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Morris Arboretum's New Swans

May 1, 2012, Volume 58, No. 32

SwansThis spring, the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania was delighted to welcome two new family members: a pair of female mute swans. The one-year-old swans, who are sisters, have been named Flora and Fauna. They are a gift to the Arboretum from Nicholas and Athena Karabots.  The Arboretum had a “Name Our New Swans Contest” to name the swans, which attracted more than 400 names. The winner was Stephanie Cohen, a horticulturalist who lectures frequently and is affiliated with Temple University, Ambler campus.

Swans have long played a role in the Arboretum’s history.  The Swan Pond, a beloved Arboretum feature, was built in 1905 by damming the East Brook, which naturally flows through that area of the garden. The inspiration for the Swan Pond and the Love Temple likely came from the popular 18th century landscape design style of the English romantic landscape, which often included a classical temple reflected at water’s edge. Sculpted of white marble, the Love Temple was modeled after the plans of Vitruvius, an Augustan student of architecture. Records from that time period indicate that the Morrises owned a pair of swans as early as 1909, whom they named Elsa and Lohengrin. No fence was built around the pond to contain them; however, in 1920, plans were drawn up to enclose the pond with fencing, and evidence of an enclosure appears in photos from the early 1930s. 

The pond required sediment removal over the years, and after being dredged in 1982, the city of Ottawa presented the Arboretum with a gift of two swans named Ariel and Titania, in honor of Philadelphia’s Tricentennial (Almanac October 26, 1982).

In 2005, the pond’s 100th anniversary, the area underwent a major restoration with the help of a gift from the Asplundh Foundation. Renovations included the installation of a new fence, repairs to the masonry, and the installation of a new viewing area. The simple design of the fence provides unobstructed views of the area, ensuring the safety of visitors and the swans, while also providing unique protection from storm damage. The project was finished with the help of the Arboretum’s horticulture volunteers who added new plants to the area, including irises, azaleas and yews, as well as other plants with winter interest.

The last swans to inhabit the Swan Pond were Bonnie and Clyde. The Arboretum has not had any swans since they died over a year ago. There have never been more than two swans there at a time.
The Morris Arboretum is grateful to the Karabots for this gift that has brought new life back to the Swan Pond. The Arboretum is also working with Weaver’s Way Co-op, who will be generously donating fresh greens—primarily lettuces, to regularly supplement the swans’ diet. The swans are certain to provide years of enjoyment and delight to Arboretum visitors of all ages.

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is a 92-acre horticulture display garden featuring a spectacular collection of mature trees in a beautiful and colorful landscape. Highlights include a formal rose garden, historic water features, a glass fernery, and Out on a Limb, a permanent, nationally award-winning exhibit 50 feet above the ground.  Morris Arboretum’s new Horticulture Center has received Platinum Level LEED® Certification, the highest sustainability rating of the US Green Building Council (Almanac January 31, 2012). For more information, visit: www.morrisarboretum.org


Almanac - May 1, 2012, Volume 58, No. 32