" As the settlements move out into the prairie, people will turn their attention to the cultivation of forest trees. This, in some neighborhoods, has already been done."
- Jesse Fell to his parents, 1833
Illinois State University’s Fell Arboretum was granted status in 1995 from the International Society of Arboriculture and consists of a 490 acre site established with thousands of trees representing over 154 species. Its history is rich with Jesse Fell’s vision of planting trees that flourish in central Illinois.
Imagine the lovely campus of Illinois State University barren of trees. From 1857 through 1868, this is what Jesse Fell observed all while holding onto his vision of a world populated with trees. This vision included a campus filled with trees to allow for the study of horticulture, botany and forestry. Jesse Fell believed so in this vision that he recruited expertise advice from professional landscape gardeners despite this discipline being under-appreciated at the time. Evidence of Fell’s drive can also be found in our surrounding communities of Towanda, Lexington, Pontiac and Clinton where Fell lined the streets with trees that he planted.
The Fell Arboretum is a valued asset to Illinois State University in that it provides both a beautiful location to visit and also a functional outdoor tree and plant library for academics and enthusiasts. We strive to follow Jesse Fell’s attention to detail as we care for and continually develop the arboretum.
The goal is to provide the university and public with an environment conducive to learning, teaching and demonstrating the importance of trees, woody plants and landscapes of intrinsic beauty. We aim to accomplish this by utilizing best practices as they apply to horticulture, botany, biology and agriculture. In doing so, Illinois State University will be recognized as leaders in creating and maintaining a respected and diverse arboretum.