For more than 70 years, the Desert Botanical Garden has been teaching and inspiring visitors from the local community and around the world, providing research, exhibits and more designed to help us understand, protect and preserve the desert’s natural beauty. Today, the Garden features:
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Partial funding provided by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture through appropriations from the Phoenix City Council.
The Garden’s commitment to the community is to advance excellence in education, research, exhibition and conservation of desert plants of the world with emphasis on the Southwestern United States. We will ensure that the Garden is always a compelling attraction that brings to life the many wonders of the desert.
In the 1930s, a small group of passionate local citizens saw the need to conserve the beautiful desert environment. One was Swedish botanist Gustaf Starck, who found like-minded residents by posting a sign that said “Save the desert,” with an arrow pointing to his home. More than seven decades later, thanks to leadership and investments from many individuals, Desert Botanical Garden has blossomed from a dream into a living museum unlike any other. See how the Garden has grown during its history into a compelling attraction and desert conservation pioneer.
1939 – The Garden opens its doors to the public.
1942 – World War II brings most Garden activity to a halt. Arizona State Teachers College, now Arizona State University, provides administrative oversight while volunteers work to sustain the fragile collections onsite.
1947 – Gertrude Webster dies leaving her estate to support the Garden.
1952 – Archer House is built and named in honor of Lou Ella Archer, a founding member who contributed time and talent to early fund drives.
1957 – Under W. Taylor Marshall's leadership, the Garden’s collections increase from 1,000 specimens at the end of World War II to more than 18,000 specimens.
1961 – The visitor center and gift shop are added.
1963 – Galvin Parkway opens and provides direct access to the public.
1970 – The new library is built to house a valuable donation of rare books and prints.
1977 – The Docent Program is established as part of the Education Department to provide guided and informative tours.
1983 – The American Association of Museums accredits the Garden. Only 24 gardens have earned this distinction.
1985 – Desert Botanical Garden becomes a charter member of the Center for Plant Conservation—a consortium of botanical gardens devoted to preserving rare flora of the United States.
1988 – Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Trail opens.
1992 – The Garden secures a National Science Foundation grant to expand and upgrade the trail system.
2002 – Garden completes a $17 million expansion, which includes a new entry and admissions area, the gift shop and sales greenhouse, Dorrance Hall, a 400-seat reception hall and gallery, the Nina Mason Pulliam Research and Horticulture Center.
2008 – $17.8 million campaign transforms old Cactus and Succulent Houses into Sybil. B Harrington Cactus and Succulent Galleries and opens Ottosen Entry Garden.
2009 – Joy and Howard Berlin Agave Yucca Forrest opens.
2010 – Center for Desert Living Trail is refurbished.
2013 – The Garden celebrates its 75th anniversary and launches The Saguaro Initiative, a fundraising campaign to invest in the future of the Garden.
2014 – Central Arizona Conservational Alliance is formed to study, protect and promote the Valley’s mountain park preserves.
2015 – The Virginia G. Piper Desert Terrace Garden and the Lewis Desert Portal open.
2017 – New Butterfly Exhibit and Hazel Hare Center for Plant Science open.
The Garden's future plans to fulfill its mission are embodied in its vision statement:
"The Garden’s vision is to be the premier center in the world for the display, study and understanding of desert plants and their environments. The Garden strives to be an indispensable resource in the Southwestern United States for helping individuals learn about Sonoran Desert Plants as well as desert plants of the world, so that they will conserve and protect the natural world for the benefit of future generations. Every element of the Garden will reflect excellence, beauty and inspiration to transform the visitor experience into one of discovery and meaning about deserts and desert plants."