Established by President Trevor Colbourn in 1983, the UCF Arboretum began with approximately 12 acres (4.9 ha) of a disturbed pond pine (Pinus serotina) community just east side of the developed area of campus, and east of the present biology building. In 1988, at President Altman’s direction, the University expanded the Arboretum to include a 5-acre (2.0 ha) Cypress dome, an oak hammock of about 3 acres (1.2 ha), and about 15 acres (6.1 ha) of sand pine and Florida scrub, connected to the original Arboretum by a saw palmetto (Sabal palmetto) community and increasingly rare Florida longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) flatwoods. Currently, the official Arboretum Boundary encompasses approximately 82 acres (33.2 ha). The original Arboretum director was Dr. Henry O. Whittier, a professor in the Biology Department who remained director until his retirement 2003. Dr. Martin Quigley was director from 2003-2009.

In 2010, Dr. Patrick Bohlen was hired as Director of Landscape and Natural Resources (LNR) and Arboretum. Landscape and Natural resources is responsible for operating and maintaining the entire campus landscape, including natural areas, and other campus locations, including the College of Medicine at Lake Nona. The Arboretum and LNR work together to help facilitate the research, education and outreach components of the Arboretum program.