National Arboretum Canberra


Definition and aims

An arboretum (pronounced ar-bo-re-tum) is a collection of living trees, cultivated for conservation, scientific, research and educational purposes.

The National Arboretum Canberra aims to become one of the great arboreta in the world; a place of outstanding natural beauty, community amenity and scientific value.

First opened in February 2013, the Arboretum is attracting many visitors from Canberra, Australia and around the world. It is already contributing to the protection of tree species and tree diversity world-wide, as well as generating new research and understanding about how trees grow, survive and adapt. 

Recent history

  • The 2001 and 2003 bushfires that devastated most of the pine plantations along the western end of Lake Burley Griffin prompted the ACT Government to reconsider the best use for this land so close to Canberra city.
  • In 2004, the Government announced the 250 hectare (618 acre) site would be dedicated to a new national arboretum, a place of natural beauty for the community and visitors to enjoy; a place of research, learning and conservation. The site included four existing forests:
    Cork oaks (Quercus suber),planted between 1917 and 1920. Now Forest 1.
    Native trees and plantings. Now Forest 2.
    HImalayan cedars (Cedrus deodara), planted between 1917-1930 and in September 2010. Now Forest 11.  
    Monterey pines (Pinus radiata). Now Forest 76. 
  • A national competition was held to create a design for the new National Arboretum and the '100 forests, 100 gardens' proposal by Taylor Cullity Lethlean Landscape Architects and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects was selected in 2005. Their concept focused on the establishment of 100 forests of rare, threatened and symbolic trees from Australia and around the world.
  • The master plan for the development of the site included a mosaic of permanent gardens, outdoor sculptures, amphitheatre, cafe, visitor centre, bonsai and penjing display pavilion, children's playground, pavilion and a spacious outdoor events space.
  • An expert panel selected the tree species for the National Arboretum from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species, an international listing of all plants considered endangered. From that long list, only trees that could manage Canberra's variable climate were chosen. Read the list of trees planted at the Arboretum here.
  • The plantings at the National Arboretum have been designed to provide visitors with the experience of being enveloped in forests of one species. The forests are also botanical arks and seed banks for the future, preserving the biodiversity of these species.
  • The first 'new' trees, a group of Wollemi pines, were planted in 2006.
  • Canberra, as the capital of Australia, is well placed to promote the importance of plants and biodiversity worldwide. Trees from over 100 different countries are represented in the Arboretum, and a small number of international dignitaries have planted a tree here.
  • Work commenced in 2005 and major civil works commenced in 2010. The terraced Central Valley near the Village Centre, a reconfiguration of 40,000 cubic metres of earth over seven hectares, was Australia's largest sculpted earthwork since the Sydney Olympics.


Protecting the Arboretum

In order to effectively protect the forests and minimise the spread of pest and disease,  no live or dead plant material is permitted to be transported onto site unless previously approved by the National Arboretum. For further information, please call 02 6205 5082 or contact us via the ACT Government Feedback form.

The National Arboretum Canberra will be home to 104 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from Australia and around the world. With 94 forests planted so far, over 48,000 trees are growing across the 250 hectare (618 acre) site in single-species forests, including the largest collection of cultivated Wollemi pines, Wollemia nobilis, in the world.

At the heart of the Arboretum is the Village Centre, an elegant, light-filled space with panoramic views over Canberra, Lake Burley Griffin and beyond. The Arboretum gift shop, Sprout Café and The Conservatory Restaurant in the Village Centre invite visitors to relax, browse and refresh.

Other highlights include free guided and self-guided walks; cycling and horse-riding trails; Margaret Whitlam Pavilion; The National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia; Pod Playground; outdoor sculptures; picnic decks and lookouts; the Canberra Discovery Garden (ACTEW Water); the Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park Demonstration Garden; the Amphitheatre and ceremonial tree plantings in  Central Valley. Read more about the Arboretum's highlights.


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