The Gateway to Tree Science

A living exhibit of The Morton Arboretum’s research.

Content Detail

The Gateway to Tree Science is an interactive outdoor exhibit designed to bring The Morton Arboretum’s tree science and research to life. The exhibit provides insightful information and ongoing, real-time demonstrations designed to educate professionals, homeowners, and others on best practices for tree care as well as to inspire students and future tree scientists with practical and timely advice drawn from decades of research at the Arboretum.

Living trees and informative panels along a half-mile, wood-chipped trail highlight the biology and function of trees, the challenges that trees face in cities and suburbs, the plight of endangered trees, and the research taking place at the Arboretum for a greener, healthier, more beautiful world where people and trees thrive together.

The Gateway to Tree Science path begins with an overview of the site, where guests can learn about the basics of tree biology and scientific processes while observing ongoing demonstrations with living trees. Various sections will center on different aspects of tree care and expertise:

  • Choosing the Right Tree communicates the importance of selecting a tree based on its suitability for a given site, taking into account factors such as the species’ tolerance of wet or dry conditions, and the width and height of the tree at maturity. Also addressed are trees’ ecosystem benefits, such as providing food and habitat to wildlife, and helping to prevent soil erosion.
  • Caring for Urban Trees details the many ways people can care for the trees in cities and suburbs, from the long-term benefits of proper pruning to the use of cables to hold together the overextended branches of large trees.
  • Addressing the Challenges of Urban Soils provides more insight into the unique issues faced by trees in built environments, including poor soil quality and the stress trees experience when transplanted from a nursery to an urban setting.
  • Cultivating Resilient Trees showcases cultivars and hybrid trees, with examples of selections from the plant introduction program Chicagoland Grows® along the route.
  • Laying the Groundwork gives guests a closer look at the Arboretum’s current research and how the institution is protecting threatened and endangered trees worldwide, with conservation efforts guided, in part, by findings from scientists, such as those mapping genetic connections in oak trees across the globe.

The exhibit site, near the Arboretum’s internationally recognized Oak Collection, was developed around existing large trees and features over 170 newly planted trees and shrubs. The Gateway to Tree Science trail begins at the south end of Parking Lot 8 on the East Side of the Arboretum and is open to all with Arboretum admission.

Tree Care, Training, and Research Materials

Here are The Morton Arboretum’s latest best practices, training materials, and research papers related to topics interpreted at the Gateway to Tree Science:

For more information on tree and plant care, email the Plant Clinic at plantclinic@mortonarb.org. For more information on scientific publications ask a librarian at the Arboretum’s Sterling Morton Library or search the library’s ACORN database.

Best tree care practices for your backyard and community

The Morton Arboretum publishes tree care advice that is based on research in horticulture and arboriculture for homeowners and community members to apply to their own landscapes. Here are a few key resources:

Training for tree care professionals

The scientists at The Morton Arboretum and their colleagues apply their research to develop training and advice for tree care professionals. Here are some of those recent contributions:

The science behind best tree care practices

Arboretum scientists publish articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals to report the results of their research. Once their research is reviewed and discussed by the larger scientific community, best tree care recommendations can be published for industry, homeowners, and community members (examples featured in links below).


Urban forestry and ecology

Conservation of threatened species and ecosystems

Building coalitions and raising awareness of species’ conservation status and best practices in conservation genetics.

Oak tree of life

The Arboretum’s research into the evolutionary relationships of oaks. We can’t protect species we cannot name. Research into the evolutionary relationships among trees is fundamental to conserving the Earth’s biodiversity.

Climate change

Arboretum scientists work on addressing climate change in urban areas and studying climate change effects on forested ecosystems.

Soil, root, and forest ecology

Processes below ground provide information key to understanding forested ecosystems.

Coming soon! More online resources for green professionals

The Arboretum is also developing a series of online resources that will help illustrate and explain some of the tree care best practices highlighted in the Gateway to Tree Science. These resources will focus on three main themes: Selecting a tree, planting techniques, and caring for and maintaining trees. In addition to providing a deeper dive into the reasons these best practices are in place, these resources will also include tools to help you explain some of these concepts to other people, whether they’re employees, clients, or homeowners.


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