Spring at the Arboretum

Spring has sprung for at least one location in beautiful Harrisonburg — the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University.

The Arboretum is free and open to the public every day between dawn and dusk. There is parking in the two Arboretum lots and in the adjacent JMU Lot R5, located across University Blvd. from the new Atlantic Union Bank Center.

The Arboretum is a popular destination for spring wildflowers. The outdoor space boasts 50 just in the month of April and others throughout the season. Popular native spring flowers at the Arboretum include Virginia bluebells, bloodroot, trout lily, spring beauty, wild larkspur, true geranium, toad trillium and other trillium varieties, as well as many other spring flowers.

There are over three miles of paths and plenty of green spaces to throw out a blanket and enjoy a picnic while the kids run around, look at the ducks, or play at the Arboretum’s brand-new At Home in the Woods Family Garden. Look for a stone bridge and a 6’ tall troll among other charming features that are appealing to children and very photogenic.

Most recently, the Design Build Dukes led by Professor Nick Brinen and the staff at the Arboretum have collaborated to develop a StoryWalk® project that will allow children to read seasonal stories about nature. This trail will lead to a reading roost with a variety of spaces to cozy up with a book.

Take a peek at everything the Arboretum has to offer on this map.

Besides the obvious charm of the well-maintained and bio-diverse space, the Arboretum is constantly looking for new ways to engage the community and entice visitors to our friendly city. To learn more about exciting programs at the Arboretum see here:

Adult and Family Programs: https://www.jmu.edu/arboretum/events/general-events.shtml
Youth Programs: https://www.jmu.edu/arboretum/events/youth-programs.shtml

One of the venue’s big annual events, the Spring Celebration Plant Sale, will take place starting on Friday, April 28th thru Monday, May 8th from 9am until 3pm (closed on Sundays). Hundreds of people come to the Arboretum over the 9-day sale to purchase houseplants, native perennials, shrubs, and trees. Members of the Arboretum receive a 10% discount on all sales.

Next year, the Arboretum will celebrate its 35th anniversary. The land that the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum resides on could have easily been a space for dorms or new buildings. As James Madison University continued to grow in the 1980s, the land that is the arboretum was at a premium. However, Botany professor Norlyn Bodkin and JMU President Ronald E. Carrier had a vision of what that space could be – a treasure that should be preserved for the future. The beautiful, natural space is filled with native plants and flowers, garden benches, paths for walking, a pond, flowering trees, and most recently, a natural outdoor explore garden for kids. The Arboretum is forever growing, and it’s a natural space that has been preserved for all to enjoy. Visitors and residents alike flock to this space for just that reason – in our city, it’s a green space that will always be a welcoming place for learning, relaxing and being together.