The Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 , Posted by HB at 12:37 PM

Treetops are all the rage these days. Ecotourism destination include a tree house restaurant in Auckland and a teahouse in Japan. And for the stir-crazy office worker there are even tree house office popping up in the Pacific Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia.


Out on a Limb, a new permanent installation at the arboretum, invites you to literally experience trees as the birds and squirrels do. Visitors move from solid ground into the canopy through a series of gently sloping boardwalks, wooden gateways, and human sized habitat structures that reach heights of up to 50 feet. Constructed of galvanized steel and locally harvested hardwoods, the branching walkways wind through woodland habitat vignettes rising out of some of of the oldest tree specimens in the collection.



forest canopy at Morris Arboretum A new permanent installation at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia,

Out on a limb, brings visitors into the forest canopy



The stark contrast of steel with the organic texture and structure of the surrounding hardwoods is jarring at first, but lead architect Alan Metcalfe says it was intentional. The designers at Metcalfe Architecture & Design, working with arboretum director Paul Meyer, CVM Engineers, and Forever Young Tree houses, wanted to remain honest about the fabricated character of the exhibit while still reflecting and responding to the natural architecture of the surrounding mature forest and providing space for learning and connection.



forest canopy at Morris Arboretum Out on a limb allows visitors to enjoy the Morris Arboretum’s mature

tree collection from an unusual vantage point  



One of the most popular spaces in out on a limb is a convergence of boardwalks, affectionately known as the “Squirrel Scramble” where two oversized hammocks hang several stories above the ground. Metcalfe says the intent of the “Scramble”  was to provide the feeling that one is suspended, literally, in the canopy. Adults and children alike can be reclining in the dappled sunlight, others actively exploring the space, climbing and playing as squirrels or chipmunks might.



giant nest   a giant nest at the end of a suspension bridge isn’t for the birds -

it’s  a people perch 


Other points of interest include a giant nest woven of grapevine at the end of a swinging suspension bridge and a teahouse pavilion that provides an outdoor classroom space and board views into the surrounding woodland. For hours, admission, and program information visit the Morris Arboretum online at

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