Gotelli Conifer Collection

One of the most unique horticultural displays at the U.S. National Arboretum is the Gotelli Conifer Collection. This fascinating collection contains a range of colors, forms, and textures that is sure to leave you in awe of the diversity of conifers. Japanese maples, crapemyrtles, ornamental grasses, daffodils, and other companion plants are intermingled with the conifers and mark each season with dramatic change. Many plants in the collection were donated by conifer collector William Gotelli, who amassed one of the most extensive collections in the United States. These plants were then moved to the Arboretum in 1962, where the climate allows us to grow conifers hailing from the Arctic to nearly subtropical regions. An inviting gazebo nestled into a hill above the collection provides a restful point for contemplation; visitors are treated to a view of the Gotelli Collection below.

On the south side of the hill near the parking area, the Watnong Collection features numerous dwarf pines. An assortment of Japanese maples and their close maple relatives sweep down the northwest slope of the hill. From here, the autumn glory of native trees visible on the slopes of Mount Hamilton in the distance are the perfect complement to the bright yellow, orange, red, and coral hues of the maples. An expanse of spruces is planted in the field across the road, and a planting of firs is visible in the distance further down Holly Spring Road. Both provide a bold green framework for this seasonally changing panorama.


The Gotelli Conifer Collection covers a large area and you should plan for plenty of time if you want to see everything. The casual visitor may want to spend a half hour or an hour; conifer lovers could easily spend much longer. Grass paths guide you between the beds in the Gotelli Collection, while the other areas are designed for leisurely wandering with no clearly defined paths. The collection is not handicapped accessible but much of it can be enjoyed in a slow ride around Conifer Road. It’s a good idea to bring some water if you plan to stay long, especially during the hot summer months. The Dogwood Collection, the Asian Collections, and the Holly & Magnolia Collection are within walking distance of the Conifer Collection.