The Ford House

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House tells the story of the home life of a prominent American family.

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Now you see them, now you don't
Posted: March 1, 2013


Vanishing Acts: Trees Under Threat
exhibit inspires people to save endangered trees and shows how trees enrich our lives

With autumn’s arrival, the stunning display of trees on the 87 acres of Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (Ford House) are turning rich colors of red, orange and yellow. But some of these - and other majestic beauties worldwide - are in danger of becoming extinct. To explore the many species of endangered trees that play a vital role in our lives, Ford House presents an outdoor walking trail exhibit entitled Vanishing Acts: Trees Under Threat, which opens Saturday and runs through March 24, 2013.

Visitors are invited take their Ford House journey out onto the peninsula, or “Bird Island,” as it’s known, to discover the 15 compelling tree stories interwoven along the path. Each story reflects the exhibit’s theme of protecting and saving endangered trees so that future generations may experience their numerous benefits.

Worldwide, many species of endangered trees play vital roles in our lives, whether they contain chemicals used for medical and scientific research, materials for manufacturing or food that we eat. At Ford House, the challenges lie in working to maintain the integrity of the historic landscape despite the issues presented with threats to the trees.

The issue of endangered species presents a threat to our environment. The lives of plants and animals, including humans, are intricately intertwined and the loss of a species affects us all,” said Doug Conley, Director of Landscapes at Ford House. “This exhibit helps people understand the threats that result in endangered species around the globe, and how they can help prevent it. These ecological threats exist in our community including the diseases and invasive species such as Dutch Elm Disease, Chestnut Blight and the Emerald Ash Borer that have been responsible for the loss of countless trees in our neighborhoods over the years.”

“The Ford family has always maintained a strong love of nature’s beauty and conservation. And the landscape was an important part of the family’s daily life,” said Kathleen Mullins, president of the Ford House. “Ford House continues that commitment by bringing environmental issues to the forefrontwith initiatives like Vanishing Acts, whichshows just how dire the situation is for trees around the world. We hope it will encourage our visitors to take action to ensure these species are around for future generations to enjoy.”

The exhibit demonstrates how each species in an ecosystem plays an important role, and how losing one species of tree can have a dramatic effect. Maintaining diversity in an ecosystem can help it remain healthy and respond to environmental changes more effectively.

Here are a few examples of endangered trees and their benefits:

Pacific Yew. Thousands of people are alive today because of a chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, which originally from a chemical in the Pacific Yew. It is used for breast, ovarian and lung cancer treatment.

Wild Apple. The Wild Apple is the primary ancestor of domesticated apples. Wild apple is more genetically diverse than the ones we eat, which are primarily cloned by grafting and tissue culture. The wild apple can be used to breed apples that are more disease-resistant.

Pau Brasil. Fibers from Pau Brasil are required for making performance-quality stringed instrument bows. The extinction of Pau Brasil could threaten the world’s great music.

More than 10 percent of the world’s tree species are threatened with extinction. Vanishing Acts calls attention to the many threats facing trees today and the complex circumstances in which immediate human needs compete with long-term sustainability.

Vanishing Acts will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 6, 2012 through March 23, 2013. Access to the exhibit is included with general admission to Ford House and is free to members. The exhibit is sponsored locally by the professional members of the Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association who encourage you to Plant Michigan Green! Visit to learn how.


The Morton Arboretum developed and produced the exhibit in association with the Global Trees Campaign, a partnership between Fauna and Flora International and Botanic Gardens Conservation International. The Global Trees Campaign focuses on building awareness, support, and conservation efforts to save the world’s most endangered trees from extinction. The Morton Arboretum, a world-renowned leader in tree science and education, is a 1,700-acre outdoor museum outside of Chicago, IL, featuring magnificent collections of 4,117 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world.  

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