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Bringing the Best to Your Neighborhood

November 1, 2012

Collecting trees from around the world — and planting them at the Arboretum for decades of care, observation and breeding — has brought many superior plants to Chicago’s yards, parks and streets.

Consider China Snow® Peking Lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘Morton’), released by the Chicagoland Grows plant introduction program in 2004. With fluffy white flowers in June and spectacular peeling coppery bark in winter, this drought-tolerant 20-foot-tall tree is a treat at any time of the year.

As its name suggests, it’s not from around here. The original plant was brought back from China in the 1920s by collector Joseph Rock. His employer, Charles Sprague Sargent, the director of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University and Joy Morton’s chief advisor in establishing The Morton Arboretum, shared the plant with Morton.

That first specimen turned out to be a magnificent tree. Arboretum researchers propagated it and tested the offspring plants for many years to make sure the selection was truly suited to Chicago’s climate and other conditions before releasing it to nurseries.

To learn more about Chicagoland Grows, a cooperative effort of the Arboretum, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois that develops trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials best suited for Chicago-area conditions, click here.