Los Angeles County Arboretum (August 2021)

As in previous years, the 2021 Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show was held at the Los Angeles  County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. Located in Arcadia in northeastern Los Angeles County, the Arboretum is all that remains of Rancho Santa Anita, a Mexican land grant originally encompassing more than 13,000 acres and covering all or parts of the present-day cities of Arcadia, Monrovia, and Pasadena. With each successive owner, more and more of the property was sold off for development, leaving just the current 127 acres. 

The Arboretum opened to the public in 1956 and houses a variety of gardens and landscapes as well as biogeographical collections, including succulents from Africa, Madagascar and the Americas. It's also home to about 200 Indian peafowl—descendants of the original birds Lucky Baldwin, one of the former owners of Rancho Santa Anita, imported from India in the late 1800s. I didn't photograph any peacocks this time, but this May 2017 post features several of them strutting their stuff.

When I was planning my trip to the Inter-City Show, I hoped I'd be able to explore the entire Arboretum, seeing how I was going to be in Arcadia for two full days. But I ended up doing so many things, including spending plenty of time at the show and sale as well as trips to the Huntington and the Theodore Payne Foundation, that my time in the Arboretum proper was more limited than anticipated. Still, I managed to take some nice photos of the Arboretum's succulent plantings.

Agave franzosinii near the Arboretum entrance

I haven't been able to ID this beauty, but it looks like a Nolina

Cascading Rhipsalis baccifera

Outdoor fireplace detail

Nice place to sit

Square-leaf grass tree (Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata, Australia)

The big bed in the Desert Display Garden has been completely renovated

It now features a variety of mangaves and agaves and is top-dressed with black lava rock

×Mangave 'Night Owl'

×Mangave 'Spotty Dotty'

×Mangave 'Lavender Lady'

Agave gypsicola (Mexico), a recently described species not to be confused with A. gypsophyla

Agave tequilana 'Tequila Sunrise' (Mexico)

Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii, Mexico) and cholla (Cylindropuntia sp., U.S. Southwest)

Moroccan mound (Euphorbia resinifera, Morocco)

Wavy form of Opuntia microdasys (Mexico) and Moroccan mound (Euphorbia resinifera, Morocco)

Crested Myrtillocactus geometrizans (Mexico)

Aloe vanbalenii (South Africa), Euphorbia leucodendron (Madagascar)

Agave geminiflora (Mexico)

Opuntia echios (Galápagos Islands)

Opuntia echios (Galápagos Islands)

The tree is a palo blanco (Mariosousa willardiana), a member of the acacia family from Sonora, Mexico

Cleistocactus strausii (Bolivia)

Agave weberi (Mexico)

Agave guiengola (Mexico)

As part of an outdoor art exhibition called “The Nature of Sculpture II,” works by 66 artists are on display in the Arboretum until September 21, 2021. I photographed a few of the pieces that caught my eye.

Elmo (Jim Marshall)

Scorpion (Jim Marshall)

Army Ant (Jim Marshall)

Denial (Lynda Brothers), one of my favorite pieces

Getting Some Fresh Air II (Lauren Verdugo)

Agave attenuata (Mexico) and Brahea armata (Mexico)

View of the San Gabriel Mountains

The Bismarckia nobilis-studded lawn in the Africa section and the adjacent Madagascar Spiny Forest are among my favorite spots:

Bismarckia nobilis, a truly spectacular palm

Bismarckia nobilis

Bismarckia nobilis leaf detail

Bismarckia nobilis fruit

Aloe vaombe and Bismarckia nobilis

Aloe vaombe and Bismarckia nobilis

Aloe vaombe and Euphorbia millii

Pachypodium lameri

Didierea madagascariensis against the trunk of Pachypodium lameri

Aloe suzannae

Alluaudia procera, sometimes called the “Madagascar ocotillo” although it's not related to the New World ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

Alluaudia procera

Alluaudia procera

Alluaudia procera

Euphorbia leucodendron

Uncarina stellulifera, aka mouse-trap tree or claw plant, named thusly because the hooked barbs on the seed pods are said to grab animals that walk by

Wrapped Figures (Elisabeth Pollnow)

Equilibrium (Toy Jones)

The African section is one the largest in the Arboretum. It's home to many wonderful and sometimes weird plants:

Narrow-leaved bird of paradise (Strelitzia juncea, South Africa) has flowers similar to the common Strelitzia reginae, but the stems (actually petioles) are leafless, resulting in a rush-like appearance (hence the species name)

Euphorbia horrida (South Africa)

Euphorbia horrida (South Africa) with seed pods

Aloe tomentosa (Yemen), one of several aloes from Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula that have fuzzy flowers

Aloe tomentosa flowers

Pronounced fuzz on Aloe tomentosa flowers

Aloe fosteri (South Africa) has amazing yellow and orange flowers, but like many spotted aloes it's congenitally prone to leaf tip die-back. There's nothing you can do about it; it's just a fact of life.

Avenue of the little giants

Golden Twin Trees: An Homage to my Twins (Pascaline Doucin-Dahlke)

Totem (Robin M. Cohen), Dracaena draco, and Aloidendron 'Hercules'

Aloe marlothii and another Strelitzia juncea (both from South Africa)

I think this Aloe marlothii is really nice

Dragon tree (Dracaena draco, Canary Islands)

Dracaena draco (Canary Islands) and Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' (South Africa)

Tree aloe silhouettes

Aloidendron barberae

This looks like a dwarf form of the cabbage tree (Cussonia paniculata, Canary Islands). Would love to have that in my garden! In comparison, my Cussonia paniculata is a good 10 ft tall!

Newly planted African cycads, with Bismarckia nobilis in the background. It looks like the Arboretum is making a serious effort to expand its cycad collection.

Encephalartos middelburgensis

Encephalartos sclavoi

I hope to make it back to Southern California later in the fall. If so, I will stop by the Los Angeles Arboretum since it's located so conveniently right off the 210 freeway.


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  1. The newly renovated Desert Display Garden looks very elegant with the black lava-rock dressing and the spectacular large rock (with the hole) off to the side. I had a 'jaw drop' moment seeing the photo of Moroccan mound with the wavy Opuntia! A wonderful garden, it will be great seeing it again in the fall.

    1. The L.A. County Arboretum is county-owned and doesn't have the financial muscle of, say, the Huntington. That's why I'm even more excited to see money being invested in renovating the gardens.

  2. There are a lot of very interesting plants from around world going on at the Arboretum. The textural contrast between the Diederia and the Pachypodium is very cool. So is the fuzzy aloe. It's what I love about succulents, they are so weird and wonderful.

  3. Looks like you squeezed in quite a lot during your time there!


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