The Arboretum

/ˌɑːbəˈriːtəm/    noun (pl) -ta (-tə), -tums1.

an outdoor nature classroom where trees or shrubs are cultivated for their scientific or educational interest


Plant list

View a list of all the trees, shrubs and perennials in the Arboretum. The tree canopy has been diversified; non-native invasive shrubs removed, perennials added.


historic elements

Meander thru the Arboretum taking in a bit of history exploring the Edison Bird Bath, Amelia Earhart's sugar maple, the bird arch, the dedication stone and many of the historic trees. South trams and busses travel regularly to the Arboretum.


Plant markers

Over the past season, several different plant markers have been under evaluation. It's a priority to share both the English and Latin name of perennials, shrubs and trees. The selected markers will be revealed at the Rededication. 


Rededication Ceremony 7/8/18 celebrating the next century

On Sunday July 8, 2018 at 2pm, The Reverend Maureen Rovegno, Director of the Department of Religion and 'perennial friend' of the BTG recognized the 100th anniversary of the Arboretum Dedication, referencing aspects of the service held a century ago. .

Betsy Burgeson, Supervisor of Landscapes and Gardens has directed a 3 year restoration project of this space. This dedication ushered in a series of events leading up to the July 12, 2018 BTG House & Garden Tour, chaired by Rosemary Rappole. The Arboretum was a key feature of this special biennial event. BTG Board members Dennis McNair and Master Gardener Chris Flanders led Arboretum tours on July 12. The large crowd that gathered enjoyed refreshments and celebrated BTG's restored 'outdoor nature classroom.


Quiet room

Within the activity-packed Chautauqua Institution busy with lectures, conversation, music, bike riding, etc, there is a 'Quiet Room' at the 100+ year old Bird and Tree Arboretum located across 'Thunder Bridge'. 

Take a moment to enjoy nature.  Seated upon a generous sized bench nestled within the perennials, shrubs and shade of a diverse tree canopy, take in the greenery and quiet. Based on the 'quiet garden movement' started in England, this is a perfect place for reading, reflection, and engaging with nature. As the seasons go by, the shrubs will make this shady spot more secluded. Please bring a book and enjoy!

‘South’ busses and trams transport visitors to and from the Arboretum on a regular basis. This section of Chautauqua is known locally as The Overlook.

The Bird, Tree and Garden (BTG) Club Arboretum at the Chautauqua Institution is situated near the southern end of the grounds between Longfellow and Whittier Avenues. It is accredited as a Level I Arboretum by ArbNet, a global registry of arboreta maintained by the Morton Arboretum, near Chicago. ArbNet is a global network of tree focused gardens that promotes advances in conservation, collaboration on scientific study and education regarding trees. In order to be accredited the BTG Arboretum had to meet standards of tree and plant diversity, care and permanence established by ArbNet and to submit an application verifying that those criteria would be scrupulously maintained. BTG received certification of its accreditation from ArbNet in March, 2019.

Today's tree canopy is much more diverse, the perennials mostly native and the non native invasive shrubs removed. This landscape plan is from 2011. Visit the Arboretum and see the improvement plus the addition along Massey Ave.

Today's tree canopy is much more diverse, the perennials mostly native and the non native invasive shrubs removed. This landscape plan is from 2011. Visit the Arboretum and see the improvement plus the addition along Massey Ave.

physical description and arboretum history

Originally acquired as a gift from Henrietta Ord Jones to the Chautauqua Bird Tree and Garden Club in 1915 for the propagation and diversification of trees, the Arboretum is a focal point again in Chautauqua. It was dedicated in 1917 and populated with small trees brought to Chautauqua from all over the country by the summer residents.  It also had several memorial trees, a Red Leaf Maple brought in by Bishop Vincent and a Ginkgo Tree in honor of the Bishop. In 1929, a Sugar Maple was planted for the visit of Amelia Earhart. This tree was planted from a seed of the sugar maple outside her childhood bedroom window and grown by the American Forests Historic Tree Program. There are a number of other historic elements such as a bird bath given by Thomas and Mina Edison. A ceremony on July 8 2018 commemorates the re-dedication of the Arboretum, ushering its second century. The Reverend Maureen Rovegno presiding will use some elements of the original dedication, Aug 7, 1917, such as psalm 1.

Disease and age have caused the removal of many of the trees in recent years, part of a Chautauqua-wide culling of old dangerous trees. Some healthy duplicate trees were actually moved to more suitable locations within the grounds. A renovation took place in 2006-7 and a more complete renovation is ongoing from 2016 to the present. The number of tree varieties was limited and the hedges surrounding the Arboretum were foreboding, blocking people from enjoying the area. Snowplow damage also made them very unattractive. This has been addressed by removing the non-native invasive hedge which are banned from the state of New York.


Under the direction of Betsy Burgeson, Supervisor of Gardens and Landscapes, a plan was made to make the Arboretum a place of tree diversity, a place to showcase under-tree shade plants, and a location in which to test varieties of trees, shrubs and flowering plants in our Zone 5 weather patterns.  Drought resistance is now one of the more important qualities in plants.  Shade planting is something that all Chautauqua residents deal with because of our dense high canopy from our trees so the Arboretum is a living catalog of shade plants to reference. 

The Bird Tree and Garden Club is working closely with Betsy to make the Arboretum a destination for visitors and residents both to enjoy the outdoor classroom and to relax in the open rooms of the Arboretum plan. Entering from the iron gate dedicated to Henrietta Ord Jones, you can wander through the comfortably cool shade and sit to read or converse on the benches or read the labels on the trees, shrubs and plants contained within. The Arboretum now extends across Massey Avenue to the fencing separating Route 394 from the Chautauqua Overlook area. Here trees, shrubs and sun loving flowering plants have been placed with the secondary function, as they mature, of blocking road noise from the main road.

The Arboretum is within easy access of any who visit or reside within the perimeter of Chautauqua, just cross over Thunder Bridge and it's at just up the road to the right. During the season, trams and busses regularly travel this South route. It is an example of upper and lower tree canopy, hedgerows to let you come within the trees rather than a hedge to keep you out, beautiful shade plantings of various colors and textures and a variety of alcoves to rest and relax with your friends. It has again become a perfect combination of form and function.