NSights Blog

Celebrating the University as a Tree Campus USA and Arboretum campus

Understand the campus' beauty by finding out more about the Arboretum Board at May 4 event

Did you know that the entire University campus is a State Arboretum?

What is an arboretum anyway?

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, an arboretum is "a place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes."

John Claudius Loudon, a Scottish botanist, garden designer and author, in 1806 defined an arboretum as a site where trees and other woody plants are deliberately cultivated for scientific, educational, and aesthetic purposes.

Arboreta are special places for the cultivation and display of a wide variety of different kinds of trees and shrubs (that is ligneous plants). Arboreta differ from pieces of woodland or plantations because they are botanically significant collections with a variety of examples rather than just a few kinds.

There are arboretums at many other universities as well. For example, Harvard University, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin all have arboretums. UNLV is also a state arboretum and, like us, has also earned the Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Some large and notable arboretums in the United States are: The United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., and the Morton Arboretum. Located in Lisle, Illinois, the Morton Arboretum was founded in 1922 by Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company and son of Arbor Day originator Julius Sterling Morton. At 1,700 acres it is one of the largest in the world, and features several mature deciduous and coniferous forests, as well as collections of plant life from around the globe, in addition to ten lakes, several wetlands, and a 99 acres restored prairie.

The University of Nevada, Reno was designated a State Arboretum in 1985 by the Nevada Legislature. The campus is a living collection of plants, trees, shrubs, flowers, ornamentals and native flora. The wide variety of trees on campus represents over 60 genera and over 200 species, many with several cultivars present. Thirty-six stately elms line the Main Quad, located just north of Morrill Hall, the oldest building on campus.

The entire campus, as an arboretum, is an outdoor living tree museum. There are fascinating gardens, with various themes, all around campus, and the University's Arboretum Board, which is comprised of faculty, staff, students, and community members, all dedicated volunteers, are constantly adding to and improving these gardens every year. Each year, we carefully select and plant more trees to expand our collection and increase the diversity of trees on campus.

We also strive to educate the campus community about trees and their importance through our tree marker program, tree tours, Tree Talks lecture series, and information about trees on our website. As such, we join an entire network of arboreta across the globe, which practice scientific research, promote conservation, and engage in public outreach and education to protect and preserve trees. Like other arboreta, we collect, study, grow, share knowledge, and, ultimately, protect trees. For example, the University Arboretum Board works closely with Facilities and Grounds to protect trees on campus during construction.

Featured areas of interest include the Cherry Blossom Garden, the Benson Gardens, the Main Quad, Albert E. Hilliard Foliage Quad, Jimmie's Garden, the Fleischmann Agriculture Quad, the Merriam A. Brown Rose Garden, the Hettich Garden, and Manzanita Lake. There are maps on the Arboretum portion of the University website to help you find these special gardens and places of interest.

The University has earned the Tree Campus USA designation for several years. Tree Campus USA program recognizes college and university campuses that:

● Effectively manage their campus trees.
● Develop connectivity with the community beyond campus borders to foster healthy, urban forests.
● Strive to engage their student population utilizing service learning opportunities centered on campus, and community, forestry efforts.

The five standards that we must meet and provide evidence of each year are:


The Arboretum Board has joined together to collaborate and network via ArbNet, an arboretum accreditation program. ArbNet was developed by The Morton Arboretum to establish and share a widely recognized set of industry standards to unify the arboretum community, provide benchmarking, and share guidelines for professional development.

The ArbNet accreditation program recognizes arboreta at various levels of development, capacity, and professionalism. Registered institutions range from small, local cemeteries to large, established public gardens-all working to advance the planting and conservation of trees.

We are proud to be a partner in protecting trees and forests for future generations.

When you visit an arboretum, including ours (which you are doing, just by walking around our beautiful campus), you can enjoy trees; learn how to identify, select, and care for them; and support ongoing research. We are excited to work on new research projects such as a permaculature demonstration garden, which will help us be able to recommend and demonstrate tree and shrub varieties which have the potential to thrive locally and to demonstrate concepts of sustainability.

Please join us for Day at the Museum on Saturday, May 4. We will be in the Fleischmann Ag Quad and have family activities, giveaways, several free tree tours, and be selling copies of our book: "A Visitor's Guide to the University of Nevada, Reno Arboretum."

For more information, including information on future events, including tree tours and our Commemorative Tree program, please visit:

If you have any questions, please feel free to email Serenity Smile, Arboretum Board chair at: ssmile@unr.edu or you may call me at: 775-682-7731.

Serenity Smile headshot