The Morton Arboretum is a 1,700-acre living tree museum located just outside of Chicago. Join us on a virtual tour of a living laboratory designed to plant and protect trees.

Paper-barked Maple
Paper-barked maple (Acer griseum) was first discovered by Western botanists on a plant collecting expedition in China in 1901. It is treasured as an ornamental tree for its coppery, flaking, paper-like bark and three-lobed leaves. It is endangered in the wild in China because its populations are isolated and trees often produce inviable seed. Scientists from The Morton Arboretum are conducting field work in China to investigate the levels of genetic diversity left in the wild in order to identify those populations of paper-barked maple that harbor the most genetic diversity. These populations are the most important to protect for conservation and horticultural purposes.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is a long-lived tree, and the species itself is a "living fossil"—it first evolved around the same time as the dinosaurs, over 200 million years ago. Unlike other tree families, like oaks and maples, that include hundreds of species, ginkgos are the only surviving species in their family. Ginkgo is one of the most commonly cultivated trees, thriving in city parkways and gardens around the world. This is because of its incredible tolerance to urban conditions such as air pollution, poor soils, salt spray, and compacted soil. This is surprising, considering that it is actually endangered in its native range in China. The trees are slow growing and slow to reproduce, and its habitat is being destroyed by human activity.
Gansu elm
The Gansu elm (Ulmus glaucescens var. lasiocarpa) is another tree that comes from China. The specimen at The Morton Arboretum came from a seed, given to the Arboretum by the Beijing Botanical Garden in 1976. The bark is a patchwork of orange that appears to chip off of the trunk. Hopefully, due to an apparent resistance to Dutch elm disease and highly ornamental bark, we will see more of these rare trees in the future.
Bur oak
An absolute colossal that predates the Arboretum, this tree has a perfectly rounded habit, with branches that swoop all the way to the ground. When you see a bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) tree, look for the large, hairy capped acorns produced by this tree. Bur oaks are relatively tough trees that should be used more often in the large-scale urban environment.
Wild sweet crabapple
Look for three trees working together to create a large presence. In the spring, pink-white flowers clothe these wild sweet crabapples (Malus coronaria), filling the air with their beautiful perfume. Year-round, their low, gnarly form is quite impressive. Native crabapples like these can be found throughout the upper midwest, in woodland edges and clearings, and along fencerows.
Japanese zelkova
Closely examine this magnificent tree’s trunk to see an orange inner-bark below the gray surface. In fall, you can also enjoy a stunning mix of orange and burgundy leaves. The Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata) is somewhat reminiscent of the vase-shaped American elm. When used as a street tree, it will form the famous cathedral-like archways that once was created by our beloved American elms.
Tanyosho pine
Once you discover these Japanese red pines (tanyosho pines; Pinus densiflora 'Umbraculifera'), you might have a new favorite tree! The dome-shaped canopies reveal incredible red-barked trunks. At The Morton Arboretum, there are two pines that came from two different sources, but both were planted in 1924. 
Looking for a true giant? The katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is a medium to large tree that is native to Japan and China. It has thick, flaking bark and beautiful, heart-shaped leaves that turn bright colors in the autumn, making it a popular ornamental tree around the world.
Kentucky coffeetree
The silhouette of this huge tree is quite impressive all year round. Kentucky coffeetrees (Gymnocladus dioicus) are late to leaf out in the spring, but the form of the gnarly branches is attractive even without leaves. The seeds come in thick, brown seedpods, and as the common name implies, the seeds were once used as a coffee-substitute. At The Morton Arboretum, there is a Kentucky coffeetree planted in 1922, the year the Arboretum was founded.
Our scientists continually hunt for new trees, breed new varieties, and protect rare and endangered species. We hope these few extraordinary examples inspire you to explore more and support the Arboretum's efforts to champion our world's trees.
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