Mission and Vision

The purpose of the Morris Arboretum is to: through teaching, research, and the presentation of horticultural art, the Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania contributes to a better understanding of the interaction that exists between plants, humans, and the environment.

Having a Peek Into the Future Read more here.

The Morris Arboretum is an invaluable public garden that offers a haven of rest, beauty, and education. The delight and wonder of the natural world encourage all those who come to be ardent advocates for plants and their essential dependence on them.

The Morris Arboretum is well-known in the scientific community for its work toward better comprehending and preserving plant communities and ecosystems. The Arboretum is essential to one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions.


The History of Morris Arboretum

Compton, now known as the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, was the vacation residence of John and Lydia Morris, who were brother and sister. It was established in 1887. The I.P. Morris Company, a manufacturer of iron products founded by their father and subsequently managed by John Morris, significantly contributed to the family’s financial success.

When the Morrises acquired the property in Chestnut Hill, it was unproductive and had poor soil that drained too rapidly. However, through careful maintenance and attention to detail, they created a landscape and plant collection dedicated to the beauty and the study of plants. At the location of the previous home stands Two Lines, a sculpture created by George Rickey. The carriage house, now the Widener Visitor Center, was originally the building.

John was a well-known plantsman and a prominent community member interested in the expanding body of information accessible to Victorians. Both John and Lydia undertook extensive travels across the Americas, Asia, and Europe, returning to Compton with new perspectives, works of art, handicrafts, and even plants. They both had a deep appreciation for art and history, which led to the creation of a long-standing custom in which sculpture is permanently installed in the garden. The Morrises are firm believers in the transformative potential of education and are involved in the community’s preservation efforts. Their most sincere wish was to be deemed “worthy stewards” by the community.

John and Lydia Morris devised a strategy to establish a horticulture and botany school and laboratory in the Compton area. A Quaker family’s vision and management allowed Compton to become the University of Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum in 1932. It is acknowledged as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s official Arboretum. It is a part of the National Register of Historic Places and serves as the university’s multidisciplinary academic resource center. The Arboretum participates in a global movement to preserve the planet’s woods, fields, and landscapes via research, teaching, and outreach activities. These programs connect the Arboretum to the pursuit of science, art, and the humanities.


The Morris Arboretum Archives was founded in 1987 to collect, preserve, and catalog one-of-a-kind materials such as papers, letters, maps, architectural plans, landscape drawings, financial ledgers, diaries, lantern slides, photographs, and negatives. In addition, the Arboretum catalogs historical items, books, and newspapers, as well as research material, reports, and other documents. The archive collection contains approximately 12,000 images, including photographs, drawings, prints, lantern slides, and other forms of visual material, as well as ten cubic feet of memorabilia and other objects. The paper archives and manuscripts comprise approximately 100 cubic feet of the collection.

Following the year 1932, the botanical gardens formerly known as Penn Gardens have been renamed the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1932, this location has been used to store architectural plans, landscape drawings, lantern slides, negatives, and pictures taken by visitors to the gardens and botanists working at the parks. The Archives contain many papers relating to that period and information about the staff, the plants, and the garden features.


Please participate in their highlighted month’s tour with an expert tour guide. During your visit to the Arboretum, please take advantage of the opportunity to take a guided tour while basking in the refreshing shade its champion trees provide. These trees provide an overstory that evokes a more traditional feeling of summer. Please stop at the Spring House for a while, then make your way through the Oak AlleĆ©e on its tree-lined route.

The Great Trees Tour

Explore the incredible beauty of the Arboretum with the help of a knowledgeable guide as you peruse the collection of the great trees found there. “Great trees” refer to more than just their height! They are historically significant, environmentally significant, or uniquely formed organisms. The diversity of the magnificent trees at the Arboretum can be seen in its champion trees, which date back a century or more, including those from other regions, and its native trees that offer a home for insects and other local tree creatures.

Native Trees

Come along with a knowledgeable guide as they explore a variety of indigenous trees in their region that thrive in the climate and soil of their immediate vicinity. Insects and other local species rely on native trees for the essential assistance they give in food, shelter, and habitat. A broad range of native tree specimens, from towering tulip poplars to more diminutive species such as pitch pine and pawpaw, is housed among the Arboretum’s diverse collection of plants. Discover the significance of these plants while taking in the beautiful fall foliage at the Arboretum.

Garden Highlights Tour

The skilled tour guides they provide will craft a tour that caters to the interests of the participants. Because each trip is unique, you are welcome to come back often.

Plant Collection

The live collection at the Arboretum has more than 11,000 accessioned plants from over 2,500 different taxonomic groups. These are plants native to regions with temperate climates in North America, Asia, and Europe. This historically significant collection may trace its beginnings back to John Morris’s interest in plants from all over the globe. It also contains plants that E.H. Wilson acquired in China around the century. The Arboretum is home to many “trees-of-record,” or the region’s most giant specimens of their respective species. The katsura, the Engler beech, and the trident maple are the trees that stand out the most. Click on this link to be taken on a tour of their magnificent trees, complete with images and detailed explanations.

Staff members have participated regularly in plant collecting trips in Asia and the United States, which has increased the variety of plants that are available for use in the landscaping of modern cities and communities. Currently, plants from thirty different nations are included in the collection, primarily emphasizing temperate species from Asia. Maples, magnolia species, native azaleas, members of the witch hazel family, roses, hollies, and conifers are some of the essential plant groupings represented in the collection at the Arboretum.

You may reach them at (215) 247-75777 or check out their website.

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