Secrest Arboretum

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  • Secrest Arboretum
Professional and Technical
  • Management / Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
  • Crop Production
  • Gardens
  • 1908
Key Persons
Key Persons
    • 1680 Madison Ave, Wooster, 44691, Ohio, United States

The Wooster Arboretum was established in 1908 by Edmund Secrest on a 75-acre area at the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station. A few plantings of hardwood species were made as early as 1901, but the development of the Arboretum and a more planned planting of the acreage began in earnest in 1908. The arboretum has historically integrated forestry and horticulture in such a way as to permit studies in plantation management, wood utilization, forest genetics, and the testing of ornamentals[1]. The Arboretum was dedicated as the Secrest Arboretum in 1950 in memory of Secrest, known as the "father of forestry" in Ohio.

While much effort was put into developing the Arboretum, staff experienced a number of setbacks thanks to Mother Nature. The Arboretum sustained varying levels of wind damage from significant storms in 1955 (March 22), 1956 (February 25), and 1963 (April 19), presenting staff with necessary cleanup work and researchers with opportunities to study the damage and reflect on potential changes to forestry practices[2].

By 1978, the Arboretum had grown to approximately 85 acres with over 2000 species, varieties, or cultivars of trees and shrubs, with the oldest remaining trees - yellow poplar, northern catalpa, and European larch - dating from 1903[3]. Among the notable plantings in the collection are:

More than 140 varieties of flowering crabapples, affectionately known as "Crablandia"
A grove of dawn redwood, once thought to be extinct, planted in 1953
A collection of arborvitae varieties

The Rhododendron Display Garden, started in 1966, was a cooperative venture with the American Rhododendron Society (Great Lakes Chapter) featuring "at least four plants each of 165 different species, varieties, or hybrids of rhododendrons and azaleas growing in the garden, plus 150 Rosebay rhododendrons planted in the Secrest Arboretum in 1917"[4]. While the garden was damaged in the 2010 tornado, many of these magnificent bushes still grace the arboretum.

In 1970, the Garden of Roses of Legend and Romance was established at the Arboretum near the Barnhart Rice House, Wooster, Ohio. Mrs. Samuel Forbes of Cleveland donated the funding for its creation, and the roses were a gift of Mr. Joseph Kern, a well-known rose nurseryman[5]. The 2.7-acre garden reached a peak of about 1500 rose bushes representing 500 varieties, some of which were rare when the garden began[6]. The rose garden declined throughout the 2010s due to an incurable disease called rose rosette, and in 2019-2020, all of the roses were removed and the space cleared for an experimental space, starting with trial plantings of coneflower varieties, hydrangeas, and native honeysuckles[7].

In September 2010, an EF-2 tornado with winds reaching 135 mph swept through the OARDC campus and wreaked damage across one-fourth of the Arboretum, including many of the gardens and landscape plantings. The natural forested areas had many trees blown over or experiencing basal shear, while the understory plant communities experienced far less damage[8]. Approximately $400,000 in private donations helped the Arboretum replace plantings and renovate areas of the gardens hardest hit by the storm, and researchers have taken the opportunity to study how nature rebounds after dramatic weather damage. Another storm in November 2017 brought additional but less extensive damage to the gardens as well as to the Barnhart Rice House.

In 2019, the former Research Operations building was renovated and reopened as the Secrest Arboretum Welcome and Education Center, hosting exhibits as well as educational events for visitors. The Arboretum currently covers 115 acres.

Quick Facts

  • 1908 - Wooster Arboretum established on acreage at the Experiment Station
  • 1950 - Arboretum renamed Secrest Arboretum
  • 1970 - Garden of Roses of Legend and Romance established
  • 2019-2020 - Garden of Roses of Legend and Romance discontinued
  • 2020 - Secrest Arboretum Welcome Center opened


Newspaper articles

  1. "Tribute to a Man and Trees," Wayne County Topics, October 1954, p.6
  2. Oliver D. Diller and Harry R. Muckley, "Wind Damage in the Secrest Arboretum," Forestry Mimeograph No. 20, 15 April 1955
  3. John E. Ford, Finding List and Guide to the Secrest Arboretum, p.1.
  4. A Photo Tour, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, p.[6].
  5. Robert E. Whitmoyer, The View From the Tower, p.39.
  6. Melissa Green, "Roses are for show at research center," Akron Beacon Journal, 24 July 1994
  7. Linda Hall, "Secrest Arboretum replacing its acclaimed rose garden," Akron Beacon Journal, March 18 2019
  8. "Effects of Catastrophic Natural Disturbance on the Structure and Function of Forest Ecosystems," SEEDS: The OARDC Research Enhancement Competitive Grants Program 2014 Report of Progress, p.11