Parks and Open Space

About Us

The Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden is 23 acres with 13 of it serving as living plant museum with over 4,000 native and adaptive plant species on display. It is located in a transitional zone between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Basin Desert. The garden averages only 4 to 8 inches of precipitation annually, which comes in the form of rain or snow. A short growing season, less than 120 days, and at an elevation of 4,600 feet, the gardens' daily temperatures can fluctuate 40 degrees or more in a single day! Only a few plants can survive these conditions without additional care and maintenance. The Arboretum's mission is education, research, conservation, and to demonstrate how introduced plant species and native plants grow in a high desert environment. The Wilbur D. May Arboretum & Botanical Garden is a member of the American Public Garden Association (APGA) and a certified Level II Arboretum through the Arb Net Program administered by the Morton Arboretum of Registered Arboreta, Lisle, IL.


Garden Improvement Updates

The final stages for the fencing project were completed in 2017. The first three stages were funded by a generous donation from the May Foundation and the final phase, Phase IV, by an anonymous donor. The primary purpose of the fence is to protect and preserve the collection's diversity, assets, trees, gardens and water features for future generations. Arboretum gates will remain open during regular park hours.  Also this past season, many of our mature oak and maple trees were pruned and thinned and noxious and invasive tree species were removed, thanks to the May Foundation support. "Kristen's Garden" received a complete upgrade and is currently closed for reservations. The arboretum is transforming the aging garden into an interpretative "shade garden" complete with new pavers and a water feature. Funding for the project was made possible by a generous donation from the May Arboretum Society.  The Arboretum added a new 3,500 sq. ft. greenhouse to its facility in the fall of 2017. Funding was made possible by Washoe County and a generous donation from the Garden Gate Club. The greenhouse will be used to for the Arboretum, Regional Parks, and the May Arboretum Society. 

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ArbNet Level II

Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »
Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »