The Rhodes Arboretum originated in the early 1950s under the supervision of Dr. Arlo Smith, longtime Professor of Biology. A number of Rhodes faculty, staff, and students have been involved over the decades to conserve and increase tree species on campus.
In 2011, Professor Rosanna Cappellato spearheaded efforts to certify Rhodes as a Class IV Arboretum, the highest designation granted by the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council. Currently the responsibility for overseeing the Arboretum resides with the Urban Forestry Fellowship Program, overseen by Dr. Kimberly Kasper of the Rhodes Anthropology and Sociology Department. As of 2017, the Arboretum boasts over 120 tree species and more than 1,500 individual trees. Thirty of those trees are featured on the Rhodes Arboretum Tour.