Tree Collection

Elm Pruning

The Smithsonian Tree Collection is the newest collection to be established by Smithsonian Gardens. It currently has close to 1,900 accessioned specimens located throughout the Smithsonian museum grounds and gardens surrounding the National Mall, at the Anacostia Community Museum, and at Smithsonian support facilities in Maryland. The collection is maintained by the Smithsonian Gardens Arborist with help from other staff, interns and volunteers.

Magnolia Air Spading in Haupt GardenThe tree collection is unique for a museum collection in two significant ways. The first is that all of the collection “pieces” are living plants. Unlike pieces of art or artifacts, the trees’ health must be maintained and the effects of nature must be managed in order to do this. The second difference is that the trees are stationary and cannot be moved from place to place. In many ways, this makes the job of the collections manager easier, as he always knows where to find what he’s looking for.

The collection is well represented by many native species including American elms, red, scarlet, pin, and willow oaks, sweetgums, flowering dogwoods, river birches, crabapples, American hollies, southern and saucer magnolias, crape myrtles, and bald cypress trees. In addition, several exotic species add to the diversity and interest of the collection. Some of these species include Cryptomerias, Hinkoi cypresses, Gingkos, Zelkovas (also known as Chinese elm), Katsuras and several Asian cherry species.

G Street Elm Replacement ProjectIn addition to offering visitors a chance to enjoy their beauty, the trees in the collections offer a great deal of environmental benefits as well. These include removing pollutants from the air, preventing soil erosion, providing habitat for urban wildlife, sequestering atmospheric carbon, and cooling the air in the heat of the summer.

The oldest and grandest tree in the collection is tree # 1, a majestic American elm (Ulmus americana) that can be found at the corner of 9th Street and Constitution Avenue, at the north end of the Butterfly Habitat Garden adjacent to the National Museum of Natural History. This elm is estimated to be 200+ years old, and is 68 inches in diameter, 17.75 feet in circumference, and 85 feet tall.

American Elm Tree Radar

Smithsonian Gardens is using the Internet to show how we actively manage our tree collection. One of our large American elm trees at the National Museum of Natural History was being affected by disease and decay issues that were leading to its rapid decline.

Using a cutting edge technology, tree RADAR testing, the tests helped to determine the extent of the problems and to evaluate the safety of the tree.

Trees of The Smithsonian


Educational Program and Resources

Trees of the Smithsonian was developed to show you how to use the resources around your school, community, and within the Smithsonian Gardens. The purpose is to provide good examples and stories that could be used in your own community environment to teach a variety of subjects and engage students.