Activity | Shades of Green | Desert Botanical Garden


Discover a Color field of green in the desert

While some might think the desert is just brown and dusty, with a closer look, you can find many shades of green. Head out in search of all things green to re-discover the saturated color palette of the Sonoran Desert.

Green is an important color for plants, caused by the natural compound chlorophyll, which promotes food production and growth. Some desert plants, like Brittlebush and White Sage, have leaves with white hairs on their surface, which change their color. These ‘hairs’ act as protection from the sun–similar to humans using sun screen. Alternatively, plants with dark shiny leaves, like Creosote, have a waxy coating that helps seal in the moisture to prevent water loss. Cactus stems are also green, and come in variety of shades. The colorful spines on cactus, like the Golden Barrel, can change the color of the plant from a distance. Golden Barrels have bright yellow spines that help protect the plant from herbivores (plant eaters), and help shade the plant from the sun.


This activity is great for kids of all ages. Help your child hone their observational skills by learning about color–an important developmental milestone for young children.


  1. Open the ‘shades of green’ color wheel below on your phone, print it out or make your own using crayons, colored pencils or paint.
  2. Go outside with your color wheel and see how many shades of green you can find.
  3. Your task is to find as many shades of green as possible and match them to the color wheel. Place objects next to the color it matches from the lightest shades of green to the darkest. Look for natural objects like leaves, grass, bark and plants.

Leaves with and without irrigation

Brittlebush conserve water by growing smaller and paler leaves during dry years.  Note the difference between these leaves grown with and without irrigation.

Green Color Wheel

The Garden, Garden Shop and Restaurants will be CLOSED July 1-7.