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Public Horticulture Internship

The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL, United States
Employer Description

When Joy Morton established The Morton Arboretum in 1922, he envisioned a “great outdoor museum” of trees. Today, our living collections inspire visitors to appreciate, learn about, plant, and protect trees. The Arboretum champions the world's trees through plant collections, science and conservation, education, and outreach.

The Morton Arboretum's 1,700 acres hold more than 222,000 live plants representing nearly 4,300 taxa from around the world. Situated on the rolling Valparaiso moraine and bisected by the East Branch of the DuPage River, the Arboretum is planned and planted to nurture and display trees and shrubs in environments conducive to their growth.

The Arboretum conducts leading scientific research on tree health and tree improvement, collects and displays trees for study and enjoyment on the grounds, offers educational programming for adults and children, and presents nature-related activities year-round for people of all ages and interests.

Also on the grounds are the Visitor Center with The Arboretum Store and Ginkgo Restaurant and Café, four-acre Children’s Garden, one-acre Maze Garden, Sterling Morton Library, Plant Clinic, nine miles of roads, and 16 miles of trails.

Job Description


Every summer, The Morton Arboretum offers a 13-week internship in public horticulture. The Public Horticulture Internship is designed to introduce students to the dynamic, multifaceted, and rewarding field of public horticulture. By rotating among the science and horticulture staff at the Arboretum, interns gain a broad range of experiences which will help shape their future career interests. They also work on independent projects, which they present toward the end of the internship. 

A limited number of internships are available each year. The Arboretum can help with living arrangements.

Goals and Format

Interns spend the program working directly with staff across several departments. They typically begin by gaining exposure to the collections and grounds of the Arboretum and assisting curatorial and plant records staff with plant selection, inventory, and labeling. They gain practical, hands-on experience working with crews who maintain the Arboretum’s collections and natural areas and learning propagation and nursery management techniques. Interns also work with the Science and Conservation Department, assisting the Center for Tree Science with data collection and herbarium management. Interns may also work with the landscape architect, marketing and communications staff, development and membership staff, the Plant Clinic, and the Sterling Morton Library, depending on their particular interests.

Interns gain a greater exposure to public gardens, the horticulture industry, and the flora of the Great Lakes region through offsite field trips to other botanical gardens, growers, and natural areas.

Intern Projects

Throughout the internship, interns work on independent projects in an area of their interest relating to the goals of The Morton Arboretum and the field of public horticulture. Projects are generally self-paced with guidance provided by Arboretum staff. The most successful projects typically involve a practical component utilizing the collections or grounds of the Arboretum.

Previous years' projects have included:

  • Developing lists and maintenance recommendations for plants of invasive concern remaining in the Arboretum’s collections.
  • Designing a floating boardwalk for accessing the Japan collection during flooding events.
  • Monitoring and GPS-mapping plants of conservation concern occurring in the Schulenberg Prairie.
  • Examining vascular tissues of oak petioles to determine patterns between species.
  • Investigating whether certain species of maples can survive in the climate of the Chicago Region.

Projects are presented to the Arboretum staff at the end of the internship, and have often been subsequently integrated into overall plans and directions guiding long-term Arboretum development

Job Requirements

Applicants must demonstrate an interest in pursuing a career in public horticulture. Qualifications for candidates include gardening or plant maintenance experience and enrollment in or completion of a B.S. or M.S. degree program in the Life Sciences area (Biology, Botany, Environmental Science, Forestry, Horticulture, or Ecology). The Arboretum regrets it is unable to accept international students at this time.

Intern stipend is $825.00 bi-weekly. Housing assistance may be available. The Arboretum’s extensive library and education classes are also available to interns. Interns are expected to join in the activities of the Arboretum, including special events and visitor programs, in order to experience the full spectrum of the workings of a public garden.

Application review will begin February 1; applications will be accepted until positions are filled. Please submit a personal statement regarding your interest in Public Horticulture with application materials.



22 January 2019
22 April 2019
Some College
Plant Science