Desert Botanical Garden Plant Research & Conservation Center


  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Research & Conservation
  4.  » Protecting Desert Plants

Working to Save Desert Plants and Habitats since 1939

Since 1939, Desert Botanical Garden has served as a global leader in the research and conservation of desert plants and their habitats. Today, Research & Conservation staff at the Garden collaborates with academic, research and conservation groups across six countries and four continents. The work being done is leading to the discoveries of new plant species, conservation of threatened and endangered species and identifying emerging threats such as climate change to invasive species to the desert habitats throughout the world.


Desert Botanical Garden’s Research and Conservation staff are tackling the most critical issues affecting desert health and sustainability. The Garden’s team brings decades of experience and passion to a core vision of protecting the Earth’s deserts through science, conservation and education.

Hazel Hare Center for Plant Science

The 85,000-square-foot Center is where Garden staff, researchers and volunteers are at work growing, studying and taking care of a world-class collection of desert plants. Many of these species are rare and endangered.

Living Collections of Cactus Plants
Rare Endangered desert plant species

Seed Bank and Seed Photography Laboratory

Desert Botanical Garden seed bank housed in the Ahearn Desert Conservation Laboratory contains more than 4,000 seed accessions representing some of the rarest plants in the world. The collection is primarily focused on the conservation of desert plants, particularly those of the cactus and agave families. In addition to these families, the Garden also works in collaboration with the Smithsonian and the North American Orchid Conservation Center to conserve seeds from the numerous orchid species of the Southwest – some of which are extremely rare. Although seed banking is no substitute for protecting the habitat of these plants, the preservation of their seeds acts as an insurance policy to prevent extinction 

The Herbarium

Desert Botanical Garden Herbarium (DES) is the largest herbarium in Arizona that is supported by a nonprofit institution and is the fourth largest herbarium in Arizona. It holds more than 93,000 accessions in the collection. The accession of the initial core collections for DES was started in the 50s and in 1972 it was designated as a National Resource Collection. 

Living Collections of Cactus Plants
Rare Endangered desert plant species

The Dryland Plant Ecophysiology Lab

The Dryland Plant Ecophysiology Lab studies plant ecophysiology traits that underlie adaptation to heat waves, drought and other stressors. The most up-to-date approaches to study plant water relations, photosynthesis and growth to better understand how plants respond to stressful environmental conditions. We seek to identify solutions for restoring and conserving dryland forests, plant communities and sensitive species threatened by global environmental change. 

Laboratory of Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics

The Garden’s Research, Conservation and Collections Department has a molecular lab facility equipped with eight individual workstations and is available for students, technicians and other researchers. Research topics explored in the lab range from phylogenetics of major plant groups such as the agavoideae to population genetics of individual rare plant species. 
Living Collections of Cactus Plants
Rare Endangered desert plant species


The Garden is researching the way plants support our pollinators and other beneficial insects. Insects, especially pollinators and butterflies, are undergoing drastic declines. They depend on plants for nectar, pollen or as a host for herbivorous caterpillars. In order to conserve butterflies, we need to support the plants that give them life and better understand these relationships. 

Saguaro Census

The Garden is launching the 3rd Annual Saguaro Census in May to document more saguaros throughout the Phoenix metro area using the iNaturalist app. We have learned a lot about saguaros in the Valley and new challenges have emerged:

Living Collections of Cactus Plants
Rare Endangered desert plant species

Saguaro Initiatives

The summer heat in Arizona has intensified in recent years. With temperatures frequently surpassing 100 degrees for several consecutive days. These harsh conditions affect all desert inhabitants, including plants.

The Garden is a proud member and partner of national and international organizations dedicated to research and conservation of life on our planet.