The mission of the C. R. Keith Arboretum is to create and preserve a large and diverse collection of temperate woody tree and shrub species for study and enjoyment by researchers, horticultural students, professional horticulturists, and the general public.
The Arboretum began in the 1970s on a small scale. It has grown in size over the years until it now comprises approximately 20 acres within 82 acres of conserved land located 7 miles northwest of Chapel Hill, NC. Currently, there are approximately 4,000 labeled species with an emphasis on diversity. In 2010, the Arboretum received the annual Jean Iseli Memorial Award.
This diversity includes ranges of temperature tolerance, e.g., zone 1-2 species usually grown in bog sites and zone 8-9 species. Another example of diversity is the presence of 23 Abies (fir) species which usually only grow in cool, mountainous regions. The majority of the world’s temperate genera are represented in the collection. Examples of genera represented are Pinus (76 species), Betula (24 species), Quercus (112 species), and Acer (103 species). These totals do not include numerous varieties. Species were obtained through personal collecting, commercial nurseries specializing in rare plants, and from overseas collectors, e.g., J.C. Raulston. Our plant inventory is listed in the Botanical Garden Conservation International (BGCI) database. Utilizing this database, horticulturists and botanists from around the world contact us with requests for information and plant material for research purposes. See our current BGCI listing of plants here. It was approximately 80 percent complete as of April 2012.
By 1990, garden clubs and horticultural groups began touring the Arboretum. Horticulturists noted that the plant collection had become one of the largest collection of temperate woody species in North America. Many urged that steps be taken to preserve the collection for the future. The “Video Tour” and “Plant Photos” links provide photographs of some of the species that can be found in the Arboretum.
In 2005, the C. R. Keith Arboretum Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation to perpetuate the Arboretum. A Board of Directors meets semi-annually to oversee and review the development of the Arboretum. For more information please e-mail us by clicking here.