Exploring the University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum: A Natural Oasis in Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum, affectionately known as “the Arb,” is a cherished natural space located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This expansive and diverse arboretum offers a serene escape from urban life and serves as a hub for education, research, and recreation. Information can be found here.

History and Overview

Established in 1907, Nichols Arboretum spans over 123 acres and is managed by the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. The Arboretum is named after James Dallas Nichols, an avid supporter of botanical research and education. It has evolved into a significant cultural and ecological landmark, offering visitors a blend of meticulously curated gardens, native plant collections, and natural woodlands. See here for information about Exploring Ann Arbor: Hands-On Museum and Leslie Science & Nature Center.

Diverse Plant Collections

The Arboretum is home to a rich variety of plant species, making it a living library for botanists, students, and nature enthusiasts. Among its most notable features is the Peony Garden, which boasts over 270 historic cultivated varieties, blooming spectacularly each spring. This garden, established in 1927, is one of the largest collections of heirloom herbaceous peonies in North America.

Another highlight is the Centennial Shrub Collection, which includes an extensive variety of flowering shrubs. The Arboretum also features a collection of North American native plants, showcasing the region’s natural biodiversity. The Huron River runs through the Arboretum, adding to its ecological richness and offering a picturesque backdrop for visitors.

Educational and Research Opportunities

Nichols Arboretum serves as an invaluable resource for education and research at the University of Michigan. It provides an outdoor classroom for students in fields such as botany, ecology, and landscape architecture. The Arboretum’s varied habitats offer a living laboratory where students and researchers can study plant sciences, conservation, and environmental sustainability.

Educational programs extend to the broader community, with workshops, guided tours, and lectures available throughout the year. These programs are designed to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural world, encouraging stewardship of the environment.

Recreational Activities

The Arboretum is a beloved recreational area for the Ann Arbor community. Its extensive network of trails invites visitors to explore the diverse landscapes, from rolling hills and open meadows to dense woodlands and riverside paths. Whether walking, jogging, or birdwatching, the Arboretum offers a peaceful retreat for outdoor enthusiasts.

One of the Arboretum’s unique features is its annual Shakespeare in the Arb performances, where plays are staged in various natural settings within the park. This popular event merges art with nature, providing a unique cultural experience for attendees.

Community Engagement and Conservation

Nichols Arboretum plays a vital role in community engagement and conservation efforts. It collaborates with local schools and organizations to promote environmental education and sustainability. Volunteer opportunities are plentiful, allowing community members to participate in habitat restoration, gardening, and educational outreach.

Conservation initiatives at the Arboretum focus on preserving native plant species and maintaining the health of local ecosystems. These efforts contribute to the area’s ecological resilience and provide valuable data for broader conservation strategies.


The University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum is more than just a green space; it is a living testament to the beauty and importance of nature in our lives. Through its diverse plant collections, educational programs, recreational opportunities, and conservation efforts, the Arboretum enriches the Ann Arbor community and serves as a model for environmental stewardship. Whether you are a student, a researcher, or simply a lover of nature, Nichols Arboretum offers a tranquil and inspiring environment to explore and enjoy.