The Cox Arboretum on North Lake Drive in Canton, which is home to over 4,000 species spread over 13 acres, has become one of the largest private collections of plants and trees in the world since its inception in 1990.

On top of being known for its vast amount of diverse trees and plants, owner Tom Cox said that the Cox Arboretum is also well known for being home to the most complete species collection of conifers anywhere in North America, as well as having one of the biggest collections of woody plants anywhere in North America, with the arboretum housing many critically endangered plants and trees.

While the arboretum is well known across the world today, Cox said that he originally did not plan to create one.

“My original intent was to create a location to both plant and evaluate trees,” Cox said. “I was trying to learn what could grow here, but over time, the more we collected from our travels, the bigger collection I would have.”

Cox added that the collection continued to grow and the variation of species became more diverse. He traveled throughout 51 different countries and did a lot of networking with people to acquire seeds and cuttings. He then connected with several universities in America that had the money and research funds to go overseas on these collecting trips. Cox said the relationships with the universities were mutual as he shared materials with them, as they did with the arboretum.

“It was not easy to compile such a massive variation of plants and trees, but it has been worth it,” Cox said. “As the collection grew, we became fairly famous throughout the world because we had a great collection of trees and the more we collected the more known we became. More people sent us things as we gained notoriety. Some of the countries we have acquired species from include Argentina, Iran, Mexico and throughout Asia.”

Dr. John Ruter, professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia and friend of Cox, said that Cox’s ability to make connections and meet with people is a big reason why the arboretum has become as large and well known as it is today.

“Cox is excellent at making contacts and, with his military background, he has been able to contact and meet with people throughout the world very easily,” Ruter said. “It is because of Cox’s determination and ability to interact with people that the arboretum is recognized like it is today. The arboretum is truly an amazing assemblage of plants and trees that you won’t find anywhere else.”

As Cox has gotten older however, he said he can longer keep up with the sheer amount of species spread across the 13 acres of land and, because of this, he said he is looking for the right entity to buy his land, which holds both his house and arboretum.

“I’m not looking for just any home buyer, I am looking for a way to preserve the arboretum,” Cox said. “We’re struggling right now with finding a suitable home for this arboretum, whether it is the county, or a private individual or institution. The main goal is to preserve, so we would like for the government or an institution or someone to take over the arboretum and preserve it, or maybe even contemplate the possibility of having it turned into a historical landmark for the county.”

For questions about the Cox Arboretum or visitation opportunities, contact Cox at coxarb2@gmail.com or visit tools.bgci.org/garden.php?id=4906.

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Ethan is a reporter covering the cities of Holly Springs & Canton. He also covers city governments and lifestyle. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.

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