Phoenix, Arizona has grown to be the sixth biggest city in the United States. The mild winter weather in Phoenix attracts visitors from the East, North and Midwest to escape the cold weather. During their stay, visitors take advantage of the sights the desert has to offer. The Desert Botanical Gardens is one of the attractions not to miss while in Phoenix.
The 14 acre garden is located between Scottsdale and Tempe close to the Phoenix Zoo and Papago Park. The garden is located in an area with the Papago Park Military Reservation, Phoenix Zoo and Papago Park with the spectacular red butte that dominates the landscape.
The Desert Botanical Gardens is a non-profit organization formed in 1936 and took its first visitors in 1939. It has collected different plants from the world’s deserts and continues to expand the garden area. It relies on volunteers, special events, membership and entrance fees to keep the garden flourishing and growing.
The center of the Desert Botanical Gardens is called the Discovery Loop Trail that features desert plants and interactive exhibits about world deserts and wildlife found in them. The brick path circles the garden interior with side paths to specialized areas and blends seamlessly into the natural habitat. To those going to the garden for the first time, it appears somewhat of a maze, but it is a logical arrangement and there are plenty of docents or volunteers willing to give direction.
The Center for Desert Living is a side path that features a herb garden. It is filled with aromatic herbs such as thyme, lavender, and other plants that cover the area with a perfume like aroma. This garden gives tips on raising a desert garden, the plants to choose and how to water them.
The Sonoran Loop Desert Trail goes up to the highest point in the garden. In addition to the plants, it offers a spetacular view of natural local landscapes such as Papago Peak and Camelback Mountain.
Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert features living and agricultural techniques of Native American and early immigrants. These include housing the Native Americans built, and corrals and other buildings by the Spanish settlers who came later.
The Cactus and Succulent Garden features these plants from around the world. Plaques give information for care and their uses, and their relationship to each other.
The Butterfly Pavilion contains a variety of butterflies, and a popular spot in the garden. The pavilion is closed in the winter months and opens in the spring.
In addition to the interactive informational stops, volunteer docents answer questions and give presentations about the plants and various displays. They use portions of the dead plants to show the interior of a Saguaro or other types of cactus, plant, tool, cooking method or diet used by Native Americans that lived in the area. The docents thrive on these presentations and like all the volunteers, are a great benefit to the garden.
Research is one of the things the Garden is involved in doesn’t get as much publicity as it should. They have a staff of scientists involved in research.
One of these projects is the effects of evolutionary biology on plants. They study how it’s accomplished and the results of plant changes that are inherited. They have a program to see the effects of nonnative plants on indigenous plants. They also investigate the effect fire, land use and erosion have on the local desert. Recent research by Garden scientists involve extreme drought, how plants modify their environment in drought, how plants have interacted with the environment in the past and other scientific study of plants in their environment.
The Desert Botanical Garden is a point of pride in the Phoenix area. While it is enjoyable to visit, it performs a valuable function in research and preserving rare and endangered plants. It is one of the attractions in the area that is categorized a must see for the out of town visitor.