Magnolias are part of an ancient lineage of flowering plants dating back approximately 95 million years. The Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum is home to 18 types of magnolias from evergreen to flowering. Two magnolias in particular have witnessed history as they were planted just beyond the outfield wall for the former Ponce de Leon Park, where the Atlanta Crackers played baseball. Babe Ruth and Eddie Matthews both hit home runs that were caught in the canopy of one of these magnolia trees. As part of Arboretum experimentation, we have taken cuttings from these historic magnolias and grown them into new trees so that this piece of history can live on the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum and in new parks and baseball fields around Atlanta.
The oak trees on this slope and throughout the Arboretum represent many ecosystems in Georgia, from bottomland hardwood swamps to granite outcrops. Of the approximately 90 species of oaks native to the United States, 33 are native to Georgia. All 33 oaks are growing on this slope and between them dance 33 stainless steel leaf sculptures – one for each tree.
Among the stateliest of our native trees, beeches are indicative of a mature forest. Though they can take around 40 years to produce a large quantity of nuts, beech trees are critical for wildlife. Beeches provide food and shelter for all kinds of birds and mammals, such as the red-headed woodpecker. Dubbed the fairy ring, the circle of beech trees here surrounds a granite outdoor classroom and gathering place where you can contemplate how the beech trees will look in 3, 5, and 10 years!
Despite the native azalea holding the title of Georgia’s State Wildflower, it is underused in the landscape. The Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum is now home to the largest public native azalea collection in the Atlanta Area with over 300 azaleas on display. The collection highlights over 25 species, cultivars, and varieties, and is home to all 13 azaleas native to the state of Georgia. This collection focuses on named cultivars (varieties that have been selected for depending on color, size, bloom time, etc.) within two series called the Georgia Moon Series and the Sunrise to Sunset Series. The Georgia Moon Series will have fragrant white-blooming Georgia native species, and the Sunrise to Sunset Series will be comprised of Georgia native species in warm orange, reds, and soft yellows blooming from March – July.
This stumpery garden will be a horticultural oddity, serving as a public place for learning and exploration and demonstrating how trees can be utilized in a beautiful way. Stumpery gardens utilize dead, fallen, and storm damaged trees as an asset to the garden – providing critical habitat for beetles, frogs, birds, and small mammals such as chipmunks. Whole logs are placed upside down to display their root structure, and logs, branches, and pieces of bark are arranged to form walls and archways. Plants such as ferns, lichen, mosses, soft grasses, and trailing plants are encouraged to grow on and around them.
Different from the Eastside collection, the Westside collection has all straight species and natural varieties that encourage free hybridization. These azaleas are all grown from seed so there are many variations in the hues even between the same species.
Home to the largest American persimmon tree in the state of Georgia, this remnant old growth forest on 1.3 acres provides habitat to a variety of deep forest flora. Walking through a nature trail and over a few bridges will bring you up close and personal with woodland groundcovers, rare spring ephemerals (plants with a short life cycle) such as trillium, and a large collection of native woody species. Enjoy the seasonal blooms, learn from plant identification signs, and get hands-on with volunteer opportunities to plant, divide woodland perennials, and collect seed.