Sam Popham's Arboretum

Sam Popham's Arboretum
Sam Popham's Arboretum (Photo credit: Dilon Fernando, Google Street View)

Sam Popham's Arboretum is a dry zone arboretum situated in Dambulla in Matale District, Sri Lanka. It is considered a typical example of restoration of a degraded forest using assisted natural regeneration in the dry zone (Madurapperuma et al., 2016). The arboretum is presently managed by the National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS) and Rukrakaganno, a nature conservation society.

The arboretum was established in 1963 by F. H. (Sam) Popham on an abandoned land of Chena of 7.5 acres (3.0 ha) bought by him. He promoted the growth of natural seedlings by the method of Assisted Natural Regeneration (Popham Method) to eventually restore a secondary dry forest.

The arboretum was gifted by Popham to the National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS), Kandy in 1989 to be used as a site for conservation, research and education purposes. It was added 27 acres (10.92 ha) in the same year, through the initiative of Prof Cyril Ponnamperuma, a former NIFS Director. In 1994, the Ceylon Tobacco Company appointed Jayantha Amarasinha to assist Popham to manage the arboretum and Popham handed over the arboretum to Amarasinghe when he left the country in 1999 (Madurapperuma et al., 2016).

In 2005, the management of the arboretum was given by NIFS to the Rukrakaganno, a tree society. Presently, the site has been developed as a visitor and research centre.

The arboretum
The arboretum is 92.66 acres (37.5 ha) in area and is bordered by the main road on one side and a stone quarry and buildings on the other borders (Weerarathne & Wijesinghe, 2019). It is located in an area characterized by a typically dry climate with a short, wet season from October to early February and a prolonged dry season lasting about eight months (Weerarathne & Wijesinghe, 2019). The annual rainfall average is 1,380 mm and the average air temperature is 27.7°C (Kuruppuarachchi et al., 2012).

The arboretum is home to 248 species of fauna including 8 dragonflies, 46 butterflies, 6 amphibians, 37 reptiles, 51 birds and 21 mammals, of which 13 species are endemic to Sri Lanka (Weerarathne & Wijesinghe, 2019). Over 312 plant species belonging to 75 families, which include 12 endemic species, have been recorded from the site (Weerarathne & Wijesinghe, 2019).
1) Kuruppuarachchi, K.A.J.M., Oduor, P.G., Madurapperuma, B.D., Munasinghe, J.U. and Wijayawardene, D.N.N., 2012. Seedling recruitment at a dry zone forest arboretum of Sri Lanka. Annual Academic Sessions. pp.48-51.
2) Madurapperuma, B.D., Kuruppuarachchi, K.A.J.M., Amarasinghe, J. and Walpola, T.K., 2016. Environmental Education on Biodiversity and Forest Restoration via Exploring a Nature Tour at the IFS-Popham Arboretum in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Journal of Environment Management & Planning.Vol. 1.
3) Weerarathne, W.A.P.P.D. and Wijesinghe, M.R., 2019. The Popham Arboretum: A refuge for grey slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus) in an urbanized landscape in Sri Lanka. WILDLANKA, Vol.7, No.1, pp.1-12.
Location Map

This page was last updated on 9 July 2022
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

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