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An Accredited Arboretum
In addition to being a cemetery, Bellefontaine is a Level II Accredited Arboretum and is listed in the Morton Register of Arboreta. The mission of the Arboretum at Bellefontaine is to support and enhance the cemetery as a place of perpetual commemoration, and as a garden of beauty, inspiration, and historic significance. Bellefontaine has an accessible and diverse horticultural collection, and has become an important natural sanctuary and habitat for wildlife in the urban environment. It is the only accredited arboretum in the city of St. Louis.
Bellefontaine’s grounds are home to an international variety of meticulously cared-for trees and shrubs, providing a changing landscape every season. Until the mid-twentieth century, Bellefontaine Cemetery was home to a greater variety of trees than the Missouri Botanical Garden. Today, our 1,100 shrubs and over 5,000 trees represent over 200 distinct varieties.
Unique Species at Bellefontaine
Bellefontaine has three state champion trees. The American elm has a spread of 122 feet, and is 102 feet tall with a trunk circumference of 16 feet. It shades the James S. McDonnell lot and is likely older than the cemetery. The State Champion shingle oak is 109 feet tall with a canopy spread of 96 feet. The red mulberry, located at the northern end of the cemetery, has a spread of 57 feet and a circumference of 16 feet.
The diverse collection of trees is focused on species diversity and includes species from around the globe. The paperbark maple, a native of China, has cinnamon-colored bark that peels artfully from its trunk. The osage orange is a native tree that was historically used as a windbreak on countless miles of American fence lines. Early Midwestern settlers once relied on shingle oaks for roof shingles and post oaks for fence posts. The golden rain tree was brought to America from China as a gift to Thomas Jefferson in 1809, and boasts seed pods that resemble paper lanterns.