On the morning of August 10, 2020 a derecho, or inland hurricane, cut a wide 770 mile long swath through eastern Nebraska, southeastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin.  The central Iowa area around the Iowa Arboretum and Gardens was especially hard hit.  More than 100 mph winds swept through the center of the Arboretum damaging structures and destroying trees.  Approximately 330 trees were either uprooted or sustained such extensive damage that they needed to be removed.

Some of these were iconic trees: the compact white fir, Abies concolor ‘Compacta’ in the Jacobson Conifer Collection, the white flowering Chinese pear, Pyrus ussuriensis, in the Flowering Trees, and the Olga Bay larch, Larix gmelinii olgensis, in the Large Conifer Collection. The most severe damage was to the Flowering Trees, Large and Medium Deciduous Trees and the north Windbreak.  The Beckwith Pavilion, the Theresa Schutt Hosta House, and the Visitor Kiosk also sustained substantial damage. Many hundreds of staff and volunteer hours were spent in derecho cleanup during the fall and winter of 2020.

Donations and grants were needed to facilitate cleanup and tree replacement.  In 2021, approximately 100 new trees were planted and a similar number will be planted in 2022. Structures have been repaired but it wil take decades to re-grow mature trees.

Theresa Schutt Hosta House

The white pines shading the hostas were wiped out and the structure also sustained damage.

Flowering Trees

The pear tree was so damaged it had to be removed.

Jacobson Conifer Collection

A favorite tree, Abies concolor ‘Compacta’, was partially uprooted and later removed.  Fortunately this area did not sustain widespread damage.

Large Deciduous Trees

This area sustained some of the worst damage with very few trees excaping injury.

Large Conifers

Our mature Olga Bay Larch needed to be removed.

North Windbreak

The white pines and deciduous shrubs and trees were severely damaged.

Native Woodland

Many trees in the woodlands were also damaged.


It took many hours of staff and volunteer time to complete the cleanup.

Cleanup continued through the Winter

New Plantings

Slow release tree watering bags are being used to care for new trees.

Succession Planting

Events such as the derecho or the arrival of new insect pests or diseases clarify the need to have a diversity of species and ages of the trees at the Iowa Arboretum, good practices for the home gardener too.