U.S. National



June 2019


Washington, D.C.







This grove of trees features the state trees of all 50 states. 


The U.S. National Arboretum is a collections-based research facility and public garden of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is dedicated to the enhancement of the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of ornamental and landscape plants through long-term, multidisciplinary research, conservation of genetic resources, and interpretive gardens and exhibits.


Established in 1927, the U.S. National Arboretum is part of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the principal in-house research arm of the USDA.  The ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority to ensure high-quality, safe food and other agricultural products.  It also assesses the nutritional needs of the American population to sustain a competitive agricultural economy. 






The Arboretum is located inside the beltway just a few miles northeast of the Capitol and Washington Mall. 

It is about 1-1/2 miles from one end to the other.  There are roads with parking areas in each section to reduce walking if you choose.


Start your tour at the Visitors' Center just to the left of center in this photo.







Our first walking loop was the "Grasses" section. 






We never knew corn was considered a grass.  Very interesting exhibit.


Still in doubt?  Decide for yourself at these sites.






We learned about the history of lawns.  Interesting - Really!





Wheat - another grass.




Next we followed the trail down the edge of a large field.  Off in the distance, we saw these pillars and wondered.

Several joggers were enjoying the miles of trails - just a mile away in each direction is bumper to bumper traffic.



Our next stop on the trail is the State Tree collection shown in the earlier panorama.

We're looking for the West Virginia and Wisconsin state trees. 





These 3 trees are the Sugar Maple - the state tree of West Virginia.






By the trees in the previous photo.






Next, we found the state tree of Wisconsin.  Look familiar?




Our home states both share the Sugar Maple as their state tree. 

How romantic!





As we circled around to the other side of the field, the columns came into closer view.





We were surrounded by flowers and bushes blooming. 





The bees were enjoying the flowers, too.








A nice rustic footbridge along the trail near the columns.





Finally - the answer!  These 22 columns were removed from the U.S. Capitol during an expansion of the building in 1958.

They date from 1826 and were in the photos of presidential inaugurations from 1829 (Andrew Jackson) to 1957 (Dwight Eisenhower) - including Abraham Lincoln's inauguration in 1861.  Lots of history here! 





The history these pillars have seen!









From there, we finished our first loop and headed back toward the Visitors' Center and other displays.




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I couldn't pass up this photo op along the trail.









Next stop - the National Herb Garden





Have you ever wondered, "What is Gruit?"  Well, here's your answer.  




Here are some of those plants that make up Gruit.




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And another section describing plants' roles in making beer.





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Some of the plants used in beer-making past and present.





The successors of Gruit - Hops.



Now that we are all experts in making beer, let's move on.





More herbs.






Another beautiful garden area.  Next year, we will come in April or May when the flowers are in full bloom.

Even in the 90-degree heat of late June, it was still nice.




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This sundial device added a nice touch to the decor.




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The National Herb Garden covers 2-1/2 acres and includes 800 kinds of herbs from around the world growing in 10 theme gardens.

There is a nice circular walkway with "alcoves" for each theme.

It's also a nice place to find a bench in the shade and read a book.



(Notes in the following photos ** are from the USDA AgResearchMag website:  https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2005/may/garden  )




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Starting around the circle at the Herb Garden.




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I couldn't walk past this beautiful sunflower without a photo.





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The first area on the circle is the Culinary Garden.




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Culinary Garden - herbs widely used as both food and flavoring.  In small quantities, these can add color, character, and interest to nearly any dish, and they can be combined in about as many ways as there are cooks.  They add healthy nutrients, too. **




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The next stop on the Herb Garden walk is the Medicinal Garden.




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Some of the many plants used in medicine even today.  I never knew licorice was originally used as medicine.


Medicinal Garden - Herbs used for healing from the time of ancient medicinal herbalism to development of synthetic drugs that mimic herbs' active constituents.  Even today, about 40 percent of prescription drugs contain herbs, and pharmaceutical companies scour the world for potential new plant sources. **





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More interesting facts on Medicinal Herbs.





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Next stop - Native American Garden




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Native American Garden - Herbs traditionally valued by native North Americans as food, beverages, medicines, dyes, and charms - as well as for smoking.

Early European colonists soon adopted many of these plants and uses.  **




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Next stop - Colonial Garden





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Colonial Garden - Practical herbs that were largely brought from the Old World by early settlers to flavor their food, improve their nutrition, cure their ills, repel pests, and enhance fabrics for clothing and households. **





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Next stop -  Dioscorides Garden.  (OK, I had to look this one up.)





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Dioscorides Garden - Medicinal Herbs from a pharmacopoeia compiled by the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides.  At around 60 AD, he collected hundreds of plant, animal, and mineral specimens from along the Mediterranean seacoast and described them in a reference that was respected in the profession for the next 1,600 years.  Today's aspirin is a synthetic copy of the compound from a white willow tree studied by Dioscorides, who noted the juices from its bark and leaves eased colds' aches and fevers. **





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Another footnote on Dioscorides.





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Next stop - Beverage Garden





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Some interesting notes in the Beverage Garden.





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Beverage Garden -  Herbs used for teas, liqueurs, and other drinks. In addition to coffee and tea, many consumers also enjoy teas brewed from chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, and other flavorful herbs.  **





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Next stop - Asian Garden





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Asian Garden -  Herbs mainly from Japan, China, and Korea that have been used for thousands of years in cosmetics,

 dyes, flavorings, medicines, and industry. **





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Next stop - Fragrance Garden




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Fragrance Garden -  Herbs typically used (some for as long as 4,000 years) as perfume or to provide fragrance in homes and places of worship. **





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Another footnote at the Fragrance Garden.





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And the last stop on our loop today -  the Industrial Garden




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Industrial Garden - Plants that might become renewable sources of raw materials for industrial products.  Increasingly, plants are being scrutinized or modified for usable constituents, such as waxes or resins.  Converting plants into fuels, insecticides, lubricants, rubber, fibers, or other industrial materials could give farmers higher value alternative crops and lessen dependence on petroleum-based products. 





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And a footnote on the Industrial Garden.




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Leaving the Herb Garden, we get one last look over at the Capitol Columns. 





Lots of bees enjoying the flowers.






A cool respite from the hot sun.






Bonsai (Japanese) and Penjing (Chinese) refer to the art of designing and maintaining miniature living trees and shrubs,

long considered the ultimate in gardening skill.



Learn more :   https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2016/oct/bonsai/ 




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Entering the Bonsai and Penjing Museum area.




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One of many stone figures in the garden.





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Japanese White Pine.



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Bougainvillea - Native to South America.

Named for French Navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who discovered the plant in Brazil during his 18th-Century explorations.




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Viewing Stones are natural stones that may suggest landscapes, structures, people, or even animals.

They traditionally accompany bonsai and penjing.

This large stone with flower patterns was given to President Gerald Ford by the Japanese Suiseki Association in 1976.




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Entrance to the Chinese Pavilion.



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Another view of the Chinese Pavilion.





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Walkway inside the Chinese Pavilion.




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North American Pavilion area.





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Japanese Garden - Many of these trees are over 100 years old.




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A type of Lotus flower.




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Close-up of Lotus bloom. 




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As we were leaving the Visitor Center and Bonsai/Penjing Gardens area,

I stopped to photograph the very 60s decor on the side of the building.




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The side of the building also made an interesting reflection in the pond.



We decided to explore a couple of areas of the arboretum a half mile away, so we drove.

The first area is Fern Valley. 




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We enjoyed a nice hike through the Fern Valley area. 




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The trails are all well-marked, and there are plenty of places to rest.

By now, though, it was getting pretty hot and we stayed on the shady trails.




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We saw a lot of these berries along the trail. 

Not quite sure what they are, but interesting to see them in different stages of development.




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Just a little farther down the road is the Asian Collections area.




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Lots of nice flora, but there were a lot of steps and it was in the 90s and very humid.





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More steps to climb in the Asian Collections area.  Well worth the effort, though! 




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Nice flowers along the trail. 





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Very fitting in an Asian Collections display.



Soon, we made it back to the car and the A/C.  Ahhhh.....


We really enjoyed our visit to the U.S. National Arboretum and would encourage you to set aside a day (or at least a few hours) and visit if you are in the Washington, D.C. area.   Admission is free!   Plenty of parking (at least during the week).  Bring water if you come in hot weather, because you will most certainly want to walk the trails and explore. 


U.S. National Arboretum

3501 New York Ave NE

Washington, D.C.  20002


(202) 245-4523