Garden Lover? Don’t Miss JC Raulston Arboretum (5,000+ plants)

If you love gardens, plants and trees, don’t miss the nationally acclaimed JC Raulston Arboretum and botanical garden administered by North Carolina State University. It has one of the largest and most diverse collections of landscape plants in the Southeast.

jc raulston Arboretum nc state university 2
10 acres of gardens

Here you can stroll leisurely stroll through 10 acres of gardens with 5,000+ plants collected from all over the world. It’s one of our favorite gardens in Raleigh.

About JC Raulston Arboretum

Pink colored plant
Some exotic plants on display

Founded in 1976 by Dr. J. C. Raulston, a well renowned horticulturist and professor at NC State University, of the 5,000+ plants some rare and exotic species from around the world are on display, and the arboretum is also known for its top research and educational programs.

The main mission of JC Raulston Arboretum is to introduce you to the diversity of the American landscape through its displays, to promote plants, and to provide educational experiences to the general public, students of all ages, and the green industry.

Garden of roses and trees
5,000+ plants

In 1975, J. C. Raulston arrived in the Department of Horticultural Science to teach and start an arboretum which would serve as a living laboratory for students and faculty, and a resource for professionals in the green industry and for the public.

Pink and green plants in a garden

It has since grown to ten and a half contiguous acres, been renamed in his memory as the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University, and has achieved international recognition for its imaginative use of resources and the excellence of its plant collections.

Visiting the Arboretum

Girl walking through a garden of roses

When you visit you can explore several themed gardens such as the Rose Garden, White Garden, Lath House and Asian Valley. There’s also a large pond, a shade garden, and a perennial border

Other areas include the Winter Garden, Plantsmen’s Woods, the Swindell Contemplation Garden, Xeric Garden, Scree Garden, and numerous other gardens and pathways made accessible for the disabled and all visitors.

Girl sitting on a wooden seat in a garden
Plenty of spots to rest

Open daily to the public without charge, who doesn’t love free, it is located in west Raleigh near the NC State Fairgrounds, two miles west of the NC State University’s main campus and directly across the street from Capitol City Lumber Company.

If you love picnics, the arboretum is a top picnic spot with several picnic tables as well as a large lawn to spread a blanket on. 

Path through a garden
Picnic table surrounded by trees

And if you’re a photographer, this is one of the best places in Raleigh to take pictures, including wedding photos, engagement photos, graduation photos, and of course, bird and plant photos – see their photographer guidelines.

Girl walking along a path in a garden
Garden surrounded by trees

You can explore by yourself at leisure like we did with our kids, or consider one of the guided tours. And be sure to check out their events calendar. 


Green plant in a garden

What is the difference between an arboretum and a botanical garden?

While both are gardens that focus on plants, there are some differences between the two:

  1. The primary focus of an arboretum is trees, while botanical gardens have a broader focus that includes plants of all kinds, such as herbs, shrubs, and flowers.
  2. Arboretums are often associated with scientific research and education, while botanical gardens may have a broader focus that includes cultural and historical aspects.
  3. Arboretums tend to have a more naturalistic or park-like setting, with trees planted in a way that mimics their natural habitat. Botanical gardens, on the other hand, may have a more formal design with features such as fountains, hardscape, and statuary.
  4. Arboretums are typically smaller than botanical gardens and may be focused on a specific geographic region or plant family, while botanical gardens can be larger and have more diverse plant collections.
Pergola in a garden

Are pets allowed?

Pets and emotional support animals are not allowed. However, service animals are permitted.

Can I bike around?

No bicycling, skating, skateboarding, roller-blading, balls, frisbees, or kites are allowed.

Girl walking through a garden
Walking is the way to do it

Can I host my event?

Indoor venues at the Arboretum are available to rent for both large and small events and there are a wide variety of room setup options. Learn more here

Can I collect anything?

Certified nursery and landscape professionals are permitted to collect propagules from the Arboretum with prior permission from a staff member.

Girl looking at a collection of firewood

Can I fly my drone?

Do not fly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also referred to as drones, over the Arboretum. Just bring your DSLR camera or phone camera.

Go see for yourself the ever changing year-round beauty of the Arboretum. They are open every day of the year, and once again, they are FREE. 

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