The Explorers Garden rests in a microclimate just below the summit of Bussey Hill. This nearly three acre (one hectare) site provides ideal growing conditions for many species that have been challenging to grow in less protected areas of the Arboretum. Currently, the garden showcases 460 plants representing 228 taxa (kinds), 90 genera, and 45 families.
As such, it has proven to be a perfect testing ground for plants collected in the expeditions of E. H. Wilson in the early 1900s to the NACPEC [pdf] (North American-China Plant Exploration Consortium) expeditions of our own time.
While many of the plants showcased here derive from Asia, the Explorers Garden also displays rare and/or marginally hardy American native plants such as Franklinia alatamaha and the Taxus floridana (Florida yew).
The beds of the Explorers Garden overflow with remarkable specimens including:
- Two of the largest Franklina alatamaha in the world. [pdf]
- The original North American introduction of Acer griseum (paperbark maple) from China. [pdf]
- A majestic specimen of Pyrus pyrifolia (sand pear) collected by E.H. Wilson in 1907. [pdf]
- A grove of Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood). [pdf]
- One of the first hardy cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), wild-collected from the Taurus Mountains in 1900. [pdf]
- A century-old specimen of Chionanthus retusus, the Chinese fringe tree, which bears a profusion of snowy, white flowers from late May through mid June. [pdf]
- Introductions of Heptacodium miconioides (or H. jasminoides, the seven son flower). [pdf]
- NAPCC Stewartia collections.
The main entry for Chinese Path and the Explorers Garden is along Bussey Hill Road. Look for signs and the path entrance located next to a bench about an eighth of a mile from the top of Bussey Hill. Chinese Path is a horseshoe-shaped path within the Explorers Garden; the southern entry begins at the intersection of Oak Path and Beech Path. Explorers Garden also contains an open lawn with planting beds on its edges, accessible from Bussey Hill Road. The Garden lies about a thirty-five minute walk from the Arborway Gate and a ten minute walk from the Centre Street Gate. It is about twelve minutes from the South Street Gate and twenty minutes from the Bussey Street Gate when accessed via Beech Path. If driving, park in front of the Centre Street Gate, the South Street Gate, or along Bussey Street.
Paths in the Explorers Garden are composed of grass and are not wheelchair accessible. In winter, access may be limited due to snow and ice; please use caution.
A sign at the western end of Chinese Path describes the role plant exploration has played in the development of Arboretum collections. A self-guided cellphone tour, Adventures in the Explorers Garden, highlights Arboretum plant explorers, exciting journeys, and fascinating plants introduced to North American gardens from all over the world.
How long should I explore?
Plan to spend at least thirty minutes walking along Chinese Path and exploring the plants around the open lawn.
Plan your visit to the Arboretum.
- Dosmann, Michael. 2012. Dipelta floribunda: A Shrub of Subtle Beauty. Arnoldia 70(1): 32-33. [pdf]
- Del Tredici, Peter. 2010. The Sand Pear—Pyrus pyrifolia. Arnoldia 67(4): 28–29. [pdf]
- Del Tredici, Peter. 2007. The Paperbark Maple—One Hundred Years Later. Arnoldia 65(2): 40. [pdf]
- Aiello, Anthony S., and Michael S. Dosmann. 2007. The Quest for the Hardy Cedar-of-Lebanon. Arnoldia 65(1): 26–35. [pdf]
- Del Tredici, Peter. 2005. Against All Odds: Growing Franklinia in Boston. Arnoldia 63(4): 2–7. [pdf]
- Del Tredici, Peter. 2005. Chionanthus retusus: The Chinese Fringetree. Arnoldia 63(4):17–18. [pdf]
- Koller, Gary L. 1986. Seven-Son Flower from Zhejiang: Introducing the Versatile Ornamental Shrub Heptacodium jasminoides Airy Shaw. Arnoldia 46(4): 2–14. [pdf]
Search for related articles in Arnoldia, the magazine of the Arnold Arboretum.
- Introducing the Explorers Garden: A new name for a treasured destination [pdf]
- Meet early plant explorers and see what they saw.
- Browse a gallery of Chinese plants.
- Learn more about the Arboretum’s twenty year membership in NACPEC and the incredible plants discovered in China along the way.
- The Sino-American Botanical Expedition (SABE)
- Del Tredici, Peter. 2007. The Arnold Arboretum: A Botanical Bridge between the United States and China from 1915 through 1948. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 48(2): 261-268. [pdf]