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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 five acre (two 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 373 taxa (kinds), 142 genera, and 62 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.

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Heptacodium at AA
Illustration of Franklinia alatamaha by William Bartram
2428-3*A Map it ↗

Franklin Tree

Scientific Name
Franklinia alatamaha

A member of the tea family (Theaceae), Franklin tree sports a showy white flower and striking fall foliage. John Bartram, an early American botanist, recorded his encounter with the elusive plant while exploring southeastern Georgia with his son William in 1765. William later collected seed and propagated the plant, which became extinct in the wild shortly thereafter.

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Franklin tree is flower

Plants in this Collection

Plant ID Accession Date Received As Origin Source

Featured Walk

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

Tall tree canopies in spring