Desert Garden

The scorching days, cold nights, and scarce rainfall of deserts create environments that are extremely challenging for life. Desert plants have evolved a variety of adaptations to survive in this harsh climate. Examples include: water storage in succulent leaves and stems, deciduous leaves that are lost during drought, deep root systems to tap underground water, physiological tolerance of extreme drought, and short annual life cycles. Water and productive leaf tissue are so precious in these environments that many desert plants defend themselves from thirsty herbivores with spines, thorns, and other armaments.


Los días ardientes, las noches frías y la escasa lluvia de los desiertos crean ambientes extremadamente complicados para la vida. A lo largo de la evolución, las plantas desérticas han desarrollado una variedad de adaptaciones para sobrevivir en este tipo de clima. Algunos ejemplos incluyen el almacenaje de agua en tallos y hojas suculentas, hojas deciduas que se pierden durante períodos de sequía y ciclos de vida cortos. Tanto el agua como los tejidos foliares son tan valiosos en esses ambientes, que muchas plantas desérticas utilizan espinas, aguijones y otro tipo de armamento para defenderse de sedientos herbívoros.

Explore Further

Deserts are found throughout the world. Various definitions exist for desert, but often include limits of precipitation, or a negative evapotranspiration, meaning that more water evaporates from the area than is added from precipitation. The plants of deserts have evolved numerous strategies to deal with the harsh climate. In many cases, similar strategies for coping with the desert climate have evolved independently in unrelated groups of plants in different parts of the world.

Our Desert Garden includes plants from true deserts, semi-deserts, desert/Mediterranean transition zones and other arid climate regions. This Garden is organized into several subsections which include South African succulents, Canary Island natives, New World deserts, and Madagascar spiny forests. A diverse variety of aloes, cacti, agaves and bromeliads (Dyckia and Puya) are found here. Highlight specimens include a large Dragon tree (Dracaena draco) from the Canary Islands, and a stand of Madagascar ocotillos (Alluaudia procera).


The UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a promoter of nature at a California land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

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