It is 446 acres (1.805 km2) in size, and is located 2.2 miles (3.5 km) northeast of the Capitol building, with entrances on New York Avenue and R Street, Northeast. Nine miles of roadways wind through and connect the numerous gardens and collections on the campus.
The arboretum functions as a major center of botanical research. It conducts wide-ranging basic and developmental research on trees, shrubs, turf, and floral plants. It has a library with 10,000 volumes and approximately 90 publications concentrating in botanical literature.
The Arboretum features a small group of public artworks including "Split Ritual" by American sculptor Beverly Pepper. The piece is made of ductile iron and stands at H. 10 ft (3.0 m) x W. 44 in (110 cm) x D. 100 in (250 cm). It consists of four vertical pieces that look like large tools. They are placed in a circle on top of a doughnut shaped flat foundation and each tool is unique. The sculpture was dedicated in 1993 and in the same year was surveyed by the Smithsonian'sSave Outdoor Sculpture! program and its condition was declared as well maintained.