Highstead’s unique commitment to science, conservation, and aesthetics can be traced back to its beginnings as a 36-acre arboretum. Rather than create a traditional arboretum in which a wide variety of exotic plants are cultivated in a landscape heavily manipulated for their display, Highstead decided to take a more ecological and conservation-minded approach in which a limited number of native plant collections were established within a natural and lightly managed wooded landscape. Such a setting provided for the study and quiet appreciation of native plants and their cultivars within beautiful and largely undisturbed woodland.