Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the largest and oldest botanical garden in the state of Arizona. It is, in fact, the fourth oldest botanical institution west of the Mississippi. Founded in 1924 as a desert plant research facility and “living museum”, the Arboretum is located in the Sonoran Desert on 392 acres along Queen Creek and beneath the towering volcanic remnant, Picketpost Mountain. Boyce Thompson Arboretum is on U.S. Highway 60, an hour’s drive east from Phoenix and 3 miles west of Superior, Arizona. It is open daily to the public except on December 25th.
The Arboretum has a visitors’ center, gift shop, research offices, greenhouses, a demonstration garden, picnic area, and a looping 1.5 mile primary trail that leads visitors through various exhibits and natural areas. The exhibits include a cactus garden, palm and eucalyptus groves, an Australian exhibit, South American exhibit, aloe garden and an herb garden to name a few. There are also numerous side trails such as the Chihuahuan Trail, Curandero Trail, and High Trail.
Over 2600 species of arid land plants from around the world grow at the Arboretum. Agaves, aloes, boojum trees, cork oak, jujube trees, legume trees, and, in the eucalyptus grove, one of the largest red gum eucalyptus trees (“Mr. Big”) in the United States. Cacti and succulents grow extensively throughout the Arboretum.
Because the BTA is a riparian zone, the park attracts Sonoran Desert wildlife and migrating birds. Lucky visitors have seen bobcats, javelinas , coatimundis, rattlesnakes, gila monsters, hawks, hummingbirds, and vultures. Since 270 bird species have been spotted in the park, the Audubon Society has designated the Arboretum as an Important Bird Area.
Daily tours are scheduled from January until May. Special events and classes are organized on an almost weekly basis throughout the year including lizard walks, photography classes, prickly pear juicing classes, etc. There are also membership dinners, the Fall Foliage Festival, and the bi-annual plant sale.
Currently the Arboretum has 4700 members and attracts over 75,000 people annually.
Admission is: Children from 5-12 are $5. Older children and adults are $10. Children under 5 are admitted free.