Updated date:

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Strolling through the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center.

Strolling through the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center.

Houston Arboretum

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center was originally called the Houston Arboretum and Botanical Garden. A name change took place in 1981. This new name better describes what this Houston treasure offers visitors daily.

My husband and I have lived in Houston, Texas, for most of our lives. We have often driven through Memorial Park but had never taken the time to visit the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. One day we decided to remedy that oversight, and I am so glad that we did. It is a fantastic enclave of forested areas as well as wetlands. It also contains a sizable pond and a meadow that was at one time forested. Once we were walking on the five miles of trails, it was hard to believe that this nature center is a mere three miles from downtown Houston!

Changes Over the Years

This land area has changed many times over the years! Thousands of years ago, it was heavily forested, and Native Americans lived in this locale. The land provided fresh water, edible plants, wild game, and shelter.

During the 1800s, a sawmill owned and operated by A.C. Reynolds helped change the forested landscape. Mills were buzzing again during World War I when Camp Logan became an Army Training Camp. In 1917 thousands of soldiers erected many camp buildings and were trained in this area before departing to fight the war in Europe.

The wealthy Hogg brothers and Henry Stude had purchased the land. They were encouraged to believe that Houston needed a sizable park. Fortunately, after the war, most of the property which would eventually become Memorial Park was sold to the City of Houston at their cost. The city debt was paid off in annual payments between the years 1924 to 1934. Restrictions on the deed ensured that it would remain a park for all time.

Emmott Circle

A plaque memorializes a lady who was most instrumental in establishing this park. What is inscribed on that plaque is the following:

“Emmott Circle

Dedicated to the memory of Catharine Mary Emmott

1862 – 1949

Chairman of the Memorial Park Committee

Her love of people and the out-of-doors inspired her to suggest the creation of Memorial Park, and she worked diligently and persuasively for a year for its establishment. When the park was opened in 1924, its 1,503 acres were dedicated to the memory of soldiers who fought in World War I.”

Many of those soldiers were injured, and many died during WWI. So it is a fitting tribute to them to have this park named in their honor.

Changes Over Time

Upon an esplanade in the park is where you can find the Three Quarter Time Sculpture. One road leads to the West Loop & Woodway Drive and the other remains on Memorial Drive.

A sizable portion of the land was eliminated because of this road construction through the park, leaving 155 acres for the arboretum. Other more natural changes have taken place over time.

Many trees died back in 1979 after an invasion of Southern Pine Bark Beetles. A meadow now exists where a forested area once stood. The destructive force of Hurricane Ike in 2008, along with the devastating drought of 2011, caused even more tree losses. More than 60% of the trees died because of those catastrophic events.

When my husband and I walked on the trails, many of the downed trees lie where they fell. Some of the dead ones were cut down before they could fall and potentially do damage.

Over the next few years, many more changes are due to take place because of a $40 million capital campaign. In addition to more parking spaces, there will be more trees, more nature trails, a new visitor center, and a cafe on-site. Invasive species will be removed.

Be prepared to see some of those renovation projects underway if visiting the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center in the years ahead. When completed, it will be an even more spectacular place to visit!


The nature trails are open daily from 7 AM to 7 PM. The arboretum building is available from 9 AM to 5 PM. Inside the building are numerous classrooms and rooms available to rent for special occasions. If you wish to use their outside spaces for venue events such as weddings, call to make a reservation at 713.681.8433.

Educational Classes

Classes for kids, as well as adults, are offered. Subjects are varied and range from learning about birds and bats to learning which wild plants are edible. These examples are only a small sampling of the many offerings.

The day we were there, a printmaking class was taking place. Ferns and other natural items gleaned from the nature center were in use. Usually, the collection of any plants (with exceptions such as this) is prohibited. The same rules apply to the collection and removal of insects and animals.

A Discovery Room inside of the Nature Center building, as well as the Nature Shop, is open from 10 AM to 4 PM daily except Mondays. It is a terrific place to teach kids of all ages things related to nature via the use of microscopes, puzzles, and items that they can touch and explore.

Enjoyable Place for People and Pets

Dogs are welcome if kept on leashes, and we saw quite a few of them on the trails. Most people are quiet and respectful of others in this natural setting. It is a place to relax, unwind, and wash away the stresses of the day.

There are some signs along the way of identifying individual plants. Some of them include braille, where there is a guide rope in the 1/3rd mile long Palmetto Multi-Sensory Trail designed for the visually impaired.

Trails are natural, as well as those constructed as wooden walkways. Since the area is so flat, it is handicap accessible.

Location and Suggestions

The site of the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is here: 4501 Woodway Drive, Houston, Texas 77024. It is free to the public, but a donation box is inside the building. Clean restrooms are available.

I have read that free insect repellent is available upon request. It is a good idea to use bug spray, particularly after a rain event in Houston. Mosquitoes thrive in our warm, humid environment! My husband and I visited the arboretum and nature center in April. It was relatively cool outside, and we did not experience biting mosquitoes. I would plan to visit the arboretum during the cooler times of the year unless using the inside facilities, which are air-conditioned.

We truly enjoyed the natural setting and will look forward to the changes which will be taking place.

Iris in bloom at the Houston Arboretum

Iris in bloom at the Houston Arboretum


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 01, 2020:

Hi C E Clark,

Rest assured that most of the acreage that was donated is still a part of Memorial Park. The 155 acres of the arboretum is only a portion of the park. Memorial Drive did bisect the park so that parts of it are on the north and south side of the highway with an esplanade in the center.

C E Clark from North Texas on May 31, 2020:

1503 acres, but only 155 of them make up the arboretum? And the land was supposed to be used only for a park in perpetuity? Seems like somebody already breached that agreement even if it was used for public roads.

Posting to FB & AH.

Looks like a very relaxing park to visit and the photos are gorgeous as always.

Hope all is well with you Peggy, and that you are staying safe.

Robert Sacchi on March 16, 2020:

You're welcome and thank you for posting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 15, 2020:

Hi Robert,

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is indeed a great place to visit. Thanks for the virtual visit and your comment.

Robert Sacchi on March 15, 2020:

Great detail, great pictures and videos. This must be a wonderful place to visit.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2020:

Hi Linda,

Given the beauty of parks where you live, that is high praise indeed. I am pleased that you enjoy what I am showing you of our area including our Houston Arboretum and Nature Center.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 08, 2020:

If I ever visit Houston, I will spend most of my time in the parks that you've described. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center sounds and looks like a lovely place to explore. I enjoyed looking at your photos very much, Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 07, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

The hurricane and then a drought that happened all within a few years of one another wrecked havoc with many trees in our area. As you mentioned, the arboretum has made this all a part of the story with regard to nature. So glad that you liked this.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 07, 2020:

While it’s sad what the hurricane did, I like that this nature center made the recovery and resurgence part of its story. That is part of nature’s story. Beautiful!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 06, 2020:

Hi Ruby,

Yes, we have many places in the Houston area that can be enjoyed with no admission fees. We have yet to take advantage of them all but will keep on exploring them in the days, months, and years to come, God willing.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 06, 2020:

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is beautiful. I would surely purchase the potted stromanthe plant, it is gorgeous. How lucky you are to live in an area where so many attractions are free to the public. Thanks again for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 06, 2020:

Hi Mary,

We are indeed lucky to have the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center in our midst.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 06, 2020:

Hi Nithya,

Yes, this is an excellent place to teach children about the wonders of nature. I am pleased that you enjoyed my photos.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 06, 2020:

Hi Bill,

It is my pleasure to be showing off the many incredible parks and other spaces in our Houston metro area.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 06, 2020:

It is so lucky for the city to have such a park. What a great contribution to the life of the people there. The flowers are so beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 06, 2020:

Hi Manatita,

We do have many hidden, as well as not-so-hidden treasures in the Houston metro area. It is wonderful that you have gotten to visit the arboretum in Nairobi on one of your trips there.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 06, 2020:

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center seems to be a great place to connect with nature. The Discovery room will help to inspire and teach the kids. There must be countless number of plants to explore. I enjoyed walk, the photos are wonderful.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 06, 2020:

I swear, Houston should be paying you. You have greatly increased my knowledge and appreciation for Houston through your fine articles.

manatita44 from london on March 06, 2020:

Nice trails and pretty good as a picture prompt for a story. You are a bit of an adventurer, but again, Houston seems to have so much natural beauty! How come I never saw them? Such fascinating scenes at this Houston Arboretum & Nature Center.

It is large, spacious and seems more than useful for kids education. I visited the one in Nairobi, Kenya on my 6th trip, last year, in fact. It is near the State House and very beautiful!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 05, 2020:

Hi Pamela,

Surprisingly, it took us so many years to take the time to walk through the Houston Arboretum, despite passing it on the road for decades. I am glad that we finally did, and am happy to help publicize it to others.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 05, 2020:

Hello Kyler,

From what you wrote, you must be an artist. The Houston Arboretum would furnish some pretty settings for you to capture.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 05, 2020:

This looks like such a beautiful place to visit, walk through or just sit and soak up the beauty. Your pictures are fantastic and I imagine you thoroughly enjoyed your time in this park. I am still amazed by all the wonderful places to visit inn Houston.

Kyler J Falk from California on March 05, 2020:

That looks like a really good place to go, set up an easel, and drift away in the environment. If I'm ever in the area you can bet I'm stopping by!

Related Articles