Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 2011

The 92-acre arboretum was established in 1932 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. My strongest impression in visiting is of a pastoral English landscape. The rolling, green hills and majestic trees remind me somehow of a Constable painting, which is high praise.

pastoral landscape

The many stone bridges, stairways and structures add to the pastoral feel.

Stone Stairway

The naturalistic landscape is grand, but the Morris Arboretum is much more than that. One of the newer exhibits is a canopy walk called “Out on a Limb” that gives visitors a totally different view of the landscape, from a walkway high above the ground. This modern metal structure has a totally different feel than the rest of the arboretum, but is a marvelous experience all its own.

canopy walk

Sculptures are scattered throughout the landscape. Some are whimsical, some are majestic but all are a wonderful counterpoint to the sculptural nature of the trees. They highlight the plants rather than detract from them.


One of my favorite exhibits is about tree roots. An interpretive sign talks about the structure and importance of roots, while painting on the road surface depicts the actual distribution of roots for a tree. I’ve never seen an exhibit that gives a better feel for what tree roots are really doing.

root signage painting of roots

The Fernery is a beautiful Victorian looking greenhouse, and there are a number of beautiful fountains.

fern greenhouse fountain

There is also a spectacular plant collection that features more than 13,000 plants representing more than 2,500 taxa from North America, Asia and Europe. Three of the arboretum’s collections (maples, firs and oaks) are recognized by the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC).

The landscape is beautifully maintained, the plants are well-labeled and directional signage makes it easy to find one’s way around. This is truly a spectacular arboretum. They do important conservation work while providing a great visitor experience. Whether one visits to enjoy the peaceful tranquility or to learn about trees, the experience will be rewarding.

here to visit the arboretum's website.
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