What To Expect
With our mission: to preserve, enhance, and share our heritage, collections, and landscapes, and to create and inspire stewards of the natural world, our 650 acres of protected woodlands, meadows, gardens, and trails are yours to explore and enjoy. But what exactly does a visit to Tyler entail?
To begin with, our gardens and landscapes offer visitors of all ages an escape from the pressures and stresses of everyday life. Study after study has concluded that time spent in nature is good for our physical and mental health.
We believe Tyler is a special place. Here, natural settings and winding pathways evoke an air of peace and serenity, with glimpses to an earlier age when life was less frantic and complicated than it is for many of us today.
Tracing our roots to 1681, Tyler is steeped in local and regional history and represents over 25 percent of the land in private ownership in Delaware County.
Annually, Tyler attracts 70,000 visitors and has been described by many members and visitors as a hidden gem. Many of our first time visitors are amazed by how much there is to see and do, even if all that’s involved is a walk in the woods.
Via the shortest route, Tyler is just under a 4 mile drive from the center of the Borough of Media and roughly 25 miles from the center of Philadelphia.
The estate as it exists today is split into an inner core of roughly 110 acres in which visitors can wander along winding paths, explore a range of gardens, relax (or sneeze) in our meadows, and discover a range of woodlands, our Scenic Loop, a range of seasonally-open treehouses (April – November), and a 1,400 square foot Butterfly House (open between July and August), that’s home to native butterflies, caterpillars, chrysalis, and the plants these creatures depend upon for survival.
Our Edible Garden teaches gardeners of all ages about the importance of sustainable vegetable growing, while our champion trees and seasonal displays of flowering shrubs and trees (including azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs, crabapples, magnolias, and flowering dogwoods) provide almost year-round interest.
Beyond the fence visitors will find shaded and open-field hiking through woodlands and meadows along 17 miles of well-maintained trails that offer a host of opportunities to encounter a variety of wildlife.
Tyler’s rich history includes the lives of dozens of members of eight generations of three families: the Minshalls, the Painters, and the Tylers between the years 1681 and 1944. An additional part of Tyler’s history is played by a range of buildings, including Lachford Hall (a family farmstead dating to the 1730s that was home multiple generations and now acts as Tyler’s administrative hub); the Painter Library (built in 1863 to house the Painter brothers’ scientific books, papers, and collections), and our 1830s stone bank barn, described as one of the finest agricultural buildings of its kind in Delaware County.
Bringing Tyler’s story more up to date, our minimally invasive, light-handed land management style makes Tyler an ideal place of sanctuary and discovery for nature lovers, birders, hikers, artists, and those who simply want to get away from it all.
Tyler’s mission supports public education about woodland management, horticulture, the management of natural lands, and the importance of wildlife in nature.
Tyler is also recognized by the National Audubon Society as an IBA (Important Bird Area) and maintains an active Bluebird nest box program with over 47 monitored and maintained boxes.
The land that is now Tyler Arboretum began as a private horticultural collection developed and planted between 1825 and 1876 by Minshall and Jacob Painter, two Quaker brothers who owned the historic farmstead.
The Painter brothers collected and planted over 1,000 specimens of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, many of which were planted in rows radiating out from Lachford Hall, the main house on the estate.
Today, 20 of the trees the Painter brothers planted remain, several of which are Pennsylvania state champions. An additional 5 native trees that either date from or predate the era of the Painter brothers also survive.
Tyler hosts an almost daily range of classes, programs, walks, talks, and tours for visitors of all ages and with all interests. Annually, our school programs serve nearly 7,000 elementary and preschool students from four states and 20 school districts in surrounding counties.
Life-long adult learners can take part in hands-on workshops and classes on gardening, sustainable horticulture, botanical arts, personal well-being, and a range of field studies, tours, and trips about history, gardening, birds, insects, and native plants.
Tyler is an ideal destination for families with young children, with a range of enjoyable discovery opportunities to explore plants and nature that gets youngsters outdoors and having fun learning about the natural world through a range of activities throughout the year.
Tyler’s treehouses are usually open between April and November and date from 2008, when regional artists, makers, and architects were invited to submit designs for the exhibit Totally Terrific Treehouses.
The treehouses that remain include the Crooked Goblin Shack, Thoreau’s Cabin, Strummin’ and Drummin’, and Fort Tyler among others. Great for exploring and offering multiple locations in which to play and pretend, Tyler’s treehouses offer fun locations to discover throughout the Arboretum’s inner core.
Our terraced Fragrant Garden is the perfect spot for sensory exploration. Visitors are free to rub the leaves of herbs to discover those that smell like pizza, lemonade, pineapple, mint candy, and more. The Fragrant Garden is tended seasonally by a dedicated core of talented volunteers from the Philadelphia Chapter of the Herb Society of America.
Our Edible Garden and its purpose-built classroom offer seasonal opportunities to discover where fresh vegetables come from. Reopened in the spring of 2019 after six years of fundraising and almost two years of planning, construction, landscaping, the Edible Garden includes two terraces, a storm water management system, a rain garden, multiple opportunities for hands-on training and classes for gardeners of all ages, a brand new classroom and demonstration facility, and much-needed restrooms.
All food grown is harvested weekly and donated to the Media Food Bank, to be distributed to the local community.
Tyler offers 650 acres to explore, 110 acres of which sit inside the deer exclusion fence. As with any site with a largely naturalistic bent, Tyler’s grounds are walkable though they can be challenging in places. From the Visitor Center, the Edible Garden and the Pond are at the bottom of a gentle hill. From the Pond, access to the upper part of the Scenic Loop requires walking up a moderate slope. The bulk of the upper part of the Scenic Loop is generally flat.
In places throughout the inner part of the Arboretum, paved paths give way to gravel, grassy, and wood-chipped paths, particularly in the Wister Rhododendron Garden. Several of the unpaved woodland paths between the Pond and the Wister Rhododendron Garden have exposed tree roots and can be uneven.
The majority of our paths are paved and are easily accessible on foot and for visitors using strollers or wheelchairs.
Our Scenic Loop takes visitors on a route from the Visitor Center, down the hill to the Pond, and then through the edge of the woods before bringing you out onto a generally level area of meadows in which visitors will find the rhododendron gardens and the Pinetum.
If you are a first time visitor to Tyler, or if you visit infrequently, to help you navigate we recommend picking up a copy of the Visitor Guide or the Hiking map.
The central area of the Scenic Loop is bounded by Painter Road to the south. If you see and hear cars on the road to your right you are heading more or less due east. If you see or hear cars on your left you are heading more ot less due west. If the road is behind you and you are looking out in the general direction of the meadows you are looking north. If you are looking directly at the road you are facing south to southwest.
You will find direction signs at most of the path intersections around Scenic Loop. If you are equipped with a copy of the Visitor Guide or the Hiking map and have a decent sense of direction, it ought to be easy to find your way.
If you prefer hiking on unpaved paths, away from the main core and out into wilder countryside, then our 17 miles of hiking trails present great opportunities to get away from it all. The trails beyond the fence include paths through shaded woods, over stream crossings, and through a range of meadows and grasslands. Our trails also include views of ruined buildings, scenic views from the higher elevations, and ample opportunities to encounter a range of wild flowers, wildlife, insects, and birds.
Our trails are well blazed, regularly maintained, and color coded for easy navigation. The trails are accessed via any one of 7 pedestrian gates set into the northern and eastern edges of the fence.
Please note that if we are hosting an outdoor exhibit on our grounds, gates may be locked at the end of the day for security reasons. In this case you will find notices clearly posted on gates indicating the times you need to be back inside the gate. Please plan your hikes accordingly.
A detailed hiking map showing all the trails beyond the fence is available from the Visitor Center.