Visit the On-line History Exhibit:
A Bit of the Arboretum's History
Situated on what is now the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz and what was originally part of the vast land holdings of pioneer settler Henry Cowell, the Arboretum occupies one of the most propitious horticultural sites in the world. The climatic and topographic diversity is such as to allow experimentation with amost every species that might be grown along the coast between San Diego and Crescent City, and the diversity of the soils--the underlying rock includes granite, schist, limestone, and several types of sandstone--can scarcely be matched anywhere.
In The Beginning
The Arboretum had its official start in 1964 with a gift of about 90 species of eucalyptus. In 1967 founding Chancellor Dean E. McHenry (now emeritus) formed an Arboretum and Plantations Committee to advance the project.
With the interest and enthusiasm of Chancellor McHenry and the contributions of countless friends and supporters, Dr. Ray Collett began to expand the infant Arboretum's collections, focusing especially on plants of the Southern Hemisphere. In addition to the eucalypts a comprehensive collection of conifer genera was acquired. The Arboretum broke new ground in the propagation of the exotic South African proteas, formerly believed to be "difficult" horticultural subjects, and soon had many hundreds growing happily in a former cow pasture. Hundreds of fine horticultural selections of Australian plants were sent to the Arboretum and propagated for the first time in America. A matchless collection of "living fossils" was amassed, used by researchers the world over in the study of evolutionary biology.
The Friends of the Arboretum
In order to open up the Arboretum to wider use and participation, the Arboretum Associates, a friends group, was formed in November 1976 as a non-profit organization with 113 charter members. It has now expanded to 800 members, and serves to raise funds and bring the Arboretum's activities to the attention of the local community through lectures, a yearly symposium, plant sales, and a quarterly newsletter.
The Elvenia J. Slosson Research Gardens were established in 1978 to provide a testing ground for new Australian ornamentals, and in 1984, the Edward D. Landels New Zealand Garden was inaugurated. The Arboretum continues to augment and maintain these collections and many more. They are enduring value to researchers, instructors, horticulturalists, artists, and the general public. Though still a "young" Arboretum, it has become known as one of the great gardens of the world.