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Illustration of paperbark maple by Charles Faxon

Explorers Garden plants

Tall tree canopies in spring


Fun Facts

  • The Explorers Garden is home to two of the largest Franklin trees (Franklinia alatamaha) in the world. This species is now extinct in the wild.

  • The original North American introduction of paperbark maple (Acer griseum) from China can be found growing among this collection.

  • The first wild-collected hardy cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) were wild-collected from the Taurus Mountains in 1900. One of the first introductions can be found among the Explorers Garden.

  • Keep your eyes open for a century-old specimen of Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), which bears a profusion of snowy white flowers from late May through mid June.

  • See if you can find seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) known for its peeling bark, white flowers and bright red whorls of sepals.


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 775 plants representing 332 taxa (kinds), 130 genera, and 55 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 America-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 Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) and Florida yew (Taxus floridana).


Featured Plants

Illustration of Heptacodium
1549-80*B Map it ↗

Seven Son Flower

Scientific Name
Heptacodium miconioides

A botanist at the Arnold Arboretum officially named and described the seven son flower in 1916. But the species would not be grown in the United States until 1980. This plant was among the first.

View plant bio
Heptacodium at AA

Plants in this Collection

Plant ID Accession Date Recieved As Origin Source

Featured Walk

Stroll this microclimate on Bussey Hill and discover plants emblematic of our rich tradition of exploration and research.