KEITH ARBORETUM

UP2Save is thrilled to be developing the next stage of the Arboretum as a destination for:

  • Botanical education and study to understand commonalities and differences between species from around the world, with our planned Digital Tree Experience.
  • Exploring and interpreting the collection as a veritable food forest with dozens of species producing edible fruits, nuts, and medicinal plants. Then entire arboretum is home to a community apiary for our partners at Bee Downtown, producing one-of-a-kind honey from some of the world's most diverse sources, with a pollinator garden to be planted this year.  

The mission of the Keith Arboretum is to create and preserve a large and diverse collection of temperate woody tree and shrub species for study and enjoyment by researchers, horticultural students, professional horticulturists, and the general public.  Dr. Charles Keith devoted 40 years of his life to creating this incomparable botanical collection in the Piedmont hills near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In 2015, following Dr. Keith's long search for a new successor, Pickoretum, LLC acquired the arboretum as a conservation investment. As of  2018, Unique Places To Save is now a co-owner and steward of this remarkable collection. It is our intent to uphold the mission  of the Keith Arboretum, and to enhance its potential as a community conservation asset. 

The Arboretum began in the 1970's on a small scale, on an early 19th century farm located 7 miles west of Chapel Hill, NC. It has grown in size over the years until now it comprises approximately 19.5 acres within an additional 40 acres of conserved wooded buffer land. Currently there are approximately 4,000 labeled species, with an emphasis on collecting and displaying species representing a wide diversity of conditions. In 2010 the Arboretum received the annual Jean Iseli Memorial Award. 

This diversity includes ranges of temperature tolerance, with species from plant hardiness zones 1 - 2 species usually grown in bog sites, to those in the warmer zones 8 - 9.  Another example of this diversity is the presence of 23 Abies (fir) species which usually grow in cool, mountainous regions. The majority of the world's temperate genera are represented in the collection. Examples of genera represented are Pinus or pine (76 species), Betula or birch (24 species), Quercus or oak (112 species), and Acer or maple (103 species). These totals do not include numerous other general. Species were obtained by Dr. Keith through personal collecting, commercial nurseries specializing in rare plants, and from overseas collectors including renowned North Carolina botanist, J.C. Raulston. 

Our plant inventory is listed in the Botanical Garden Conservation International (BGCI) database. Utilizing this database, horticulturists and botanists from around the world contact us with requests for information and plant material for research purposes. See our current BGCI listing of plants here, which was approximately 80 percent complete as of 2012 (see Plant Inventory).  With the assistance of forestry students from North Carolina State University, we have compiled a digital tree and shrub database for the property with accurate GPS locations and descriptions of all species (see Map Tour in the Our Collection tab).  

By 1990, garden clubs and horticultural groups began touring the Arboretum. Horticulturists noted that the plant collection had become one of the largest collections of temperate woody species in North America. 

May all who walk these grounds be inspired and engaged with a renewed passion for our natural world, today and for generations to come.