Arboretums & Botanical Gardens



In years when winter rainfall in southern Arizona is only half the average, there is too little autumn rain to trigger mass germination of annual wildflowers. Substantial rain before the end of February is also required for smaller shrubs and herbaceous perennials to bloom, so these too will be disappointing. And while trees and cacti will probably flower on schedule, they will not be as profuse as normal years.

So what's to do, if you are still craving your annual spring desert wildflower experience? One of the best solutions is to visit one of the many arboretums or botanical gardens located throughout the desert southwest.

  • An Arboretum is a plot of land dedicated to the cultivation of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants for scientific, educational and exhibit purposes.
  • A Botanical Garden is a garden -- often with greenhouses -- for the culture, study and exhibition of special plants. It is also called a botanic garden.
  • An Herbarium is a collection of dried plant specimens -- usually mounted and systematically arranged and documented -- for reference. It is also a place that houses an herbarium.

In Arizona, these facilities specialize in flora of arid and semi-arid regions, especially plants of the Southwest and the Four Corners. Herbariums may be included within an arboretum, a botanical garden or even a natural history museum. Arboretums and botanical gardens often overlap in their functions and exhibits. They also offer many special events in conjunction with the blooming seasons.

To help you get started, here is list of Arizona's excellent arboretums and botanical gardens.

The Arboretum at Arizona State University: Tempe, Arizona
This, the largest urban arboretum in Arizona, is home to over 300 species from diverse geographic regions, as well as the Sonoran Desert. It contains one of the best collections of date palms and conifers in the desert southwest, and offers a growing collection of native southwestern plants.

Desert Botanical Garden: Phoenix, Arizona
Specializing in the conservation, study and dissemination of knowledge about arid-land plants of the world, visitors enjoy their particular emphasis on succulents and the native flora of the southwestern US.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park: Superior, Arizona
A major center for plant research and a haven for plant-lovers and enthusiasts alike, numerous examples of native vegetation from the Sonoran Desert, in addition to vegetation from arid and semi-arid regions of throughout the world, are featured.

The Arboretum: Flagstaff, Arizona
Dedicated to helping visitors understand the plants and plant communities of the Colorado Plateau, visitors can discover for themselves the diverse botanic beauty found only in the Four Corners region of the US.

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum: Tucson, Arizona
A world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place. Visitors can enjoy interpretive displays of living animals and plants native to the Sonoran Desert, alive and in their natural desert settings.

Tohono Chul Park: Tucson, Arizona
Tohono Chul Park offers an enchanting environment where visitors can reconnect with the quiet beauty of nature in the unparalleled beauty of the Sonoran region. Many programs offered.

Tucson Botanical Gardens: Tucson, Arizona
Thirteen unique gardens and numerous special events provide horticultural and ecological education to encourage responsible environmental stewardship, and to provide a setting for enjoyment, relaxation and renewal for residents and visitors of all ages.

Wildflower Field Guide
Desert Plants & Wildflowers

Desert Wildflowers Reports for Arizona


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