drive from the Horticulture Building. In an effort begun in the late 1990s by Jean Howe, volunteers visit this pond each spring to monitor the number of species present, the vegetation, and other factors. They check to see that it contains the frogs and salamanders that are acceptable in a vernal pool, and does not contain other species (fish, for example) that would mean that it doesn’t qualify as such.

Fern Hardiness Study: A small garden of ferns that follows a curve up from the Shoreland Trail is more than just a decorative planting; it was planted as a research project for the Hardy Fern Foundation, a non-profit organization in Washington State. About a dozen satellite sites across the country plant ferns for the HFF to see how they stand up to varied conditions and to judge their ornamental value as garden plants. Gardens volunteer Catharine Guiles initiated the program, and staff member Sharmon Provan continues the effort.

Take a few moments as you walk through the woods to enjoy the array of shapes, sizes, and colors in this collection – and in the Gardens as a whole. Not all specimens make it here, but you may find a surprising new species to add to your own landscape that has proven itself hardy to our Zone 6.