US National Arboretum


Groves of Great American Trees

image of 'Acer saccharum'All 50 states of the United States have chosen icons -- a state tree, state flower, state bird, and other symbols. A state tree is often linked to the state by important historical events; struggles in America’s War of Independence, early uses by settlers, or importance in the timber industry.  Most states adopted their state trees after unprecedented industrial and agricultural expansion in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Many of the original forests were stripped in this period for building materials, fuelwood, or to clear land for crops and livestock. Along with grassroots concern about preservation of forests and trees came a pride in the history and significance of these trees to the character of each state. The concept of a state tree was born. 

If you'd like a complete list of state trees and state flowers, click here.

A National Grove of State Trees

It is fitting that the state trees have a home in the Nation's Capital. Fortunately, the moderate climate of the mid-Atlantic region allows us to grow nearly all of the state trees in a large grove, outdoors.

The National Grove of State Trees (the Grove) is a display of trees representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. A group of trees is cultivated to represent each state. Each of the trees on display was actually acquired from the state it represents. The Grove covers a large area (30 acres) with trees spaced widely enough to accommodate their mature dimensions. The state trees are interspersed among various other trees that grew on the site prior to the development of the area as the National Grove of State Trees.

The Grove has been a collaborative effort between several organizations. Planting was undertaken in 1989 with the National Association of State Foresters, the American Forest Foundation, the USDA Forest Service, and the U.S. National Arboretum joining forces to create the National Grove of State Trees.

image of entrance arborThe centerpiece of the collection is the portal adjacent to the M Street Parking Lot. A wooden entrance arbor is dedicated to the memory Jeanne Yeutter, wife of former Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, whose sponsorship of the project helped the concept of a National Grove of State Trees to be realized. The inscription on the arbor reads "In Celebration of Jeanne Yeutter's Love of Trees." The arbor leads to a large plaza with a flagstone star and a crescent-shaped wall adorned with pottery tiles designed and fabricated by Liza Bach, a Tennessee crafter. Each tile is individually cast with the name of each state and a raised image of the foliage of the state tree. You can pick up a map of the Grove and a listing of trees growing in the collection here as well.

Whenever possible, the officially designated state tree is used to represent each state. However, a few of the state trees cannot be cultivated in our outdoor site.  For the states of Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and South Carolina, a substitute* tree has been chosen by the Arboretum. The substitutes were picked as fitting representatives of each state, which could be cultivated outdoors on the grounds.

As originally planned, the National Grove of State Trees included a path system and several interpretive nodes. Funds have not been raised for the construction of these features. The U.S. National Arboretum is currently examining options for redesign of the Grove to reduce the size of the collection and give it a stronger sense of place as a plant collection.  

* Note that the ceramic plaques at the entrance to the Grove will display the substitute tree if we have planted a substitute for that state.

Visiting the National Grove of State Trees

image of 'Picea pungens'If you are planning a visit, you will want to allow at least a few minutes to sample all the diversity of our most renowned trees. You may need fifteen minutes if you just want to visit the group of trees representing your home state, but you may want to amble through the collection for a half hour or forty-five minutes if you want to see more. 

Each planting of state trees is marked with a metal sign indicating the name of the tree and the state it represents. Each state has its own planting, even if the same tree species is planted again elsewhere in the Grove to represent a state which shares the same species as its state tree. Some large trees growing in the Grove are not part of the display of state trees, but create shade needed for certain tree species. A free brochure with a map of the Grove is available at the Administration Building.

The National Grove of State Trees is not accessible to the handicapped. Picnic tables are located very close to the entrance portal and the M Street Parking lot. This area provides an ideal place to relax and enjoy lunch or a snack. Open fires, barbecuing, and alcoholic beverages are not permitted in this picnic area.

The Fern Valley Native Plant Collection is nearby if you want to continue to take in the wonders of the flora of the United States, and the Washington Youth Garden is adjacent to the Grove of State Trees as well.

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Last Updated   August 8, 2006 1:57 PM
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