OR – The Hoyt Arboretum
By Martin Nicholson, Curator
Hoyt Arboretum is Portland Parks and Recreation’s ‘Global Garden in the Wild’. Founded in 1928 to conserve endangered species and to educate the community, Hoyt Arboretum encompasses 187 ridge-top acres, accessible by trails covering 12 miles. A place of beauty and serenity in all seasons, the Arboretum is easily reachable from anywhere in the metropolitan area, by car, bus or the MAX light rail. Hoyt Arboretum is supported by a partnership between Portland Parks and Recreation and Hoyt Arboretum Friends, a membership-based, nonprofit organization working to enhance the Arboretum’s mission since 1986.
Hoyt Arboretum was dedicated in March of 1928, as a result of efforts by a group of Portland civic leaders, foremost among them Thornton Munger of the U.S. Forest Service; Sinclair Wilson and E. S. Collins representing the timber industry; and C. P. Kayser, Superintendent of Portland Parks. Their enthusiasm for the project originated from their knowledge of the timber industry and forestry practices. However, they were also bringing to fruition the idea of an arboretum in the area west of Washington Park, an idea first proposed as part of the Olmsted Brothers’ recommendation for Portland Parks in 1903. A plan for development of the Arboretum was drawn up in 1930, and the first trees were planted in 1931. Planning continued over the next several decades, with particular care being given to the range of conifers.
The master plan created in 1930 by John Duncan was fulfilled by 1954, and many years of ongoing maintenance and care were required to protect the first round of planting. The 1962 Columbus Day storm damaged many native areas of trees on the Arboretum’s south face. This area had not been developed into part of the Arboretum at that time and, after the storm, much of the soil was lost or compacted, which limited planting.
In 1986, the Hoyt Arboretum Friends Foundation was formed to provide additional support. Operation of the Arboretum is now a successful public/private partnership between HAFF and Portland Parks and Recreation. Although the Arboretum is officially a park within the City of Portland, it acts as a regional resource and serves people from a large surrounding area. More than 350,000 people visit each year, including visitors from all 50 states and many foreign countries. The advent of light rail, which brings visitors to the Arboretum’s southern edge, has boosted visitation, as has the increased density of surrounding neighborhoods.
The current collection represents over 1,100 species plus 400 cultivars of woody plants from all over the globe. Hoyt Arboretum is a member of the two multi-sided national plant collections, maples and magnolias and the Arboretum houses an extensive conifer collection with many mature specimens which are unmatched at other gardens nationally. 237 species of conifers find their home at Hoyt Arboretum with many endangered species. Torreya taxifolia, Cupressus dupressiana and Picea breweriana are among the rare species to be found along with our signature Metasequoia glyptostroboides, which was the first of the trees received from the 1947 seed collection trip to set cones. This made this tree the first dawn redwood in about 35 million years to set cones in North America! Many other treasures of the conifer world are to be found in one of the most naturalistic settings encountered in American arboreta. The conifer collection continues to grow with new spruce and fir species being added from around the globe, along with additional North American conifer species. Hoyt Arboretum is very proud of its inclusion as a Conifer Reference Garden by the American Conifer Society. In turn, the ACS enjoys the collaboration and contributes to the fall arborists work day each year by supplying a group of local volunteers.
For more information on Hoyt Arboretum, visit us on the web at www.hoytarboretum.org or stop by our Visitors Center. On the web, you can keep tabs on upcoming events, classes and improvements at the Arboretum. The Visitors Center is open Monday through Saturday and provides maps, access to a range of plant information, a gift shop and much more.