Arie Den Boer Arboretum

One of the world’s largest collections of flowering crabapple trees can be found at Water Works Park. The collection is properly named after its developer, horticulturist and author, Arie Den Boer; he was the collector and originator of the arboretum in 1930. He established a collection of 300 varieties of trees in his time, which Des Moines Water Works staff now maintains through pruning and propagation. 

Arie Den Boer was perhaps the first successful nurseryman to popularize the crabapple tree with his book Ornamental Crabapples, published in 1959. His book gave a nurseryman a different take on the crabapple, warts and all, and explaining the tremendous diversity of this plant in the landscape.

Today, the arboretum includes approximately 800 trees in the collection, with the youngest trees being planted through a donor tree program. At this time, we are no longer accepting donations for new trees in the arboretum; however, donations can be made to the maintenance and care of the urban forest in Water Works Park. More information can be found at the Water Works Park Memorial Contribution page. 

The annual crabapple blossom usually blooms the last week of April and the first week of May, attracting thousands of visitors to Water Works Park.

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