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The tree-filled campus of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is now an accredited arboretum, one of 134 internationally and one of two in Hawaiʻi, joining UH’s Harold L. Lyon Arboretum. UH Mānoa received the recognition from the Morton Arboretum’s ArbNet, the world’s only arboretum accreditation program.

“We look at it as giving us an opportunity to show off our campus,” said Richard Criley, UH Mānoa emeritus professor of horticulture. “It gives us a little clout. There are not that many universities that have arboreta that are accredited by ArbNet.”

UH Mānoa joins 37 universities and colleges with ArbNet accredited arboretums including the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, Ohio State University and American University in Washington D.C. Other accredited institutions include Arlington National Cemetery, Shanghai Botanical Gardens in China and the Tasmanian Arboretum in Australia.

The 320-acre Mānoa campus features more than 4,000 trees and more than 500 species. It received a Level I accreditation from ArbNet that acknowledges the university for its high standards of professional practices deemed important for arboreta and botanic gardens.

Sausage tree (Kigelia africana)

Campus tree history and management

UH Mānoa, originally named the College of Hawaiʻi, was established in 1907 with a plan to treat the campus as an arboretum. In 1915, famed botanist Joseph Rock began planting hundreds trees from all over the world.

“A large part of what are present campus is all about is those plants, some of them going back, maybe a hundred years,” said Criley. “We’ve got these neat things and we’ve added to them over the years. A bunch of plantings came in, probably about, 50 or 60 years ago.”

“These older trees are now the eldest living members of our community and they embody the memory of a century of engagement with the Mānoa landscape,” said David Strauch, a graduate student in geography who is currently serving as the campus horticultural cartographer. Strauch also spearheaded the accreditation effort.

Examples of the unique species on the Mānoa campus include the sausage tree (Kigelia africana), the cannon ball tree (Couroupita guianensis) and the baobab tree (Adansonia digitata), which may be the largest in the country. The amazing variety of trees provides an outdoor laboratory for faculty and students in a broad range of subjects including botany, horticulture, field biology, natural history, art, Hawaiian studies, museum studies, ecology, conservation and sustainability.

“We have a landscape advisory committee that created a tree policy on how to manage the trees on campus,” said Criley. “We like to replace trees when trees have come out and we also, under this new accreditation, would like to be able to add new trees.”

The university’s buildings and grounds management department provides the labor and staff, oversees volunteer plantings and maintains records, documenting the attributes of each tree including species, approximate age and condition. The inventory is available online at where the public can search for and identify the trees and plants around them.

Monkey pod trees line McCarthy Mall on the Manoa campus

About the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program

The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program is sponsored and coordinated by The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois in cooperation with the American Public Gardens Association and Botanic Gardens Conservation International. The only global initiative to officially recognize arboreta based on a set of professional standards, the program offers four levels of accreditation, recognizing arboreta of various degrees of development, capacity and professionalism. Accreditation is based on self-assessment and documentation of an arboretum’s level of achievement of accreditation standards. Standards include planning, governance, labeling of species, staff or volunteer support, public access and programming and tree science, planting and conservation. More information is available at

More about UH Mānoa trees

UH Mānoa students create a website that provides basic information for almost every tree on campus. Read more

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