As Seen on the Illinois Tollway – The Morton Arboretum

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A spear-wielding troll. Giant ants. Colorfully illuminated trees.

Those are some of the sights drivers traveling along the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) just west of the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355) have seen at The Morton Arboretum in west suburban Lisle.

The Morton Arboretum ranks as one of the world’s largest, oldest and most diverse outdoor tree museums. Established in 1922 by Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Co. and son of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, the Arboretum encompasses 1,700 acres of plant collections and gardens amid natural landscapes of woodlands, prairie, lakes and streams.

The Arboretum grows and displays a rich diversity of trees, shrubs and other plants that are evaluated for their suitability for the Midwest. These living collections include 222,000 plant specimens representing 4,650 different kinds of plants. Additionally, 90 different kinds of plants on the grounds are considered threatened or endangered on state, federal or world lists.

Specimens are arranged by geography, plant category or special features common to that specific group such as size, soil requirements and horticultural traits. The oldest trees at the Arboretum date back to the 1760s when the land was occupied by Native Americans.

The Arboretum is also a world-renowned leader in developing programs and initiatives to plant and protect trees, including a partnership with the Illinois Tollway and others to increase the region’s tree canopy. The Arboretum is providing expertise in tree planting techniques and the development of soil amendments to support the Tollway’s effort to plant 58,000 trees along its system.

Open every day of the year, the Arboretum features 16 miles of hiking trails and 9 miles of paved roads for driving/bicycling or guided tram tours. Specialty gardens include the 4-acre Children’s Garden and 1-acre maze.

The Arboretum also hosts numerous events and special exhibits. This year, it’s introducing a new outdoor art exhibit, Human + Nature, to connect people and trees. Though not visible from the Tollway, the exhibit includes five 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures by internationally renowned artist, Daniel Popper, whose larger-than-life sculptures are on display at venues worldwide. Made of glass-reinforced concrete, fiberglass and steel, the Human + Nature sculptures follow on the heels of the successful Troll Hunt exhibit, which has ended.

Advanced reservations are required for tickets. For more information, visit