As a self-proclaimed plant lady, you’re probably not shocked to hear I loveeeeee a good botanical garden – especially if said botanical garden involves oodles and oodles of succulents! Enter: the Desert Botanical Garden.
The Desert Botanical Garden is a 140 acre botanical garden located in Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona. It is home to more than 21,000 plants, one third of which are native to the area, including 139 species which are rare, threatened, or endangered.
The concept of endangered animals makes sense to me, but endangered plants isn’t really something I had ever thought about. Then I met Lonely George.
Lonely George is a cactus that sits in a large pot at the entrance of the Botanical Garden. George is an endangered Florida semaphore cactus. His species is native to the Florida Keys. George does flower, but he does not have the capacity to produce seeds.
No one is really sure when George lost his reproductive ability or even why, but there are some theories. One theory revolves around the idea that George’s species is a hexaploid plant that has six complete sets of chromosomes. Sometimes, when there are multiple copies of chromosomes they do not sort properly when the ovules and sperm are formed. Then when fertilization happens, it is impossible for a seed to form.
Translation: George produces male offspring, but no female offspring – which as we all know, you need both to make a baby (even cactusly speaking!).
It’s not just George that’s in danger. The cactus family is the fifth most threatened group of living organisms in the world. The Desert Botanical Garden has been at the forefront of cactus conservation for more than 70 years and continues to preserve rare and endangered plant species.
I had the best time walking through the different trails and exhibitions at the park. Check out some of my favorite pictures from the park!