What’s in an Arboretum?
Arborist News - June 2019
By Sue Paist and Christopher Luley
What IS an Arboretum and Why You Need to Know
An arboretum is a botanical garden specializing in trees or woody plants. Arboreta across the globe conduct scientific research and conservation, engage in public outreach and education, and manage beautiful and diverse tree collections. Arborists have the connections and expertise to greatly impact the establishment and professionalism of arboreta. To advance the planting and conservation of trees, arborists can collaborate with existing or potential arboreta or even start one of their own.
Arboreta can be found in all shapes and sizes and can be traditional and nontraditional. A traditional arboretum is one whose primary purpose is to be a tree-focused public botanic garden. Examples of traditional arboreta include The Morris Arboretum, U.S.A.; Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, UK (Figure 1); and Arboretum Wespelaar, Belgium. Non-traditional arboreta are part of organizations or institutions whose primary purpose is other than existing solely as an arboretum, but their site includes an arboretum. Examples of nontraditional arboreta include municipal tree collections or parks, school campuses (Figure 2), cemeteries, zoos (Figure 3), and historical properties or estates.
The Value of Arboreta to Communities
Arboreta are outdoor classrooms, living laboratories, and inspiration for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. They provide greenspace for communities in which people can relax and recharge. Numerous scientific studies show that trees have a strong positive impact on visitor mental and physical health. Arboreta improve quality of life for the community and provide opportunities for learning about the natural world (Figure 4).
Not only are arboreta beautiful, but they promote awareness and conservation of trees to the public. Many arboreta engage in community outreach initiatives, beautification efforts, and educational activities. Horticultural and scientific knowledge combined with extensive public outreach make arboreta valuable potential partners to members of the arboriculture industry.
ArbNet: The Interactive Community of Arboreta
ArbNet is an international network of arboreta and treefocused professionals. This interactive community supports information exchange and collaboration. ArbNet fosters the establishment and professionalism of arboreta; identifies arboreta capable of participating or collaborating in certain scientific, collection, or conservation programs; and advances the planting and conservation of trees.
ArbNet was established on Arbor Day, April 29, 2011, by The Morton Arboretum in partnership with the American Public Gardens Association and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). In its first eight years, ArbNet has built capacity for smaller gardens and nontraditional arboreta, like cemeteries, municipalities, and retirement communities, through programs like a Capacity Building Grant, the BGCI/ArbNet Partnership Program, and a portal of online resources. ArbNet also administers an arboretum accreditation program, which recognizes four different levels of professionalism and capacity in tree-focused gardens. ArbNet is the only international professional network and accreditation program specific to arboreta. The strength of the ArbNet network is its diversity—from major world-renowned arboreta (Figure 5), to smaller, lesser known but growing gardens. These arboreta provide guidelines, models, expertise, and inspiration for others so that the entire network can build capacity, collaboration, and best practices for tree-focused gardens around the world. ArbNet’s growing community of nontraditional arboreta is reaching new audiences that traditional arboreta wouldn’t readily access, broadening public awareness of the importance of trees.