The Garden Guide

McCrory Gardens

The gardens are maintained and operated by the South Dakota State University Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks Department. McCrory Gardens were named in honour of Professor S.A. McCrory, who was head of the department from 1947 until his death in 1964. Research in the gardens focuses on ornamental plants for South Dakota's climate. The garden features a Rock Garden, Herb Garden, White Garden and Woodland Garden. Recent developments in the garden include the Lilac Collection, Prairie Medicinal Garden and Rosenfeld Contemplative Garden. All-America Display judging takes place here.

Head Gardener's Comment

McCrory Gardens is a botanical garden operated and maintained by the Plant Science Department of South Dakota State University.

McCrory Gardens harbors over 25 acres of flowers, trees, shrubs and grasses in harmonious settings to display, educate, and further the development of new varieties. An additional 45 acres of arboretum (a place for the scientific study and public exhibition of many species of trees and shrubs) is dedicated to the South Dakota State Arboretum.

Look, sniff, and touch as much as you wish, but please do not pick the flowers, dig the plants, or take cuttings from any plants. Your fingers may itch to trim off spent flowers, but please restrain yourself. You will find small, discrete tags identifying most of the plants

Photograph © McCrory Gardens
Photograph © McCrory Gardens


Development of the formal gardens at the site now known as McCrory Gardens began in the early 1960s. Most of the ornamental plant material used for research and teaching was located on SDSU's campus.

The new 6th Street site was chosen because of its visibility, nearness to campus, and opportunities for expansion. In 1966 work began on a highly maintained 2-acre formal area utilizing annual, perennial, and ground-cover plants. An additional 10 acres was used for woody ornamental research and instructional purposes by the Department. It was also open to the public at no charge. This formal garden site was subsequently named "McCrory Gardens" to honor Professor S.A. McCrory, who headed the Department from 1947 until his death in 1964.

Professor McCrory had envisioned a research garden that would display trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers that were or could be a part of South Dakota's landscape. That vision—the selection, evaluation, and display of ornamental plants for South Dakota's climate—is still the prime directive for all the work done at the Gardens. McCrory Gardens is unique in the nation because of the variety of ornamental plants, all placed in harmonious settings to display them to their best advantage.

From the beginning, the Gardens have been an All-American Selections (AAS) display site. Floral displays and evaluations continue today in the All-American Display Gardens I and II.

In 1982 the area north of the formal garden was dedicated to the planting and testing of ornamental trees and shrubs. The 45-acre site was designated the South Dakota State Arboretum in 1988.

In 1985, faced with major fund cuts, a fundraising drive, supported by the local community, state, and local businesses, and horticultural enterprises and associations throughout South Dakota, raised funds to keep the Gardens open and growing. This fund raising continues today. An endowment, managed by the South Dakota State University Foundation, was established in 1986 , and since that time, all maintenance and development at McCrory Gardens has been supported by public donations of money, equipment, labor, seed, plants, and other supplies. The "Friends of McCrory Gardens" are a continuing source of enthusiastic support.

Plants of note

SDSU - McCrory Gardens introductions: 'Nugget' Ninebark, 'Homestead' Buckeye, 'Meadowlark' Forsythia, 'Tannenbaum' Mugo Pine.

South Dakota State University, 631 22nd Ave, Brookings, South Dakota, USA, 57007

McCrory Gardens is open from sunrise to sunset throughout the year. The Education & Visitor's Center is generally open from 8:00A.M. - 5:00P.M.

We currently do not charge an admission fee.

Visit the McCrory Gardens website

Nearby gardens