The rhododendron--'rhodie' for short--is Washington State's official flower.

Washington Park Arborteum, zoo-time

by Helen Holter

The Washington Park Arboretum is affectionately called the “zoo for trees.”

The rhododendron--'rhodie'The rhododendron – 'rhodie' for short – is Washington State's official flower. for short--is Washington State's official flower.

The rhododendron – ‘rhodie’ for short – is Washington State’s official flower.

Here is my urban oasis where I daydream, wander, and add to my journal one more reason why I love Seattle.

In this wild kingdom of seemingly nonstop blossoming rhododendrons, Japanese maples and magnolias, more than 5,500 different kinds of plants and trees thrive. It’s a favorite Seattle place to explore nature trails, view wildlife, and admire that ever-growing ‘zoo’ of rhodies.

What to see

I’d rather just meander, but you can pick up a free trail map at the visitors center. Azalea Way and Arboretum Drive East are the main thoroughfares where you’ll see rhododendrons, azaleas, dogwood and flowering cherry trees.

To the north is Foster Island, with its wetlands, wildlife, and waterfront trail. Sometimes I’ve spotted great blue herons from one of the myriad of bridges that make up the trail. I’ve also rented a canoe along the waterfront, then explored marshes and wildlife around Foster Island. Nearby is the Japanese Garden, a peaceful getaway with thousands of azaleas, rhodies, camellias and flowering fruit trees…

A bit of history

The first parklands were set aside in 1904. In 1916, when the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks) were built, the level of Lake Washington fell about nine feet and Washington Park’s marshlands emerged; they were added to the arboretum as well. The Olmstead Brothers designed the arboretum, which is now jointly run by the City of Seattle and the University of Washington.Signature_80

Recommended: Arboretum Foundation

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