The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum
"I come to the Gardens for my health, the serenity of nature, and the company of kindred souls."
Beverly Mosely,
Garden Volunteer
Few places on Earth are as beautiful as Michigan on a fine fall day. Stroll through the trails & gardens during the early morning or later afternoon at this special time of year.
Check out the bloom calendar.

quick facts

  • Mission Statement:

The purpose: provide a hands-on University and community laboratory for conserving, restoring, and celebrating the environment

The business: develop citizens and leaders dedicated to appreciating, understanding and restoring our environment; promote environmental education, research and public outreach

The values: inspire and enrich people's lives through contact with plants and nature; recognize the restorative value of nature and beautiful gardens; engage scientists and artists in research, teaching, and outreach activities; apply ecological principles in our horticulture and land stewardship; advance sustainable practices and the conservation of biodiversity, particularly that of the Great Lakes Region.

  • History:

In 1907, the University created a Botanical Garden and Arboretum on the land between Geddes Road and the Huron River, just a few blocks from Central Campus on the site now known as Nichols Arboretum. At the time, the property consisted of approximately 80 acres. Today, some 100 years later, the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum manages over 700 acres of gardens, research areas, and natural preserves around the Ann Arbor area with a complex of conservatory, greenhouses, laboratory, teaching and meeting spaces at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and the James D. Reader, Jr. Center for Urban Environmental Education at Nichols Arboretum. Listed below is a short timeline of our history and attached is a more detailed record of our past 100 years.

  • Timeline of important dates:
  • 1817
    Founders of the University of Michigan note the desirability of a botanical gardens and other museums in the University's charter.
  • 1897
    Professors Julius Schlotterbeck and Volney M. Spaulding plant gardens on campus in conjunction with the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Botany.
  • 1899
    Professor Schlotterbeck and Professor Frederick C. Newcombe begin search for alternate botanical garden site. Among the most highly considered sites was the Felch Park property (where the Power Center now sits) and the "Cat-Hole" (where the Life Sciences complex and Power Plant now reside). Landscape Architect Ossian Cole Simonds is hired to evaluate possible sites.
  • 1906
    Proposal is made to create botanical garden and arboretum as joint project between University and City of Ann Arbor, combining a gift of land from the Walter and Esther Nichols family together with the Woodmansee and Mummery tracts for approximately 80 acres. O. C. Simonds prepares plan for the new botanical garden and arboretum.
  • 1907
    University establishes the University of Michigan Botanical Garden and Arboretum in the Department of Botany with George P. Burns as first Director.
  • 1916
    Botanical Garden relocates to new site on Iroquois Street with Henry A. Gleason as Director. Geddes site transferred to the Department of Landscape Design with Professor Aubrey Tealdi named as Director.
  • 1921
    1921 Proposal by Civil Engineering Professor F. N. Menefee would abandon arboretum and redevelop property as winter sports complex for students.
  • 1923
    Geddes site is renamed as "Nichols Arboretum" by Regents.
  • 1934
    Task force re-affirms Nichols Arboretum noting that it would "become a haven of quiet one hundred years from now when our rich native flora will have become a thing of the past in most places." University recommits resources to help police and manage the Arboretum.
  • 1943
    Detroit Edison donates 36 acres, including Alex Dow Field, to be added to Nichols Arboretum.
  • 1951
    Mr. and Mrs. James Inglis donate Inglis House and the nine-acre property to the University. Land is managed by Nichols Arboretum.
  • 1954
    Professor Frederick K. Sparrow heads up faculty committee to examine the future of the Botanical Garden on the retirement of Harley H. Bartlett in 1955. Committee advises relocation of the Botanical Gardens to a new site within reasonable distance of campus.
  • 1957
    With the leadership of Director A. Geoffrey Norman, the University decides to relocate the Botanical Garden to 200 acres donated by Frederick C. and Mildred H. Matthaei and additional lands purchased by the University. Architect Alden B. Dow designs the complex of buildings.
  • 1962
    Dedication of the Botanical Gardens at the Dixboro site.
  • 1965
    Conservatory and Auditorium completed at the Botanical Gardens site. Horner Woods added to the Botanical Gardens properties.
  • 1967
    Regents rename the Botanical Gardens to "Matthaei Botanical Gardens."
  • 1974
    Formation of the Friends of Matthaei Botanical Gardens to support programs and activities at Botanical Gardens.
  • 1991
    Friends of Nichols Arboretum established to provide support for the Arboretum.
  • 1998
    Burnham House is moved from Wall Street to the Washington Heights entrance to Nichols Arboretum and refurbished as the James D. Reader, Jr. Urban Environmental Education Center (dedicated in 1999).
  • 2003
    Associate Provost Janet Weiss heads committee to explore the possible alliance of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Committee proposes a combining of the two units.
  • 2004
    Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum combined as one administrative unit within the University.
  • 2007
    100th Anniversary celebration for Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.

Click here to download a detailed history of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (PDF).

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