HistoryEven before the Plant Clinic's official establishment in 1968, The Morton Arboretum has provided plant information to the public. Throughout his employment from 1929 until his death in 1966, E. Lowell Kammerer answered questions regarding horticulture via telephone and at the Information Desk located in the Administration Building. After his passing, request for plant information continued to increase; however, staff members were not always available to take calls. Consequently, a proposal was made in 1967 to establish official Plant Clinic hours.
The Plant Clinic began to accept inquiries in 1968 from April to October on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. Led by the head of applied research, Web Crowley, five staff members rotated shifts in answering plant information questions received by mail, phone, or in-person. In addition to receiving inquiries, the Plant Clinic published sixteen Information Leaflets based on the most commonly asked questions.
In 1971 the Plant Clinic established its physical presence behind the Administration Building's reception area. For a short time in 1982, the clinic was located in what was called the Map Room (now the Volunteer office), but it soon moved to the main room of the Administration Building (now part of the Development office) in 1983. At this time, Plant Clinic staff included employees from the Education, Research, and Collections departments. Over the years, the number of Arboretum employees staffing the Plant Clinic increased as did its hours. Staff members continued to create and update its publications.
Due to its impressive growth, the Plant Clinic moved to the Arboretum's Visitor Center in 1993, where its new headquarters included an interpretation display area, a front counter, and two telephone stations. Around this time, the Plant Clinic began to recruit master gardener volunteers to assist with plant information inquiries. The Visitor Center underwent a renovation in 1995 during which the Gift Shop was moved to the Plant Clinic's space. The Plant Clinic relocated to the Stone Cottage near the Visitor Center in August. This 1931 building had previously served as a public restroom and base for education guides. One year later in 1996, horticulturist Doris Taylor was hired as plant information specialist to help disseminate Arboretum information and manage the Plant Clinic.
As a new Visitor Center was constructed and the Stone Cottage was demolished in 2003, the Plant Clinic operated temporarily out of the Thornhill Education Center before it moved to its current home in the Visitor Center's West Pavilion on July 1, 2004. At this time, the Arboretum hired its first full-time Plant Clinic Assistant, Donna Danielson. The Plant Clinic also began to recruit and train volunteers on a larger scale. In 2018, the Plant Clinic answered over 14,000 inquiries from 615 different zip codes with help from 47 volunteers. The Plant Clinic also has a strong online presence via its trees and plants pages on The Morton Arboretum's website, which have received millions of view in recent years.