The Arboretum is a diverse landscape and learning environment in an urban setting. The 1,200 acres include woodlands, wetlands, ponds, Lake Wingra shoreline, springs, restored prairies and savannas, and gardens. Exploring more closely, you find all parts of the land community: soils, waters, plants and animals—and people.
Nearly 20 miles of hiking trails wind through remnant plant communities and restorations, including Curtis Prairie, the oldest restored prairie in the world.
In the Arboretum, you will find gently rolling topography, glacial features and many soil types. The land falls within two sub-watersheds of the Yahara watershed that defines the Madison area.
The Arboretum’s plant communities represent the vegetation of Wisconsin. You will find hundreds of native plant species, as well as many non-natives. Trees, shrubs, forbs, grasses, aquatic plants, mosses, and more grow in varied sites on varied soils.
The Arboretum is wildlife habitat for more than 35 mammal species and dozens of reptile and amphibian species. You may see dozens of bird species in a single visit to the Arboretum. Two hundred resident and migratory bird species live here, from forest floor to leafy canopy, from wetland to dry prairie, from ground to sky.
This land is also home to a great diversity of insects. We’ve documented common and rare insect species, interesting life cycles, and ecological relationships through surveys, sampling, photography, and counts. What will you find?
People have long been on this land, harvesting game and wild rice, building effigy mounds, cultivating past fencerow oaks, pasturing remnant prairie, maintaining homesteads, restoring Wisconsin prairies, planting trees, making gardens, making discoveries, teaching science and stewardship, and finding renewal.