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Sculptures and Features

Special features at the Arboretum include a splendid avenue of 68 English elms (dated back to 1928), a watercourse with a palm and cycad walk and sculptures.

Specimens in the collection are arranged primarily into Australian and exotic sections and in taxonomic groupings within those areas.

At the entrance you'll find 10 imposing sugar gums planted by Peter Waite in 1877. These are followed by a fragrant avenue of lemon-scented gums which line either side of the driveway.

Every tree is labelled and mapped and the trees are well spaced to show their individual forms.

Sculptures can be found in both the Waite Arboretum and the Urrbrae House Gardens. Find out more about the Sculptures and Special Features at the Precinct.

Tawny Frogmouth

Tawny Frogmouth with young in Elm Avenue
Photo by Jennifer Gardner

On any day of the year more than 50 trees in the Arboretum are flowering or fruiting, attracting nectar feeding birds and parrots. The watercourse, lake and floating island attract waterbirds and are frequented at different times by ducks, geese, cormorants, pelicans, grebes, egrets and herons. Mature eucalypts in the Arboretum provide nesting hollows which take many decades to develop.

The Waite Arboretum and Urrbrae House Gardens are designated butterfly conservation sites.

Birds of the Waite Arboretum, by Max Possingham

Elm Avenue

Elm Avenue

Elm Avenue

A splendid avenue of 68 English elms was planted in 1928 to frame the vista from the new Waite Institute building to the sea. The avenue marks the passing seasons with a flush of bright green leaves in spring and yellow autumn colour. The Elm Avenue, a number of special collections, and the Arboretum as a whole are listed on the State Heritage and National Trust Register of Significant Trees.

The Waite Labyrinth

“Solvitur ambulando - It is solved by walking. St. Augustine c 400AD

The Waite Labyrinth

What we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
T.S. Elliot 1888 - 1965

The Waite Labyrinth

What we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
T.S. Elliot 1888 - 1965

Waite Arboretum Labyrinth

The Waite Arboretum Labyrinth was created to be an aesthetically pleasing element linking the Urrbrae House Gardens and the Arboretum. The Labyrinth provides a beautiful, tranquil setting for contemplative walking – but feel free to run, skip or dance it!

The Labyrinth is located on the original site of Peter Waite’s tennis courts, overlooked from the Rose Garden with a wonderful view towards the Arboretum.

The lines of the labyrinth are formed with 921 timber rounds mostly recycled from Arboretum trees and the paths are sawdust. The whole installation is intended to be ephemeral or renewable and sit softly on the landscape.

Dr Jennifer Gardner, former Curator of the Waite Arboretum personally designed and constructed this labyrinth, completing it in mid January 2010. Jennifer states “It was an enormously pleasurable, stimulating and satisfying way to spend my Christmas holidays and I am delighted by how many children it has attracted to the gardens.”

All rounds used in the Labyrinth were collected from dead trees or fallen branches. It is a long-standing policy that the Arboretum recycle timbers for carving, turning and other artworks giving the tree new life as objects of beauty.

Labyrinths are thought to date back 20,000 years and occur across continents and cultures in many different designs and materials. The pattern in the Waite Labyrinth was based on an ancient Finnish 9–circuit stone labyrinth.

Labyrinths have also long been recognised for their health benefits, promoting a calm mind and a place for mediation.

In colloquial English, labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two. A maze refers to a complex branching puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center . A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate.

Both the Latin labyrinthus and Ancient Greek labýrinthos mean ‘maze'.

In contemporary usage, however, labyrinths and mazes are distinguished as follows:

Labyrinth Maze
One simple continuous path (unicursal) to the centre and out again, no dead ends. A puzzle, confounding pathways with branching paths and dead ends.
The centre or ‘goal’ visible at all times. The centre or ‘goal’ hidden until you reach it.
Usually 2-dimensional or with very low divisional lines.

3-dimensional, dividing lines tall enough to obscure the goal.

Design may be marked with a variety of materials e.g. different coloured pavers, ceramic tiles, stones, low mounds, herbaceous borders, painted lines, depressions in clay tablets (hand labyrinths) – even timber rounds! Divisional lines made of hedges, vertical fabric partitions, masonry etc.


Rare Trees

Waite Arboretum contains a number of trees which are rare or uncommon in public collections. One of these is waddy Acacia peuce which occurs naturally in only a few colonies east and west of the Simpson Desert in central Australia. The timber of this acacia is exceedingly hard and the tree is slow growing and very drought tolerant.

Another species which can survive on very low rainfall is Cape ebony Euclea pseudebenus . This attractive small tree with pendant branches is native to the arid areas of stony and sandy desert in South West Africa.

The Arboretum contains 28 species listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species TM.

Grey box Eucalyptus microcarpa

Grey box Eucalyptus microcarpa

Remnant Vegetation

Grey box Eucalyptus microcarpa , red gum E.  camaldulensis and blue gum E. leucoxylon occur naturally in this area and some trees pre-dating white settlement remain. Shrubs which are native to the site include Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha, Sweet Bursaria Bursaria spinosa , Sticky Hop-bush Dodonaea viscosa , Native Apricot Pittosporum angustifolium and Native Lilac Hardenbergia violacea .

Previously sheep were used to keep the grass low. With the removal of grazing in 1991, the native understorey has regenerated. There are now fine strands of Wallaby-grass Rytidosperma species and Spear-grass Austrostipa species in the Arboretum as well as many other small native plants such as Climbing Saltbush Einadia nutans and Windmill-grass Chloris truncata. The Arboretum contains some valuable remnants of the original Adelaide Plains flora.

A dedicated group of volunteers are helping to conserve and restore the original understorey flora by the control of weeds and propagation of locally collected seed for replanting.

Acacia podalyriifolia

Acacia podalyriifolia


The development of the watercourse began in 1994 with the creation of meanders and a series of ponds and planting of native water plants. The dam was built by Peter Waite at the turn of the 20th century, but has since been enlarged and is now fed by a bore as well as by stormwater.

Sedges have proved to be most successful, with the purple loosestrife providing a splash of colour through the summer. A palm and cycad walk has been established along the verge of the watercourse with the assistance of the Palm & Cycad Society of SA.


Urrbrae House Historic Precinct

Telephone: 8313 7497 or 83137110

Urrbrae House Facebook page

Waite Arboretum

Telephone: +61 8 8313 7405

Waite Arboretum Facebook page

Waite Conservation Reserve

Telephone: +61 8 8313 7405

Waite Conservation Reserve Facebook page

Postal Address

Waite Campus
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005