Desert Botanical Garden

Phoenix, AZ



A Return to the Desert, Celebrating the First 25 Years, A retrospective Celebrating Dyana Hesson (3/25/16)

Chihuly Installations at Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ (4/21/09)


About the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

The Desert Botanical Garden, nestled amid the buttes of Papago Park, is home to one of the finest and most diverse collections of succulent plants, including rare, threatened and endangered species from around the Southwest. It is the only botanical garden in the world whose mission, from its early inception, was to focus solely on desert plants and one of only a few whose collections comprise a library, herbarium, living specimens and rare and endangered plants.

Mrs. Gertrude Divine Webster, an environmentalist ahead of her time, founded the Desert Botanical Garden in 1939. Ms. Webster, in conjunction with a small group of Valley citizens, gathered in Papago Park to create a botanical garden whose precepts would encourage an understanding, appreciation and promotion of the uniqueness of the world's deserts, particularly the Sonoran Desert. They foresaw the Valley's potential and unique identity, envisioning the need to conserve their beautiful desert environment. The Desert Botanical Garden, since its inception in 1939, continues to be a testament to their vision.

The Desert Botanical Garden sits on 145 acres and has more than 50,000 plants on display. The collection is especially strong in Cactaceae (Cactus), Agavaceae (Agaves), Aloaceae (Aloes) and the flora of the Sonoran Desert. Each accessioned plant has detailed information as to their place and time of collection, information that is of both horticultural and scientific value.

The Garden's collection also includes many rare, threatened or endangered plant species from the world's deserts, especially the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. As part of this conservation collection, the Garden maintains species in cooperation with the Center for Plant Conservation. In addition to living plants, seeds and pollen of rare plants are frozen and stored in our extensive seed bank of desert species.

The Garden's herbarium is a collection of preserved plant specimens -- identified, labeled and mounted -- that serve as a lasting record. The herbarium serves to house reference material, to provide means of plant identification, as an arbiter of correct names and as a databank of the diversity and distribution of regional vegetation. The Desert Botanical Garden Herbarium contains over many thousands of accessioned specimens. It was designated as a National Resource Collection in l974 and houses important desert plant collections of early Arizona botanists and current research staff.

The Desert Botanical Garden has five thematic trails that illustrate a variety of topics. The Garden's Desert Discovery Trail showcases desert plants from around the world. The Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Trail explores how desert plants are used for nourishment and tools. The Sonoran Desert Nature Trail illustrates the relationship between desert plants and animals. The Center for Desert Living Trail covers topics such as water and energy conservation. The Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Trail showcases desert wildflowers.

In 2002, the Garden completed a $17 million expansion which includes a new entry and admissions area, the gift shop and sales greenhouse, Dorrance Hall, a 400-seat reception hall and gallery, the Nina Mason Pulliam Research and Horticulture Center which houses the departments of horticulture, research and visitor services, and the Desert Studies Center, which accommodates the educational services department, the volunteer headquarters and indoor and outdoor classrooms.

With this expansion, the Garden is able to provide greater programming and new events for all visitors. The Desert Botanical Garden celebrates spring with its annual butterfly exhibit and wildflower blooms. During the fall, each weekend is dedicated to celebrating different plants and cultures of the new world as part of the Fabulous Fall Festivals and Mariposa Monarca. And the holidays would not be the same without Las Noches de las Luminarias, an event that has grown from one weekend in December to 19 nights during the month.

In 2008, as part of its $16 million Tending the Garden Campaign to Endow the Future, the Desert Botanical Garden completely transformed the old Cactus and Succulent Houses into the new Sybil B. Harrington Cactus and Succulent Galleries and opened the Ottosen Entry Garden. Additional projects funded by the campaign include a self-guided audio tour, an in-school curriculum for Arizona teachers, scholarships for the Garden's school field trip program a new research scientist and a new way-finding system. In 2009, the Joy and Howard Berlin Agave Yucca Forrest was opened along with a revamped Center For Desert Living Trail in 2010.

The Garden also offers a variety of lectures and workshops on desert landscaping and horticulture, nature art and photography, botanical art and illustration, health and wellness and natural history. In addition, the Garden offers specialized tours, special events, seasonal exhibits, an outdoor café and a gift and plant shop, and many activities for children and their families. The Desert Botanical Garden, committed to its community, has developed programming and special events of interest to both local audiences and tourists.

A "Phoenix Point of Pride", the Desert Botanical Garden is one of 36 botanical gardens in the United States accredited by the American Association of Museums. In 2005, Governor Janet Napolitano named the Garden one of Arizona's Treasures. It is a privately funded, non-profit organization that depends on revenues from admissions, memberships, gift shop sales, as well as contributions from individuals and businesses to fund its programs of environmental education, plant conservation and research.

The Garden's mission is to advance excellence in education, research, exhibition, and conservation of desert plants of the world with emphasis on the Southwestern United States. We will insure that the Garden is always a compelling attraction that brings to life the many wonders of the desert.

Please see the Gardens's website for hours and admission fees.


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