Explorers Garden

Explorers Garden


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The Explorers Garden rests in a microclimate just below the summit of Bussey Hill. This nearly three acre (one hectare) site provides ideal growing conditions for many species that have been challenging to grow in less protected areas of the Arboretum. Currently, the garden showcases 775 plants representing 332 taxa (kinds), 130 genera, and 55 families. As such, it has proven to be a perfect testing ground for plants collected in the expeditions of E. H. Wilson in the early 1900s to the NACPEC [pdf] (North America-China Plant Exploration Consortium) expeditions of our own time. While many of the plants showcased here derive from Asia, the Explorers Garden also displays rare and/or marginally hardy American native plants such as Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) and Florida yew (Taxus floridana).

HighlightsThe beds of the Explorers Garden overflow with remarkable specimens including:

  • Two of the largest Franklin trees (Franklinia alatamaha) in the world. [pdf]
  • The original North American introduction of paperbark maple (Acer griseum) from China. [pdf]
  • A majestic specimen of sand pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) collected by E. H. Wilson in 1907. [pdf]
  • A grove of dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). [pdf]
  • One of the first hardy cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), wild-collected from the Taurus Mountains in 1900. [pdf]
  • A century-old specimen of Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), which bears a profusion of snowy white flowers from late May through mid June. [pdf]
  • Introductions of seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides, formerly H. jasminoides, the). [pdf]

Search our inventory for additional accessions information or access our collections using your mobile device via Arboretum Explorer!

Explorers Garden

The main entry for Chinese Path and the Explorers Garden is along Bussey Hill Road. Look for signs and the path entrance located next to a bench about an eighth of a mile from the top of Bussey Hill. Chinese Path is a horseshoe-shaped path within the Explorers Garden; the southern entry begins at the intersection of Oak Path and Beech Path. Explorers Garden also contains an open lawn with planting beds on its edges, accessible from Bussey Hill Road. The Garden lies about a thirty-five minute walk from the Arborway Gate and a ten minute walk from the Centre Street Gate. It is about twelve minutes from the South Street Gate and twenty minutes from the Bussey Street Gate when accessed via Beech Path. If driving, park in front of the Centre Street Gate, the South Street Gate, or along Bussey Street.

Paths in the Explorers Garden are composed of grass and are not wheelchair accessible. In winter, access may be limited due to snow and ice; please use caution.

A sign at the western end of Chinese Path describes the role plant exploration has played in the development of Arboretum collections. A self-guided tour, highlights Arboretum plant explorers, exciting journeys, and fascinating plants introduced to North American gardens from all over the world.

How long should I explore?
Plan to spend at least thirty minutes walking along Chinese Path and exploring the plants around the open lawn.

Plan your visit to the Arboretum.

  • Dosmann, Michael. 2015. The History of Minimum Temperatures at the Arnold Arboretum: Variation in Time and Space. Arnoldia 72(4): 2-11. [pdf]
  • Dosmann, Michael. 2012. Dipelta floribunda: A Shrub of Subtle Beauty. Arnoldia 70(1): 32-33. [pdf]
  • Del Tredici, Peter. 2010. The Sand Pear—Pyrus pyrifolia. Arnoldia 67(4): 28–29. [pdf]
  • Del Tredici, Peter. 2007. The Paperbark Maple—One Hundred Years Later. Arnoldia 65(2): 40. [pdf]
  • Aiello, Anthony S., and Michael S. Dosmann. 2007. The Quest for the Hardy Cedar-of-Lebanon. Arnoldia 65(1): 26–35. [pdf]
  • Del Tredici, Peter. 2005. Against All Odds: Growing Franklinia in Boston. Arnoldia 63(4): 2–7. [pdf]
  • Del Tredici, Peter. 2005. Chionanthus retusus: The Chinese Fringetree. Arnoldia 63(4):17–18. [pdf]
  • Koller, Gary L. 1986. Seven-Son Flower from Zhejiang: Introducing the Versatile Ornamental Shrub Heptacodium jasminoides Airy Shaw. Arnoldia 46(4): 2–14. [pdf]

Search for related articles in Arnoldia, the magazine of the Arnold Arboretum.

More »
  • Introducing the Explorers Garden: A new name for a treasured destination [pdf]
  • Meet early plant explorers and see what they saw.
  • Learn more about the Arboretum’s twenty-year membership in NACPEC and the incredible plants discovered in China along the way.
  • The Sino-American Botanical Expedition (SABE)
  • Del Tredici, Peter. 2007. The Arnold Arboretum: A Botanical Bridge between the United States and China from 1915 through 1948. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 48(2): 261-268. [pdf]