Penn’s Morris Arboretum Is a Year-round Oasis

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Media Contact:Jeanne Leong | | 215-573-8151February 27, 2014

It may be that many people don’t think of the Morris Arboretum when it is cold and snowy outside, but the University of Pennsylvania site offers unique scenic views and seasonal activities aplenty even in the winter.
“The landscape really changes when everything is covered with snow,” says Anthony Aiello, director of horticulture and Arboretum curator. “It’s really magical here.”
At the University’s 92-acre gem in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, magnificent evergreens such as holly trees and conifers are topped off with a coating of snow. In the winter, it’s a common site to find deer, bird or squirrel tracks in the snow as they trek across the gardens.
The winter still offers an array of colors on the Arboretum grounds from the nearly 70 varieties of witch hazel. The most common types of the winter flowering shrub in the gardens include Chinese witch hazel, the hybrid witch hazel and the North American vernal witch hazel. Emitting a sweet and spicy fragrance, the flowers’ colors range from bright yellow, to orange to ruby red.
While some birds have migrated south for the winter, a large number remain. The red tail hawk, coopers hawk and turkey vulture are among the nearly 40 varieties of birds that Arboretum staff have spotted this winter.
The swan pond is open year round and remains a popular attraction for both people and waterfowl.
“There are usually some ducks in there with them,” Aiello says. “You need to look at things through a different lens in the winter, but there’s plenty to see.”
The Arboretum also offers special winter activities such as its “Winter Wellness Walks.” Led by an experienced volunteer guide, these walks are held every Saturday and run through March 29 this year.
During the winter months, the Arboretum also begins preparing for the spring and summer seasons by doing an inventory of its plants, checking on whether any plants need pruning and making sure they’re healthy.
“If we’re doing any garden restorations, we do our planning work and design work and order plants for the upcoming season,” Aiello says. “A big part of what we do is laying the groundwork for the work that we’re going to be doing.“
Morris Arboretum, located about 13 miles northwest of Penn’s campus, was the estate of Lydia Morris and her brother, John. In 1932, the University was entrusted with the administration of the estate and with transforming it into a public arboretum and educational center. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was named as Pennsylvania’s official arboretum in 1988.
Complete information is available at the Morris Arboretum Web site at