A favourite spot to see and learn about desert plants
Located three miles west of Superior, Arizona in Queen Creek Canyon, Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is one of my favourite places to see and learn about desert plants. The park features plants from the Arizona desert and deserts around the world. The natural setting with a mountainous backdrop makes for a pleasant and beautiful walk.
The Arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden. It was founded by mining magnate Col. William Boyce Thompson in the 1920s to promote understanding of plant-people relationships in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world.
The Arboretum offers daily guided walking tours and special seasonal tours and workshops. Or you can choose to walk through the park on your own at your leisure. Plaques identifying plants and their origins are prevalent. Information about the desert plant life and park maintenance is found on boards throughout the park.
The park contains desert plants from around the world, some natural, some cultivated. Sections of the park are devoted to a particular desert area. On the Curandero Trail in the Sonoran Exhibit, you find information on traditional medicine, food, and other usages of plants in southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. In the Mexican-American culture, curanderos (men) and curanderas (women) are traditional healers.
Prickly pear juice has been used to treat adult-onset diabetes and urinary tract inflammation. The inner flesh of the pads help with external inflammations such as burns. The dried flowers are high in flavanoids.
Creosote bush leaves have been added to capsules to treat bacterial and viral infections, bladder infections, arthritis, and intestinal disorders. Flower buds pickled in vinegar are a choice food items in some parts of Mexico.
The Hummingbird & Butterfly Garden features plants known to attract hummingbirds and butterflies and is a favourite section of the park for photographers. But birds and butterflies are not limited to this section of the Arboretum. I heard and saw birds throughout my walk around the park. I spotted butterflies in several areas.
The endangered Arizona Hedgehog Cactus
Buckthorn cholla in Upper Sonoran exhibit
The Main Trail is one and a half miles long. The High Trail provides another half a mile to explore. About half of the Main Trail is wheelchair accessible. The Upper Sonoran and South American exhibits are not wheelchair accessible. The Upper Sonoran Natural Exhibit trail is steep at times but offers great views.
Trees alongside part of Main Trail
Eucalypus trees in Australian Exhibit
The Arobertum protects biodiversity by sustaining wild habitats along Silver King Wash and Queen Creek and in upland locations. Staff carefully monitor each new plant in the non-native collections to prevent spread into wild areas.
There are many places to sit, rest and enjoy the scenery
Cacti blooms at Boyce Thompson Arboretum April 2012
I visited the Arboretum the first week of April in 2012 and many cacti were blooming. 2013 was a colder winter and most of the cacti were not yet blooming the first week of April, but the wildflowers were brilliant.
There are treasures to be enjoyed no matter what season you visit. I’ve been there in November and enjoyed the fall colours. Other times are prime times for birds, butterflies, dragonflies and lizards.
Have you visited the Arboretum? Do you have another favourite spot to appreciate the desert plants?
Mexican poppies at Boyce Thompson Arboretum