Field trip Boyce Thompson Arboretum
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Field Trip: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but right in the middle of the desert, in the midst of Picketpost Mountain, lies a place of profound peace and beauty. With its countless plants and trees, Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the ultimate oasis in the Arizona desert.




According to Wikipedia, Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the largest and oldest botanical garden in the state of Arizona. It is one of the oldest botanical institutions 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.

Over 2600 species of arid land plants from around the world grow at the Arboretum. Agaves, aloes, boojum trees, cork oaks, 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.

“Mr. Big” red gum eucalyptus tree


Because the BTA is a riparian zone, the park attracts Sonoran Desert wildlife and migrating birds. Visitors have seen bobcats, javelinas, coatimundis, rattlesnakes, gila monsters, hawks, hummingbirds, and vultures. 270 bird species have been spotted in the park and the Audubon Society has designated the Arboretum as an Important Bird Area.

The arboretum was founded by William Boyce Thompson (1869 – 1930), a mine engineer who created his fortune in the mining industry.

Boyce Thompson wrote: ‘I have in mind far more than mere botanical propagation. I hope to benefit the State and the Southwest by the addition of new products. A plant collection will be assembled which will be of interest not only to the nature lover and the plant student, but which will stress the practical side, as well to see if we cannot make these mesas, hillsides, and canyons far more productive and of more benefit to mankind. We will bring together and study the plants of the desert countries, find out their uses, and make them available to the people. It is a big job, but we will build here the most beautiful, and at the same time the most useful garden of its kind in the world.’“~ Wikipedia (




Our family traveled to the Arboretum with some friends to participate in a plant tour and were delighted with what we discovered!

Cacti with prickly spines and beautiful flowers

Lush greenery with thriving herbs and legumes


A plethora of cacti, in all shapes and sizes, available to purchase

A pond and a bridge

Secret gardens

An entire section about Australia’s customs and plant life

Our tour guide taught us the 5 C’s of Arizona: cotton, citrus, copper, cattle, and climate, and had the kids sort items into the appropriate section.

Another tour guide taught us about some fo the edible plants of Arizona. We got to sample Mesquite powder and a salty cactus pad. Both were delicious!

The views were breathtaking, and there were plenty of benches and picnic tables to choose from when it came time to eat our lunch.

Creative and colorful works of art

This bird’s nest was a fun find!

My daughter captured a close up of a bee (above) and its flight away from the flower (below).

There seemed to be a fun surprise or secret spot of beauty with every turn we took.

Located in Superior, AZ, just outside of Phoenix, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, with its rich history, is a wonderful, family-friendly place to spend an afternoon. Don’t forget to bring your camera!


Spending time in nature is such a fun way to connect with the people in your life. In what ways do you use nature to connect with others?


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