About

About the Arboretum

Located on the western edge of Memorial Park, the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and the opportunity to experience the natural world. This 155-acre non-profit urban nature sanctuary provides education about the natural environment to people of all ages. It plays a vital role in protecting native plants and animals in the heart of the city where development threatens their survival. The Houston Arboretum is a private non-profit educational facility that operates city land.

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Visitors can explore nature by walking on trails (totaling 5 miles) free of charge. Each summer children gain in-depth knowledge leading to life-long appreciation of the natural world through week long Discovery Classes. Thousands of school children visit the Arboretum on field trips designed for their age and grade level.

The Nature Center building includes the Discovery Room with interactive exhibits and activities and the Nature Shop filled with items for nature lovers of all ages. It is a unique place for special events such as meetings, weddings and birthday parties.

Visitors can enjoy 5 miles of nature trails, winding through forest, wetland, prairie, and savanna habitats. The grounds are open daily 7 a.m. to dusk. The Discovery Room, inside the building, offers hands-on interactive exhibits, microscopes, biofacts and more for learning about the habitats, plants, and wildlife found at the Arboretum. The Discovery Room is currently closed for renovations and will reopen in early 2020. The Nature Shop offers a wide variety of educational games and toys, books, and nature-themed merchandise. Starting August 2019, the Nature Shop will move to a small kiosk just inside the front door and will remain there until it moves into its new space in Fall 2019.

Mission

The mission of the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is to provide education about the natural environment to people of all ages and to protect and enhance the Arboretum as a haven and as a sanctuary for native plants and animals.

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, one of the first nature education facilities for children in the state of Texas, provides services to nearly 200,000 visitors annually. The Arboretum also provides nature education for more than 10,000 children annually.

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is a 155-acre non-profit urban nature sanctuary located on the western edge of Memorial Park. It is managed by the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center Board of Directors and staff under an agreement with the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department.

History

The land on which the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center sits is part of Memorial Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. From 1917 to 1923, the land was the site of Camp Logan, a World War I Army training camp. After the war, in 1924, the land was deeded to the City of Houston to be set aside as a park dedicated to the memory to the fallen soldiers of World War I.

The idea to create an arboretum began with local ecologist and educator Robert A. Vines who advocated carving out a piece of land from Memorial Park to serve as a nature sanctuary. In 1951, City Council agreed to his proposal and set aside 265 acres as an arboretum and botanical garden; since that time, roads and their rights-of-way have reduced the size of the arboretum to 155 acres. Vines’ intense botanical research sparked the interest and enthusiasm of Mrs. Susan M. McAshan, Jr., and in 1966, through a major contribution from the McAshan Educational and Charitable Trust, the Aline McAshan Botanical Hall for Children was funded.

On February 17, 1967, ground was broken for a nature center building. In the 1980s, the organization changed its name from the Houston Botanical Society to the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center to better represent the wild and natural quality of the surrounding grounds.

In 1995, funds from a capital campaign provided for a building renovation and the installation of new, state-of-the-art Discovery Room exhibits. This expansion allowed for an increase in the variety of Nature Center program offerings and sparked a surge in attendance.

The Meadow Restoration Project began in 1999 with a gift from Marie and Anthony Kraft. Through cooperation of many state and local agencies, the Arboretum was able to perform a much-needed prescribed burn to renovate soil and improve vegetation in the meadow.

The Charlotte Couch Memorial Birding Walkway was dedicated in the fall of 2000. Designed and built to reduce impact to the forest habitat, this raised walkway allows visitor access to views of Buffalo Bayou and the forest canopy while protecting a fragile ecotone.

A Wildlife Garden, which demonstrates plantings appropriate to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other wildlife to an urban backyard, and the Carol Tatkon Sensory Garden featuring native plants attractive to the senses are the latest additions to the Arboretum’s ever-changing landscape.

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