John R. Rodman Arboretum

Grove House

The Pitzer College John R. Rodman Arboretum began as a batch of individual gardens and grew to cover most of Pitzer’s 34-acre campus.  Pacific Horticulture magazine described the arboretum’s low-water landscaping as “the most sophisticated and artfully presented collection of succulents, desert plants, and Mediterranean-climate plants outside of a botanical garden.”

The arboretum was designed to be both sustainable and stunning.  Various gardens represent habitats native to this area, including chaparral and coastal sage scrub.  Suited to the mild winters and hot summers of the San Gabriel Valley, the arboretum’s native and Mediterranean-climate vegetation is notoriously low-maintenance, requiring minimal water, fertilizer and upkeep.

The entire Pitzer community plays a role in shaping and caring for the arboretum.

Since 1988 the Arboretum has been an official part of the college, while retaining much of its participatory character and relying heavily on volunteer contributions from within and outside the college to fund its work projects, notably students and faculty in Environmental Analysis courses and, since 2001, by the Arboretum Manager, Joe Clements.

  • • The arboretum was named in honor of John R. Rodman, a political science professor who pioneered Pitzer’s environmental studies program in the ʼ70s.
  • • In the early ʼ00s, Pitzer’s landscape was re-envisioned by Arboretum and Grounds Manager Joe Clements, a horticulturist and former curator of the acclaimed desert garden at the Huntington Botanical Gardens. In 2010, Clements and the arboretum were featured in Pacific Horticulture magazine.
  • • Today the arboretum serves as the ultimate interactive classroom for students taking classes in the environmental analysis program.
  • • Pitzer students spearheaded an initiative— which became known as the John R. Rodman Arboretum Reclamation Project—to convert the lawns in front of Scott Hall and the Broad Center into drought-tolerant gardens. Students devote hours every week to maintaining the arboretum. 

Like the plants that compose it, the arboretum is a living thing, changing and adapting over the years. The Los Angeles Times likened elements of the arboretum to an art installation, proving that a semi-arid expanse atop an alluvial fan can become a canvas for ideas and ideals as well as aloes and palms.

Related links: