Lincoln Park Zoo Achieves Arboretum Accreditation Upgrade

April 26, 2024

This Arbor Day, Lincoln Park Zoo is proud to share that it has been upgraded to a Level III arboretum by the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program, a global initiative which recognizes botanical gardens for achieving high standards of professional practice. This important milestone acknowledges the zoo’s commitment to its horticulture program, creating a world-class institution for plants and animals alike.

The Zoo’s Horticulture Program Blooms

In 2019, Lincoln Park Zoo achieved Level II accreditation through ArbNet, which is the only global initiative that officially recognizes arboreta at various levels of development, capacity, and professionalism. The program is supported by The Morton Arboretum, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, and the American Public Gardens Association.

Level II accreditation is achieved when institutions have reached a certain number of labeled tree and woody plant taxa, gained a certain amount of staff support, and offered enhanced public programs to guests. Level II organizations also have a strong, organized collections policy.

zebra and plants

Since 2019, the zoo’s Horticulture program has only grown as the zoo has invested more time and resources into it. Lincoln Park Zoo now features 517 taxa of woody plants, represented by over 7,233 individual trees and shrubs, and more than 1,800 total plant species across 49 acres, including Nature Boardwalk. These plants are cared for by more than 70 volunteers that assist six full-time Horticulture staff members, plus seasonal staff, a summer intern, and contracted tree care and vegetable gardeners.

Today, you’ll find core collections of North American native hydrangea (the zoo contains 548 plants representing 35 taxa) and the country’s only accredited perennial herbaceous hibiscus collection. You’ll also find native gardens at Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, Nature Boardwalk, and more.

Going Beyond—Conservation and Education

Increasing plant diversity on grounds is not the only initiative the zoo has taken on. Over the past decade Lincoln Park Zoo has expanded its community and partner collaborations, made advancements in plant and tree care, and improved both its management processes and data collection.

Through programs like Partners in Fieldwork, Zoo Explorers, Artecito (with OPEN Center for the Arts in Little Village), Explorando La Naturaleza, the Urban Wildlife Institute’s Chicago Garden Wildlife Project, seasonal BioBlitzes, and so much more—including the Arbor Day celebration happening today on grounds—the zoo has demonstrated its commitment to horticulture conservation, education, and sustainability. And this work doesn’t just happen locally. The zoo’s botanical activities extend to in-situ conservation through the Goualougo Triangle Ape Program in the Republic of Congo as well.

gardens at Lincoln Park Zoo

All this, along with more collaborations, more sharing of data, and all the conservation work that Lincoln Park Zoo does, has brought it the next level. And as the zoo becomes more sustainable everywhere from its Gift Shop to its green roofs, we expect only to improve in all the measures of achievement considered by ArbNet.

What This Upgrade Means

There are four accreditation levels, with institutions such as the Chicago Botanic Garden and The Morton Arboretum representing the top-tier of arboreta excellence. Level III accreditation specifically recognizes a demonstrated commitment to tree science, conservation, and education. Lincoln Park Zoo is one of only two zoos in the country that have advanced beyond Level II.

With this new recognition in place, Lincoln Park Zoo can mark an important milestone in its progress as an arboretum and focus on continuing its growth to achieve even higher standards of excellence.

“When guests visit Lincoln Park Zoo, we want them to feel immersed in a lush oasis in the heart of the city, surrounded by an impressive array of plant species,” said Katrina Quint, Director of Horticulture. “The horticulture team at Lincoln Park Zoo continues to progress in the field, and it’s extremely satisfying to see this recognition for all the hard work that goes into caring for the zoo’s landscape.”

Is it time for you to visit the zoo and check out the plants, trees, and flowers on grounds? Visit for information on what’s blooming right now.

Empty Playlist