In every season at the Arnold Arboretum (Arnold), there are activities, programs and breathtaking beauty throughout all the acres of woods. The oldest public arboretum in North America and one of the world’s leading centers for the study of plants, Arnold is a seriously treasured landscape on the outskirts of bustling Boston. Administered by the Provost of Harvard, many programs incorporate the University and its students and teachers. The Arnold Arboretum is a key link in the Emerald Necklace, a 7-mile-long network of parks and parkways. Its living collection at Arnold comprises a whopping 15,273 individual plants from nearly 4,000 taxa!
Education at Arnold happens all throughout the year and you wouldn’t believe the cool programs that are available to the over 400,000 visitors who frequent Arnold every year. Adult education begins with one-day sessions on horticulture, plus botany and landscape-related courses for the beginner, amateur, or professional. You can even take multisession courses for credit! Adults will enjoy a huge variety of courses based on the month, varying from Botanical Rendering and Landscape Photography to Botany 101 and Landscape Lighting.
Paid internships at Arnold combine practical training with educational courses and offer the opportunity to work with a real, historic landscape and a world-renowned scientific collection of trees and shrubs. Interns participate in instructional sessions and field trips in order to develop a wider sense of the Arboretum’s horticultural practices. The biggest courses of study for Arnold interns are Grounds Maintenance and Greenhouses.
The Family Education programs at Arnold are so much fun and are really popular with the locals. Enjoy family scavenger hunts, science investigations, craft activities, stories, guided walks, and more on the last Saturday of the month, every month, no matter the season.
The Children’s Education Programs at Arnold are heralded as some of the best in the country and garner thousands of teacher and schoolchildren visits each year. Children mostly attend nature programs with a keen focus on plant science. There are four distinct areas of deeper focus and education for schoolchildren: Field Study Experiences, Hemlock Hill, which was created to address fifth grade science standards in the Boston Public Schools, Head Start and the Agassiz Initiative, which focuses resources on improving science education at nearby Agassiz Elementary, an underperforming Boston School.
Finally, the Landscape Institute (LI), which is run by Boston Architectural College, is another way for people interested in design to learn. LI offers professional education in landscape design, landscape history, and landscape preservation for students who want to carry out research; pursue a career in private practice, public agencies, or historic preservation; perform community service; or simply develop a new awareness of the landscape.
So if you’re headed to Boston or on a road trip through Massachusetts, be sure you check out the famous Emerald Necklace and its pendant, the Arnold Arboretum. Take a class or two or simply stroll through the forests based on the Top Ten Forests and Collections at Arnold* list here.
1. The Plant Collection
Taken together, the plant collection, with over 15,000 different individuals, is considered to be one of the largest and best documented woody plant collections in all of North America and the world. Magnificent, many of these accessions or their lineages are of historical importance and botanical relevance.
2. Centenarians Walking Tour
Explore over a dozen of Arnold’s more than 700 trees and shrubs that are 100+ years old. A popular tour with even locals, the Centenarians tour is a glorious spectacle featuring many spectacular different species of ancient trees.
3. Explorers Garden
The new moniker for the “Chinese Path,” the Explorers Garden features important plants from China, Asia and North America. There’s something to be said about the name as well as it’s often confused locals and even botanists and horticulturists. The name implies what’s in the collection: it’s essentially a gallery of legacy trees, including historic specimens collected in China like the dove tree and the Paperbark Maple as well as rare North American species such as the Florida Yew. Although the name has been in use for decades, both “Chinese” and “Path” are misnomers. The oldest documented Franklinia alatamaha, the southeastern native tree (now extinct in the wild) discovered in 1765 and named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, is a perfect example of the confusion inherent in using “Chinese” in the name. Likewise, the term “Path” minimizes the significance of the collection’s species. “The name, ‘Explorers Garden,’ calls forth the true spirit of a remarkable gathering of plants,” said Richard Schulhof, deputy director, “and evokes the rich tradition of exploration and research that continues to this day at the Arboretum.”
4. Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection
The history of these majestic plants goes back to the Tbkugawa Period in Japan some 400 years ago! The dwarf trees that make up the Larz Anderson Collection were imported into the United States by the Honorable Larz Anderson in 1913, upon his return from serving as ambassador to Japan. While these plants are not the oldest bonsai in the United States, they have probably been under cultivation in North America longer than any other bonsai alive today! A truly amazing sight, ultimately, the Japanese Bonsai variety at Arnold idealizes the Japanese Bonsai tradition: which uses nature to achieve the philosophical goals of truth and beauty.
5. Meadow Road Trail
This trail takes you through an amazing eight different collections of resplendent trees! Enjoy the Tulip Trees, the weeping yet stunning Willows collections, the Magnolias, Dawn Redwoods and so many more! This is one photogenic sight you must not miss!
6. Dove Trees Collection
Resting in the Explorers Garden, the Dove Trees collection is the oldest in the entire country. The famed Dove Tree is “initially peculiar to the palate” yet fascinating it its beauty. Close examination reveals inflorescences of exquisite complexity; uneven pairs of improbable greenish-white bracts (“doves”) hang dramatically from maltball-sized globes of a wonderful chocolate brown! The Dove Tree has rendered speechless many a flora and fauna lover for decades now!
7. Juniper Collection
Fresh, fragrant and flowing like silk water, the Juniper Trees collection at Arnold is quite a sight. Next to the Conifers Collection, these Junipers are supremely photogenic and inspiring in their own way! Don’t miss snowshoeing through the Collection in February every year!
8. Tree Basics Program
This interactive program teaches people of any age and hobby to explore the basic function and structure of trees. An online exhibit, one doesn’t need to be at Arnold to see this; simply pull up the Arnold website at home or work and click on it to launch!
9. Conifer Path
Displaying Pines, Spruces, Firs and Larches, the Conifer Path lies along the southwestern lawn of Arnold, and is brilliant in its own unique way. Enjoy fresh breezes through the nearby Junipers and don’t miss out on Winter Snowshoeing activities here! See Atlas Cedar, Spanish Fir, Tazaotan Fir, and Moroccan Alpine Flora.
10. Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden
Since its dedication in 2002, the M. Victor and Frances Leventritt Garden has gained recognition as a unique collection and a highly popular visitor destination. One of the most significant additions to the Arboretum since its founding in 1872, the Leventritt Garden’s terraced beds feature a diverse array of sun-loving ornamental shrubs and vines. Plants selected for the Leventritt include interpreted specimens that exemplify Arboretum research and history, outstanding species and cultivars for southern New England Gardens, and wild-collected accessions from the core collections. The four-acre site features include linear planting beds, terrace walls constructed of New England fieldstone, an open-air pavilion, bonsai house and collection of dwarf conifers.
*Based on visitor reviews, tourist information, travel site data, blogs and more.
Boston, MA 02130