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Celebrate Biltmore’s Historic Trees

Posted on 05/06/2016 by Judy Ross Comments(8)

On a beautiful summer day, it's a great time to walk through Biltmore’s forests to honor the estate’s timeless commitment to the legacy of the land. And if you can’t be there in person, a virtual walk will do!

A Brief History of Arboriculture at Biltmore

When George Vanderbilt purchased the acreage that would become Biltmore, much of the land was cleared and vacant of trees due to activity from the previous settlers. Biltmore’s landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, advised George Vanderbilt to make most of his estate a forest.

According to Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian, “Olmsted suggested, as a general rule, the establishment and maintenance of an unbroken forest from the north to the south and from the east to the west, which he intended as a model for the country.”

Dawn Redwood

Trees to Look for During Your Visit

During your visit this summer, see some of these original trees and other varieties planted through the years.

  • Dawn Redwood: Find this North Carolina state champion tree in the Azalea Garden at Biltmore. These trees were believed to be extinct until 1941 when living specimens were discovered in China. Historians believe Biltmore’s trees are grown from original wild seeds collected in China in 1944. Several of these magnificent trees are also located in the triangular space directly across from the admissions booth. “Another grove is located along the road after you exit the house and gardens area and past the Bass Pond waterfall on the left,” says Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian. (Above)


  • Persian Parrotia: No matter when you visit, this tree is sure to delight with its natural beauty. Native to Iran and cultivated in 1840, this tree boasts tiny flowers with purplish-crimson stamens in the spring, brilliant fall foliage, and exfoliating bark in gray, green, or cream in the winter. Find it between the Conservatory and Gardener’s Cottage. Bill notes that Biltmore’s Parrotia, “Ranks among the top specimens of its kind in the world and is a North Carolina state champion specimen tree.” (Below)

Persian Parrotia

  • Two-Winged Silverbell: This generally small growing treasure is usually found in the coastal Southeast, but Biltmore is home to the North Carolina state champion and national champion tree. Visit in late April or early May to enjoy the pure white bell-shaped flowers on this multi-stemmed tree. Look for it between the Conservatory and Gardener’s Cottage. (Below)

Two winged silverbell

  • BBlue Atlas Cedarlue Atlas Cedar: Gaze upon this tree to admire one of the only four species of “true cedars” growing in the world from the Mediterranean and Himalayan regions. Found along the main path in the Azalea Garden, this tree is believed to have been planted in the early 1930s. It is a North Carolina state champion specimen tree. (Right)
  • Bigleaf Magnolia: Early June is an excellent time to pause and admire this tree in the Azalea Garden. Find it near the circle with the Chauncey Beadle monument, and pause to enjoy the enormous cream flowers that open in summer. “One of the two specimens growing in the central part of the Azalea Garden at Biltmore is currently listed as both a state and national champion tree,” notes Bill.
  • Katsuratree: Alongside the Bigleaf Magnolia is another North Carolina champion specimen tree, which is one of the largest and best in the country. In the spring, look for new leaves that are reddish purple. In the summer, the foliage turns a delightful bluish green. While the leaves change to varying shades of yellow and orange in the fall, the true delight is the cinnamon-like fragrance the leave release as they shed. (Bottom photo)
  • Golden-rain Tree: Beautiful yellow flowers in late spring and inflated seed pods reminiscent of Chinese lanterns make this unusual tree a show-stopper. A native to China and Korea, this specimen was on Olmsted’s original planting list from 1892. Wander through the Shrub Garden to find this North Carolina state champion specimen tree. (Top photo)Katsura Tree
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Related Posts

Posted on 03/26/2018 By Peg Y

Where is the "gardener's cottage"? I don't see it marked on any of the estate maps.

When standing in the Walled Garden, if you are standing directly in front of Biltmore's Conservatory, look to your left and you will see a small rock building that is incorporated into the Walled Garden's surrounding stone wall. This small rock building is the Gardener's Cottage. – Biltmore Blog Editor

Posted on 01/09/2017 By Timothy G

Hi! What kind of trees line the right side of the front lawn as you look at the house? They look like Beech but I am not certain. Many thanks! Tim

Hi Tim, Thank you for your question. Those are Tulip Poplar trees, they are especially beautiful in the spring months with small yellow flowers. - Biltmore Blog Editor

Posted on 06/30/2016 By Debra L

I would also like to read info on teh wonderful beech tree that is no longer there - how we loved it! Would also like information on the tree across from the Gardener's place -the tree that has the large "knobs" on it's branches. They don't look like usual "burls" found on other trees. We refer to that tree as the "Whomping Willow" as a reference to the tree in Harry Potter! smile

Posted on 06/10/2016 By Jerome L

I have splurged on the Biltmore Passholder offer every year since moving to Asheville around 1990. The main draw for me, a passionate gardener/plantsman, is not so much the magnificent house as the inspirational landscaping. I am happily familiar with each of these featured trees, and look forward to future installments of this "travelogue" blog. Have you done a feature on the now-gone Purple Beech which, until recently, reigned in the shrub garden? Olmstead rules!!

Posted on 06/01/2016 By Pamela B

I just discovered the Dawn Redwood in the Azalea Garden on my visit this past April. I have been through this garden so many times over the years, and cannot believe I never saw it. These are all amazing trees, but is anything at Biltmore Estates not amazing? Love this place.

Posted on 06/01/2016 By Cindy M

Just spent the weekend there camping at the equestrian center and riding the beautiful trails in the forest. This makes me want to go back to look for these trees. How lovely!

Posted on 05/31/2016 By Karen O

I love the information about the trees and where they can be found on the estate and what makes them so special. Thanks for posting!

Posted on 05/18/2016 By Patricia S

i enjoy all of Biltmore..and the blog makes a great substitute for the estate when I,m home in Wisc,,,,this was very informative

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