The Arboretum was established in 1986 by The North Carolina General Assembly to serve as a statewide and national resource almost one hundred years after Frederick Law Olmsted, the Father of American Landscape Architecture, completed the landscape design for his last project at nearby Biltmore Estate. That design included an arboretum at the Estate that was never realized. Olmsted’s design philosophy and approach to process formed the basis and standard of excellence of modern landscape architectural practice, an influence that permeates the planning, design and management of The North Carolina Arboretum.

The role of demonstrating, interpreting and celebrating the importance of plants to our economy, culture and enjoyment is expressed through the Arboretum’s mission, vision and values, and is closely aligned with Olmsted’s four key design criteria: environment, economics, aesthetics and social factors.

The North Carolina Arboretum’s mission is to cultivate connections between people and plants through creative expressions of landscape stewardship, including: conservation, education, garden demonstration, research and economic development.

The vision of The North Carolina Arboretum is to promote the stewardship and enjoyment of the wealth of plant life within the Southern Appalachians through world-renowned gardens demonstrating cultivated and natural landscapes. A dedicated professional and volunteer staff creates innovative experiences, fosters regional and global partnerships and stimulates economic opportunities. The Arboretum honors and preserves the unique cultural and natural heritage of the region.

The values upheld by the Arboretum are insight in knowledge about the plant world, authenticity to plan and work thoughtfully and carefully with respect for the regional landscape and culture and responsibility to develop, communicate, interpret and support the importance of and the teaching about the importance of plants to our world.