By Kayla Wanous

Each intern in the Nature Academy internship program at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum chooses a summer project to research and report on. The project culminates in a poster displayed in Matthaei’s public indoor spaces. Interns also write a blog post about their project concept or the research they’ve conducted.

Location of Brant collection near Willow Pond Island at Matthaei.

Map of Matthaei Botanical Gardens with location of Arthur M. Brant Collection.

Arthur M. Brant was an influential member of the Ann Arbor and Detroit-area Native American community and a leader in the Native American student community at the University of Michigan. Members of these communities wanted to commemorate his work in a way that represented an aspect of their culture. That desire led to the planting, at the botanical gardens, of a collection of edible fruit trees and shrubs important to Native American culture. The original collection was located on the Campus Farm and was later moved to a plot near the Willow Pond bridge, as seen on the map.

Currently there is no signage on the trails to educate the public on what the plants are and why they are there. Matthaei-Nichols staff are working with members of the Native American community to create signs that depict the importance of each plant to their community as well as general information about the plant. The purpose of my project was to gather information for temporary signs that give a brief description of each species, increasing public awareness of the collection until the final signs are ready for installation.


List of plants-Brant collection


The information I gathered includes the bloom time and bloom color, when the fruit is ripe, color of the ripe fruit, and what the fruit is used for. While researching information on these plants I learned many interesting things. Native vs. non-native plants: for example, while most of the plants in the collection are native to North America, the apricot (Prunus armeniaca) and sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) are not. Even as the origins of these species remain uncertain, they became integrated into Native American culture after they arrived here. Below, I have highlighted a few of the plants and included some images.

Ribes missouriense (Missouri gooseberry)

  • Blooms from April to May.
  • Bloom color is greenish-white.
  • Fruit is purple and ripens starting in early July.
  • It can be eaten fresh or used in pies and jams.

Ribes missouriense (Missouri gooseberry).
Photo by Anton Reznicek-University of Michigan Herbarium.

Ribes americanum (‘Riverview’ American black currant)

  • Blooms from May to June.
  • Bloom color is pale yellow to greenish white.
  • Fruit is a purplish-black and ripens in July.
  • It can be eaten fresh or used in pies and jams.
Ribes-americanum_RW Smith-UM Herbarium

RIbes americanum (American black currant).
Photo by R.W. Smith-University of Michigan Herbarium.

Prunus nigra-UM Herbarium

Prunus nigra (Canada plum) flowers.
Photo University of Michigan Herbarium.

Prunus nigra (‘Bounty’ Canada plum)

  • Blooms from April to May.
  • Bloom color is white.
  • Fruit is a reddish-purple and ripen mid-August to early September.
  • It can be eaten fresh or made into pies, jams, and many other dishes.

Kayla Wanous, from Midland, Michigan, was a horticulture intern at Matthaei-Nichols. She graduated in May 2018 from the University of Michigan with a degree in Program in the Environment. She is interested in horticulture, sustainable food systems, and in learning new skills and knowledge through working with the staff and volunteers at Matthaei-Nichols. Her internship was made possible by gifts from the Norman family for the care, maintenance, and study of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens outdoor plant collection.

Kayla Wanous