Established in 1989, the arboretum—a type of botanical garden—encompasses approximately 100 acres of GCU’s historic Lakewood campus. Its collection showcases 2,200 trees and shrubs of more than 190 species, many of which are found in the surrounding Pine Barrens.
Native, nonnative, and endangered species are represented in the arboretum. Notable examples in the collection include small Ilex, Clethra, and Magnolia. Many of the trees are the largest and oldest in the Ocean County area, including a Quercus alba (white oak) specimen over 250 years old.
Among the arboretum’s oldest fixtures are its four main gardens—the Sunken, Italian, Formal, and Japanese gardens. Each was built before 1910 when the campus was the George Jay Gould estate. The Sunken, Italian, and Formal gardens were devised by architect Bruce Price, and the Japanese Garden was designed by Takeo Shiota. The gardens populate the arboretum’s plants, trees, and flowers with statuary dating back several centuries.
The lakeside Sunken Garden incorporates marble stairways and a 17th-century fountain, overlooking a lagoon with waterlilies. The Italian and Formal gardens weave walkways amidst bronze sculptures, conifers, and flowerbeds. The Japanese Garden includes a genuine teahouse, waterfall and wooden bridges amongst its cypress, yew, cherries, and Japanese maples.
“The Sister Mary Grace Burns Arboretum is part of a university that values accreditation as an indicator of high quality,” says Michael F. Gross, Ph.D., GCU associate provost, professor of biology, and director of the arboretum. “For our arboretum, ArbNet accreditation is important because it serves as a signal to potential visitors that they will find a woody plant collection that is accurately labeled and maintained, and educational resources that are informative and useful.”
Because it is an integral part of the university campus, the arboretum is open daily and is not marked by signs, though a map of its highlights is available for self-guided tours. Visitors are welcome from 8:00 a.m. until dusk. There is no charge to visit.
For more information about the arboretum, including guided tours (which can be arranged for a fee) or lists of the plant collection, please contact Dr. Michael Gross at 732-987-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also view a history and guide of the arboretum online.