Asia has some of the most diverse plant life in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Because the Midwest’s climate is fairly similar, Asian plants are well represented at The Morton Arboretum.
The Asian Collections include plants from central and western Asia, China, Japan, and Korea. China, Japan, and Korea are especially rich in plant life because they were not affected by the glaciers that ground across much of Europe and the northern parts of North America 15,000 to 10,000 years ago, wiping out many plant species on these continents.
Asia has attracted plant explorers from the West since the 18th century. They collected, documented, and introduced many species into Western culture. For example, a pagoda tree from Japan (Sophora japonica) was growing in the Elgin Botanical Garden in Manhattan as early as 1811.
It is difficult to think of today’s American gardens without some Asian plants. Familiar examples include the ginkgo or maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba), tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa), golden larch (Pseudolarix amabilis), viburnum (Viburnum), forsythia (Forsythia), and rhododendron (Rhododendron).
The Asian Collections display species that were acquired on expeditions to China and the Russian Far East and through seed exchanges with other botanical gardens and institutions. Modern plant collecting is strictly regulated and is only undertaken in collaboration with the host countries.
The collections are organized on the Arboretum grounds to take advantage of landscape and environmental features appropriate for each species.