The arboretum was planted in 1947 by Dr. Frank J. Rimoldi and Dr. Roy Woodbury, professors of tropical botany at the University of Miami. Over 350 plants were donated from local, state, and federal nurseries.
In 1949, the arboretum was named for Dr. John C. Gifford, the first graduate forester in the United States, an expert on tropical woods and professor of tropical forestry at the University of Miami. In 1950, the Gifford Society of Tropical Botany was formed to promote the study of tropical plants and the Arboretum grew to more than 500 plants. During the following decades, many students, professors, and community members used the arboretum for teaching, research and recreation. However, in the late 1980’s, the need for additional campus parking threatened the existence of the Gifford Arboretum. Through the efforts of Coral Gables tree activist, Kathy Gaubatz, the University of Miami gave full support in 1992 to the renovation and enhancement of the Gifford Arboretum.
After the Arboretum survived Hurricane Andrew with little damage no one was ready for the destruction that Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma inflicted on the Arboretum, with losses of almost half of the trees in the collection . Then Professor Carol Horvitz took on the task of renovating the Arboretum and thanks to her tireless work the Arboretum received two grants from the IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services). Approximately 200 new trees were allotted to the Arboretum during its renovation. Come and enjoy the tress of the Gifford Arboretum, that are there just for you!
Today, the collection is organized for teaching and research purposes, with interpretive signage as well as individual identification tags on each plant. It is also a place of peace and connection with nature as we hope to inspire interest in tropical trees as well as a better understanding for the history and importance of the plant world.
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