Sri Lanka’s premier dry zone man made jungle
The IFS-Popham’s Arboretum is the only preserved dry zone arboretum in Sri Lanka. It was created in 1963 by Sam Popham on 7.5 acres of scrub jungle and abandoned ‘Chena’ land. Popham established his arboretum in the geographical center of the island, Dambulla. Apart from the many trees there and many species of Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Spiders and Mammals including Bats that can be seen in their natural setting.
IFS Popham’s Arboretum was established as a result of the immense love Popham had for nature. Mr. F H (Sam) Popham is a British Naval Officer who came to Ceylon during the second world war. He was based in Trincomalee and when he travelled on Dambulla – Bakamuna Road he would often admire the forest vegetation. He left to his country and his desire for nature made him return as a tea planter to Sri Lanka. Later on he gave up tea planting and created “the Popham Arboretum”. In 1989 he gifted the arboretum to the Institute of Fundamental Studies (IFS) in Kandy. That same year 27 acres were acquired and added to the arboretum through the initiative of Prof. Cyril Ponnamperuma.
In 1994, Mr. Jayantha Amarasinghe was appointed to assist Mr. Popham to manage the arboretum. Mr. Amarasinghe was passionate and dedicated towards his work. When Mr. Popham left Sri Lanka in 1999, he handed over the arboretum to Mr. Amarasinghe and appointed him as the Curator. There onwards Mr. Amarasinghe had been doing an exceptional amount of work in managing the arboretum. In year 2005 the Tree Society of Sri Lanka (Ruk Rakaganno) took over the management of the arboretum from IFS.
During the past 50 years, many organizations have provided sponsorships and support for the maintenance and projects of the arboretum.
The Popham’s Arboretum is a typical semi-evergreen Monsoon Dry Forest consisting of trees and shrubs which are conserved and grown for studies and research and is usually visited by many university students as well as school students. Ebony, Palu, Margosa, Weera, Milla, Tamarind, Velan and Ceylon Iron Wood are a few among the many trees found there. You can spot Jungle Magpie Robins, Jungle Fowl, the Red vented and Black capped Bulbuls, Black headed Orioles, Crimson backed Woodpeckers, Brown headed Barbets, Black headed Orioles, Paradise Flycatchers, Flower Peckers, Sun birds, Tailor birds, Parakeets, Eagles and plenty of other birds and listen to their sweet chirping. This natural treasure trove is also home to spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Porcupine, Mouse Deer, Black Naped Hare, Rock Squirrels, and the endemic Slender Loris.
The highlight of visiting the Popham’s Arboretum is its ‘Night Safari’ or ‘Night Walk’. It is an experience that is just out of this world. If you are a passionate nature lover, then it is a must to visit this manmade jungle and immerse in the beauty of nature.