If you’ve walked through the southeast corner of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus (in Bethesda, MD) in springtime, you’ve seen them. They look like vast umbrellas covered with pink snowballs but they’re actually Japanese flowering crabapple trees or Malus floribunda. The broad, graceful plants bracket the two NLM buildings, 38 and 38A, and are as much a National Library of Medicine trademark as the funky geometric roof. Sadly, they’re not in good health and will soon have to be replaced.
“The flowering crabapples are about 50 years old and that’s about 10 years past their prime,” explained Lynn Mueller, head of Grounds Maintenance at the NIH Office of Research Facilities. “Some are leaning over as a result of root failure. Like all living things, these beautiful trees have a natural life span and they’ve come to the end of it.”
“To be honest, it will take about ten years to regain that distinctive umbrella form,” Mr. Mueller pointed out. “But, in the meantime, the small trees will bloom and grow, and we’ll immediately begin to prune them into that distinctive umbrella shape.”