Desert Botanical Garden

With desert flora and fauna, including larger-than-life cacti, this garden attracts those who want to experience the desert without venturing far from the city.

The Desert Botanical Garden demonstrates that even the driest deserts are not devoid of life. The biodiversity includes cacti, succulents, trees, flowers and even butterflies and local critters. It is an eye-opening experience for those who are new to the flora and fauna of the Southwest and educates those wanting to learn  more about cacti. 

Gertrude Webster and a group of like-minded local citizens established the garden in 1939. They wanted a designated place to showcase the diverse ecology of the local Sonoran Desert. It opened as a non-profit museum dedicated to research, education and conservation. 

With over 50,000 desert plants and animals, such as chipmunks, rabbits and birds, there is plenty of natural beauty on display. The various exhibits show how the plants have adapted to life in a seemingly desolate landscape. Choose a walk from five scenic trails or take a tour to find how the beavertail, organ pipe and fishhook plants got their names. 

Don’t miss the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop, which illustrates how desert flora can be used for food, medicine and shelter. Step inside a traditional Western Apache house, which is a domed structure of split yucca leaves thatched with cottonwood and willow branches. Stare up in awe at a huge cactus, smell the chocolate flower or try to capture a hummingbird on camera. The seasonal butterfly exhibit is fun for children.

The Desert Botanical Garden is located in Papago Park, eight miles (13 kilometers) east of downtown Phoenix. It is open daily until late, so you can stay to watch the desert come to life with night-blooming flowers and the sounds of nocturnal animals after watching the famous Arizona sunset. Plan a two- to three-hour visit and check out which events are on to get the most out of the admission fee. The night-light spectacle, Las Noches de las Luminarias, sells out quickly. During this winter holiday event, sit down for a romantic dinner or listen to live music in the softly lit garden.

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