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1927 Map of the Arboretum

Our Mission

Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Ned Friedman

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University discovers and disseminates knowledge of the plant kingdom to foster greater understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of Earth’s botanical diversity and its essential value to humankind.

This is accomplished through three areas of activity:


The Arnold Arboretum promotes research by its scientific staff and other scientists to increase our knowledge of the biology and evolutionary history of plants. The Arboretum supports studies in a diverse range of disciplines, from organismic and evolutionary biology, molecular and developmental biology, and plant physiology, to studies in ecology, environment, and biodiversity. Research activities have expanded in recent years to include genomic approaches to the physiology and development of plants, the evolution of physiological control systems, water and nutrient physiology, the development of trophic and reproductive systems, and ecological research on the effects of global climate change. Publication in refereed journals and successful participation in peer-review grants and projects affirms the value of the Arboretum’s research in these fields.


The Arboretum is committed to attaining a leadership role in the management and presentation of botanical collections and landscapes. The institution supports this goal by actively building the horticultural expertise and competence of its staff, by conducting relevant applied studies in plant propagation, plant introduction, landscape management and related fields, and through education and publication. Horticulture at the Arnold Arboretum utilizes the best available information, technologies, and practices to provide exemplary stewardship for the living collections and the Olmsted/Sargent historic landscape. Horticulture staff develop and curate the living collections to enhance their scientific value and to encourage their use for research. Arboretum staff members also regularly conduct projects to monitor the condition of the collections and improve the quality of their care.


Education programs are based on the unique resources of the Arnold Arboretum. They utilize the living collections and the cultural landscape, as well as the information resources and expertise of the staff to educate in the life sciences, plant biology, horticulture, and related disciplines. As a division of Harvard University, the Arboretum is committed to supporting the university’s mission by providing educational opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to serving university, continuing education, and professional students, the Arboretum actively seeks to realize the opportunities inherent in its urban context by providing educational experiences for visitors, school children, and the surrounding community.

In addition to these primary activities that fulfill our mission, the Arboretum maintains library, archival, herbarium, and web resources to provide information, materials, and support for Arboretum scientists and visiting researchers, as well as students and the interested public. These resources hold significant value as historical and/or biological records, and are managed and conserved utilizing the best available preservation practices. Information technology is critical both to the management of these resources and to the services that facilitate and promote their active use.