USDA's U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C. Is a Research Facility, Public Park and Several Gardens

The U. S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC is not far from the Capital Mall. Visitors have an opportunity to get away from the crowds, see distinctive plant collections, walk the paths and learn about plants in a 446 acre park. There is also a tram tour.

Close to the Visitor's Center and within easy walking distance are the Aquatic Garden and Koi Pond, Friendship Garden, the National Herb Garden, and the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. (see a map of the grounds at

The Asian Collection includes a Japanese Woodland, Korean Hillside, Asian Valley and China Valley gardens.

The Bonsai and Penjing Museum is a series of gardens and bonsai displays. The garden was started with a gift from the Japanese people in 1976. The oldest plant in the collection is a Japanese White Pine, which was started in 1625.

Each garden is a collection of miniature garden scenes, shade loving plants and water features accented with Asian art, gateways and arbors.
The Knot Garden in the National Herb Garden
The Azalea Collections are a site to see in the spring, with thousands of plants blooming on Mt. Hamilton. Former Arboretum director, B. Y. Morrison hybridized and popularized Azaleas from 1929 to 1954 and it was his display of 10,000 Azaleas that led to the Arboretum being opened to the public in 1954.

The Dogwood Collection is also spectacular in the spring and dogwoods are blooming everywhere in the Arboretum.

The Fern Valley Native Plant Collection is made up of plants that lived here before European colonization. Meadow, prairie and wetland plants are represented in the woodland. Nearby are the Youth Garden (butterfly and cutting gardens) and the National Grove of State Trees (specimens representing 50 states).

A visit to the Herb Garden (also called Plants for People) has the added advantage of a view of the Corinthian pillars that once stood at the east portico of the U. S. Capitol. Built in 1980 as a joint venture between the Herb Society of America and Congress, the garden features culinary, millinery and medicinal herbs.

A white pine bonsai that was begun in 1625

In 1828 the sandstone columns now at the Arboretum, were moved to Washington by barge from a quarry in Virginia. When the Capitol dome was added in 1864, the columns could no longer give enough support. They were removed during a renovation in 1958 it took until 1990 to get them placed on their current 20 acre site.

Power Plants is a special exhibit of plants that scientists think could become fuels. The garden displays castor beans, alfalfa, switchgrass, corn, canola, sugar beet, oil palms, mustard and other potential fuel producing plants.

The Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-growing Conifer Collection is the most comprehensive conifer collection in the world. - 1400 specimens on 7-acres. Conifers are plants that produce cones instead of flowers, and include bald cypress, juniper, pine, hemlock, cedar, yew, larch, etc.

You can drive through the collection, but you would miss the opportunity to see the unique forms, shapes and features of all the different varieties.

There are 150 different boxwoods in the National Boxwood Collection, including dwarf, variegated, columnar, and new hybrids such as Vardar Valley. The boxwoods are a frame for the Arboretum's Perennial Collection.

Over a thousand daylilies make up a large part of the Perennial Collection. The Arboretum’s website has a photo gallery of their 150 award winning varieties at

The primary purpose of the Arboretum is U.S.D.A research. Its scientists discover new methods of plant disease and insect control and introduce new plant varieties. The Arboretum's website at contains a wealth of information for gardeners.

The Arboretum grounds are open every day of the year except December 25 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free.


I would like to go to the National Arboretum someday. I've been in Washington D.C. several times and never got to the arboretum. Thanks for the tour.~~Dee
Molly said…
The Arboretum is huge and families were all over the place. Picnics are allowed as are bicycles.
It's a great place to visit.

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