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Great Trees

The large branches of a katsura-tree.

One of the most admired features of the Morris Arboretum & Gardens is its collection of large and beautiful trees. When John and Lydia Morris first purchased the property in 1887, it was virtually devoid of trees. They soon launched into an intense tree-planting program and under careful nurturing, these trees have grown into the beautiful specimens for which the Morris is well known today.

Great Tree highlights:

Katsura-tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum)
A group of people stand underneath a large katsura-tree

Planted in the early 1900s as part of a Japanese garden, this native of Japan and China has become the signature tree of the Morris. The huge spreading canopy and wide exposed roots have captivated staff and visitors alike. The leaves provide a three-season show. When they emerge in the spring, they are a beautiful light pink before turning pale green. In summer, the leaves are blue-green, and then with the fall turn yellow-apricot. As the leaves fall and decompose, they emit an aroma reminiscent of caramel or cotton candy.

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
A grove of large dawn-redwood trees in summer.

Many Morris visitors make a special pilgrimage to the grove of dawn redwood trees along the East Brook. This grove includes some of the oldest and largest dawn redwoods in the country. Thought by Western botanists to be extinct, the dawn redwood was rediscovered in the 1940s by a Chinese forester surveying a remote area of central China. The discovery of this “living fossil” created a sensation in botanical circles, and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University sponsored a seed collecting expedition to the area. Some of the Arboretum’s trees were grown from seed from that first collection. Beautiful in all seasons, the dawn redwood is especially striking in autumn, when the leaves of this deciduous conifer turn a deep orange-brown.

Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava)

Visible from many vantage points throughout the Morris, the yellow buckeye stands tall along the East Brook. This eastern North American native tree has wonderful flaky bark, clusters of yellow flowers and fantastic fall color. Badly damaged by a tornado in 1991, the buckeye has fully recovered and continues to be a beautiful beacon of the gardens.