Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: II A-11

Stephen Alan Spongberg (1942-), papers 1970-1998.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of eleven boxes that contain papers related to Stephen Spongberg's botanical explorations, his published material, and his active role in Arnold Arboretum administration. Included are pre-publication materials from A Reunion of Trees,extensive notes and correspondence related to his participation on the Japan and Korea and Sino-American Botanical Expeditions, and administrative papers relating to his role as editor of the Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. His extensive correspondence with other professionals in the field of botanical and horticultural taxonomy are also included.

This collection is arranged into 10 series:

Series I: Biographical Material (Box 1, Box 1a)

Series II: "A Reunion of Trees" (Box 2)

Series III: Manuscripts (Box 3)

Series IV: Reprints (Box 3)

Series V: Botanical Illustrations (Box 3)

Series VI: Poisonous plants (Box 4)

Series VII: Journal of the Arnold Arboretum (Box 5)

Series VIII: Plant Exploration and Travel Sino-American Botanical Expedition (Box 6) ; Japan and Korea (Box 7)

Series IX: Committees and Administration (Box 8) ; Sub-series, Living Collections (Box 9)

Series X: Correspondence A-Q (Box 10) ; Correspondence R-Z (Box 11)


  • (1970-1998)

Conditions Governing Access

Researchers seeking to examine archival materials are strongly encouraged to make an appointment. The Director, or an office of origin, may place restrictions on the use of some or all of its records. The extent and length of the restriction will be determined by the Director, office of origin, and the Archivist and will be enforced equally for all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright is held by The President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Arnold Arboretum Archives of Harvard University. The copyright on some materials in the collection may be held by the original author or the author's heirs or assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining written permission from the holder(s) of copyright and the Arnold Arboretum Archives prior to publishing any quotations or images from materials in this collection.

Photocopies may be made at the discretion of the Arnold Arboretum Archives staff. Permission to make photocopies does not constitute permission to reproduce or publish materials outside the bounds of the fair use guidelines.


11 linear feet

Biographical / Historical

Stephen Alan Spongberg was born October 15, 1942 in Rockford, Illinois. He received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1971. As a postdoctoral graduate, Dr. Spongberg began his career at the Arnold Arboretum in 1970 as assistant curator devoted to the Generic Flora of the Southeastern United States Project. In 1976, he continued his work at the Arboretum and was appointed horticultural taxonomist. In 1979, he also undertook the editorship of the Journal of the Arnold Arboretum, now published as part of the Harvard Papers in Botany, a position he held for 12 years. Recognized for his Asian plant explorations, Dr. Spongberg participated in the Arnold Arboretum expedition to Japan and Korea in 1977. Between August and November of 1980, he took part in the Sino-American Botanical Expedition to Western Hubei Province, in the People's Republic of China. The Sino-American Botanical Expedition (SABE) marked the first cooperative venture between Chinese and American scientists.

In 1990, Dr. Spongberg published A Reunion of Trees, which was one of over 40 publications he produced between the years of 1972 and 1996. A Reunion of Trees provided a comprehensive history of the global search for new botanical species as well as the Arnold Arboretum's role in prominent discoveries of botanical resources in Asia. Recognized as one of the world’s leading horticulturists and scholars of north temperate zone woody plants, Dr. Spongberg specializes in taxonomic studies of the genera Magnolia, Stewartia, and Sorbus. He continues to publish his research and currently sits on the editorial boards of the Harvard Papers in Botany, Arnoldia and the Plantsman.

In addition to his work for the Arnold Arboretum, Dr. Spongberg served as a consultant for the World Health Organization and is active in a variety of professional organizations, including the Botanical Society of America, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Royal Horticultural Society, and Sigma XI. In 1997, Dr. Spongberg was honored by the Royal Horticultural Society with the prestigious Gold Veitch Memorial Medal for his contributions to horticulture. In 1998, Dr. Spongberg retired from the Arboretum and was appointed Curator Emeritus in recognition of his service.

Following his retirement, at the age of 55, Dr. Spongberg became the director of the Polly Hill Arboretum on Martha's Vineyard.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Stephen Alan Spongberg's papers were transferred to the Archives upon his departure from the Arboretum in 1998. The papers were received in a mixed order, they were then processed and ordered chronologically where necessary. Most of the folder titles are the original titles that Dr. Spongberg used. The HOLLIS # for this collection is 009147442 and the file name is ajp00036.

Processing Information

Processed by: Joseph Melanson

January, 2002

Stephen Alan Spongberg (1942-), papers 1970-1998.
Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Arnold Arboretum Archives Repository

The Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library is a specialized collection devoted to the study of temperate woody plants. We collect works on botany, horticulture, floras, urban forestry and taxonomy. The library contains more than 25,000 volumes and 40,000 photographs, and includes an archive that both documents the Arboretum's history and is a repository for 19th, 20th, and 21st century horticultural and botanical collections.

125 Arborway
Jamaica Plain MA 02130 USA