About the Garden
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:
- 140 acres
- 55 acres under cultivation
- 50,000+ plant displays showcased in beautiful outdoor exhibits
- 1 of only 24 botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (formerly American Association of Museums)
- 1,140 volunteers
- 82,740 volunteer hours
- 104 staff members
- 640,529 attendees each year
- 26,065 member households
- 46,158 school children on guided field trips
Have a question? Contact us today and we'll be happy to help!
Our Mission, Vision and Values
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. (Articles of Incorporation, 1937; Amended 2002)
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."
- Stewardship: To protect and preserve desert plants, animals , and habitats.
- Interdependence: To respect the mutual destinies that link people, plants, and all of nature.
- Authenticity: to reflect our unique natural heritage and cultural history within a public garden setting.
- Accountability: To act ethically and responsibly as we serve our many communities.
Planting The Seeds For A Botanical Garden
Back in the 1930s, a small group of passionate local citizens saw the need to conserve our beautiful desert environment. One was Swedish botanist Gustaf Starck, who found like-minded residents by posting a sign, “Save the desert,” with an arrow pointing to his home. In 1936, they formed the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society (ACNFS) to sponsor a botanical garden to encourage an understanding, appreciation and promotion of the uniqueness of the world’s deserts, particularly our Sonoran Desert.
Then Gertrude Webster, whose home was located in nearby Arcadia, joined the Society. She offered her encouragement, connections and financial support to establish the botanical garden in Papago Park.
First Board of Directors
Garden benefactor Gertrude Webster served as president of the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society’s first Board of Directors and Gustaf Starck was one of five vice presidents, who included W. E. Walker, Rell Haskett, L. L. Kriegbaum, and Samuel Wilson, who also served as Treasurer. Paul G. Olsen was Secretary. In 1938, after much work by the ACNFS, the board hired the Garden’s first executive director, George Lindsay, who oversaw the first planting on the grounds. The Desert Botanical Garden opened in 1939 as a non-profit museum dedicated to research, education, conservation and display of desert plants.
It was volunteers who first created the Garden, and volunteers who keep it humming today. Volunteers who share their time, talents and professional expertise are vital to the smooth operation of the Garden, bringing an appreciation of the world’s deserts to visitors from all over the world.
Volunteers were essential in the Garden’s creation and development, when the staff was small and finances tight. These early supporters, including a few amateur botanists who donated their own plant collections, helped plan and execute plant sales, photography and art exhibits, and numerous public events.
Volunteers remain a Garden asset, sharing their time, talents and professional expertise. They work closely with staff to maintain the Garden’s status as a premier plant research institution and serve as members of the Board of Trustees, setting policy and governing the Garden.
Volunteering at the Garden is a world-class experience and wonderful adventure. Learn more about becoming a volunteer now.