Friday, December 7, 2018

Boyce Thompson Arboretum Fridays, Part 1

Way, way, way back on June 18th we visited the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, AZ. Our trip south was part of a biggish adventure that would see us driving south from Phoenix to Tucson, across to Las Cruces, and down to El Paso for the flight home. We'd never been to the BT Arboretum and my brother and his family were up for it so off we went.

The Arboretum is about 65 miles east of Phoenix, they advise that you arrive "two or more hours before closing in order to see the gardens"... I would recommend at least four. This place is huge and dense, and you don't want to miss a thing.

I've purposely saved my desert photos for the winter, when I need a reminder of the heat and blue sky. I've divided them up into 4 groups, thus the month of December will feature four "Boyce Thompson Arboretum Fridays". Today will include the entry (these Saguaro are all in the parking lot) and the Sonoran Desert Exhibit (aka the Curandero Trail).

Kinda fun shapes...

And so well planted...

There were plants for sale, so you know I was happy.

Oh! And not just plants, Cholla skeletons.

For sale! But I had no way to get them home as they were all quite large.

Let's survey the other offerings...

I did buy a small pot of Gymnocalycium baldianum (shown here), but that's all.

Onward! Yes, that's Andrew up ahead...

Agave vilmoriniana, it's not all that common to see this beauty in a botanical garden.

Gifts from the Goddess of Agave...

A five-fingered Saguaro!

And a multi-toed Opuntia.

And a...guess it...fern!
Notholaena sinuata/wavy cloak fern, all those in hot climates who say they can't grow ferns, have you tried this one?

The heavens are blessing this Agave bloom.

Off in the distance...

Up close...

And even closer...

The base...

I do love me an Ocotillo.

The blooms have faded.

Opuntia bigelovii, aka teddy-bear Cholla

Agave murpheyi: "the leaves of Century Plant are traditionally dried or used fresh as a bitter tea to relieve indigestion, gas, constipation, water retention and arthritis. Prolonged internal use interferes with the absorption of vitamins in the small intestines. Before antibiotics, Maguey was used in Mexico to treat venereal diseases."


Bloom with bulbils.

Sun-burnt bulbils.

This blooming guy (Ferocactus emoryi I believe), is a great example of why people thought those lame little straw flowers should be glued on cactus at the big box store.

Dasylirion some something...


This raised planting was post-Sonoran trail, it seemed to be a collection of small succulents that liked a little moisture and shade.

Aloe maculata/Aloe saponaria perhaps?

Next Friday we're on to an extremely brief look at the Australian desert and a little greenhouse exploration.

Weather Diary, Dec 6: Hi 44, Low 34/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. Seeing the first picture of that amazing Saguaro, I knew it was going to be a sunny and hot post. I almost went to get the sun screen...
    In the picture just bellow "The heavens are blessing this Agave bloom" there are 2 shaggy looking plants. What are they?

  2. Those round, ridged cacti with the red spines (in the Aloe ?maculata/saponaria picture) really set my heart beating. Something about the contrast between their smooth, stolid shape and those airy, colorful bits glittering in the light...

  3. Great idea to save these warm sunny sky posts for December. One more reason to look forward to Fridays! What a treat to see so many spiky plants in one place. Only two more weeks until the days start getting longer again.

  4. If this is only the first of four posts, it must have been a fabulous visit. These plants against that blue sky are impressive.

  5. Thank you for this: I needed some sun! The fifth photo down, looking up the hill is lovely--they really did a nice job of arranging the plants. We were in Arizona a couple of years back, but I didn't make it to any arboretums. Next trip out there...

  6. As I'm currently shivering from our cold temperatures (which no doubt you'd consider balmy) I can also appreciate the visual warmth generated by this post. BT looks particularly bountiful for a botanical garden in an actual desert. And those dried cholla skeletons look like a supreme deal vis-a-vis the driftwood offered for sale here!

  7. Aw, man, might be my pet personal favorite botanic garden of all time. It's a garden whose soul is so essentially "desert," perhaps a most legitimate, purely local aesthetic (with no borrowings from other lands in lieu of its own full formation) and a real, down-to-earth gardener's garden.
    Thanks for sharing a peak at it today.

  8. We visited BTA last spring and it quickly became one of my favorite botanical gardens. We arrived at 4:00 and they closed at 5:00, so we could only wander a short distance. We will be sure to go back on our next AZ trip!

  9. It's almost comical how much I love ocotillo, given my low tolerance for hot desert conditions. I interviewed for a job at Boyce Thompson once. They were rather rude and condescending after I must have not explained well the mapping equipment I used at Longwood. I dodged a bullet, but if I had been hired, that Notholaena sinuata label would have already been updated to Astrolepis sinuata. Anyway, I do love seeing photos of the arboretum. It looks like a great place to visit.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!