The China Collection was started in 1925 and is the most diverse geographic collection in the Arboretum. It contains over 408 different kinds of trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous plants growing along the south side of the East Branch of the DuPage River. More than 75% of the plants in this collection come from wild sources.
As the collection's richness reflects, China has been a great source for many beautiful plants. Interest in studying the country's flora has led Arboretum staff members on numerous trips to China. In 2005 Kris Bachtell, Director of Collections and Grounds, traveled through southern Gansu Province (a remote area of Northern China) as part of a 29-day expedition to collect seeds of exciting and rare plants.
Some of the key species in this collection are dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Ussurian pear (Pyrus ussuriensis), lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana), and Farge's hazelnut (Corylus fargesii ). The dawn redwood is a legendary tree first described in 1941 as a fossil from the Mesozoic Era (about 200 million years ago), and was thought to be extinct. Seven years later, a previously unidentified stand of trees in China was found to be this same species! In 1948, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University collected seeds from this stand, and since then, the once "extinct" species has been in cultivation worldwide. Mature dawn redwoods develop beautiful buttresses on their lower trunk, and throughout their life-span these trees exhibit gorgeous red-brown fall color.