Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is Arizona’s biggest and oldest arboretum, featuring a stunning array of plants and wildlife. Established during the Roaring Twenties by multimillionaire William Boyce Thompson, the park is ideally located on 323 acres near Queen Creek, about an hour’s drive from Phoenix. Cared for by the Arizona State Parks board, the original arboretum board and Arizona State University, Boyce Thompson is one of the oldest arboretums west of the Mississippi, and one of the most diverse in the nation.
Desert plants collected from all the major desert areas of the globe bloom and thrive here. More than 2,600 species of cacti, trees, wildflowers and succulents thrill the senses of young and old plant enthusiasts, day trippers and professional botanists. Gathered around the otherworldly volcanic rock formations, a desert lake and a deep forest, Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a true Sonoran oasis.
In the spring, a fabulous panorama of wildflowers bursts into bloom at the Wildflower Demonstration Garden. Gold and red poppies, fields of red flax, verbena, purple and pink phlox, and dozens of other colorful species flood the eye and heart of those lucky enough to see them. May and June are the time to view the gorgeous flowering of prickly pear cactus and many other exotic cacti. Blossoms ripen into fruit during July and August, providing food for birds and other wildlife.
Enjoy a guided Butterfly Walk in the summer and learn about the specific roles each variety of nectar-sipping insect plays in the arboretum’s ecosystem. Among the many species of butterflies drawn to the gardens are rare species of swallowtail and the increasingly endangered monarch. If butterflies aren’t enough, there’s also a guided Lizard Walk, where visitors can find and identify the park’s many small reptiles!
Fall foliage season is another ideal time to visit Boyce Thompson. Late November to early December are vivid with oranges, reds and yellows, this time from the creekside forest. Trees like the Chinese pistachios that spread graceful canopies upwards of 40 feet are particularly colorful.
Ayers Lake, the Arboretum’s manmade reservoir, is a peaceful refuge for birdwatchers and photographers. The lake is home to grebes, ducks and hawks, as well as numerous species of migratory birds, and is a favorite spot for visitors to rest, relax and explore.
More than two miles of easy walking trails connect cultivated garden spaces and collections with acres of natural habitat, offering glimpses of wildlife, colorful vistas and plenty of birdsong.
After spending a day at Boyce Thompson, many visitors feel inspired to start improving the natural landscape around their homes. Talking to the park’s knowledgeable staff and picking up resource materials from the visitor’s center and gift shop at the entrance are a great way to learn how to grow many beautiful native species at home. Many guests mark their calendars to return for the annual plant sale fundraiser, where trees, cacti, flowers and succulents are offered at reasonable prices, with a substantial discount for current members.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a botanical treasure that’s not to be missed. Memberships are extremely reasonable and include a year of free access to the park and grounds. Day rates are also available at the Arboretum’s expansive and welcoming visitor’s center.
Dan Riggs has always loved landscaping and as a result, founded Scottsdale Tree Trimmers to pursue his passion doing Phoenix tree trimming. Aside from tree trimming, Ryan also loves hiking and rock climbing at Camelback Mountain near Scottsdale.