A Vibrant City
Palm Springs has it all
November 15, 2016
The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium is one of the more popular attractions of Palm Springs, California. With over 3000 species of desert cacti, succulents and other desert plants, Moorten Botanical Garden is the result of the Patricia and Chester Moorten’s love and passion for the desert and its plants, wildlife and beauty. Chester was known as “Cactus Slim” due to his tall lanky build and his work as a contortionist as an original Keystone Cop. When health issues led him and his young wife to Palm Springs in the 1930’s, Patricia used her background as a biologist specializing in botany to explore the Coachella Valley desert and collect plants. In 1938, they created an arboretum which today is known as Moorten Botanical Garden.
Moorten Botanical Garden is organized by geographic regions including the Mojave & Sonora deserts, the states of Arizona, California, Colorado and Texas, plus international deserts including Baja California, South Africa and South America. There is both an outdoor and indoor component to the garden with outdoor examples of agaves, aloes of Africa, bombax, boojum and cardon trees, and crested Cereus while in the greenhouse dubbed the “Cactarium” you’ll find succulents and cacti of various species including Alstromeria, Gymnocalyciums, Aztecia and many others.
Although Slim and Patricia Moorten concentrated their collection on their own property, you may have seen some of their work already. The Moorten’s were friends of Walt Disney and acted as consultants on the western theme design of Frontierland inside Disneyland. The Moorten’s would often visit Disney at his Smoke Tree Ranch in Palm Springs. The Moorten’s also installed and designed other Hollywood celebrity landscapes at their Palm Springs homes including Frank Sinatra. Slim and Patricia Moorten also loved to travel and took their son, Clark, on many trips through Mexico and Baja California all the way down to Guatemala collecting plants along the way.
Moorten Botanical Garden remains a family endeavor with son Clark Moorten acting as curator. He is an expert on American succulent plants and still cares for the garden while propagating many different species. Clark is also there to greet guests nearly every day. The on-site nursery allows you to purchase many plants featured throughout the garden so you can bring home a truly unique Palm Springs souvenir.
Moorten Botanical Garden is located at the south end of town at 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr in Palm Springs. During the Fall, Winter and Spring, the garden is open daily from 10 am – 4 pm (closed Wednesdays) and Summer hours are daily from 9 am – 1 pm (closed Wednesdays). Admission is $5 for Adults/Seniors, $2 for children 5-15 and free for children under 5. Included with admission is a map of the grounds and tours led by volunteer docents which generally take place between 10:30 am to noon. The docent-led tours are particularly helpful if you decide to purchase a plant as you’ll learn the environmental requirements (light, water, temperature) of most of the 3000 plants on display.