Flowering prairie dock at sunrise in Curtis Prairie. Photo: Jeff Miller/UW–Madison

Flowering prairie dock at sunrise in Curtis Prairie. Photo: Jeff Miller/UW–Madison

Widely recognized as the site of historic research in ecological restoration, the Arboretum includes the oldest and most varied collection of restored ecological communities in the world.

Among the tallgrass prairies, savannas, wetlands and several forest types, the Arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families, and individuals are available.

In the early 1930s, the Arboretum was cultivated fields and pastures that had fallen into disuse. The university decided, early on, to try to bring back the plants and animals that had lived on the land before its development.

Public use of the Arboretum and its facilities requires a balance between research, educational, and recreational needs. Some Visitor Center rooms are available for meetings and classes.

Tending the Arboretum’s 1,200 acres and 513 acres in outlying properties requires an experienced staff of land managers, along with scientists, students and volunteers who restore and protect biological diversity and ecosystem functions.