Rare Plants and Trees

Rare Plants and Trees

Trochodendron aralioides, Japanese wheel tree, in May
Trochodendron aralioides, Japanese wheel tree, in May

Rare Plants and Trees

The original owner of the Merion property, Joseph Lapsley Wilson, planted over 200 species of trees between the 1880s and 1922, when Albert and Laura Barnes purchased the land. Several of the rarer varieties, including many from Asia, were acquired after the 1876 Centennial Exposition that took place in Philadelphia. A selection of trees remain from these original plantings, such as the fern-leaf beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Laciniata'), which typically grows in much of Europe before giving way to the Oriental beech that populates parts of Asia. Also remaining is a large honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), a late-spring bloomer that is native to North America.

Under the directorship of Mrs. Barnes, the arboretum gained other rare trees and plants. The unusual appearance of the monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), which is native to South America's Andes range and a relative of the Norfolk Island pine, has made it a visitor favorite. The arboretum's redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), typically found amid the coastal forests of Northern California, is a rare sight in these parts.

Horticulture History

Learn more about the history of the Arboretum and Laura Barnes's role in helping these gardens grow.