Plants and Gardens

Tyler’s horticultural displays date to the mid-1800s when Minshall and Jacob Painter started an arboretum on their family farm. Today these magnificent historic trees and shrubs tower over the landscape, creating a sense of awe and inspiration. In the mid 1900s, beautiful flowering trees and shrubs were added creating spectacular displays in spring through early summer. Wildflowers and other native plants are featured throughout our core area and herb and vegetable displays entice home gardeners to grow their own fresh healthy food.

Historic Painter Plants

Historic Painter Trees

In March of 1681, just 17 days after King Charles II gave William Penn his colony, Quaker Thomas Minshall purchased a sizeable tract of land from Penn. One hundred and fifty years later, Thomas Minshall’s sixth-generation descendants, Minshall and Jacob Painter, began systematically planting trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants on their ancestral farm, sowing the seeds for what was to become Tyler Arboretum.

At one time, the Painter brothers’ collection of plants numbered more than 1,100 specimens, planted in tidy rows that radiated out from the farmhouse. Today, 20 of these Painter Plants are alive, five of which are state champions. Additionally, five native trees from the Painter brothers’ era or earlier survive.

American Linden (Tilia americana)

American Linden (Tilia americana)

American-Linden-WEBThe American linden is a medium to large tree native to northeastern North America. In summer, it produces an abundance of sweetly-fragrant, nectar-rich flowers from which a valuable honey is made. Also known as basswood, it is highly valued by woodcarvers for its light and easily-worked wood.

Bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum)

Bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum)

Bald-Cypress-WEBIf you are looking up at this tree in the winter, you will see bare branches; at other times, you will observe soft feathery needles. This is one of a handful of conifers that sheds their leaves in the fall. Native to southern wetlands, it thrives in moist areas and standing water.

Tyler’s second historic bald-cypress, growing much closer to the water, is surrounded by the characteristic knarled woody “knees” that sprout up from the roots. These knees can grow up to five feet in height, but do not appear until a tree is at least 50 years old. Scientists are not sure of their purpose, but believe the knees may help stabilize the trees in the boggy soil they prefer.

Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Bottlebrush-Buckeye-WEBThese deciduous shrubs attract hummingbirds and butterflies to spiky, white, bottlebrush-like flower plumes that bloom in summer. Bottlebrush buckeyes are clonal – spreading from underground root suckers. This massive colony started from two shrubs planted by the Painter brothers.

Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)

Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)

TylerSummerCedarOfLebanonCreditAnneMariePalitaWhen young, cedar of Lebanon trees have an upright pyramidal shape, but this magnificent specimen exhibits the typical mature form with a flat top and broadly spreading branches that create a uniquely spherical outline. Evidence remains of the large branch lost in a 2001 ice storm. Metal cables between branches provide support for the heavy branches.

Common Pear (Pyrus communis)

Common Pear (Pyrus communis)

Common-Pear-WEBThis pear was one of the first trees planted by the Painter brothers along the fence line of their new arboretum. Over time it has grown quite tall as it competed with surrounding trees for light. It flowers in spring and continues to produces small two-inch pears.

Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra spp. laricio)

Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra spp. laricio)

State Champion

Corsican PineThis spectacular specimen is a subspecies of the Austrian pine. Its telephone pole-like straightness and two-toned bark make it a striking tree. Native to eastern Europe, Corsican pines are fast growing and can grow up to 100 feet. Subject to disease and other pests, the age of this specimen far surpasses expectations.

Cucumbertree Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata)

Cucumbertree Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata)

Cucumber MagnoliaMagnolias are members of one of the most ancient groups of flowering plants, going back 70 million years. This species is the tallest of our native deciduous magnolias, reaching up to 80 feet. In summer or fall, look for cylindrical, bumpy fruit pods at the end of the branches; when green, they resemble small cucumbers, for which the tree is named.

Fraser Magnolia (Magnolia fraseri)

Fraser Magnolia (Magnolia fraseri)

Fraser-Magnolia-WEBThe fraser magnolia, native to the cool, moist valleys of the southern Appalachian region, was discovered by John Bartram in 1775. Creamy white flowers emerge in May. A sprout of the original Painter Plant, this tree first flowered in 1976.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

State Champion

Giant-Sequoia WEBWhile sequoias are known for their massive, straight trunks, the uncharacteristic double trunk in the upper portion of Tyler’s specimen is the result of a Christmas tree thief who topped the sequoia in 1895, 39 years after it was planted. Native to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, sequoias can grow up to 300 feet.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo1The ginkgo is the world’s oldest living species of tree whose fossil records date back 150 million years when dinosaurs roamed the earth. This multi-trunked specimen has a massive trunk, measuring just over 21 feet in circumference. The fan-shaped leaves turn bright yellow in the fall and often seemingly drop overnight when temperatures dip below freezing. Female trees produce seeds with a foul-smelling fleshy seed coat; luckily the Painter brothers planted a male.

Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealei)

Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealei)

Leatherleaf-Mahonia-WEBThe coarse evergreen foliage of this shrub creates bold textural interest in the garden. Racemes of small, fragrant yellow flowers appear in very early spring and are followed by blue to black grape-like fruit clusters that ripen in summer. Tyler’s large specimen probably grew from an original plant whose low branches formed roots and new shoots as they lay on the soil downhill.

Oriental Spruce (Picea orientalis)

Oriental Spruce (Picea orientalis)

State Champion

Oriental-Spruce-WEBNative to Asia Minor, the Oriental spruce has the shortest needles of all the spruces. Unlike other spruce grown in our area, the Oriental spruce is trouble free and has a narrow upright form, making it a good choice for smaller landscapes. Tyler’s specimen measures over 100 feet tall.

Osage-orange (Maclura pomifera)

Osage-orange (Maclura pomifera)

OsageOrangeBlown down by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, the fallen osage-orange is the one tree at the Arboretum that visitors are permitted to climb. Because the hard wood contains a naturally-occurring chemical that is toxic to fungi, it has resisted decay. Native to the Ozark Mountains, the resilient wood was used by the Osage Indians to make bows. Female trees bear a yellow-green fruit that resembles a large bumpy orange, for which the tree is named.

River Birch (Betula nigra)

River Birch (Betula nigra)

River-Birch-WEBOur native river birch thrives in moist, boggy soil. Often multi-trunked, the river birch is attractive in the landscape with its striking peeling bark. Its shaggy, exfoliating bark becomes darker and more deeply furrowed with advanced age; when young, it often reveals creamy pink and salmon hues. As Tyler’s specimens illustrate, they are large trees at maturity, growing up to 90 feet.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Sugar-Maple-Stump WEBAlthough now only a stump, this sugar maple was once a majestic tree planted by the Painter brothers. Native to northeastern forests, sugar maples are the source for maple syrup. The practice of extracting sap in the late winter and boiling it into syrup was started by Native Americans. Sugar maples are also prized for their brilliant yellow, orange, and red autumn color.

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Sweetgum-WEBThe sweetgum has been valued since pioneer days when people would peel the bark and scrape off the resin-like solid to produce chewing gum and medicine. Its five-pointed star-shaped leaves are fragrant when crushed. In fall, they turn yellow, orange, red, and purple.

Switchcane Bamboo (Arundinaria gigantea ssp. tecta)

Switchcane Bamboo (Arundinaria gigantea ssp. tecta)

Switchcane-Bamboo WEBThis is the only bamboo native to the U.S. It once covered thousands of acres of southeastern bottomlands. Farms have replaced these canebrakes and switchcane is now considerably diminished in the wild. The subspecies tecta is a shorter form, growing only six to eight feet.

Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Historic Native Tree

Tulip-Tree-WEBA common native of our woodlands, tuliptrees acquired their name from their early spring flowers, which resemble tulips. They are one of the fastest growing and tallest hardwoods, often reaching heights well over 100 feet. Despite being struck by lightning in 1990, this specimen continues to thrive. The trunk diameter is just over 5 feet.

White Oaks (Quercus alba)

White Oaks (Quercus alba)

Historic Native Trees

White-Oaks-WEBThis pair of white oaks illustrates the characteristic massive, wide-reaching form of specimens grown in open conditions. Rarely found in nurseries, white oaks are easy to grow from planted acorns. The diameter of the larger tree is over five feet.

Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava)

Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava)

Yellow-BuckeyeLike the bottlebrush buckeye, this native tree produces leaves composed of five segments. In May, it produces tall panicles of yellow flowers. Contained within smooth husks, the seeds resemble a buck’s eye.

Yulan Magnolia (Magnolia denudata)

Yulan Magnolia (Magnolia denudata)

State Champion

YulanMagnoliaNative to central and eastern China, the Yulan magnolia has been cultivated in Buddhist temple gardens since 600 AD. It is one of the parents of the more common pink saucer magnolia. The beautiful white fragrant flowers emerge in April and are often at risk of browning from late spring frosts. Note the tree’s hollow trunk, which can provide shelter for wildlife.

Wister Horticulture Collections

Wister Horticulture Collections

Dr. John Caspar Wister (1887 – 1982)

Dr. Wister was the first director of Tyler Arboretum (1946-1968). He was a member of a prominent Philadelphia area family, which included the 18th century physician Caspar Wister, after whom the species Wisteria was named. Dr. Wister developed the concept of the Arboretum as it is today, maintaining both cultivated and natural areas. He planned and laid out such features as the cherry, lilac, magnolia, rhododendron and crabapple collections, as well as the Pinetum and trail system.

The early years were devoted to clearing areas intended for planting. In the early 1950s, Dr. Wister produced a plan of the “Wister Loop,” a circular trail linking the collections of lilacs, crabapples, cherries and magnolias. In 1952, Dr. Wister described his vision: “The varieties were most carefully chosen, and are believed to be the finest in existence at the present time. Given five or ten years of good growth and a minimum of care, they should make this portion of the grounds a beauty spot unsurpassed in any public garden.”

The Rhododendron Collection

Wister Rhododendrons

“Nurtured within Tyler Arboretum is a hidden treasure. It is a legacy so special and unique that its existence alone places it as a nationally and locally important resource. This horticultural jewel is the Wister Rhododendron Collection. Growing pleasantly beneath the shade of second-growth tulip trees, oaks, ashes, and maples, the collection represents the culmination of one of this country’s great rhododendron breeders, Dr. John Casper Wister.” –Robert Herald, September 6, 2005

WisterRhodoCollectionIt took years before Dr. Wister was able to begin planting the extensive rhododendron collection adjacent to the Pinetum. By the 1950s, Dr. Wister described the area as a thick jungle of weedy tulip and ash trees, many of which had blown down in a hurricane in 1954 and a snowstorm in 1958. Compounded by inadequate labor, planting was impossible until 1959. Dr. Wister described the establishment of the Pinetum rhododendrons as the most important development undertaken at the Arboretum, and by the end of 1959 the collection numbered more than 500 rhododendrons and 200 azaleas. He wrote, “These quantities are not so important as the number of species, varieties and hybrid strains…these alone should make a collection second to none in Pennsylvania.”

Herald reports that “there exists no other public collection in the northeastern United States that can compare in horticultural diversity, condition and importance” than Tyler’s Wister Rhododendron Collection. We invite you to visit and discover this amazing collection for yourself!

The Magnolia Collection

The Magnolia Collection

magnoliaPlanting of the magnolia collection began in 1951, with the assistance of the Hill and Hollow Garden Club. Prized for their broad range of flower types, colors and fragrances, the magnolia collection includes important Asiatic, native and hybrid varieties including the late-blooming “Little Girl Hybrid” series, which was developed by the National Arboretum.

The Crabapple Collection

The Crabapple Collection

CrabapplesThe crabapple collection was planted from 1951-1953 along a sweeping looped path known as the “Crabapple Trail,” linking the cherry and the lilac collections. By 1959, there were 95 crabapple trees representing more than 40 species and varieties.

The collection contains American and Asiatic species and garden hybrids in a broad range of pink, red and white spring flowers, and superb displays of autumn fruit.

The Ornamental Cherry Collection

The Ornamental Cherry Collection

TylerSpringYoshinoCherriesCreditBobMilano_320The ornamental cherry collection was begun in 1951 with 45 plants, representing 23 species and varieties, most of which were donated by the Scott Foundation of Swarthmore College. These splendid Yoshino cherry trees planted along Painter Road make a dramatic display in spring.

The Lilac Collection

The Lilac Collection

Lilacs-WEBThe original lilac collection was planted in the early 1950’s with 84 plants, representing 63 lilac varieties. Today Tyler staff adds to the collection but maintains Dr. Wister’s original wish for exhibiting only the best examples of lilacs for this region. Lilacs in pinks, blues, purples and whites line this walk exhibiting the extensive color range of this plant. Spring is the best time to visit the Lilac Collection to experience the beautiful colors and intoxicating sweet smell.

Pinetum

Pinetum

Pinetum-WEBTyler’s Pinetum is an imposing 85-acre collection of pines, spruces, hemlocks, firs, cedars, false cypresses and larches. Planting began in 1954, wtih conifer plants and seedlings donated by the Arnold, Morris and Scott Arboreta. Trees in the pine family (Pinus spp.) – including pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks, cedars, junipers, and arborvitae – were planted in groups of three to five of each species, with one specimen planted well apart from the group.

Natural Areas

Trails

Trails

Tyler maintains over 17 miles of hiking trails that traverse through 550 acres of our uncultivated natural areas. Meander through meadows, wind your way through dense woodlands, and forge sparkling streams as you observe the diverse wildlife and historic ruins of centuries-old buildings. Tyler’s trails offer challenges for all fitness levels and multiple points of interest. Once you’ve hiked some of these trails, begin to combine them in different ways and have the very best personal hiking experience at Tyler.

Rocky Run Trail (Blue, Gate 1, 1.9 miles, approximately 1 hour) - Gentle, Family-friendly, Cascades, Butterflies and Birds

Minshall Trail (White, Gate 2, 7.4 miles, approximately 4 hours) - Longest Trail, Most Secluded, Beautiful Historic Ruins

Middle Farm Trail (Yellow, Gate 3, 1.4 miles, approximately 45 minutes) - Shortest trail, Family-friendly, Expansive Meadows, Spring and Summer Flowers

Painter Trail (Red, Gate 4, 2.2 miles, approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes) - Most Challenging, Stream Crossings, Great Views

Dismal Run Trail (Orange, Gate 6, 2.0 miles, approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes) - Challenging Hills, Shady Stream Valley, Historic Ruins, Wildlife

Pink Hill Trail (Pink, Gate 7, 1.6 miles, approximately 1 hour) - Moderate Hills, Rare Ecosystem, Chestnut Nursery, Bridge Stream Crossings, Quiet Meadow

 

Trail Map 2014_Page_2

The Pond

The Pond

Pond-WEBTyler’s Pond is a popular spot to visit any time of the year. The unique wooden deck, built in 1990, allows easy access right to the edge of the water and serves as a perfect viewing spot to look at the variety of wildlife that call the Pond home. Nearby benches provide places to rest and enjoy the serenity of the space. The Pond is relatively small and was originally dug to serve as a source of irrigation water in the late 1940s. It is fed by Rocky Run Stream, which runs through the original historic Arboretum and continues on its journey along Tyler’s Blue Trail on its way to Ridley Creek.

Many animals and insects live in or near the Pond. In the spring, wood, pickerel, green, and bull frogs and American toads gather in the pond to mate and lay eggs. Later in the spring and into the summer, tiny tadpoles can be seen around the pond edge. As weather begins to warm in early spring, Tyler’s turtles re-emerge from hibernation. On warm days, painted turtles, red-eared sliders, and snapping turtles enjoy sunning themselves on logs. Several species of fish call the Pond home, including largemouth bass and a variety of sunfish such as bluegill, redear, and pumpkinseed. Summer and fall are a great time to enjoy the many species of dragonfly and damselflies that dart and swoop through the air hunting insects or rest on the plants and deck railings before their next flight. Birds are often seen near the pond edge catching a quick drink. In winter, the pond is quiet as animals and insects hibernate through the cold weather.

Pink Hill

Pink Hill

Pink HillTyler Arboretum’s Pink Hill offers visitors a chance to see the last remaining serpentine barren in Delaware County, and an ecosystem that is found only a few places in the world. In the Eastern United States, serpentine areas occur in scattered pockets from Alabama to Canada, but the most diverse and botanically significant outcrops are in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland, including Delaware County. Over the years, the serpentine barrens of the County have disappeared under suburbia’s sprawl, but many of the plants that grew in these specialized habitats will make the transition to the suburban landscape with surprising ease. By using these plants, home gardeners can help preserve the County’s distinctive landscape.

The serpentine barren (or grassland) is a habitat that has adapted to growing on thin, coarse soil loaded with minerals highly toxic to most plants. The toxic soil is a byproduct from the erosion of Serpentine bedrock just below the soils’ surface. Serpentine or Serpentinite – rumored to have been named for a particular snake indigenous to Serpentine areas in the wilds of Italy – is a soft rock with the swirled green and brown color of melted mint chocolate chip ice cream.

The term “barren” often associated with these sites originates from a term the early settlers used to describe the soil’s inability to support commercial crops. The green color comes from the rocks’ high concentration of magnesium. Magnesium itself is very efficient at hampering plants’ nutrient absorbing capabilities; pockets of chromium, cobalt, nickel and iron substantially contribute to the hostile environment.

However, some plants have found a competitive advantage in this harsh soil. While a few species such as the serpentine aster (Aster depauperatus) are found exclusively on Serpentine grasslands, most are fairly common in other parts of the country. Some are native to the prairies of the Midwest, finding a niche in the barrens as fire suppression practices took effect. Others are common to the local area, and several of them are available in the nursery trade.

Our own grassland Pink Hill is named for the pink wash of Phlox subulata or moss phlox that blooms in the spring. Moss phlox is quite easy to find for purchase and is available in a number of colors. Used as a groundcover in hot, dry areas, Phlox subulata literally covers itself with flowers early in the year. Evergreen except in very exposed areas, moss phlox won’t grow much taller than about three inches, but it can spread laterally for three feet.

To read more in depth about Pink Hill, see the Pink Hill Serpentine Barrens Restoration and Management Plan Report.

North Woods

North Woods

Located on the northern edge of the core area within Tyler’s deer exclosure fence are 13 acres of protected native woodland. Tyler has been steadily working to restore this forest to demonstrate what a healthy woodland would look like without deer pressure. Work is ongoing document the native plants growing in the area, to remove invasive plants, and to replant native species appropriate to the ecological conditions.

Meadows

Meadows

Stopford-Family-Meadow-Maze-WEBThe meadows in the Pinetum, Pink Hill and Stopford Family Meadow Maze area come begin to come alive in spring when the bluebirds and tree swallows begin swooping through the air as they hunt for insects to feed their young. In midsummer, the grasses grow high and sun-loving wildflowers attract butterflies and other pollinators. Fall finds the grasses turning a tawny brown contrasting with the bright colors of the surrounding deciduous woodlands. Winter is perhaps the most peaceful time to wander the sunny paths – on snowshoes or cross country skis if conditions are right!

 

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