Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum
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Research

Botanical Research

General Information

Since its inception as a public garden, the Morris Arboretum has served as a center for botanical research. Research staff at the arboretum study the evolution, phylogenetics, systematics/taxonomy, anatomy and morphology of plants. The Morris Arboretum also has a long-standing research program in floristics, or the study of what plants grow in a certain place in a particular time frame, with a major focus on the flora of Pennsylvania (please see below for details). We are currently fundraising to better equip our laboratory with a suite of molecular biology and anatomy/histology tools and equipment, to allow us to grow our research program even further. Please contact us at botany@morrisarboretum.org with any questions about our research program, or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer or donor to help further our pursuits!

The PA Flora Project

Early research staff of the Morris Arboretum included Dr. Rodney True, Dr. Edgar Wherry, and Dr. John Fogg. These and other scientists at the Arboretum have had considerable impact on the understanding of the flora of Pennsylvania and beyond. Today, The PA Flora Project's botanical research efforts focus on the occurrence of the native and naturalized plants that inhabit Pennsylvania. We recognize the importance of understanding the dynamic nature of the flora and seek to gain insights into these changes through work in the field, laboratory, and at the computer. We maintain the Pennsylvania Flora Database, a database of more than 400,000 plant records, to help store and disseminate the data we obtain in our research. We are currently working in collaboration with The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University to further improve on the PA Flora Database by creating better access to plant specimens collected in PA through the PA Digitization Project, which will make high-resolution images of these specimens and the collecting information associated with them (i.e., who collected the plant, where and when) available online.

Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis Project;

Achieving a greater scientific understanding of our urban areas, one plant specimen at a time

In light of the increasingly urban future of our planet, a thorough understanding of the biological processes at work in urban areas is necessary for the continued survival of Earth's inhabitants, including humans. The first step in that understanding is to know what thrives, survives, or perishes in cities, now and in the past. The Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis (MAM) Project begins this study by looking at vascular plants, with the digitization of roughly 700,000 herbarium specimens from eleven institutions in the urban corridor from New York City to Washington, D.C. As the largest, oldest, and most populated urban corridor in the U.S., this area and its flora present a unique opportunity for the study of urbanization, particularly given its rich herbarium collections, containing specimens collected over the last 400 years. The data mobilized in this effort will help us achieve a better scientific understanding of living urban systems, a critical need for urban planners, restoration ecologists, environmental engineers, (landscape) architects, and conservationists engaged in creating more sustainable and better designed cities, including the constructed and restored natural environments of our urban areas.


Staff Members

Dr. Timothy Block

Dr. Timothy Block, The John J. Willaman Chair of Botany

My research interests are in the flora of Pennsylvania and in GIS mapping of plant distribution.


Dr. Cynthia Skema

Dr. Cynthia Skema, Botanical Scientist

My research is focused on the systematics and evolution of plants. I enjoy studying plants at many levels, from ecosystems to species to organs to genes. I am particularly interested in the floras of Pennsylvania and Madagascar, the digitization and dissemination of herbarium/floristics data, and the evolution of separate sexes in flowering plants.


Dominique Groffman

Dominique Groffman, The Eli Kirk Price Endowed Flora of PA Intern

The Flora of Pennsylvania Internship is a joint program between the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania and The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. The Flora of Pennsylvania Intern receives training and work experience in many aspects of managing collections in a major herbarium, and an opportunity to contribute to a modern state flora through a research project on some aspect of the flora of Pennsylvania. This internship requires a dedication to building a professional career in botany. This position is supported by the Eli Kirk Price Endowment.


Luke Hearon

Luke Hearon, The John J. Willaman & Martha Haas Valentine Endowed Plant Protection Intern

The Plant Protection Intern works independently, with supervision from the Arboretum's botanical and horticultural staff, to monitor plant pest and disease problems affecting the living collection. The intern also coordinates the Morris Arboretum Plant Clinic, which provides a forum for the public to ask pest, disease, identification, and other general plant questions. This position is supported by the John J. Willaman & Martha Haas Valentine Internship Endowment.


Dr. Ann F. Rhoads

Dr. Ann F. Rhoads, Senior Botanist, retired

My research interests are focused on the floristics of Pennsylvania. I want to document the natural vegetation of the state and better understand historical and contemporary influences that have shaped the patterns of plant distribution we see today.


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Alerts & Updates


Advance Tickets Required for All Visitors (Including Members)

The Morris Arboretum is excited to announce that is reopening to the public on Thursday, June 18th. Members may reserve tickets starting Monday, June 15th with non-member tickets available Wednesday, June 17th. Please know that we are working to keep you as safe as we possibly can.

  • The City of Philadelphia mandates that all visitors age 2 and older wear face coverings.
  • If you feel sick, stay home.
  • One-way circulation on paths to facilitate social distancing.
  • The Visitor Center, the Shop, and Compton Cafe are temporarily closed, but picnicking will be permitted in certain areas.
  • The Garden Railway, Out on a Limb, the Fernery and the Log Cabin are temporarily closed.
  • Restrooms are open and sanitized regularly.
  • Hand sanitizing stations throughout the Arboretum.
  • Bring your own water and snacks.
  • Guest passes, Library passes, and RAP reciprocal admissions are not accepted at this time.

Unfortunately, Out on a Limb will be closed on Wednesday, January 29th through Friday, January 31, 2020 due to scheduled maintenance.

The Garden Railway will not be operational from 2:00 PM Friday (July 19) through the weekend (July 20-21). The trains will open for normal operation on Monday, July 22nd. Our Train Master reported that the trains will not operate in the excessive heat, citing electrical, track and rolling stock failures.

The Arboretum is open as usual. Click here for hours.

Garden Railway trains are not running Saturday, September 8th and Sunday, September 9th due to inclement weather.

Please note: The Rose Garden is closed for maintenance every Thursday morning until noon.

Weather conditions may limit garden access to certain features even if the garden is open – please check the web site or call (215) 247-5777 for updates before visiting. Our visitors’ safety in the garden is our top priority. Therefore when inclement weather is predicted, we will make decisions about closing the garden accordingly.

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