Morris Arboretum Founding Treasures

The Most Prized Treasures Throughout the Garden

Morris Arboretum Founding Treasures

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, United States

Created By: PocketSights

Tour Information

Learn about some of the oldest and most prized treasures throughout the garden.

Admission: Adults: $16, Youth: $8, Members: Free. Become a member today.

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Morris Arboretum History

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania began in 1887 as Compton, the summer home of John and Lydia Morris, brother and sister. The I.P. Morris Company, an iron-manufacturing firm founded by their father and later run by John Morris, was a source of family wealth.

The land the Morrises purchased in Chestnut Hill was barren, with poor soil that drained too quickly; but with diligent care they surrounded their home with a landscape and plant collection devoted to beauty and knowledge. Two Lines, a sculpture by George Rickey marks the former mansion site. The Widener Visitor Center was formerly the carriage house.

John was a noted plantsman and community leader who explored the new world of knowledge available to Victorians. John and Lydia traveled widely in America, Asia, and Europe bringing ideas, artwork, crafts and plants back to Compton. They shared a love of history and art, and established a tradition of placing sculpture in the garden that continues today. The Morrises were active in civic affairs and preservation, and believed in the power of education. It was their earnest hope to be judged "worthy stewards."

John and Lydia Morris laid plans for a school and laboratory at Compton devoted to horticulture and botany. Through the stewardship and vision of the Quaker family, Compton became the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania in 1932. Listed on The National Register of Historic Places, it is an interdisciplinary resource center for the University, and is recognized as the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Science, art, and humanities are pursued through a variety of research, teaching, and outreach programs that link the Arboretum to a worldwide effort to nurture the earth's forests, fields and landscapes.

Tour Information by Morris Arboretum

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What You'll See on the Tour

The Ginkgo tree is one of the world’s oldest tree species, growing on earth for more than 150 million years. With striking gold fall color, this female specimen, planted by the Morrises, has messy and very smelly fruit. Non-fruiting males... Read more
Native to eastern North America. This magnificent specimen is a natural hybrid between the native scarlet (Q. coccinea) and red oaks (Q. rubra). Although its exact age is unknown, we suspect that it well predates the Morrises and may be up ... Read more
In 1910, “Garden Steps, Wall & Seat” were built into the hillside at the north end of the Rose Garden. The seat and stairs were a favorite garden approach from the Compton mansion to the mixed flower, kitchen and herb gardens that p... Read more
The creation of the Long Fountain was inspired by a trip the Morrises took to the Alhambra in Spain. After the visit, John & Lydia were motivated to install a “Moorish” fountain, which was constructed in 1905.
Horticultural variety, native to western North Africa. As the common name indicates, this tree is native to the Atlas Mountains of North Africa and is one of our few representatives from that continent. The large female cones resemble beehi... Read more
More than a hundred years ago, John and his sister Lydia Morris built a summer home and garden in Chestnut Hill. To ensure that future generations would enjoy its botanical treasures, they laid the groundwork to establish a public arboretum... Read more
This area of the Arboretum pre-dates the Morrises, when part of the land was used as a dairy farm. Built into a hillside alongside a springfed creek, the Springhouse was used to keep dairy products and other perishables cool. The purpose of... Read more
Built in 1912, this area is a fine example of an English rock garden and a Japanese garden. John Morris, Frank Gould (who trained at Kew Gardens in England), and the Morris’ Japanese gardener, Mr. Muto, designed this garden. The mountain-... Read more
The Loggia, built in 1913, is a traditional classically styled garden building opening onto a terrace and providing one of the best views in the Arboretum. It has been described as “a rooted, open gallery with pillars.” Inside is the sc... Read more
This medieval style bridge was designed by John Morris in the early 20th century. Made of Wissahickon schist, the stone bridge has seats to encourage people to linger and enjoy the sights and sounds of the stream. In fact, riffles, which ar... Read more
Built circa 1915, the Key Fountain combines design elements from the medieval palaces of Islamic Spain with the Victorian rock gardens of Adirondack America. This adaptive mix of architectural and garden features is typical of eclectic Vict... Read more
Built in 1908, the Log Cabin was used by the Morrises to entertain friends. Lydia spent many hours on the porch contemplating the stream and woodlands. The building was cool in summer and provided the warmth of a fireplace in the winter. Lo... Read more
The Dorrance H. Hamilton Fernery is the only remaining freestanding Victorian fernery in North America. Originally built in 1899 under the supervision of John Morris, the fernery stands today as a historical time piece, documenting the Brit... Read more
The building that now serves as the Arboretum’s Visitor Center first served as the gardener’s cottage, carriage house and stables. Built by Theophilus P. Chandler, Jr. in 1888, it was constructed from the same coursed and rusticated gra... Read more


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