Caring for our Arboretum

Garden Etiquette

Garden Etiquette – Protecting our Plants

Respecting nature enhances your adventure and ensures the preservation of all plant collections within Bernheim Arboretum:

  • Explore the Arboretum to Enjoy its Full Beauty
    While some Arboretums may ask you to keep off the grass, Bernheim is not one of them. We encourage you to explore and discover our wonderful wildness! Wander through the Magnolia Collection in the spring to compare the blooms of different cultivars. Weave through the American Holly Collection, once America’s largest collection of Ilex opaca, and observe the many different leaf shapes and berry colors. Picnic next to the Olmsted Ponds. Go fishing in Lake Nevin. Make the most of your visit by exploring all that Bernheim Arboretum has to offer! 
  • Why We Don’t Climb Trees 
    While some of our big, twisting trees might be appealing for adults and kids alike to try to climb, please keep your feet on the ground within the arboretum. These trees are being carefully maintained by our team of Horticulturists and their status is being monitored for our plant records. Climbing on limbs may result in damaged bark or broken tree (or human!) limbs. Many of our Collections were planted in the ’50s and ’60s, are aged, and should be treated delicately to help preserve them for the future.  If you’re itching to climb trees, it’s not only allowed but encouraged at Playcosystem, our natural play area across from the Visitor Center.
  • Why We Don’t Carve Into Bark
    Although it may be tempting to carve your initials or proclamations of love into the bark of the trees in the Arboretum, we ask that you please refrain. These trees are being carefully maintained by our team of Horticulturists and their health is being monitored for our plant records. Cutting into the bark can destroy the cambium layer underneath, which is what the tree relies on to transport water and nutrients up the trunk and out to its limbs.  
  • Why Visitors Shouldn’t Collect
    At certain times of year, you may notice fruits or nuts emerging on the trees in the Arboretum. We like to leave all of them for the wildlife of Bernheim. Some fruits or nuts, even if they are edible, may require special preparation before eating, and for that reason, we ask you to never consume anything from the arboretum. Lastly, the collection of plant material for propagation or any other purpose is strictly prohibited. If you are interested in collecting plant genetic resources for an institution, please reach out to Renee Frith, Director of Horticulture and Sustainable Landscapes.
  • Where Should I Deposit Dog Waste?
    There are trash cans located at each facility at Bernheim, as well as some near popular trailheads. The Garden Pavilion and Visitor’s Center also supply doggy bags to make sure that your furry friend is cleaned up afterward. Please do not place these bags in flower beds or tree rings. These areas are maintained by our Horticulturists and Volunteers and they will not see it until it is too late! Please be courteous and place animal waste in the correct receptacles. 
  • Why Approaching Work Areas Can Be Dangerous
    Bernheim is a working Arboretum. You may see staff operating large dump trucks, tractors, chainsaws, skid steers, string trimmers, or wood chippers. Often the equipment is very loud and there are fast-moving parts. For your safety and ours, please refrain from approaching staff while they are operating heavy equipment and respect any Do Not Enter signs or blocked paths. We celebrate curiosity about projects at Bernheim and ask that you help stay safe by viewing from a distance that protects us all! 
  • Why is Taking Shortcuts Through the Woods Harmful?
    While visitors are invited to explore all areas of the Arboretum, repeated foot traffic on shortcut paths through the woods can cause compaction of the soil over time, and trampling may damage the sensitive native plants that we are trying to conserve. These natural areas within the Arboretum are intended for both wildlife habitat and native plant restoration and often contain poison ivy, which can cause serious skin reactions. We ask that you only walk either on the designated trails or in the grass when navigating the Arboretum so these areas may remain undisturbed.  
  • How to Interpret Signage and Accession Tags
    Our Collections are cared for and monitored by Bernheim Horticulturists. Each tree has its own unique identity, or accession number, that allows us to maintain plant records detailing every aspect of the tree’s life—which nursery it was grown in, when it arrived at Bernheim, when it was planted in the Arboretum, and its overall health throughout the years. Visitors can learn more about the trees in the Arboretum by reading the plant signage, usually found directly in front of the tree, or by locating the accession tag that usually hangs on a lower branch of the tree. The signage will tell you both the botanical and common name, as well as the Family and native range of each specimen. To learn even more about our plants, be sure to search our records in our new plant database, IrisBG.

Following these guidelines will help you explore Bernheim while maintaining its beauty for generations to come!