Human+Nature at The Morton Arboretum

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Outdoor ActivitiesPlaces to Go

We have all the details and a map so you can find your way to all five sculptures.

The Morton Arboretum’s next outdoor art exhibition, Human+Nature (pronounced: Human Nature) opened Friday, May 28, 2021!

Pronounced “human nature,” it is the first major U.S. exhibition by renowned South African artist Daniel Popper, and his largest to date anywhere in the world. The five 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures created exclusively for the Arboretum will remain in their various locations across the 1,700-acre Arboretum for at least one year. Access to the exhibition is included free with timed-entry admission to the Arboretum. On the East Side, a short walk from the Visitor Center, you can step within a huge female figure, as if into the heart of nature.

photo compliments of Stacey Deakins, @relishthisjourney

Built to create a sense of awe and wonder, the nature-inspired sculptures reflect how trees are at the heart of the Arboretum’s mission, work, and vision for the future. Made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass and steel, each sculpture weighs several metric tons. The exhibition includes:

  • Hallow, a 26-foot tall figure that welcomes Arboretum guests along Meadow Lake near the Visitor Center. (East Side)
  • UMI, a 20.5-foot tall majestic maternal figure surrounded by magnolia trees. (East Side)
  • Sentient, an 18-foot tall figure featuring diverse human facial traits interwoven with root structures that borders the Japan Collection along the Loop 1 Trail. (East Side)
  • Heartwood, a 15.5-foot tall bisected face in the Europe Collection that evokes the interconnectedness of humans and trees. (West Side)
  • Basilica, 37-foot long open hands that reach out to guests from mature oak trees in Daffodil Glade. (West Side)
Heartwood, photo courtesy of The Morton Arboretum

“Each sculpture has a story behind it, but I like to leave the questions about each piece a little bit open, so people can come and bring their own ideas to it. I want people to come here and ask questions of themselves about their relationship with nature.” 

Daniel Popper

About the Artist, Daniel Popper

photo courtesy of The Morton Arboretum

Daniel Popper is a multidisciplinary artist known globally for his larger-than-life sculptures. From Cape Town, South Africa, he is most acclaimed for his massive and spectacular public art installations, including the memorial sculpture for the Nelson Mandela School of Science and Technology in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and sculptures for popular events such as the Boom Festival in Portugal and Rainbow Serpent Festival in Australia. 

Admission Rates and Timed Entry

Human+Nature is included in general admission. All guests, including members, must reserve advance, date-specific, timed-entry admission online to ensure moderated attendance levels. The Arboretum is providing exclusive access to members for the hours 7 to 9 a.m. daily. Guest access is from 9 a.m. to the last entry time (currently 5 p.m.). For more information, visit the Know Before You Go visit information page.  

Admission rates to The Morton Arboretum are $15 for adults ages 18 to 64, $13 for seniors ages 65 and older, $10 for children ages 2 to 17 and free for children younger than age 2. On Wednesdays, admission is $10 for adults ages 18 to 64, $9 for seniors ages 65 and older, and $7 for children ages 2 to 17. Parking is free with admission. Members receive free general admission all year long.

Map of Human+Nature: Sculpture Locations

Click on the map below for a larger version. Sculptures can be found at each of the circles labeled “H+N”.

Tadpoles at The Morton Arboretum

We always really enjoy the Children’s Garden and there is definite excitement around the pond starting in mid-May. The tadpoles usually hatch around Mother’s Day, so it’s good to go about two weeks later when they start moving around more.

morton arboretum tadpole sign

There were kids of all ages stepping on the stones across the pond, looking at the tadpoles curiously, scooping them up and releasing them and giggling.

morton arboretum children looking at tadpoles

It was cute because random kids were so eager to share with me what they found and where I could see the most tadpoles all in one place. I loved seeing the excitement and wonder in their eyes!

morton arboretum tadpole

My kids wondered when the tadpoles start growing legs… so I looked it up! Below is a great video that shows the different stages of frog development. Please note that the tadpoles at The Morton Arboretum are American Toads, but the videos on frogs show the life cycle much better!

It takes about 6-9 weeks for the legs to develop, so my guess is that will happen starting the third week of June? Anyway, it’s a great opportunity for your kids to be able to see part of their development. How fun to go now and then again when the legs start growing!

More Features of The Morton Arboretum

This article originally published on May 25, 2015.

There is so much more at The Morton Arboretum to enjoy! My kids always gravitate towards the hedge maze (there is a short hedge maze for younger children and tall bushes for the older ones).

morton arboretum hedge maze

We made it to the lookout point and planned our exit route!

morton arboretum maze aerial view

The Children’s Garden is filled with beauty and enjoyment for every age group.

The water spilling over a movable stone ball towards the front of the Children’s Garden is simple, but so fun!

morton aboretum water globe

There is much to see, explore, touch and smell in the garden areas.

morton arboretum children's garden flower

It’s a great place for children of all ages. Not to mention for adults too- it’s so pleasant and easy to be there… walk around, take your time, and your kids will be so engrossed in their surroundings!

morton arboretum acorns

It took my kids a few times before conquering the tree houses and rope bridges, but they love it now!

morton arboretum rope bridge

Where to Eat

You can pack a lunch and eat it on the tables outside (there are tables both in the Children’s Garden and outside the main building) or you have the option to buy food at the Ginko Café and eat inside or out on the attached porch area. We have also grabbed sandwiches at the café right outside the restaurant and eaten them outside. In any case, there are tons of options to make it easy.

morton arboretum eating area

Past Exhibits at The Morton Arboretum

Troll Hunt

This article originally published on May 23, 2018. Troll Hunt was at The Morton Arboretum from June 22, 2018 through January 31, 2021.

Danish artist Thomas Dambo and crews of woodworkers and volunteers are busy constructing the mammoth and mythical creatures of Troll Hunt, a new exhibition debuting at The Morton Arboretum on June 22!

In creating the creatures of Troll Hunt, Dambo puts to use hundreds of pieces of reclaimed wood–battered boards, fallen trees and branches, and the remains of pallets and packing crates. Some trolls are situated in plain sight, while others are hidden off paths among the trees.

Currently, there are five trolls under construction and there will ultimately be seven. When you drive into the Arboretum, you will most likely catch a glimpse of this guy near the parking lot.

As you walk around Meadow Lake (the lake right near the Visitor’s Center and Children’s Garden), this troll is laying down in the grass between some large bushes!

We decided to hike to the next troll. It is a peaceful walk down mulched paths, past streams, and through forests. We even discovered some nice resting benches and a beautiful painting of magnolia flowers along the way.

I need to warn you that it is a really long walk. My fourth grader enjoyed it, but my second grader started getting tired. If you decide to go that route, take bug spray because you will probably encounter some mosquitos in the wooded areas.

However, the walk is worth it because we found the start of an enormous troll sitting in the grass and holding a huge branch. These sculptures are amazing.

We then headed back towards the Visitor’s Center, hopped in the car, and drove to the rest of the trolls on the west side of the property. The loop takes you past the troll below first. Check out the scale! This one is created to look like it is leaning against a tree.

Lastly, we got to see the Troll crew in action! We met Julian, a member of the crew who is originally from New York. He said he met the crew when he moved to Denmark. Although most of the crew is originally from Denmark, other nearby countries are represented as well. A man from Latvia and another from the Faroe Islands was working on one of the trolls today. They are truly talented!

On weekdays through June 21, you may get to meet the artist and his team crafting these larger-than-life beings from recycled materials in various locations throughout the grounds of the Arboretum. You are welcomed to stop by the Arboretum’s Visitor Center for the daily schedule.

Ways to See the Trolls

I highly recommend that you pick up a map at the Visitor Center. It has orange dots where each of the seven troll sculptures can be found. It’s an adventure, even with the map.

Walk
All of the paths we encountered were mulched, so this route would be difficult with a stroller. It’s more of a hike than a walk, so if you are up for getting a lot of exercise, go for it!

Bike
You can bring your own bikes or rent them there to ride along the paved roads. We have rented bikes and a Burley at The Morton Arboretum and the ride is really nice.

Drive
If you are solely on a mission to see the trolls, you can drive and stop along the way. For the most part, there aren’t designated parking areas, but we saw several cars parked along the edge of the roads.

Tram
The Acorn Express is an hour long tram ride that includes a narrated tour. It is noted that tram tours sell out, so it’s advised that you purchase tickets in advanced or right when you arrive. The Acorn Express can accommodate up to two manual wheelchairs per tour.

Troll Hunt Highlights

Built to be both mischievous and thought-provoking, the trolls of Troll Hunt invite visitors to interact with them, while elements of the exhibition encourage visitors to consider their personal responsibility as stewards of our environment. For example:

  • One troll is going to be kneeling near a “trap,” a simple wooden crate propped open with a stick. One end of a string will be tied to the stick while the other end will be clasped in its hand as the creature waits to catch a human for study.
  • One troll will be sitting next to a tree, holding a long rod that crosses a low-hanging tree branch. At the end of the rod a net will be dangling so visitors can climb into to be “captured.”

Additionally, a troll “hideout” tucked away in a wooded glen will give troll seekers a glimpse into the way these creatures live.

About Thomas Dambo

Thomas Dambo collects and reuses wood that would otherwise be wasted for his whimsical, epic-scale sculptures, which he has erected from Denmark to Australia. He got his start turning scrap wood into birdhouses–some 3,500 so far in cities from Beirut to Berlin–and now his art can be found around the globe. Each of his pieces convey the importance of sustainability, a mission shared by The Morton Arboretum as it works toward a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world through the planting, care of and conservation of trees. Dambo may be best known for the Six Forgotten Giants, enormous characters created from discarded wood pallets scattered throughout his home city of Copenhagen.


Origami in the Garden

This article originally published on July 18, 2017. Origami in the Garden was at The Morton Arboretum from July through October 22, 2017.

We had the pleasure of going to The Morton Arboretum to see Origami in the Garden this past weekend. Have you seen it yet? It is a nice, relaxing walk around the arboretum and we enjoyed reading about the meaning and inspiration behind each of these sculptures.

As you walk along the path, enjoy and admire beautiful metal sculptures that look like they are folded paper. Some of them were fascinating, others were delicate, and all of them were amazing and impressively constructed!

We recommend you start your walk to the right, around the hedge garden as you enter and go past the Visitor Center, then wind around the paved paths. The Conifer Loop is a must see and is a wood chip path that goes around many extinct evergreens. Some of our favorite sculptures are in that loop!

There are 25 sculptures in all and you can follow the red and blue signs with arrows to see them all. You can also choose a shorter loop if you are not up for walking the entire exhibit.

The Morton Arboretum is having a photo contest, so be sure to tag your photos on social media with #OrigamiTMA for your chance to win a $100 Arboretum gift card. You can also tag them with #mykidlist so we can share your great shots!


The Morton Arboretum
4100 IL Route 53
Lisle, IL 60532
(630) 968-0074

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