Secrets Of The Desert Botanical Gardens…

by | Mar 1, 2023

The Sonora Resort Hotel

Beneath the Saguaro of the Gardens, a rich history awaits deeper exploration. As the image above illustrates, the Saguaro is like a desert hotel sustaining flora and fauna. Most of it we are unable to see on the surface while passing by.

If you dig deeper into the history of the Gardens, we find so much more that deserves respect and appreciation. All too often visitors to the Gardens don’t get the whole story.

The Great House at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Hohokam people c300BC – 1500AD

Hohokam (/hoʊhoʊˈkɑːm/) was a culture in the North American Southwest in what is now part of Arizona, United States, and Sonora, Mexico. It existed between 300 and 1500 AD, with cultural precursors possibly as early as 300 BC.”

Archaeologists disagree about whether communities that practiced the culture were related or politically united. According to local oral tradition, Hohokam societies may be the ancestors of the historic Pima and Tohono O’odham peoples in Southern Arizona.”

Camp Papago Park WW2 POW Camp

Papago Park was the home of a POW camp during WW2. It housed approximately 3,100 prisoners from 1942 to 1944. The site is notable for the largest mass escape from any United States prison camp in World War2.

The Great Papago Escape occurred on December 23, 1944 when 25 prisoners, including, German U-boat commander Jürgen Wattenberg, escaped the camp using a 178-foot tunnel, They made their way to the Arizona desert.

The entrance to the tunnel was concealed by a large box of coal.

These prisoners realized in no time at all that they knew nothing about survival in the desert environment and turned themselves back in. Wattenberg was the last to be captured, on January 28, 1945.

The Desert Botanical Gardens 2023

“Wander through five diverse desert habitats and discover the variety of ways indigenous people have used native plants for food, fiber and shelter.”

The lives of indigenous people, Sonoran Desert Loop Trail

Our first day in the Gardens this week will not be forgotten. We meandered around most of the loop trails. The landscape is the best of the best of the Sonora.

We enjoyed lunch at Gertrude’s. The menu is limited but with excellent choices. Sharing a meal is recommended for those of us on a strict budget and diet.

The restaurant was named in memory of Gertrude Devine Webster who was one of the principal founders of the Gardens. Gertrude left her estate to the Desert Botanical Gardens when she passed away in 1947.

The Gardens offers such a large diversity of flora and fauna that one trek can’t do justice for desert enthusiasts. It’s definitely a good hike with many stops for photos and video clips to share. Don’t miss the 20 minute YouTube below, sharing our first visit in this special place on the planet.

Gardens’ history is proof of a remarkable beginning with a sign in 1939 that reads, “Save the Desert!” It was Swedish botanist Gustaf Stark, who found like-minded residents by posting the sign.

It is small beginnings, with lots of passion and love for nature, that makes a beautiful community building project like the Gardens sustainable. It is also commitment and teamwork, including funding from individual donors and organizations alike, that makes the magic sauce for success.

We can’t wait to go back to the Gardens when the Sonora Desert is in full bloom! If you haven’t been there, hope this article motivates your soul to be one with nature.

In the end, it’s love of community building and in each other that makes a worthy cause successful. The Desert Botanical Gardens is a great example to be proud of…

Doors open 1939, and the rest is evident today.

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
View all posts by stevesparks →

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