Recently, a group of cactus & succulent gardeners car-pooled to the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, for a tour of the Garden’s collection of cacti & succulents.
The 34-acre Garden holds one of the largest and most diverse collections in the United States, with most plants organized geographically in several regions of the world. In addition to the Geographic Collections, the Garden includes Ethnobotanical Collections and Taxonomic Collections.
These collections include nearly 17,000 different plants, called “accessions,” each of which is documented thoroughly in a computerized database, which can be searched online. The Garden’s website has this information about its database:
“Detailed records are kept for each accession, including their place of origin, which enhances their scientific and educational value considerably. Each accession is accompanied by a public display label including accession number, family name, scientific name, and place of origin, and where appropriate, common name.”
Such records are essential for a research collection, and a good idea for any garden. The Garden’s plant database is searchable online.
This group headed for the Arid House, which is one of Taxonomic Collection. The Arid House is a climate-controlled space that includes a cacti & succulents collection open to the public, with a diverse collection of plants from multiple geographic locations. Each plant has an informative label, and the room includes interpretive signs with broader information.
This public space is connected to a staff-only large room with a large research-and-conservation collection of mostly small plants. The specimens on one side of this room can be viewed from an adjacent walkway, through a security barrier.
Our group tour was led by Bryan Gim, the Horticulturist for the Arid House collection. He noted that the majority of the plants in the Arid House are succulents (which includes cacti) and also includes other plants with similar climatic requirements.
Many succulent plants grow well outdoors in the UC Botanical Garden’s environment, which is similar to that of the Monterey Bay area. So, many of the Garden’s succulent plants can be seen outdoors, in several regional collections, particularly Deserts of the Americas; Mexico and Central America; Southern Africa; and Mediterranean Collections. Most of these are close to the Arid House.
Aloe plicatilis (Fan Aloe, South Africa)
The UC Botanical Garden is an exceptional resource that is easily accessible to all in the Monterey Bay area. It offers unique opportunities to study plants, or just to enjoy a walk through a fascinating collection of both exotic and familiar plants and escape the concerns of the day. The site, although fairly limited in size, presents a great resource for both avid gardeners and all who appreciate nature’s bounty.
Visit the Garden’s website for more information. Explore the page “About/The Garden” for a timeline of the Garden’s since its establishment in 1890, and “About/Collections” for an introduction to each of the individual collections.
My visit was with the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society;of course, the Garden welcomes all interested individuals and groups year-round.