A week in the desert, part 3a: Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

We visited three botanical gardens in Arizona … too much for one post, so I’ll break it up into quicker reads. Grab a cuppa joe and settle in … because this will be a spiny post, heavy on prickly photos and short on words. Lots of eye candy for fans of desert flora!

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

One of our must-see destinations was the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, a 140-acre site with five distinctive loop trails. We had time for only three, which means we must return. (We’d return, regardless.) I’ll name the plants that I know, but I don’t know them all. Here we go!

I fell in love with this place even before we got to the admissions booth. On the way in:

Chihuly sculptures at Desert Botanical Garden.

Yucca rostrata, nature and Chihuly’s versions.

 

Hedgehog cactus with pink blooms and Agave paryii

Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus) with pink blooms, and Agave parryi

 

Blooming Cercidium floridum (blue palo verde), the Arizona state tree

Blooming blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida), the Arizona state tree. I like how the colors are echoed in the potted agaves.

As we walked inside, we were surprised by this enormous lavender head, the first of several large, colorful ceramic sculptures by Jun Kaneko that were displayed throughout the garden. Featured art installations change several times a year.

Large ceramic lavender head by Jun Kaneko.

Untitled head by Jun Kaneko.

 Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia santa rita)

Probably my favorite desert plant, Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia santa rita), because — purple and green!

Squirrel among opuntia rufida

See the squirrel among the blind prickly pear (Opuntia rufida)? There are many varieties of opuntia.

Wildflowers at Desert Botanical Garden.

We walked the Wildflower Loop first. More Jun Kaneko heads in the background. They made great landmarks.

Butterfly on a yellow blanket flower.

The butterfly pavilion was a special treat. Photographing flitting butterflies is difficult!

Yellow fruit of the fishhook barrel cactus

Fruit of the fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni) look like little pineapples.

Brilliant orange claret cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) blooms.

Brilliant orange claret cup cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) blooms. I don’t know what the yellow flower is.

 Santa rita prickly pear with pink bloom.

Another Santa Rita prickly pear. I love cactus flowers.

We continued on the Desert Discovery Loop. We were reminded that all cactus are succulents (they store water in their leaves), but not all succulents are cactus! Only cactus have spines that grow from areoles, whereas succulents may have spines, but they do not grow from areoles. Got that? Take a look at some of these examples.

There are many varieties of agave, which are succulents with spines, but no areoles.

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A young cardon (Pachcereus pringlei).

This young cardon (Pachcereus pringlei) is a cactus, with spines and buds growing from areoles.

boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris)

A boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) — yes, they DO exist! It’s not a cactus.

Octopus cactus (Stenocereus alamocensis)

Octopus cactus (Stenocereus alamocensis)

Black spined prickly pear (Opuntia macrocentra)

Black spined prickly pear (Opuntia macrocentra), definitely a cactus! Ouch!

Saguaro metal sculpturemade of wrenches.

A saguaro, but not a cactus–because it’s a sculpture made out of wrenches. Unfortunately, I didn’t record the artist’s name.

We detoured into the shorter Center for Desert Living Loop to visit the herb garden. There, I found the beautiful Archer House, built in 1952 and named for Lou Ella Archer, a founding member. I cupped my hands around my face and peered into the windows, trying to look past my reflection. I was shocked to find a face peering back at me–a man working at his desk!

Archer House at Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

Archer House, 1952. Love the color — maybe because it’s the same color as our house!

Pergola detail of Archer House, Phoenix

Interesting octopus hanging planters.

Woman at Archer House, Phoenix, AZ

A tourist studies the Archer House.

 

Agave potatorum and rosemary

This might be Agave potatorum, contrasting beautifully with rosemary.

We came upon a grove of giant cardón (Pachycereus pringlei), the largest columnar cactus in the Sonoran Desert—far larger than saguaro. Some of these rose over 60 feet in the air. We could tell they were very old.

Cardon cactus.

Magnificent cardons grow up to 60 feet.

Man and woman peek from behind a colorful Jun Kaneko sculpture.

Past the cardons was another Jun Kaneko sculpture.

Just ahead was another adobe-style building—Webster Auditorium, originally built in 1939 as the garden’s administration building, and named for founder Gertrude Divine Webster.

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Our time was running out, so we completed the Desert Discovery Loop and returned to the Admissions and gift shop courtyard … but not before passing a few more beautiful specimens.

Yucca rostrata

Yucca rostrata … looks very Dale Chihuly.

Ceramic head by Jun Kaneko surrounded by golden barrel cactus.

I like how this head’s colors complement the landscape, and the stripes echo the ribs of the golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii).

silver torches (Cleistocactus strausii) with red blooms

Look at these silver torches (Cleistocactus strausii) with their topknots and red schnozzes! Such personality!

Blooming claret cups (Echinocereus triglochidiatus)

A gorgeous group of blooming claret cups (Echinocereus triglochidiatus).

Old man of the Andes (Oreocereus celsianus)

Old man of the Andes (Oreocereus celsianus)

Desert rose (Adenium).

I want a desert rose (Adenium).

I’ll leave you with this one, who took out all his false teeth for this photo. I’m unsure what species it is, but it’s Something cristata, or crested. I didn’t know at the time what a comparative rarity this condition is. It’s caused by a cellular mutation, usually due to injury or disease, that makes the cells multiply in a linear fashion. I’m going to look for cristata succulents in nurseries now. I gotta have one!

A columnar crested cactus.

An unidentified columnar crested cactus.

In part 3b, we’ll head east a few miles to tour the Boyce Thompson Arboretum before we finally get to Tucson. Stay cool!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

 

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15 thoughts on “A week in the desert, part 3a: Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

  1. Africadayz

    That squirrel must have a tough skin! I have never been crazy about cactus plants but you’ve done a great marketing job here, D’Arcy.

    Reply
    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      It’s amazing how the small animals can live amongst these spiny plants! I guess a fur coat or feathers offer a lot of protection. I used to have a rule that no thorns (other than some roses) could be in my garden … but I’m rethinking that!

      Reply
  2. Karen B.

    I’m just not a fan of the desert or any of the cactus, but you managed to make so many of these plants beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
    Karen

    Reply
    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      We love the desert! It has a fierce and tough beauty, especially when plants are blooming. Of course, if I lived there, I’d be pushing the envelope trying to create a leafy oasis!

      Reply
  3. Donna O.

    Hi D’Arcy:

    Thank you for the wonderful cacti tour. It’s amazing how a cactus can produce such lovely flowers and come in so many unexpected shapes and forms – like the Octopus, Old Man of the Andes, and the Silver Torches. I had to chuckle when I saw the Silver Torches! Love the photos.

    Forty years ago, a friend gave me a cactus plant a foot tall. It is now 12 feet tall and has almost reached the top of my cathedral ceiling. Over the years, it has grown many branches ( I call them “arms”) that extend not only upwards but out & away from the main stem. Some of these arms I have had to gently curve inwards to save space in the corner of my living room. My neighbor nicknamed the plant “Medusa”, and a friend said it was the ugliest plant she had ever seen. I took that as a compliment – LOL! It can look rather scary when spotlighted at night, given its size and shape. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I discovered it wasn’t a cactus at all. It was a euphorbia. Like cacti, euphorbia can take many forms and can be both strange and beautiful. I was surprised to later find the Christmas-time poinsettia is also a euphorbia.

    Donna

    Reply
    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Wow, Donna–that must be quite the plant! I bet it looks awesome with an uplight! I am just learning how varied euphorbias are … not at all like the ones in my garden. Plant life is so fascinating. I loved seeing all the specimens in AZ botanical gardens. So different than the Northwest!

      Reply
  4. Anita

    wow..makes me want to go home. Karen told me that some of the cacti are blooming for the 2nd time after some heavy rains!

    Reply
  5. Cathy Christian

    Now I am going to have to get a cardon for my new yard. And a silver torch. And more, depending on part 3b!

    Reply

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