Arboretums & Botanic Gardens

Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden

The Living Collection

The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the best-maintained gardens in the world, enjoyed by local residents and visitors from around the world. It holds one of the world's foremost collections of desert plants with detailed records on all plants in the collection, information that is of both horticultural and botanical value. The collection and its documentation are of significance worldwide in conservation, education and research.

The purpose of the Desert Botanical Garden is to exhibit, conserve, study and disseminate knowledge of arid-land plants of the world, with a particular emphasis on succulents and the native flora of the Southwestern United States.

The Living Collection contains nearly 20,000 plants representing 3,886 taxa in 133 plant families. Nearly 70% of these plants are of documented, wild-collected origin. The collection is especially strong in Cactaceae, Agavaceae, Aloaceae and the flora of the Sonoran Desert.

The Garden is renowned for its cactus collection which includes more than 1,350 different taxa. Highlights of the cactus collection include:

Opuntia: The garden features the world's most complete collection of the genus, displaying 208 of the 261 species and varieties recognized.

Echinocereus: The garden displays 84 of the 91 recognized taxa. Other major collections include Mammillaria (206 taxa), Coryphantha (44 taxa) and Ferocactus (31 taxa).

South American Cacti: Recent collecting trips to Chile, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia have made the South American cactus collection among the most comprehensive and best-documented in the U.S. Particular strengths include: Copiapoa (33 taxa), Eriosyce (24 taxa) and Echinopsis (38 taxa).

The family Agavaceae forms a second significant collection in the Garden, with emphasis on the genus Yucca and on agaves of the southwestern U.S. The Garden displays 35 taxa of Yucca and 141 taxa of Agave.

Other major collections include Old World succulents (1,207 taxa) and desert trees and shrubs (1,116 taxa).

The Garden is an important conservation institution with a collection of 169 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 36 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 Earle Herbaruim

The Earle Herbarium houses a collection of preserved plant material, used by researchers studying the classification of desert plants. The collection contains nearly 42,000 accessions of dried plant specimens. It was designated as a National Resource Collection in 1974 and houses important desert plant collections of early Arizona botanists and current research staff. The collection is composed of plants from arid and semi-arid regions worldwide, with particular emphasis on the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. The representation of cacti (3,000 specimens) and agaves (1,800 specimens) is especially strong. The herbarium houses voucher specimens which substantiate the identity of plants in the living collection, and serves as a repository for plants cited in ethnobotanical studies of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico.

The herbarium collection is used by both garden staff and visiting scientists as an aid in floristic and taxonomic work. In addition, specimens are loaned to researchers at botanical gardens and universities throughout the world.

Max Richter Memorial Library

The Richter Library contains 5,500 titles, including journals and rare books, which provide research literature for the study of desert plants with particular emphasis on:

  • Plants from arid regions of southwestern North America, especially the Sonoran Desert;
  • Succulent plants, especially the families Cactaceae and Agavaceae;
  • Conservation of rare or endangered plants native to arid regions of the world;
  • Man's relationship with desert flora, including ethnobotany and desert gardening.

The library houses archival materials related to desert research, including photographs, field notebooks, maps, journals and botanical illustrations. The collection of botanical illustrations includes prints, drawings, paintings, and scientific illustrations of desert plants from the Americas, southern Africa and Madagascar. The library houses the Lyman Benson archive of manuscripts and papers, and his botanical book collection. Back-up copies of the Garden's plant and herbarium records are also maintained in the library for public use.

The library is open to Garden visitors on weekdays throughout the year.

Educational Programs

Educational programs at the Garden are designed to provide a wide variety of experiences and learning opportunities to visitors of all ages and interests.

The Garden provides in-service training for teachers and student teachers, and offers training program through the Landscape School for landscape maintenance professionals.

The Garden offers a pleasurable learning experience for any age and for any interest. For more information on Garden educational programming call the Educational Services Department: 480-941-1225

Additional Facilities/Features

Patio Cafe
Garden Gift Shop
Garden Plant Shop

Plant Questions
Monday - Friday / year round / 10 - 11:30 a.m. / 480-941-1225
If you have a question about your desert landscape or plants, call the Desert Botanical Garden Plant Questions Hotline and the Garden staff and volunteers will help youNo Charge


The Desert Botanical Garden is located at the southeastern edge of the Salt River Valley in Phoenix, Arizona near the cities of Scottsdale and Tempe, on 145 acres in the midst of the red rock buttes of Papago Park.

7 days a week, all year except December 25 and July 4
October - April  8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
May - September,  7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
There is a fee for entrance.

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