By UW Sustainability | Nov 27, 2015

The UW's ENVIR 480: Sustainability Studio class in the Program on the Environment presents students with a sustainability topic which they engage in as part of an experiential learning course. The topics change each quarter - this spring, the students researched the UW's environmental history. This is part of a series of posts by the students on some of the information they uncovered.

On December 6, 1934 UW’s Board of Regents and the City of Seattle agreed to establish the Washington Park Arboretum. Today the park continues to serve as an experiential education setting for many, and contains one of the largest collections of temperate trees and other plants in the Northern Hemisphere.

The University of Washington and the City of Seattle worked together to create this amazing 230-acre park featuring trees and shrubs in Seattle's urban landscape. UW owns the plant collections and is responsible for the park’s maintenance, as well as all of the educational programs and outreach events, while the City of Seattle owns the land.

The arboretum contains more than 20,000 plants, a collection that started in 1934 when James Dawson and Fredrick Law Olmsted, Jr. designed the Arboretum. The design and makeup of the arboretum has undergone many changes over the years. In 2001, the most recent master plan, called "Renewing the Arboretum," was made and adopted by the UW’s Board of Regents and Seattle's City Council. Both UW and Seattle wanted to conserve the natural diversity of the Arboretum and its many native plant species.

Today, the Arboretum is used for research. Students, faculty, and staff can research the specimens in the arboretum to see how the trees and plants live and respond to the urban environment and Pacific Northwest climate. Students from various disciplines, including landscape architecture, botany, urban forestry, urban horticulture, and more, continue to use the Washington Park Arboretum space for educational purposes. Other programs and events are also available to the general public, including tours, outreach lessons, and demonstrations.

The Washington Park Arboretum is a wonderful park that continues to conserve plant species for the future and provide an experiential education space for today.

By Jennifer Truong

For more information on the environmental history of UW, see our interactive timeline "A Century of Sustainability" at