An arboretum is a collection of different trees that can be cultivated for pleasure and beauty – such as in a very large garden or plantation. Or it may be used for the botanical study of the tree specimens contained in it. The name comes from arbor, the Latin word for tree.
During the 18th and 19th centuries trees were being discovered all over the world and introduced to Europe. It was very fashionable to plant these in an arboretum such as the one at Fota. They allowed owners to experiment with growing new species, showcasing them as exotic rarities and to increase their botanical knowledge. Plant collecting expeditions were supported by botanical societies and financed by commercial nurseries as it was a lucrative business to supply the market with new discoveries. The Smith Barry’s appreciation of these precious introductions to Fota is evident as many of the new species found their way here within a few years of their discovery