Arboretums are where the trees and shrubs are conserved and grown for studies and researches. The Popham’s Arboretum of Dambulla is considered as the Sri Lanka’s only preserved Arboretum in Dry Zone. Therefore the Arboretum is usually visited by many university students as well as school students. It was started by the famous British planter, F.H Sam Popham in 1963. So you can get an idea about how the Arboretum got the name Popahm’s Arboretum.
Sam Popham arrived in Sri Lanka as a navy officer of the Royal Navy. Then he became a tea planter. Though he was honored with the Sri Lanka's first conservation award in 1992, made an admirable environmental conservation project around Dambulla.
. In 1999 he retired and handed over the land to Mr. J Amarasingha who is the present caretaker of the Popham’s Arboretum of Dambulla. The Park is known as the ‘Suddage watta’ among the villagers in Dambulla area. Therefore ask them how to reach ’Suddage watta’ on your trip to the arboretum. The land expanding for 7.5 acres is just controlled by the authorities while leaving the big trees to grown up. But unnecessary shrubs and bushes are controlled. You will find a wide range of animals, birds and reptiles. Furthermore, it is a house for over 225 varieties of plants. Nature lovers will marvel at this nature’s gift. It is said that the main building of the arboretum was designed by the famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bava who made British service to Sri Lankan architecture. You will be taken to the visitor’s center Popham 10 years. Actually, it seems like a mud cottage. The stream running through the park is the main water provision to the sanctuary. Mr. F.H Sam Popham designed this garden according to a method called popup method. In addition to that it doesn’t introduce new varieties, but conserves the recent varieties. Especially Ebony, Burutha, Tamarind, Helamba, Palu and Weera trees are free to be grown up. Follow the established trails to the park with the guides. The officers of the Popham’s Arboretum are now continuing their studies about the flora and fauna found in the garden.
Presently The Ruck Rakagannoo association has taken the management of the Popham’s Arboretum since 2005. They have made several improvements to the sanctuary. Tourists can enjoy a bath in the stream or entertain camp nights in the jungle. Anyway, they have to arrange the camping equipment and food. Nowadays the garden is funded by NORAD, UNDP-GEF, and CIDA. The Popham’s Arboretum is open to the public from 9.00-5.00pm every day.