College Gardens: University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichol Arboretum

Some colleges are lucky to have either a botanical garden or arboretum located on or near their campus, however the University of Michigan has the great fortune of having both within walking distance of campus. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens which is nearly 250 acres is located just off of campus but close enough to walk to and the Nichol Arboretum, commonly referred to as the “Arb,” 125 acres, is on central campus. Both the Gardens and the Arb are associated with the University.

Joseph Mooney the Marketing Director for both the Gardens and Arb described them both as, “places where people can escape from the nearby urban environments and engage with nature.”

The Conservatory at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens

The Conservatory at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens
(Courtesy U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols

The Arb offers a place in the center of campus for students to be immersed in a naturalistic landscape while studying and meeting up with fellow students. The Botanical Gardens offer a large conservatory that contains three different climate zones. There is the Tropical House which has a tropical climate that features blooming flowers all year round; Warm Temperate House that has climates similar to the Mediterranean and West Asia; and finally the Arid House which has similarities to desert climates. This is an obviously desirable location for studying in the winter as students are battling the harsh Michigan winters.

Both the Gardens and the Arb offer summer internship programs as well as volunteer opportunities for students. This summer nearly 40 interns worked at the Gardens and Arb in a variety of departments from nature preservation to marketing to visitor services and more. During the school year dozens of students volunteer their time by helping out at the Arb and Gardens.

Courtesy U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum.

Each location has their own unique aspect that really makes them stand out. The Arb for instance has the largest collection of antique and heirloom peonies in North America. The Peony Garden which blooms in May to June is one of the most popular collections at the Arb. At its peak, the garden contains over 10,000 blooms with some of the plants being nearly 100 years old, having been in the same spot since they were initially planted at the beginning of the 20th century. Along with its amazing conservatory, the Matthaei Botanical Gardens is home to the only venomous snake in Michigan, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

Courtesy U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum.

The Arb and the Botannical Gardens are both very involved with the community of the University of Michigan along with the town that houses the college, Ann Arbor. The Gardens and Arb both have extensive educational opportunities for children. They have partnerships with local groups such as: the local Audobon Society, Sierra Club, and other floral societies. The majority of this programming is offered free of charge. The Arb also holds annual 5K family runs, a Shakespeare festival called Shakespeare in the Arb, and music which is all held at the Arb’s amphitheater. The Matthaie Botanical Gardens hosts annual plant sales in the spring and has regular conservatory exhibits.

Currently at the Gardens, workers are constructing a Great Lakes Garden which will feature plants that are native to the Great Lakes region including over 100 species of native orchids. The Arb will also be renovating its large collection of heirloom peonies which will be a multi-year project.

So as you can see, there is a lot to be excited about in the upcoming years at the the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and the Nichol Arboretum.  Interested in visiting? Click here to receive visitor information.

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