Benches under trees at Fullerton arboretum

Fullerton Arboretum. Photo by CSUF News

Cal State Fullerton’s post-COVID reopening will include the Fullerton Arboretum, which will again welcome visitors during summer hours beginning July 7.

Set on 26-acres, the botanical gardens provide an escape from the urban landscape of North Orange County and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For Fullerton Arboretum members, it is also open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Since March 2020, the arboretum has been closed due to its status as part of the Cal State system, even though many similar nature preserves in and around Orange County reopened within a few months of their pandemic closures. During that time, the arboretum’s staff maintained the gardens, conducted virtual events, including online gardening and cooking classes, and hosted native plant sales.

Now that the Fullerton Arboretum will again be open for in-person visits, here are seven things not to miss when exploring this free botanical enclave.

  1. Heritage House

Learn about North Orange County’s past at the 1894 Victorian cottage that was once the home and professional office of George Crook Clark, one of the first medical doctors in Fullerton. The adjacent gardens are planted in the style typical of late 1800s Southern California. The house and grounds, including a windmill, will be open for free guided tours on weekends beginning fall 2021. One particularly memorable aspect of the tour: seeing giant ostrich eggs and learning about the ostrich races that were once a North O.C. tradition.

  1. Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum

The development of local agriculture and the contributions of the Japanese American community in Orange County are featured in this museum, which is housed in a building designed to look like an early 1900s citrus packinghouse. The museum hosts regular exhibits – next up will be “Birds in Art,” on display from Nov. 21, 2021, to Jan. 23, 2022.

The Ombu tree in the Fullerton Arboretum

The dramatic multi-trunked Ombu tree at the Fullerton Arboretum. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

  1. The Ombu Tree

The multi-trunked Ombu tree – a massive evergreen native to South America – is a great place for a selfie. Growing to heights of up to 60 feet, Ombu trees are a symbol of Argentina and Uruguay, but have also been introduced to similar climates in South Africa. Take some time to relax or eat a lunch at the picnic benches in the shade under the massive tree.

  1. Watch Some Beekeeping in Action – From a Safe Distance

You better bee-lieve it! The Fullerton Arboretum has been the site of beekeeping research since 2019, dedicated to finding ways to save endangered bee populations that are essential for agriculture and the ecosystem. Located near the arboretum’s border with the residential housing communities, the bee houses can be observed (at a safe distance) from nearby picnic benches. Try some honey products from these Titan bees at Monkey Business Café, open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at their Fullerton and Irvine locations.

  1. Travel the World By Visiting Diverse Plant Ecosystems

Southwest deserts. Louisiana bald cypress swamps. Pacific Northwest temperate forests. Tropical rain forests. Chinese bamboo. These are just some of the natural botanical ecosystems from around the world represented at the Fullerton Arboretum. A walk through the gardens is a great way to gain a better appreciation for our diverse world – and take selfies in environments that are typically a plane trip away!

  1. Buy Some Native Plants

With California back in drought conditions, it’s all the more important to landscape your property with plants that can withstand the hot and dry conditions of the region. Stop by the Fullerton Arboretum to talk with horticultural experts, who can advise on the best solutions for your home or garden. There’s always a good selection of plants for sale! Regular sales events provide an opportunity to learn more about plants while connecting with members of the Orange County community and beyond who share your passion.

A young woman shows a wolf at the Fullerton Arboretum in October 2016

A naturalist showcases a wolf at an educational event at the Fullerton Arboretum in October 2016. Photo by Daniel Coats ’15,’18

  1. Take in a Nature Class

The Fullerton Arboretum hosts unique, informative and educational nature classes, designed for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. From getting up close and personal with wolves and coyotes, to practicing yoga in the arboretum or creating your own bonsai tree, there’s something for everyone. Check out the schedule of current classes.