Located 1.5 miles west of North Carolina State University’s main campus, this 10.5-acre arboretum serves as an educational resource for the university and its community. Established as the North Carolina State University Arboretum in 1976, the arboretum was ultimately renamed in honor of its founder, Dr. J.C. Raulston, after his passing in 1996. Raulston's landscape architecture student Fielding Scarborough created the arboretum's first master plan in the 1970s on an eight-acre parcel along Beryl Road. The landscape design was soon implemented by Raulston, his research technician Newell Hancock, and several other students.
A network of paved paths weaves through one of the most extensive collections of plant materials adapted for use in the Southeast, displayed across dozens of gardens and greenhouses, including the White Garden, Lath House, Rose Garden, Winter Garden, Asian Valley, Plantsmen's Woods, the Swindell Contemplation Garden, Xeric Garden, Scree Garden, and the student-designed Model Gardens. Central to the arboretum are the Geophyte Border, highlighting hundreds of bulbs, tubers, and corms, and the Perennial Border, a 300-foot-long, eighteen-foot-deep seasonal display with a color scheme derived from Gertrude Jekyll's Munstead Wood garden. The arboretum also features specialized collections, including redbuds, maples, magnolias, and dwarf loblolly pines, while the Great Lawn and Gathering Lawn provide areas for passive recreation. In 2002 a formal visitor center and an education center were added to the grounds.