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AGRICULTURE REPORT – March 26, 2002: National Arboretum Anniversary - 2002-03-22

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Many people who come to Washington, D-C, act surprised when they first visit the United States National Arboretum. The National Arboretum is only a short drive from the center of the city. However, visitors to the Arboretum often feel like they are far from the busy American capital.

The National Arboretum covers one-hundred-eighty hectares of green space in the northeast part of Washington. The area is famous for its beautiful flowers, tall trees and other plants.

An arboretum is a place where trees and plants are grown for scientific and educational purposes. The National Arboretum was established by an act of Congress in Nineteen-Twenty-Seven. Today, the United States Department of Agriculture operates the Arboretum.

The goal of the Arboretum is to carry out studies and provide education in an effort to improve the environment. The goal includes protecting trees, flowers and other plants and showing them to the public.

The National Arboretum is a popular stop for visitors to Washington. About six-hundred-thousand people visit the Arboretum each year. It also has become famous through cooperative programs with many countries, including Austria, Japan and Russia.

Recently, the Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, opened a year-long celebration in honor of the National Arboretum’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Mizz Veneman praised the Arboretum as a national treasure.

As part of the celebration, Mizz Veneman assisted in the planting of a tree near the United States Capitol building. The tree -- a Sun Valley red maple -- is one of the many award-winning plants developed by Arboretum scientists.

The Sun Valley red maple was developed as part of a project to study the genetic qualities of leaf color and insect resistance. The tree produces leaves that remain bright red late into autumn. It was tested in the state of Maryland. The Sun Valley maple kept its colorful leaves for about two weeks before they fell to the ground. The tree also resisted the potato leafhopper, an insect that feeds on the leaves of trees.

American Agriculture Department officials say they expect the Sun Valley red maple will be ready for sale to the general public next year.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.