Public Horticulture Internship

Every summer, The Morton Arboretum offers a 13-week internship in public horticulture.

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The Morton Arboretum typically offers a 13-week internship in public horticulture every summer.

The Public Horticulture Internship is designed to introduce students to the dynamic, multifaceted, and rewarding field of public horticulture. By rotating among the science and horticulture staff at the Arboretum, interns gain a broad range of experiences that will help shape their future career interests. They also work on independent projects, which they present toward the end of the internship.

A limited number of internships are available each year. The Arboretum can help with living arrangements.

Interns spend the program working directly with staff across several departments.

They typically begin by gaining exposure to the collections and grounds of the Arboretum and assisting curatorial and plant records staff with plant selection, inventory, and labeling. They gain practical, hands-on experience working with crews who maintain the Arboretum’s collections and natural areas and learning propagation and nursery management techniques. Interns also work with the Science and Conservation Department, assisting the Center for Tree Science with data collection and herbarium management. Interns may also work with the landscape architect, marketing and communications staff, development and membership staff, the Plant Clinic, and the Sterling Morton Library, depending on their particular interests.

Interns gain a greater exposure to public gardens, the horticulture industry, and the flora of the Great Lakes region through offsite field trips to other botanical gardens, growers, and natural areas.

Throughout the internship, interns work on independent projects in an area of their interest relating to the goals of The Morton Arboretum and the field of public horticulture.

Projects are generally self-paced with guidance provided by Arboretum staff. The most successful projects typically involve a practical component utilizing the collections or grounds of the Arboretum.

Previous years’ projects have included:

  • Developing lists and maintenance recommendations for plants of invasive concern remaining in the Arboretum’s collections.
  • Designing a floating boardwalk for accessing the Japan collection during flooding events.
  • Monitoring and GPS-mapping plants of conservation concern occurring in the Schulenberg Prairie.
  • Examining vascular tissues of oak petioles to determine patterns between species.
  • Investigating whether certain species of maples can survive in the climate of the Chicago Region.

Projects are presented to the Arboretum staff at the end of the internship, and have often been subsequently integrated into overall plans and directions guiding long-term Arboretum development.