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Desert Plant Research Center


Nina Mason Pulliam Desert Research and Horticulture Center

The 13,700-square-foot Nina Mason Pulliam Desert Research and Horticulture Center was completed in 2001 with the generous financial support of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. This building contains:


In order to accommodate continued growth of the Garden’s research program, an addition to this structure is planned for completion in 2011. The new addition will contain a 1,200-square-foot, state-of-the-art plant molecular biology laboratory and offices for additional researchers, visiting scientists and students.

The Herbarium

What is a herbarium?

A herbarium is a natural history collection of preserved plant specimens. For scientists, they are as valuable as any library. These specimens, either whole plants or parts of plants, are usually mounted on archival quality paper with a label that includes information about the specimen and collector. These herbarium sheets are databased, arranged in a systematic order and stored in metal cabinets. They are available for use by botanists, ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, land managers and others, in studies as diverse as medical research, conservation, climate change, and ethnobotany.

How is a herbarium used?

Herbarium specimens are used for a wide variety of research including taxonomic (the science dealing with the description, identification, naming, and classification of organisms), evolutionary, and biogeographical studies, to name a few. They are the foundation for Floras (a catalog of plants growing in specific regions, usually with identification keys and species descriptions) and can even be used to provide DNA samples for research.

The Desert Botanical Garden Herbarium (DES) focuses on plants of arid and semi-arid regions of the world with special emphasis on southwestern US and northern Mexico. Collections were initiated in 1950, and in 1972 DES was designated as a National Resource Collection. Strengths of the Desert Botanical Garden Herbarium include collections representing:

DES has ca. 66,000 accessioned sheets of vascular plants. The geographic representation is approximately:

Areas of taxonomic concentration include the following families in descending order:

The Cactaceae and Agavaceae collections are especially valuable because they are large, are geographically well-represented and curated, and include numerous rare taxa.

The DES type collection houses 136 types representing 33 families, with Cactaceae (45) and Agavaceae (34) especially well represented.

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Anderson Laboratories

The Anderson Research Laboratories, named in honor of Dr. Ted Anderson and made possible by the generosity of Hazel Hare, comprise three molecular labs totaling over 615 square feet. The specialized equipment in these labs allows garden researchers to study the genetic diversity of plant species. Such studies can help us better understand relationships among plant species or form more effective conservation strategies.

Our specialized equipment includes:

  • Water baths
  • Dry baths
  • Incubators
  • Gel electrophoresis systems
  • Gel imaging system
  • Water distillation
    and ultra- purification systems
  • Microcentrifuges
  • High-speed centrifuge
  • Two -20°C freezers
  • One -80°C freezer
  • Two refrigerators
  • Nanodrop DNA quantifier
  • Autoclave
  • Several thermal cyclers

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Seed Room & Vault

The 252 square-foot Seed Room and Vault includes a germination chamber, work space for our volunteers who hand clean seed prior to storage and an office for data entry.

The seed vault is a 197 square-foot cold storage facility with climate control maintaining temperature and humidity at 60°F, and 25% RH. Over 4,225 accessioned seed, including Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), and rare, threatened and endangered seed packets are stored here, along with pollen, and seed for use by our curators. A 25 square-foot sub-zero freezer (average -30°F) also holds hundreds of seed packets in long term storage.

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Center for Plant Conservation Greenhouse

In memory of Lynda Pritchett Kozak

The Desert Botanical Garden is one of 36 botanic institutions in the U.S. that participate with the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), working to conserve native rare plant species. This 1,175 square-foot greenhouse currently hosts 27 species of rare, threatened and endangered plants. Four species are maintained as back-up collections for other participating institutions within the CPC network.

This ex situ collection serves as a backstop against extinction, allowing us to perpetuate species even if they were to become extinct or stop reproducing in the wild. These plants also serve multiple roles in education and research, while producing seed and additional plants through cuttings and division.

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Bring a flashlight and join us for an evening of exploration! Flashlight tours are every Thursday and Saturday now through September 5. Tour is included with membership or paid Garden admission. More Info.

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