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What is an Arboretum?

Before we understand the Arboretum meaning, let’s know about botanical gardens. A botanical garden is described as a “garden with greenhouses for the culture, study, and exhibit of special plants,” according to the dictionary. Plants such as bushes, shrubs, bedding plants, flowers, vegetables, herbs, and trees may be used. Natural environments, fields, beds, walkways, ponds, and in-seating areas are only a few examples of how plants can be arranged and featured. Greenhouses may be used in the greenhouse. They provide opportunities to study rare plants and plants that will not thrive outside of their native climates by allowing them to be grown and displayed in climate-controlled environments.

An arboretum is a botanical garden specialising in trees and other woody plants, although it can also include other types of plants. In simple words,  Arboretum meaning is a “botanical garden containing living collections of woody plants intended at least partly for scientific research, but also to generate interest and enhance knowledge about plants and wooded environments in order to enhance life, preserve nature, and advance sound sustainability practises.”

Even though botanical gardening has a long history, most of our modern botanical gardens have been inspired by gardens found in old European universities and monasteries. Their main aim was to understand and cultivate medicinal plants for use in Europe. Non-medical and ornamental plants were introduced over time. Botanical gardens in the tropics were also established to collect economically important plants (particularly spices), and they, too, gradually expanded their plant collections.

The majority of modern botanical gardens are located in parks and are open to the public. They are concerned with beauty, education, science, and the ability to observe and appreciate nature. Plants that are native to the area and grow in the environment are highlighted. The gardens are maintained by at least one paid specialist and a large number of volunteers. Plant identification stickers, seminars, tours, and/or special activities open to the public are used to achieve educational objectives.

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Egyptian Pharaohs planted and cared for exotic trees, bringing ebony wood from Sudan and pine and cedar from Syria. Hatshepsut's Punt expedition returned with thirty-one live frankincense trees, the roots of which were carefully stored in baskets for the duration of the voyage; this was the first reported attempt to transplant foreign trees. Hatshepsut is said to have planted these trees in the courts of her Deir el Bahri mortuary temple complex.

A large range of trees and shrubs are grown in an arboretum. Individual trees are usually labelled for identification. The trees can also be arranged in a way that facilitates their study or development. Most tree collections have claimed to be the first arboretum; however, in most instances, the term has been applied retrospectively, as it did not become common until the late eighteenth century.

What is an Arboretum and a Park? 

  • Parks are designed specifically for recreation, while arboreta/botanical gardens are primarily focused on Plant Science Research, Education, Conservation, and Horticultural Display.

  • Parks have practical parks and plantings, such as playing fields and picnic groves, as opposed to arboreta/botanical gardens, which have curated named living collections, interpreted exhibits, and controlled habitat areas.

  • Parks are usually financed by taxation, while arboreta/botanical gardens are typically sponsored by donations, memberships, and usage fees from the community.

  • Parks allow sports and dog walking, while arboreta/botanical gardens do not allow sports or pets.

  • Parks tend to be monocultures with little biodiversity (with the exception of managed natural areas), whereas arboreta/botanical gardens are usually high in biodiversity.

Arboreta Study

Arboreta also studies trees and forest health. Arboreta is involved in tree safety. Trees can be harmful because they are part of an ecosystem when their trunks, roots, or branches collapse. Specified researchers investigate why and how trees fail. Their results have the potential to change how we handle trees in collections, city areas, and the wild.

Root biology is an important aspect of tree science. Roots are important for the health and stability of trees because they absorb water and anchor the tree to the ground. Since roots in the midwest climate can grow 18 inches per year, trees must be planted in locations that can support their root structure. Restricted urban conditions can be harmful to tree health. Arboreta can help cities select and manage trees more efficiently by researching their roots. Since roots are underground, discovering their secrets can be tough. Scientists will now see origins in new ways thanks to advances in technology. 

Pests and diseases have the potential to wipe out whole tree populations. Arboretum researchers study, pick, and breed trees that can withstand these threats in response. In 1968, The Morton Arboretum hired George Ware (1924-2010), whose study concentrated on urban tree breeding and improvement. At the time, Dutch elm disease, caused by an Asian fungus, was wreaking havoc on the most widely planted street tree in American cities. Ware recognised the promise of Asian elms and started hybridising and breeding trees resistant to Dutch elm disease and capable of thriving in urban environments.

Arboreta Collaborations

Arboreta contributes to the conservation of tree species by partnering with gardens all over the world on collecting trips and joint projects. Arboreta not only share seeds and living organisms, but they also share science, experience, and skills. The Morton Arboretum, for example, is a founding member of the North America China Plant Exploration Consortium. For over 20 years, Arboretum employees have taken part in collecting trips to China. Formal collaborations around the world help to improve tree conservation efforts in gardens and in the wild, evaluate the genetic diversity of endangered tree species, and create initiatives that promote tree conservation education.

Importance of Arboretums

  • They are great locations for educating the public about how to better use plants in their own landscape.

  • Arboretums play a significant role in the protection of endangered trees and the biodiversity that relies on them.

  • Trees are protected within their boundaries, preserving biological diversity.

  • They have a lovely setting for people to come and enjoy.

  • Arboretums are used by scientists to conduct scientific and educational research on trees.

Arboretums in India - Udhagamandalam, Ooty 

The Ooty Arboretum was established in 1992 with the aim of conserving native and indigenous trees; it spans 1.58 hectares near Ooty Lake. It was established in 1992 and is maintained by the Department of Horticulture with funds from the Hill Area Development Programme. The micro watershed area leading to Ooty lake, where the arboretum is now situated, had been ignored, and the feeder line supplying water to Ooty had been polluted with municipal waste and agricultural chemicals. The area serves as a natural habitat for both native and migratory birds. It was rehabilitated during the 2005-06 year with funds supported by the Hill Area Development Programme, which included permanent fencing, a footpath, and other infrastructure facilities.

Establishing an Arboretum or Botanical Garden

The main aim of building an arboretum is to make it permanent, to provide a permanently dependable source of revenue, and thereby to ensure its utility to the largest number of people. There is no better way to ensure this than to have a substantial endowment at the outset.

Site Selection: Before developing a plan, a site must be chosen, and the size of the area to be built must be calculated in relation to the sources and amount of available funds. If appropriate, the site may be a local beauty spot, a historical site, or an existing part of a park. It will take intelligent discussion and sound advice to settle on the location since the general plan and the arboretum's functions must be addressed at the same time. Alternatives should be planned in case the sum of money initially hoped for does not come in. Accessibility is a critical consideration.

Who Will Plan: Almost any enthusiastic temporary group can be in charge of generating public interest in the new arboretum, but a planning committee in charge of preparing definite plans aligned with a fund-raising campaign should be carefully chosen. A skilled landscape architect; a representative from the park department who is knowledgeable about potential park plans; a banker; an individual knowledgeable about real estate values; prominent nurserymen; and representatives from prominent civic groups who embody the people's desire for an arboretum and willingness to work for one may all be members of the planning committee. A representative from an active arboretum of comparable size to the one under consideration may be called in for a consultation. Large committees move more slowly than small ones, but all interests should be addressed or heard before the actual location is chosen and the proposal is completed.

Initiating Interest and Action: It is easy to suggest the concept of an arboretum in any city that does not have one. Even in purely urban areas, most homeowners are interested in planting their properties to make them as beautiful and pleasant as possible during the year. People in purely urban areas still want to get out into the open for rest and relaxation. As a result, people, in general, are open to the concept and do not begin to "hedge" until the time comes to call for higher taxes or contributions for endowment or annual funding. Many neighbourhood groups are well-equipped to help with an arboretum campaign. Fortunately, the garden club movement is well-established in almost every city. Nature clubs, bird clubs, forestry societies, conservationist organisations, and other organisations should be involved in the idea by definition, and their members provide an excellent foundation for enthusiastic support. Schools, PTAs, Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, women's groups, church groups, and town park departments can all be extensively canvassed and their help enlisted. 

Horticultural experts might give illustrated lectures to demonstrate the various types of plants that could be grown. Landscape architects in the area may have a field day exploring possibilities. Staff from established arboretums may come and demonstrate what has been achieved in other communities, as well as openly explore the possibilities of a local arboretum. Costs should be addressed by committees composed of representatives from different organisations. When public sentiment has sufficiently crystallised, some communities will propose an amount to be used for the development of a specific proposal. This was achieved in Seattle with great success.

What to Plant: It is often debated what constitutes "the best," and who is qualified to judge which is "the best." There are many large collections of woody plants in this country, and efforts are ongoing to compile accurate lists of "the best" ornamentals in each category (genus or species). Such accessible lists may be used to get started.

The Number of Plants: The number of plants chosen at the outset can vary depending on where the arboretum is situated, its size, financial resources, and propagating facilities.

The Amount of Space Needed: This, too, varies according to the arboretum's size, funds available for renovation, and community functions.

Labour: It is the most expensive thing in any park or arboretum. It can be somewhat managed by the amount of grass cutting and leaf raking performed. Once a week, all grass areas in certain parks are systematically cut with a lawn mower. This is a rather costly process. Certain parts of the arboretum or botanical garden are dedicated to the growth of deciduous trees and conifers, so the grass only needs to be cut a few times per season, as long as a few walks are available around these collections. The walks in the shrub collection, which many people frequent during the year, should be closely cut, as should some small areas along the main walks and near main entrance gates. Grass cutting is an essential annual process that must be planned for in order to reduce the risk of burning. Rotary mowers drawn by a tractor are suitable for keeping grass under control at a low cost.


In general, an arboretum is a botanical collection made up entirely of trees. A modern arboretum, on the other hand, is a botanical garden that contains living collections of woody plants and is intended, at least in part, for scientific research. A pinetum is an arboretum that specialises in growing conifers. They are excellent locations for educating the public about how to better use plants in their own landscape. Arboretums play a significant role in the protection of endangered trees and the biodiversity that relies on them.

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FAQs on Arboretum

Q1. What is Arboreta Meaning?

Ans: An arboretum is a piece of land dedicated to the cultivation of trees and shrubs. The term is derived from the Latin words 'arbour' (tree) and 'etum' (group of plants). Many people regard them as tree museums. Trees can be admired by both locals and tourists for their elegance and majesty.

Q2. What is the Difference Between a Park and an Arboretum?

Ans: Parks are primarily intended for leisure, while arboreta/botanical gardens are primarily focused on Plant Science Research, Education, Conservation, and Horticultural Display. Parks are usually financed by taxation, while arboreta/botanical gardens are typically sponsored by donations, memberships, and usage fees from the community.

Q3. What Makes Something an Arboretum?

Ans: An arboretum is a garden that features specimen plantings of trees and shrubs. It is not a woodland, nursery, or park, but rather an outdoor museum of trees. It is a location where several different types of trees are grown for science, education, and ornamental purposes, as well as where trees and shrubs are grown for display.

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