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The 50 Most Beautiful College Arboretums


For many alumni, one of the most lasting impressions of their college experience, embedded deep in their memories with strong images is the trees, bushes, flowers, beautiful buildings, green spaces, the clock tower, and the general landscape of the campus. Many schools have become centers of beauty and enlarged their very educational mission to the community at large, as well as their students, by developing and designing arboretums and botanical gardens. These sanctuaries are conducive to study, contemplation, meditation, and research. Ancient wisdom and modern research confirm a love of nature and spending time in nature as important to emotional, spiritual, social, and physical health. In fact, the founders of modern science sought to uncover the order of nature for man’s good, while also standing in awe of the beauty and immensity of it and unleashed a host of discoveries that have changed the world.

In the midst of our stressed out society, where no one seems to have time for anything, the words of Mother Teresa aptly apply to many of our amazing universities’ arboretums and gardens.  “See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

The following criteria were used to compile our ranking of the most beautiful college arboretums:
• Size of Arboretum
• Size of the collection
• How long the garden has been established
• Opportunities for college students
• Connection with the community

50. Hilltop Arboretum at Louisiana State University

LSU Hilltop arboretum

The origin of the arboretum at LSU traces back to a farmer and his wife in 1929. The Smiths planned a garden to follow the form of a cathedral: “It had a central great hall or nave, and from that – in every direction – ran hallways leading to other rooms and on to others, with niches and passageways of every description. The nave and other rooms were the grassy plots; the walls were trees, shrubs, and bamboo; the pillars were old tree trunks.” Since that humble beginning and soaring vision, the “Hilltop”, as it is known at LSU, now contains 150 species of southern native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers displayed on 14 acres. Currently it functions to educate the community and students through the beauty of nature, cared for by the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture and the Friends of Hilltop.

49. Garden of the Coastal Plain – Georgia Southern University

Garden of the Coastal Plain - Georgia Southern University

Amit Ray wrote that “Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.”  At the Garden of the Coastal Plain, part of Georgia Southern University, this proves true indeed for the public at large as well as students. Walk, look, relax, read, contemplate, draw, and simply enjoy the 11 acres of gorgeous garden. Home to 20 of the state’s protected species and many other trees, shrubs and plants, “The Garden is a research and educational resource for faculty and students and provides undergraduate and graduate programs, projects, and internships as well as continuing education programs of interest to the community.” Not only can visitors enjoy the collection of native azaleas, arboretum, children’s museum, butterflies and hummingbirds in season, and nature in general, there is also living history displays with the Weathervane Barn and Rural Life Exhibit and the Oak Grove One Room Schoolhouse among others.

48. W. J. Beal Botanical Garden – Michigan State University

W. J. Beal Botanical Garden – Michigan State University

The W. J. Beal Botanical Garden is a five-acre botanical garden that serves as an outdoor teaching and research laboratory at Michigan State University. It is the oldest continually maintained university botanical garden in the United State, dating back to 1872 when Professor William James Beal fostered the idea of a garden to be used for educational purposes as part of the Department of Botany. The garden began as a nursery, and was followed by test plots of 140 species of forage grasses and clovers that were planted in part of the garden known as “Sleepy Hollow.” The arboretum on campus was established in 1874, two years after the founding of the garden, and began as two rows of swamp white oaks. Today, the garden displays 1,800 plant taxa, organized in economic, systematic, landscape, and ecological groupings.

47. Marsh Botanical Garden – Yale University


The Marsh Botanical Garden is named after famed paleontologist and dinosaur discoverer Othniel Charles Marsh and was established in 1900. Designed by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand during the 1920’s and 1930’s, it grew slowly. It wasn’t until two professors in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology were appointed as directors, that the gardens, greenhouses, and grounds were restored, developed, and brought back into focus for the university. Currently, there are 2000 species of orchids on eight acres that features botanical gardens, multiple greenhouses, and an arboretum that is a public green space and educational. Marsh Botanical Garden “offers space, supplies and growing expertise to research laboratories from any department at Yale, but [is] principally involved with Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB), Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.” Promoting both research and public greenspace, the gardens have carnivorous plants, desert plants, tropical plants, and an extensive outdoor collection.

46. University of Delaware Botanic Gardens


Beginning in the 1950’s, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) started what has become a vibrant 15 acres with 12 different gardens. Since the Fifties, the gardens have grown and evolved in a name (originally called Clark Gardens), size, scope and mission into the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens, which is now home to over 3000 species of plants. The website mentions that there is a “strong emphasis on Holly, Maple, Magnolia, Oak, and Viburnum.” UDBG functions as a research center, laboratory, and a classroom in which students study in plant biology, botany, plant pathology, landscape design, ornamental horticulture, and entomology by hands-on learning. UDBG offers summer and school-year internships that provide excellent opportunities for students. The public also greatly benefits from the work at UDBG through lectures, tours, and other events.

45. University of South Florida Botanical Gardens

University of South Florida Botanical Gardens

The University of South Florida Botanical Gardens were established in 1969 and primarily served as a teaching and research facility for the biology department. At that time, the Gardens were a little more than a wilderness, with no pine trees, only native oaks. Throughout the years, the Gardens have continued to grow and develop into the picturesque landscape it is today. Attracting more than 35,000 visitors annually, the Gardens consists of 16 acres of more than 3,000 plants. The Gardens provide opportunities for ongoing research in medical botany, service-learning for USF students, as well as a great way for student groups to be involved on campus. In addition to being an important part of campus life, the Gardens also attract plant enthusiasts from outside the student population through plant festivals and other events.

44. Peavy Arboretum – Oregon State University

Peavy Arboretum - Oregon State University

In 1924, the Forest Club at Oregon State University noted the following: “an Arboretum for the School of Forestry – an outdoor laboratory in which experiments with various tree species and silvicultural practices could be conducted and a ‘botanical garden’ of trees – has been long dreamed of and planned for by the faculty and students of the school.” Progress was made during that year, and the Peavy Arboretum was dedicated in 1926, and has since served as a gateway to explore the McDonald Forest and has provided an outdoor teaching lab for generations of students. The history found in the arboretum is rich, with Native American sites, the home of the original Oregon State Forest Nursery, as well as the site of a Civilian Conservation Corp camp from the 1930’s. Forestry is a central part of Oregon’s economy, and the Peavy Arboretum offers a place for education and study of this important natural resource.

43. The Gardens at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

The Gardens at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is a large public university of about 14,000 students. The Gardens at SIUE were established in 1990 as the Donal Myer Arboretum and have developed into its current status, one of three recognized Missouri Botanical Gardens’ Signature Gardens. The Gardens are 35 acres and feature a half-mile walking path, trees, plants, outdoor education, self-guided tours, a butterfly garden, and more. “Environmental sustainability, conservation and stewardship are cornerstones of The Gardens’ vision, providing a unique opportunity to research, implement and demonstrate innovative green technologies.” In addition to being a place of learning for all, the Gardens’ seek to develop even more in the years to come with a Master Plan developed by Terra Design Studios. Overall, the Gardens seek to be a “living laboratory supporting the educational and research opportunities at the University.”

42. Reiman Gardens – Iowa State University


“Educate, enchant, and inspire an appreciation of plants, butterflies, and the beauty of the natural world.” That is the mission of Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens, a 17-acre collection of plants, insects, and architecture that began in 1914. Reiman is a year-round garden with events, programs, lectures, tours and ISU student classes. A quick perusal of the website dedicated to the gardens at ISU demonstrates a passionate commitment to research and learning. According to the website, “Students have participated in many research projects conducted at the Gardens, including the development of captive rearing protocols for butterflies and moths, the study of butterfly development rates, the documentation of host plant preferences, and the control of insect populations using artificial nests.” All in all, ISU’s dedication to nature and its study is impressive and commendable.

41. Kalmia Gardens – Coker College

Kalmia Gardens - Coker College

A former 19th century plantation in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, the breathtaking Kalmia Gardens of Coker College is one of the top botanical gardens on the list. The gardens and Thomas E. Hart House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and boast a wide array of rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, wisteria, tea-olives, dogwood and the Gardens’ namesake, kalmia latifoliate, or the Mountain Laurel. In addition to these fine species, the Garden also includes many exotic ornamentals. From the Hart House and formal gardens there is a 60-ft drop in elevation to the Black Creek floodplain where trails and boardwalks lead through laurel thickets, pine-oak-holly uplands and a beech bluff. The contrast between the formal house and gardens and the cypress swamp below makes for an interesting and enjoyable experience.

40. Stranahan Arboretum – University of Toledo

Stranahan Arboretum - University of Toledo

The University of Toledo’s Stranahan Arboretum is 47 acres of cultivated ornamental trees, rolling lawns, natural woods, ponds, wetlands, and prairie. It is used by the university as an outdoor laboratory for ecology and geology classes; it also serves as one of the Department of Environmental Science’s field sites for environmental education and research. There are current research projects being conducted on how plants can remove toxic waste from the soil, as well as weather stations that are monitoring climate variables. In addition to the research being conducted at the arboretum, it also serves as a place of beauty in nature as visitors and students alike can enjoy the ravine, pond and wetland areas, new and old growth forests, and the cultivated areas.

39. Fullerton Arboretum – California State University Fullerton


In the fall of 1970, students and faculty at what was then Orange State College began to notice an orange grove on campus that was in a serious state of the disease known as Quick Decline. Neglected for years, this disease meant almost certain death for the trees; most of this area was a field of wild mustard, and there was little hope held for saving any of the trees. Banding together in a united effort to salvage some of the citrus trees, the idea of Fullerton Arboretum was born. Unfortunately, the group was more successful in gaining student and community support than it was in saving the trees, but in December of 1977, a groundbreaking ceremony was held, and the Fullerton Arboretum became reality. Today, the Fullerton Arboretum is the largest botanical garden in Orange County, covering 26 lush acres of over 4,000 unique and unusual plant species from around the world.

38. Chatham University Arboretum – Chatham University

Chatham University Arboretum – Chatham University

Chatham University is home to a 32-acre arboretum featuring 115 varieties of species, including Japanese flowering crabapple, river birch, and Kentucky coffeetree. Designed with elements from the original Andrew Mellon estate, this Arboretum provides an outdoor classroom for students in the university’s Landscape Architecture and Landscape Studies programs. Not only are there excellent educational opportunities, but the gorgeous landscape provides a serene atmosphere for tranquil walks and much-needed study breaks. Chatham University is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the campus today is composed of buildings and grounds from a number of former private mansions, including those of Andrew Mellon, Edward Stanton Fickes, George M. Laughlin Jr. and James Rea.

37. Rutgers Gardens – Rutgers University


The mission of Rutgers Gardens is to promote and provide accurate information about the art of horticulture with an emphasis upon the relationship between plants, human health and nutrition in the designed, as well as in the natural, landscape. The collections and garden areas, some of which date back to 1927, feature a diverse variety of plants with origins from all over the world. Students of Rutgers benefit from the many internship opportunities at the Gardens. These include learning various horticultural techniques, teaching children about the environment and plant-people interactions, and developing an understanding of how a public garden serves the community. The Public Garden Management program also offers a three-credit course.

36. University of California Riverside Botanic Gardens

University of California Riverside Botanic Gardens

The University of California Riverside Botanic Gardens are located on 40 acres of rugged, hilly terrain along the eastern boundary of the campus, in the foothills of the Box Springs Mountains. Faced with a unique problem of only receiving an average of 10.67 inches of rain per year, the Gardens need to be under irrigation for most of the year. Scant rainfall does not hinder the UCR Botanic Gardens. They boast an impressive collection of plant life including a rose garden, cactus garden, iris garden, subtropical fruit orchard, and a South African garden to name a few. Visitors will enjoy hiking trails through canyons and foothills while admiring the beautiful flora only California can provide.

35. William F. Curtis Arboretum – Cedar Crest College


In 1915, William F. Curtis purchased the present day site of Cedar Crest College when it was little more than a bare expanse of corn stubble surrounding a single walnut tree. Dr. Curtis was cultivating both students and trees. In fact, he often compared the growth of the college’s trees to the growth of the students, saying they both needed careful cultivation and nurturing. Today, the Arboretum is filled with trees representing most of the continents, a testimony to the world’s biodiversity. The Arboretum provides students with hands-on opportunities to learn about botany, tree identification, and ecology while studying in a beautiful landscape.

34. Earl L. Core Arboretum – West Virginia University

Earl L. Core Arboretum - West Virginia University

The Earl L. Core Arboretum began in 1948 when the University acquired its site. At that time Professor Earl Lemley Core, chairperson of the Biology Department, convinced President Irvin Stewart to set the property aside for the study of biology and botany. It is now a 91-acre arboretum of mostly old-growth trees on a steep hillside along the Monongahela River flood plain. There are over three miles of trails that provide access to the densely wooded areas, as well as three acres of lawn planted with specimen trees. The arboretum is currently managed by the university’s biology department. Interestingly, the arboretum hosts an event to taste pawpaws, the largest fruit native to West Virginia. Pawpaws have a very luscious, tropical flavor that some describe as a combination of banana, mango, pineapple, and strawberry with a smooth, creamy texture. Students and others have the opportunity to taste this unique fruit grown at Core Arboretum.

33. Chadwick Arboretum – Ohio State University


The Chadwick Arboretum is designated as a learning garden, both for students as well as the public. The garden includes 60 acres of cultivated gardens and plant collections, with annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs, the eye-catching landscaped gardens are the focus of urban design and environmental studies. Students from a broad array of majors enjoy the outdoor environment; students may also have the opportunity for an internship at the garden. The Chadwick Arboretum is home to over 1,000 trees representing more than 120 species that grow throughout Ohio, with special collections of Buckeyes, native Ohio trees, conifers, and willows. Interestingly, the garden is home to a pollinator garden in the Prairie Plant Research and Monarch Butterfly Waystation. Pollinator gardens are paradises for native bees as well as butterflies.

32. Davidson College Arboretum


Although the Davidson College Arboretum has only been a national arboretum since 1982, it has been dreamed of and developed for more than 100 years. In 1855, “a few ladies of Davidson College” proposed landscape remodeling to the Board of Trustees, planting the vision of a campus arboretum. Students organized tree plantings, and in 1869, the faculty approached the Board of Trustees once again to “make the campus and its contents represent in time the forest growth of the state, and, if possible, the general botany of the region.” Over the next 100 years, the campus was planted with all sorts of exotic and indigenous plants. Even future president Woodrow Wilson is rumored to have planted a tree during his time as a student. Finally, in 1982, the dream of being a national arboretum was realized, and Davidson College is now recognized as being one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.

31. American University Arboretum and Gardens

American University Arboretum and Gardens

American University was founded in 1893 and serves about 12,000 students. The Arboretum and Gardens consist of ten different gardens located throughout the 84-acre campus. There are over 2500 trees, and the mission is mostly dedicated to serving the local community and visitors to the nation’s capital. The school offers a unique way to tour the gardens by making podcasts available to facilitate knowledge and education in self-guided or group tours. Togetherness is fostered each April, when between 400-500 students, faculty, staff, alumni and neighbors come together to beautify the campus.  Student opportunities consist of the School of International Service helping teach GIS and internships through the University Architect and Facilities Management.

30. University of Kentucky Arboretum


In our technologically advanced age, we often fail to take the time to relax and think. The University of Kentucky, in connection with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) and the support of Friends of the Arboretum, has created a sanctuary of beauty where all who come can breathe, relax, and study. Beginning in 1991, the school continues to develop a place to “showcase Kentucky landscapes and serve as a resource center for environmental and horticultural education, research and conservation.” The Arboretum is 100 acres and contains over 1200 native species of plants, and many different attractions. The Rose Garden contains over 1,500 different cultivars of roses, the Fragrance Garden features plants with noted scents, the Kentucky Children’s Garden is 1.85 acres in which children learn about their relationship with nature, and, perhaps the best-known attraction is the Walk Across Kentucky. The walk contains two miles of paved path that leads the visitor past native trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers from seven physiographic regions of Kentucky.

29. The University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden

The University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Called the “jewel” of the University of Idaho’s campus is the 63-acre Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Containing hundreds of native plants and trees, there is also over 120 dedicated trees and groves, trails, water features, and 27 granite benches for study and contemplation. Trees are featured in the Charles Houston Shattuck Arboretum, started in 1910, and provide education and enjoyment to the community with conifers, ornamental species, pear, cherry, lilac, magnolias, maples and oaks to name a few. Being one of the oldest and mature groves of trees in North America, the Arboretum features stunning trees such as the American beech, English maple, Canadian hemlock an amazing giant sequoia. The Arboretum and Botanical Garden provide a tremendous place for barbecues, weddings, events, lectures and more.

28. Red Butte Garden and Arboretum – University of Utah

Red Butte Garden and Arboretum – University of Utah

“To connect people with plants and the beauty of living landscapes.” This simple yet profound goal is the mission of the Red Butte Garden located in the foothills on the eastern edge of the University of Utah. These 100 acres of hiking trails, plant collections, and display gardens also serve as the official arboretum of the state of Utah and is the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West. From humble beginnings in 1930, when Dr. Walter P. Cottam, chairman of the Botany Department at the University of Utah, began using the campus land for plant research, the Garden slowly grew over the years to the impressive collection it is today. The Garden is renowned for its award-winning gardens and beautiful floral displays, including its springtime display of 450,000 blooming bulbs. It also hosts an outdoor summer concert series and educational programs.

27. Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania

The History of the Morris Arboretum goes back to 1887 and a barren hill called Chestnut Hill. The Morris family, wealthy from the iron industry, began landscaping and cultivating the land that is now home to the gorgeous 92-acre arboretum with over 12,000 labeled plants. The Arboretum conducts four major activities: education, research, outreach, and horticultural display. Morris Arboretum provides research and outreach services to state agencies, community institutions and to citizens. There are ample opportunities for community involvement classes, tours, lectures, and fun activities such as a climb 50 feet up in the treetops called the Out on a Limb canopy walk. For students, there are classes and research opportunities, internships, academic enrichment, not to mention free admission to the garden with student identification for study breaks and relaxation.

26. Sister Mary Grace Burns Arboretum – Georgian Court University

Named after Sister Mary Grace Burns, who was the chairperson of the biology department and professor of biology, the arboretum at Georgian Court University is full of natural beauty. Featuring an Italian Garden, Sunken Garden, Formal Garden, and Japanese Garden, there is no doubt that the Sister Mary Grace Burns Arboretum is one of the most beautiful gardens on the list. The cultivated parts of the arboretum span approximately 100 acres of the campus and feature a large number of exotic plants, as well as a collection of native plants of the New Jersey Pinelands. In addition, there are also several very large, old oak and pine trees, including the largest white oak in Ocean County and a total of 16 trees that are the biggest of their species in Ocean County.

25. University of California Davis Arboretum


Covering more than 100 acres along the banks of the old north channel of Putah Creek in California’s Central Valley, the University of California Davis Arboretum serves as the main source of horticultural information for inland California. The collection includes 22,000 trees and plants adapted to a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers, and cool, wet winters, and temperatures that range from 14 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. UC Davis Arboretum has developed the GATEways Project (Gardens, Arts, and The Environment) as a master planning framework for the Arboretum and Public Garden that envisions the campus landscape as a portal into the campus to welcome visitors and showcase the creative work at UC Davis. A major focus of this project is to link undergraduate learning with community engagement in the Arboretum.

24. Haverford College Arboretum – Haverford College


Haverford College Arboretum is the oldest planned college landscape in the country, marking its 180th anniversary in 2014. Haverford College, founded by Welsh Quakers in 1833, was landscaped by English gardener William Carvill, who sought to transform the college grounds. Trees line the roadways, framing and complementing the open spaces while other trees are planted in circles of five and seven, dotting the rolling landscape. Several of the original oak trees are still standing today. On February 21, 1902, an ice storm nearly wiped out all the Maple Allée along College Lane. This unfortunate event promoted a group of supporters to form the Campus Club. The happy result has been a group dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the College Landscape while maintaining features of Carvill’s gorgeous landscape for students and the community to enjoy.

23. Waddell Barnes Botanical Garden – Middle Georgia State University

Waddell Barnes Botanical Garden

Middle Georgia State University (formerly Macon State University) has about 8000 students. The Waddel Barnes Botanical Garden, named after the late Dr. Waddel Barnes, M.D., is made up of 17 themed gardens on 167 acres. The website notes that the collections include 1,600 trees, 2,500 shrubs, and 12,000 ground cover plants. The themed gardens are grouped into Southern Traditional, Fruit Trees, Shrubs and Vines, Medicinal, Natives, Showy Fruit, Showy Flowers, Fragrant, Wet Environment, Touch & Feel, Fall Colors, European, Asian, Urban Environment, Industry, and Xeriscape. Home to a Cherry Blossom Festival, the public greatly enjoys cherry trees of ten different varieties. There is also Asian Shade Trees, a Conifer Garden, Summer Garden and Winter Garden with Dwarf Fothergilla and Slender Hinoki False Cypress. Overall the focus of WBBG is with the local community, from symposiums to volunteering, to pure leisure and recreation.

22. University of Tennessee Arboretum


Located within the 2,260-acre Oak Ridge Forest in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, are 250 acres that have been identified as an arboretum with a mission of public education and service. The arboretum features interpretive nature trails and ecological points of interest; it is a research and education facility with over 2,500 native and exotic woody plant specimens that represent 800 species, varieties, and cultivars. Over 30,000 visitors annually visit the arboretum, which has been recognized as an official Wildlife Observation Area and is a part of the National Watchable Wildlife Program. The university uses this outdoor classroom to provide experience, learning, and research for students in a variety of fields, establishing the arboretum as an important part of campus life.

21. South Carolina Botanical Garden – Clemson University


The South Carolina Botanical Garden is truly one of South Carolina’s gems. Beginning in 1958 as a camellia preserve has grown to 295 acres of cultivated landscapes and natural woodlands. There is something for everyone at this botanical garden. History lovers will enjoy the Hanover House and Hunt Family Cabin. Art lovers will adore the garden’s collection of nature-based sculptures located throughout the garden as well as the art galleries at the Fran Hanson Discovery Center. Those who love gardening will benefit from the many demonstration gardens and nature trails. This gorgeous botanical garden, designated as the State’s botanical garden in 1992, is open free of charge every day, from dawn until dusk.

20. Salisbury University Arboretum – Salisbury University


Spanning the 150-acre campus of Salisbury University, the Salisbury University Arboretum in an integral part of campus life, and has been national arboretum since 1988. There are over 2,000 plant species, and plants are continuously being added, expanding the collection with indigenous and exotic plants. It is located on the Delmarva Peninsula, an area known as Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which is midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. The climate lends itself to mild temperate zone plants. The Arboretum is also notable for its collection of figurative sculpture. The Salisbury University Arboretum is not only a tranquil natural environment, but it is also a place for the scientific study and public display of various species of woody and herbaceous plants. 

19. Linnaeus Arboretum – Gustavus Adolphus College

Linnaeus Arboretum - Gustavus Adolphus College

The 125-acre Linnaeus Arboretum features acres of prairies, woodlands and ponds for exploration and study, miles of trails for running, walking, biking or skiing, and beautiful gardens and open space for events and gatherings. Established in 1973, and named for 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, the arboretum was designed to represent Minnesota’s three major ecosystems: northern coniferous forest, tallgrass prairie, and deciduous woodland. There are 682 trees in the formal arboretum with much more in the natural areas; 114 different species of trees and shrubs are represented. The arboretum is also home to many animals, over 150 species of birds have been sighted throughout the grounds. Visitors will enjoy more than two miles of marked trails, the Borgeson Cabin, which was built in 1866 by Swedish pioneers, and more than a dozen formal gardens, a waterfall, and a prairie overlook.

18. Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum – University of Michigan

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum - University of Michigan

Holding to the belief that “regular contact with nature is vital to our well-being,” the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two naturally beautiful properties in different locations operating as one unit within the University of Michigan. Through the mission, “caring for nature, enriching life,” the gardens seek to “connect people with nature, help sustain the earth, steward our natural heritage, share knowledge, and promote learning. “ The Nichols Arboretum is located on the University of Michigan’s central campus next to the University Hospital. It is a haven for students, hospital staff, and visitors throughout the year. One of the most notable features of the Nichols Arboretum is the Peony Garden, which boasts over 270 historic cultivated varieties from the 19th and early 20th century.

17. Reynolda Gardens – Wake Forest University

Reynolda Gardens - Wake Forest University

In the early 1900’s, the Reynolda estate gained fruition and was managed by Katharine Smith Reynolds, the wife of Richard Joshua Reynolds. Much of this extensive and beautiful property was dedicated to farming and other commercial enterprises. The Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University were once at the center of the Reynolda estate and include a lake, golf course, formal gardens, greenhouses, and woods. Over the last century, the landscape has evolved, serving as a learning center for horticulture, environmental sciences, and landscape history, but it still retains its former grandeur and beauty while providing endless opportunities to enjoy and learn about nature.

16. Hofstra University Arboretum


Located in Hempstead, New York, Hofstra University is home to a stunning, 240-acre campus that has been designated as an arboretum. There are more than 12,000 evergreen and deciduous trees, representing 625 species and varieties, including both native and exotic trees. In addition to a plethora of magnificent trees, the Hofstra Arboretum is home to a Model Bird Sanctuary and Environmental Studies Center. The entire campus is a bird sanctuary, but this designated two-acre sanctuary has served as an educational prototype for the state of New York. In addition to being a bird sanctuary and arboretum, the campus is also an exhibition space to one of the largest private collections of public art in the New York metropolitan region, showcasing more than 70 works of sculpture including those by major 20th century artists such as Seymour Lipton, Paul Manship, Henry Moore, and Tony Rosenthal. 

15. Chester M. Alter Arboretum – University of Denver

Chester M. Alter Arboretum - University of Denver

The goal of the Chester M. Alter Arboretum of the University of Denver is simple – to delight and instruct. This simple goal began with the creation of the Arboretum in 1999. The Chester M. Alter Arboretum now has about 2,239 trees representing more than 240 species and varieties, as well as dozens of shrub species that provide the landscape with year-round interest. In addition to some historically significant mature trees, the arboretum includes ten state champions. In 2013, the website was launched for the Arboretum and exciting growth continues. The community is encouraged to free guided tours and self-guided tours. The vision of the university is to take sustainability, research, and aesthetics to a new level through their arboretum.

14. Orland E. White Arboretum – University of Virginia

Orland E. White Arboretum

The Orland E. White Arboretum, also known as the State Arboretum of Virginia, occupies 172 acres of the Blandy Experimental Farm. The Arboretum is primarily maintained for environmental research and education. Currently, the university is conducting research involving plant pollination studies, plant-animal interactions, defoliation caused by the destructive gypsy moth, and the effects of inbreeding on plants. The Arboretum provides a plethora of study opportunities, with over 8,000 trees and woody shrubs, representing over 1,000 species; there is also a large collection of boxwood cultivars, said to be the largest in North America, as well a pine collection that represents over half of the world’s species. This vast arboretum is a hub of environmental research in the state of Virginia.

13. Garvan Woodland Gardens – University of Arkansas


Peace. Serenity. Research. Contemplation. Located near Hot Springs National Park, The Garvan Woodland Gardens, part of the University of Arkansas, are 210 acres of stunning natural beauty. Japanese maples, Asiatic gardens, rare trees and shrubs, and over 160 types of azaleas make up this natural cornucopia. Since the Fifties, the gardens have continued to develop and grow in scope and mission, being officially established in 1993. Popular in the community are the monthly “Gardening 101” workshops, the Evan Children’s’ Adventure Center, awesome architectural structures, and the sheer natural beauty spanning about five miles. The connection to the university includes various opportunities for the 26,000 students at the University. From research, symposiums, to participation and responsibility for public service, the gardens are vital. A specific internship program through the Fay Jones School of Architecture and many other opportunities for research in various fields and programs exist for students.

12. Arboretum at Arizona State University


Arizona State University’s Arboretum is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk and free of charge. It contains over 300 species of plants found in the desert and is located throughout the ASU campus. Notably, there are some rare plants such as the Date Palm Germplasm, one of only four in the United States. ASU’s Arboretum was designated as a Tree Campus USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation on November 7, 2008. At ASU, the commitment to sustainability and the care of our earth and resources is enhanced by the Arboretum, and that mission is spread to the community and students. The community is welcome to events, learning projects, and volunteering. For students, the Arboretum offers four internships for course credit through SOLS and Barrett Honors colleges for the fall, spring and summer semester.

11. Fell Arboretum – Illinois State University


“The goal is to provide the university and public with an environment conducive to learning, teaching and demonstrating the importance of trees, woody plants and landscapes of intrinsic beauty.” This mission was born from co-founder of Illinois University, Jesse Fell with the first trees planted in 1868. Now managed by the School of Biological Sciences, the Arboretum helps educate students in biology, botany, horticulture, and agriculture. In combination with other centers at IU, such as the Plant Library Greenhouse and Environmental Outdoor Learning Center, the educational mission is strong. There are now 490 acres with over 4000 trees, representing over 100 varieties at Fell Arboretum. Notably, the commitment to education extends beyond students to the whole community. For example, the curator of the arboretum, Patrick Murphy, promotes knowledge and appreciation of trees and plants through a weekly radio program. With lectures, workshops, volunteering, and many other events Fell Arboretum ranks high on our list.

10. Allegheny Arboretum – Indiana University of Pennsylvania


Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s lush 354-acre campus is home to 1,320 trees in the Allegheny Arboretum. The name for the arboretum was chosen based on the proximity to the Allegheny Mountains and the presence of the Allegheny Broadleaf Forest in the region; the mission of the Arboretum is to, “provide a learning environment that will advance our global understanding of temperate forests, cultivate an aesthetic appreciation for regional flora of the Allegheny Plateau, and demonstrate practical applications of woody plant materials to modify and mitigate local environmental conditions.” This living museum not only provides beauty, but an outdoor classroom where each specimen is carefully labeled, maintained, cataloged, and mapped.

9. University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum

9 University of Wisconsin-Madison

The mission of the University of Wisconsin – Madison Arboretum is to be, “a global source of knowledge of and a model for restoring ecologically sustainable relationships between people and the land through integrative, innovative, and collaborative approaches in science, stewardship, education, and public engagement.” Covering more than 1,200 acres in Madison, plus outlying areas in Wisconsin, the Arboretum manages the oldest restored prairie, along with an extensive collection of restored ecosystems. The UW Arboretum has three distinct garden collections that include Wisconsin’s premier collection of hardy trees, shrubs and vines, as well as a unique native plant garden representing native plant communities of southern Wisconsin.

8. Mizzou Botanic Garden – University of Missouri


The Mizzou Botanic Garden, which was established in 1999, is a living museum of thousands of plants displayed among famous icons, most notably, Jefferson’s original grave marker and the Columns of Academic Hall. There are eleven thematic and seven special collection gardens spread throughout the Mizzou campus. The goal of the garden upon inception was to, “turn our environment into an exceptional and beautiful learning opportunity for our students, faculty, staff and visitors.” This goal has been actualized as the garden is a delight to students, faculty, and visitors, as well as an academic environment for educators, researchers, and students.

7. Crosby Arboretum – Mississippi State University


Located in Picayune, Mississippi, the Crosby Arboretum contains 104 acres in its Native Plant Center, plus over 700 acres in seven additional natural areas, sheltering over 300 species of indigenous trees and shrubs. The Crosby Arboretum is the premier native plant conservatory in the Southeast and is a resource for education in the region and the world. It provides for the protection of the region’s biological diversity as well as a place for the enjoyment of plant species native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin of south-central Mississippi and Louisiana. The Pinecote Pavilion and the Piney Wood Lake are ideal for observing native water plants in their natural setting, in addition to providing walking journeys through 20 acres of biologically-enhanced savanna exhibits, 40 acres of woodland succession, and nearly four acres of created waterways. These features and more make the Crosby Arboretum a small paradise in the Deep South.

6. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum – University of Minnesota


The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum features 1,137 acres of natural areas and public gardens filled with more than 5,000 plant species and varieties. It is one of the premier horticultural field laboratories and public display areas in the country. Visitors will enjoy the acres of gardens and tree collections, prairies, woods, and miles of trails. The garden was born out of the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center and established in 1958. In addition to a smorgasbord of natural wonders, the garden is decorated with sculptures throughout the grounds, as well as in the new Sculpture Garden, donated by Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison.

5. Connecticut College Arboretum


The Connecticut College Arboretum has a rich history and tradition stretching back to its establishment in 1931. Since its beginning the college has been dedicated to the mission of teaching, research, conservation, recreation and public education. The Arboretum now spans 770 acres and is utilized in at least 30 different college courses, part of the school’s mission to create a “living laboratory”. There are three major plant collections: 120 acres of trees and shrubs from around the world, 30 acres of native plants, and three acres of diverse wooded plants in a garden setting. An example of the outstanding connection to learning fostered by the Arboretum is, “the symbiosis of the Environmental Studies Program, the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment and the Arboretum” which “provides an outstanding model of an ethically and environmentally sound community.”

4. Carleton College Cowling Arboretum


The Carleton College Cowling Arboretum, also known as “the Arb,” is used extensively as an outdoor classroom by a number of Carleton courses, especially in Biology and Geology. Students are able to carry out observations and experiments in a natural setting within walking distance of the campus, an invaluable asset for classes with a field component. The Arboretum is divided into the Upper Arboretum south of Highway 19 and the Lower Arboretum, which is north of the highway; “lower” because it contains the low-lying floodplain of the Cannon River. The Upper Arboretum has some trails designated for bike use and generally smaller areas of natural communities. In contrast, the Lower Arboretum has populations of rare plants and animals; therefore the Lower Arboretum has fewer trails, no bike use, and large areas of natural habitat. The Arb consisted of approximately 880 acres of land adjacent to the college and was created under the leadership of President Donald J. Cowling and Professor Harvey E. Stork in the 1920s.

3. Saint John’s Abbey Arboretum – Saint John’s University


Founded in 1856 by Benedictine monks, and located in the transition zone between the prairies to the southwest and hardwoods to the Northeast, Saint John’s Arboretum is home to a variety of plants and animals. Saint John’s Abbey has been, “guided by the Benedictine principles of stability, hospitality, and stewardship. In 1997, this longstanding principle of stewardship led the monks to designate the abbey lands a natural arboretum.” The Arboretum is more than 2,500 acres of lakes, prairie, oak savannah, and forest; the conifers found at Saint John’s were planted in 1896 by the monks, and are part of the oldest pine plantation in the state of Minnesota.

2. Coker Arboretum – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Offering something unique during every season of the year, the Coker Arboretum is at the center of one of the most beautiful university campuses in the nation- the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden, it is one of the Garden’s oldest features. The Arboretum dates back to 1903 when Dr. William Chambers Coker, the university’s first Professor of Botany, began to develop a five-acre boggy pasture into an outdoor classroom. He desired to create a place dedicated to the study of trees, shrubs, and vines native to North Carolina. Over the course of 20 years, he developed the arboretum, adding many East Asian trees and shrubs to the collection. Today, the garden is a flourishing testimony to Dr. Coker’s legacy and vision, displaying a wide variety of plantings including flowering trees and shrubs, along with bulb and perennial displays.

1. F.R. Newman Arboretum – Cornell University


The F.R. Newman Arboretum is filled with panoramic views overlooking the rolling hills and valleys that were carved out by Fall Creek following the retreat of glaciers over 10,000 years ago. Not only is the F. R. Newman Arboretum a beautiful place to enjoy picturesque views, it is a place for the scientific study and public exhibition of a diversity of trees and shrubs. The collection includes nut trees, crabapples, oaks, maples, shrubs, and urban trees that comprise a 100-acre pastoral setting. Specialty gardens in the arboretum include the Zucker Shrub Collection and the Treman Woodland Walk. The Arboretum is part of the larger Cornell Plantations, which boast a mature botanical garden, and a diverse network of nature preserves in addition to the F. R. Newman Arboretum. These exquisite gardens make Cornell one the most beautiful campuses in the nation.