Guided Tour

It’s a small detail that makes a walk in the Arboretum of Tervuren of such particular interest .

Tervuren is known as a geographical arboretum. This means the trees were planted here in groups according to their origin rather than their species (as would be the case in a botanical garden).

Several separate clumps of trees were created. Each grew into a small wood made up of a variety of different trees representative of a particular area with the result that, as the fancy takes you, your route could – with a bit of imagination ! – take you from California to Alaska within a few dozen steps.

Besides the obvious scenic interest, this lay out also allowed the trees to grow in conditions closer to those of their native environment by recreating the natural interactions between them. One type of tree can protect another from high winds or others are more at home growing in the shadow of taller species, etc…

The various clumps of trees are often surrounded, or separated from each other, by grassy glades.

Some very (too?) discreet signs will enable you to identify the clumps of trees you are walking by. These numbers shown in the identification map of the Arboretum without which you won’t be able to identify the zone you are visiting. Hence don’t forget to print out the map available on this site.
Discrete signs...


The Arboretum is in a wet zone...
You will really get to discover the true wealth of the Arboretum by walking through the grassy glades. Several small ponds and a few small brooks are scattered throughout these glades. The entire area is rather damp requiring adequate footwear if you plan to leave the main pathways (which I strongly recommend you do if at all possible).

You can, of course, embark on a more classic visit of the Arboretum by following the wide pathways accessible to all (strollers, wheelchairs, etc...). The most beautiful of them all is undoubtedly the “Royal Promenade” (Koninklijke Wandeling) which meanders gently throughout the entire park. Further on I’ll make a couple of suggestions for two “ready made” itineraries adapted to your level of mobility. Use of most of the pathways is restricted to pedestrians only. As the Arboretum is home to a wealth of evergreens (conifers, etc…), you can visit at any time of the year!

Foggy morning on the Arboretum The "Promenade Royale" A dreamers'paradise...

The "Koninklijke Wandeling"

The Arboretum brings together trees typical of the Northern Hemisphere (temperate zones) in forty distinct areas. The first twenty of these are part of the New World (including a spectacular exception from South America). The next twenty are part of the Old World (Europe and Asia).

These numbered groups are often sub-divided into subgroups (a, b, c, d). This alphabetical subdivision refers either to parent forestry sub-regions (for example 28 a, b, c: Corsica, Lower Cévennes, Calabria), or to different elevation zones in the same area (for example group 6 - Northern California - is divided into sub-groups 6a: elevation zone up to 1000m, and 6b: between 1000m and 1800m).

The eastern side of the Arboretum is home to the Old World collections whilst those of the New World share the western side. Both are worth a visit in their own right even if Europeans perhaps tend to view the New World as more exotic thanks to its star attractions such as the Sequoias, the Araucarias and other Douglas firs.


Details of the treasures of the Old World!

The Giant Sequoia (sequoiadendron giganteum) also called Sierra Redwood, Big tree or Sierra Big tree is native to the Sierra Nevada in California. The Sequoia National Park is entirely dedicated to it. The most famous of the giant Sequoias is called “General Sherman”. It is 83.8m high with a circumference of 31.3m and is considered as the biggest tree on earth in terms of volume. More in french on the big trees

To the giant sequoia page (for the moment in french only).

The Coastal Redwood (sequoia sempervirens). This species thrives along the Northern Californian and Oregon coasts. The tree is more slender than the previously described one but it reaches record heights of more than 100 meters. The tallest living tree is 112m tall (current world record). There are very few tall redwoods in Tervuren for the obvious reason that this coastal tree cannot withstand hard frosts. You can spot them in group 6a, surrounded mainly by western hemlocks and Douglas firs.

The Araucaria (Araucaria Araucana) ) is better known as the Monkey-puzzle and is also called the Chilean Pine. It is one of the only trees from the Southern Hemisphere to be found in the Arboretum of Tervuren. With its very characteristic silhouette and foliage, this tree is popular in parks or private gardens where it is easily noticeable. The prickly thorns of its branches earned it its nickname. Curiously there are no monkeys in the Andes. But after all, this is quite understandable: they could never have got down from the tree! The araucaria plantation (group 10) is one of the most exotic of the Arboretum.

The Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga Menziesii) which is actually not a fir… Another giant tree! It is one of these Douglas firs, although long since gone, which still holds the absolute record for height (127 meters in 1895 in British Columbia). It became very common in Europe where it reaches a height of no more than 50 metres. Located mainly in groups 2b, 3, 4, 5 and 6, this tree grows quite successfully in the Arboretum. The Douglas fir is native to an area stretching from Canada to Mexico and from the Pacific Coast to the Rockies. It has a life expectancy of about 2000 years. A smaller sub-species called the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir or the Blue Douglas fir because of its bluish needles can also be found in group 9 (Colorado).

The American Chestnut (Castanea Dentata): when a tree becomes a living legend. Until the beginning of the twentieth century the American Chestnut played a key role in the development of the (future) United States (food, construction, industry). To the East of the Mississippi one in four trees was a chestnut. From 1904 onwards a devastating blight (accidentally introduced from Asia) was to all but destroy the chestnuts forests in their entirety from North to South in the space of a few decades. By the 1940’s – 50’s the chestnut species was considered to have died out. The few remaining specimens are struck by the disease before they can bear their first fruit. The hundred-year old American chestnuts of Tervuren were spared from this plague and therefore represent a unique testimony of a bygone era. An extensive programme is currently underway in the U.S. aiming at reintroducing immunised varieties. For more details about this story see the site of the American Chestnut Foundation.

Naturally, the Arboretum’s Old World collections are also home to European Chestnuts. A specific page of this site (in French) is devoted to these two species.

The Incense Cedar (Calocedrus Decurrens). This pillar-like tree is a member of the family of cypresses and cedars. It can reach heights of 30 to 50 metres in its native surroundings of the West Coast of America (record: 70m). Its reddish, ligneous bark is reminiscent of that of the Giant Sequoia and it is often planted in straight rows in our public gardens (due to its neat and even outline). The group of incense cedars in Tervuren affords a truly spectacular, uncommon and picturesque sight. You will find it at the North-eastern edge of group 7.

The Sitka Spruce (Picea Sitchensis). Sitka is the name of a coastal island of Alaska. This tree grows all along the Northern Pacific Coast (Alaska, British Columbia, Vancouver Island, etc…) in a particularly wet area known as the “Fog Belt”. Its highly valued wood has been put to a wide range of uses from the manufacture of folk guitars for example, to use in aeroplanes (such as the famous De Havilland “Mosquito” of World War II). It can live for as long as 700-800 years. Nowadays the tallest living tree in Canada is a Sitka spruce (on Vancouver Island, 95 metres). You will find many of these spruces in groups 1 and 2. If you have had the chance to see the Walt Disney film, “Brother Bear”, the name Sitka should sound familiar to you.

The Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). According to the legend, its sap was used in the making of the first chewing gums. This tree can be found on the East Coast of America and, more generally, in the South East of the United States. Its foliage is magnificent during the autumn.

Discover it here (for the moment in french version only)!

To the Sweetgum page (for the moment in french only).

Many other trees of the Arboretum deserve some attention : worth mentioning, among others are : the Grand Fir, the Vancouver or Giant Pine, the Ponderosa Pine, the Western Hemlock, etc… not to mention the Old World collections! The Arboretum hosts many treasures and it is not always easy to find your way around. Take your time to have a closer look at the branches, the position of the needles, the shape of the leaves, the fruit and the cones, the bark and the tree’s overall outline. Don’t forget to breathe in its scent either.

The possibilities for hiking itineraries in the Arboretum are endless. You could discover a new trail at each visit. But here are two itineraries especially designed for a day’s outing. Both are centred around the New World collections. The first uses the wide avenues accessible to everybody, including the less mobile among us. The second will lead you through the hollows of the glades, alongside the ponds, etc... A tiny bit more adventurous perhaps but without any real difficulties or danger!

Clicking on your chosen itinerary will display the corresponding map.

Click here to show itinerary 1.

Click here to show itinerary 2.
Pass or click on the numbers left to display two walks in the park.

Hiking itineraries in the Old World are available here.

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