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The John Bartram Arboretum at Kendal at Oberlin

The 100+ acre campus at Kendal at Oberlin, with more than 1,100 planted trees and eight ponds, has always been an inviting place to walk, bird watch and enjoy nature’s beauty. Now the grounds’ designation, as an accredited arboretum, gives residents and staff increased opportunities to preserve and enhance the woody plants, as well as educate the larger community about the value of sustainable arboriculture.

An Arboretum Takes Shape.

The seeds to create the arboretum were planted late last summer during a casual dinner between two Kendal couples – Jim and Anne Helm and Larry and Arlene Dunn.

“I never thought this one conversation about trees would be this,” says Anne, one of a dozen active members of the Arboretum Subcommittee of the KORA Horticulture Committee.

Here what’s been accomplished so far:

  • The John Bartram Arboretum is accredited by ArbNet as a Level 1 arboretum;
  • About $10,000 has been raised from grants and private donations;
  • Interpretative tags are being added to planted trees;
  • A web-based catalog listing all planted with GPS locations and observation notes is underway;
  • Relationships are developing with Kendal’s Early Learning Center, the City of Oberlin, the Oberlin College Environmental Studies Department, and the Ohio Division of Forestry.

John Bartram –  America’s First Botanist

One early key objective has been educating the community about the arboretum’s namesake. John Bartram, a Pennsylvania Quaker from the 1700s, is considered the first American-born botanist.

A friend of Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers, John Bartram collected specimens and seeds native to North America, which he distributed along the east coast and shipped overseas to Europe. Of the 800-plus arboreta listed on the international Morton Register, Kendal’s is the only one named for John Bartram.

The American Tulip Tree is the Signature Species.

With 50 different species of trees currently growing on campus, organizers selected the American Tulip Tree as the arboretum’s “signature tree.”

“The tulip tree caused a sensation when Bartram shipped the first one to England in the 18th century. Tall and straight, with interesting foliage and flowers and bright gold fall color, Liriodendron tulipifera is one of our most magnificent American trees,” Larry Dunn wrote in the application for accreditation to

While the group’s short-term goals are certainly keeping them busy, they already have dreams for the future, such as a wheelchair-accessible garden featuring plants discovered by John Bartram and maybe even a nursery plot to grow trees from seedlings.

Kendal at Oberlin is not the only Kendal community with an arboretum. The connected campuses of our Kendal-Crosslands affiliates in Kennett Square are also designated as an arboretum by ArbNet.