Located in Champaign, Illinois, the University of Illinois Arboretum is a living laboratory and public garden campus that offers a large plant collection and a number of research and public service programmings for the community. The original site for a planned arboretum facility on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus was integrated as part of the university’s campus master plan in 1867 and constructed in 1893 on the site of what is now the College of Engineering building.


Though the university maintained a small arboretum facility throughout the 20th century, featuring a rock garden and lily pond, the full design for the planned arboretum was not developed until the implementation of a new campus master plan in 1980. In 1990, the plan for a 160-acre fully-developed arboretum near Florida and Lincoln Avenues was approved by the campus, and in 1991, funds for the development of the first garden were donated by Miles C. Hartley. The first garden of the new arboretum, the Miles C. Hartley Garden, was dedicated and opened to the public in 1994, and in subsequent years, the arboretum was designated as a campus-wide collaborative project. Throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, funding was received from a number of private donors for additional garden facilities.

Gardens and Attractions

Today, the University of Illinois Arboretum spans more than 57 acres on the university’s campus, offering a variety of public garden and living laboratory spaces for recreation, research, and university and community programming. As of 2018, the full 160-acre arboretum site, which is bordered by Florida and Lincoln Avenues, Windsor Road, and Orchard Downs, is still in development, with additional gardens and facilities added on a continuing basis. Plant collections within the garden facilities support teaching and research for a number of university departments and are labeled with information for community citizens to learn about native and non-native plant life.

Gardens at the facility include the Noel Welcome Garden, which was presented as a gift to the university by Richard and Rosann Noel. As an entrance to the arboretum facility, the welcome garden serves as a community gathering space, offering public benches, trellises, and sheltering foliage such as crabapple trees. The facility’s current centerpiece garden is the Miles C. Hartley Selections Garden, made possible by donations from the family and estate of former faculty member Miles C. Hartley. The garden serves as a showcase of winning specimens of native and non-native annuals, trees, and shrubs, including former All-America Selections and Fleuroselect award winners. Sunken garden spaces, pathways, and lathe houses within the garden provide a popular scenic setting for weddings, community gatherings, and other public and private special events.

The facility’s Ponds garden, originally developed in 1997, showcases a variety of native upland prairie and submergent wetland species, including more than 26,000 plantings of grasses, forbs, sedge, and rushes common to wetland ecosystems. Notable wetland plantings include monkey flowers, bulrush, American lotuses, water lilies, while notable prairie species showcased include purple coneflowers, smooth and New England asters, autumn sneezeweed, and sweet black-eyed Susans. A variety of wildlife also call the ponds home, including Canadian geese, turtles, frogs, koi, and a large number of species of birds. The Dr. Frank W. Kari Walkway, dedicated in 2012 in honor of the former Division of Nutritional Sciences faculty member, extends off of the ponds area, offering a ?-mile loop route and showcasing plants and trees native to the Illinois region.

The arboretum’s Sen Cherry Tree Allée, created as a joint vision between donor Genshitshu Sen and university faculty member Kimiko Guni, adjoins the Japan House tea room and Japanese studies facility, showcasing a variety of traditional Japanese cherry trees planted to reflect the teachings of the Urasenke Tradition of Chado. All trees are planted in arrangements to reflect the unique personality of each life form, according to Japanese tradition.Nearby, the arboretum’s Oak Grove serves as a popular wedding rental venue, offering a shaded canopy area and benches for relaxation. The American Hosta Society National Display Garden contains more than 100 registered hosta cultivars alongside a variety of native and non-native companion plants. A Master Gardener’s Idea Garden, developed in collaboration with the Master Gardeners of the Champaign County Extension Unit, also offers a variety of home gardening ideas and a children’s play area to introduce natural literacy concepts.

Ongoing Programs and Education

As an educational facility within the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, the arboretum is used as a living laboratory, hosting a variety of research projects connected to natural sciences departments within the university. Hands-on experiences with natural resources and horticulture are offered at the facility for university students and faculty members. A variety of community educational courses are also offered, including courses dedicated to native species, prairie species, and chainsaw training. The facility also serves as an event venue for university, community, and private special events, including use of the facility’s cross-country track for area 5K/10K runs and track meets. Several of the facility’s gardens may be rented for private special events, including weddings, reunions, and corporate events.

2001 S Lincoln Ave, Urbana, IL 61802, Phone: 217-333-7579

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