Morton Arboretum

Coordinates: 41°48′58″N 88°04′13″W / 41.81611°N 88.07028°W / 41.81611; -88.07028
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The Morton Arboretum
The Champion of Trees
The visitor center
Location4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, Illinois
Coordinates41°48′58″N 88°04′13″W / 41.81611°N 88.07028°W / 41.81611; -88.07028
Area1,700 acres (690 ha)
EstablishedDec 14, 1922; 100 years ago (Dec 14, 1922)
FounderJoy Morton, founder Morton Salt
Open365 days a year
Hiking trails16 miles
Species4,100 types of trees

The Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois, United States, is a public garden[1] and outdoor museum with a library, herbarium, and program in tree research including the Center for Tree Science.[2] Its grounds, covering 1,700 acres (6.9 square kilometres), include cataloged collections of trees and other living plants, gardens, and restored areas,[3][4][5] among which is a restored tallgrass prairie. The living collections include more than 4,100 different plant species. There are more than 200,000 cataloged plants.[6]

As a place of recreation,[6] the Arboretum has hiking trails, roadways for driving and bicycling, a 4-acre (16,000 m2) interactive children's garden[7] and a 1-acre (4,000 m2) maze.

The Schulenberg Prairie[8] at the Arboretum was one of the earliest prairie restoration projects in the Midwest, begun in 1962.[9] It is one of the largest restored prairies in the Chicago suburban area.

Three dozen cuttings from the old burr oak that had been in Lincoln Park Zoo will be grafted onto rootstocks at the Arboretum.[10]

The Arboretum offers an extensive nature-centered education program for children, families, school groups, scouts, and adults, including tree and restoration professionals. The Natural Areas Conservation Training (N-ACT) Program offers classroom and online courses in ecological restoration techniques. The Arboretum also offers credit courses through the Associated Colleges of the Chicago Area, a regional consortium.


The mission of The Morton Arboretum is to collect and study trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world, to display them across naturally beautiful landscapes for people to study and enjoy, and to learn how to grow them in ways that enhance the environment. Its goal is to encourage the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world.[11]

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designated the Morton Arboretum as its Center for Species Survival: Trees, to study and promote the conservation and restoration of global tree ecosystems and strategies for species survival.[12]


A Monarch Butterfly at the Morton Arboretum
A time-lapse of a bike ride on the west side

The arboretum was established on December 14, 1922, by Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company.[13] Morton's father, Julius Sterling Morton, had founded Arbor Day. Morton's daughter, Jean Cudahy (Morton) took her father's seat on the board of trustees after he died in 1934.[14] The arboretum's first superintendent was Clarence E. Godshalk, who had received a master's degree in landscape design from the University of Michigan in 1921.[15] Joy Morton's Thornhill Estate, established in 1910, formed the core of the Arboretum's original area. In 1940, Mrs. Cudahy hired May Theilgaard Watts as a teacher in the new educational program.[14] The Morton family requested an educational center be constructed on the site of their home. The estate was razed in the early 1940s following the death of Joy's wife Margaret.[16] 1962 marked the beginning of the Schulenberg Prairie Restoration Project. Clarence Godshalk developed plans to create a buffer on the western border of the Arboretum. He called it "a native planting" and planned for it to be on farmland acquired by the Arboretum in the late 1950s. He wanted to turn old farmland back into a prairie with seeds collected from prairies nearby. He asked Ray Schulenberg to take this on. Schulenberg developed restoration goals and began replicating composition, structure, and local gene pools of plants in local prairies. He studied all of this with Floyd Swink, the Arboretum's taxonomist at the time, Robert Betz, a biologist, and David Kropp, a landscape architect.[17]

Board of trustees[edit]

The first chairman of the board of trustees for the Morton Arboretum was Joy Morton. Following his death in 1934, his daughter, Jean M. Cudahy (Morton), became chairman of the board. Jean died in 1953 and her brother, Sterling, became chairman of the board. When Sterling died in 1961, his daughter Suzette Morton Davidson became chairman of the board. in 1977, Suzette Morton retired and was replaced by the first person outside of the Morton family to be chairman of the board, Charles C. Hafner III. In 2000, W. Robert Reum became chairman of the board. As of 2014, Darrell B. Jackson has been chairman of the board of trustees.[14]


In 1938, Clarence Godshalk was named director of the Morton Arboretum. He served for 28 years, before he retired in 1966. He was replaced by Dr. Marion Trufant Hall, who served as director until 1990, when Gerard T. Donnelly was named executive director and CEO.[14]

Sterling Morton Library[edit]

Designed by noted Chicago architect Harry Weese, the Sterling Morton Library[18] was constructed in 1963 and named after Sterling Morton, son of founder Joy Morton.[19] It holds more than 30,000 books and magazines, as well as tens of thousands of non-book items including prints, original art, letters, photographs, landscape plans and drawings. The collections focus on plant sciences, especially on trees and shrubs; gardening and landscape design; ecology, with a special interest in Midwestern prairie, savanna, woodland, and wetland ecosystems; natural history; and botanical art. Its catalog is online.[20]

The Library's Suzette Morton Davidson Special Collections includes books, artwork, historic nursery catalogs, landscape drawings, photographs, letters, maps and institutional documents. It also includes documents of May Theilgaard Watts, Jens Jensen, Marshall Johnson, O.C. Simonds and Donald Culross Peattie.

The Sterling Morton Library is a member of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries.

Visitor Center[edit]

Visitor Center

The 36,000 sq ft (3,300 m2) Visitor Center was built in 2004 and designed by David Woodhouse Architects.[21] The building includes wood representing the Arboretum's collections and incorporates sustainable features such as permeable pavers in the parking lots and local fieldstone salvaged from a predecessor building.


An annual Illumination of tree lights is conducted at the Arboretum from the end of November until early January.[22] Visitors can enjoy a light show, music, and beverages.[22] The illumination section is along a mile-stretch of curved, paved pathway.[23] The creation of the illumination occurred in 2013.[24] The creator is a lighting designer from the United Kingdom named John Featherstone.[24] He started his career lighting many concerts and plays. Later he opened a museum, and then began his work at the Morton Arboretum.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Morton Arboretum". Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  2. ^ "The Center for Tree Science: Securing the future of trees | The Morton Arboretum". Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  3. ^ "The Morton Arboretum recognized for excellence in ecological restoration". Archived from the original on 2017-01-18. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  4. ^ Mullen, William. "Arboretum turning back woodland's natural clock."
  5. ^ Chicago Tribune, Jan. 12, 2009. p. 14.
  6. ^ a b Johnson, Steve (29 October 2014). "Morton Arboretum: Seeing the forest and the trees".
  7. ^ Botts, Beth. "A breath of fresh air: new Morton Arboretum garden aims to reconnect kids and nature." Chicago Tribune, September 10, 2005, p. 23.
  8. ^ "The Schulenberg Prairie: a Benchmark in Ecological Restoration" (PDF). Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  9. ^ Swanson, Stevenson. "To grow a prairie, you have to return to the grass roots." Chicago Tribune, September 27, 1987, p. 1.
  10. ^ Odigwe, Hugo (May 2, 2023). "Historic bur oak tree removal at Lincoln Park Zoo Tuesday". CBS News. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  11. ^ "Mission and History | The Morton Arboretum".
  12. ^ "Shedd Aquarium and The Morton Arboretum named new Centers for Species Survival". IUCN. 2023-03-08. Retrieved 2023-03-14.
  13. ^ Ballowe, James. "A great outdoor museum : the story of The Morton Arboretum." Lisle, Illinois: the Arboretum, 2003.
  14. ^ a b c d "Mission and history | The Morton Arboretum". Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  15. ^ March 27, 1924 edition of University of Michigan Alumnus Magazine
  16. ^ "Thornhill Education Center | The Morton Arboretum". Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  17. ^ "The Schulenberg Prairie a Benchmark in Ecological Restoration" (PDF). The Morton Arboretum: 10. September 2012.
  18. ^ "Sterling Morton Library | The Morton Arboretum".
  19. ^ McCarthy, Marilou. "Memorial to her father: Mrs. Zurcher will build a library in Morton Arboretum." Chicago Daily Tribune, December 6, 1961, p. B13.
  20. ^ "Morton Arboretum".
  21. ^ Kamin, Blair. "A journey through the new at The Morton Arboretum" Chicago Tribune, September 26, 2004, p. 5.
  22. ^ a b "Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum | The Morton Arboretum". Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  23. ^ IL 60532, 4100 Illinois Route 53 Lisle. "Illumination at the Morton Arboretum". Enjoy Illinois. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  24. ^ a b c "About Illumination Designer John Featherstone | The Morton Arboretum". Retrieved 2020-04-27.

External links[edit]