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Acton Arboretum

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Ages:Toddlers, Kids, Teens, Adults
Category:Parks & Nature
Other Ideas: Massachusetts DCR State Parks; Purgatory Chasm State Reservation; Garden In The Woods: Native Plant Trust; Arnold Arboretum; EcoTarium

acton arboretum photoThe Acton Arboretum, in the town’s center, consists of 64 acres of woods, meadows, swamp, ponds, old apple orchards, a glacial esker, and a bog. Parking is available at the Arboretum’s main entrance, off Taylor Road.

Other entrances are at Wood Lane and Minot Avenue. Much of the area adjacent to the parking lot is handicapped-accessible, and is open, with graveled paths, gardens, bridges, and picnic tables. Trails and paths crisscross the entire area.

There are three major trails at the Acton Arboretum, along with a number of interconnecting paths. The main trails are the Orchard Loop, the Wildflower Loop, and the Highland/Bog Loop. An access route that connects to the Arboretum from the Town Center Green runs parallel to Taylor Road. Along this access trail are the Swale Garden, the Daylily Collection, and a grouping of crab apple trees and native shrubs.

View Trail Map

The Orchard Loop trail is a perimeter loop of the upper, most open, area of the Arboretum together with the old orchard grid to its south. This 1,200-foot trail begins at the Taylor Road parking lot and is handicapped accessible with gentle grades, crushed stone base, and a number of benches along its length. It takes the walker through a number of unique garden areas as well as beside a small pond constructed in 1992.

The unique planting areas along this trail include an Herb Garden, designed as a replica of a typical 1700s herb garden with medicinal, culinary, and strewing herbs, and situated within and around the old foundation area. The Butterfly Garden, the Hosta Garden, the Nursery, and the Nut Tree collection are all situated around the open grassy area. An old, granite watering trough, dated 1878, has been moved into this area also. Picnic tables, drinking fountain, and stone reading circle add to the utility of the open area. Situated along the more southerly reaches of the Orchard Trail are the Rhododendron Garden, groups of Japanese larches with an arbor, and areas of wetlands.

The Wildflower Loop trail leaves and rejoins the Orchard Loop Trail on the western and eastern sides of the Arboretum property. It travels through 1,800 feet of swampy lowlands and upland forest. Efforts are being made to make this trail also entirely handicapped-accessible. Features along this route, in addition to an extensive Wildflower Garden, include a Fern Garden, a small-brook crossing, several boardwalks and benches, two fair-sized ponds, and an old quarry site with a partially-cut granite boulder with the cutter’s drill marks still apparent. In the summertime, the two ponds are solid green with duckweed and host many frogs and turtles.

The Highlands/Bog Loop is a 3,500-foot journey from the highest area in the Arboretum to the lowest. The 30 acres traversed by this trail, in the most southerly portion of the Arboretum, comprise a wide variety of forest types, succession growth, and geological features. It is based on old farm roads, cow paths, and foot trails, and is not handicapped-accessible. A most unusual feature of this area is the display of ‘Forest Stones,’ subtly scattered by the trail side. This collection of twenty two field stones, each inscribed with a single word, was retained by popular demand from the 1995 Environmental Sculpture Exhibit.

History of the Arboretum
The land, successively owned and improved by the Craigins, the Reeds, the Tuttles, and the Bridges, was acquired by the town in 1976 and 1977. It was formalized as an Arboretum in 1986 when Town Meeting funded the purchase of plant materials and site improvements, and the original warrant article was amended by John Whittier to specify use of the property for an arboretum.

Since then, the Arboretum has been developed through the efforts of the Friends of the Acton Arboretum, Inc., assisted by many volunteers. The Acton Garden Club planted and maintains the Herb Garden. Boy Scouts completing Eagle Scout projects have worked in the Craigin foundation and swamp areas on plantings, paths, and boardwalks. Girl Scouts working on their Gold Awards have also completed several projects. Local businesses and landscaping firms have donated services and materials. Most of the heavy labor involved in the clearing of the foundation and in the upgrading of the trail system has been performed by town staff.

Looking for more great places to enjoy the outdoors in Boston? Check out our guide to outdoor fun for families in the Greater Boston area.



Taylor Road, Acton, MA, 01720 map


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