Updated: Oct 2, 2018
While cities across the nation have botanical gardens, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona is spectacularly unique. Located in the beautiful Papago Park, the garden covers a 140 acre patch of desert landscape. It has served as a beautiful site for locals and tourists alike since it was founded in 1939, and is truly a must-see sight in Arizona.
The history of the Desert Botanical Garden is rooted in volunteerism. Back in the 1930’s, a Swedish botanist named Gustaf Starck assembled a conservation minded group called the Arizona Cactus and Native Floral Society with the goal of establishing a botanical garden to foster awareness and appreciation for the floral wonders of the desert. He found these like-minded individuals by simply placing a sign outside of his house saying “save the desert” next to an arrow pointing towards his door. Soon they had enough members and the requisite funding to make their vision a reality.
In those early years, volunteers helped keep the place running. Amateur botanists donated their own personal plant collections and other members of the community helped organize art exhibits, promote natural photography and organize plant and seed sales for fundraising.
Their efforts paid off and today the garden is home to more than 2100 plants. Of these, about a third are local, and 139 species range from rare to endangered. There is also a historical building on the premises called the Webster Auditorium which holds many events throughout the year. All in all, the early members of the ACNFS would be proud to see how much their seedling vision has grown.
Whether you are wanting a beautiful run along the garden paths or are interested in desert flora, the garden should be on anyone's schedule when planning things to do in Phoenix or Scottsdale. It’s also located in Papago Park so there are plenty of hiking and climbing options available, as well as incredible rock formations to check out after your visit to the garden!