15 of the Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens in the US

Plus, how they support environmental conservation.

A path through lush tropical greenery.

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A botanical garden is a natural space dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of an array of plant species for education and scientific purposes.

The first botanical gardens of the 16th and 17th centuries contained mostly medicinal plants—a kind of apothecary of sorts—, but contemporary gardens offer a variety of themes, showing off plants that thrive in many different ecosystems.

With plant diversity on a sharp decline, botanical gardens are proving to be more important than ever. They devote their resources to the study and conservation of plants, while also teaching the public about biodiversity and inspiring environmentalism. Plus, they offer beautiful scenery—often in the midst of crowded cities—that all nature lovers can appreciate.

Learn more about 15 of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the country and be sure to add them to your must-visit list.

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Desert Botanical Garden

A desert landscape with cacti and agave.

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The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, is a magnificent retreat full of cacti, succulents, and other desert flora. With 140 acres and several trails and loops to wander through, visitors can learn about what organisms thrive in one of the hottest and driest parts of the world—the Sonoran Desert. 

This unique botanical garden is dense with different species of agave as well as cacti. But in all, there are 50,000 different plants to learn about, so visitors should plan to stay awhile.

Since 1939, Research & Conservation staff at the garden have collaborated with organizations around the world, serving as global leaders in the conservation of desert ecosystems. This work has led to the discovery of new plant species, conservation of threatened and endangered species, and study of emerging threats, including climate change.

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Hawaii Tropical Botanic Garden

Lush tropical vegetation.

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A nonprofit botanical garden and nature preserve, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is located on Hawaii’s big island. While the garden and visitors center is 20 acres, the entire conservation area of the preserve encompasses over 100 acres.

The garden is tucked in a scenic valley that opens out to Onomea Bay. Visitors can explore streams, waterfalls, and lush plant life. Plus, they can wander on a boardwalk along the ocean.

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden contains over 2,500 plant varieties, including numerous species of palms, heliconias, and bromeliads. It acts as a living classroom, with guided tours and plenty of resources for educators to help their students learn about the planet.

The garden also works with the University of Hawaii and program partners to serve as a hub for scientific research and development around sustainability and biodiversity. The organization strives to be a global leader in implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, providing ecotourism to protect the reserve and educate visitors.

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Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

A pavilion at the Dallas botanical garden.

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With over 66 acres of property, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden features 11 different spaces that guarantee there'll be something gorgeous to see year-round.

The garden, located near the scenic White Rock Lake just minutes from downtown Dallas, is home to the Southwest’s largest outdoor floral festival, Dallas Blooms Spring.

There are several different named gardens on the property, including Trial Gardens, where groundbreaking horticultural research is conducted.

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is relatively new compared to others in the United States. That said, it has one of the country’s premier children’s education programs. Hundreds of thousands of students have passed through its trails to learn about conservation, which continues to inspire the beautification of North Texas.

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San Francisco Botanical Garden

A dock over green water in a botanical garden.

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The San Francisco Botanical Garden in the city’s Golden Gate Park is 55 acres in size and is home to nearly 9,000 different plant varieties from around the world. The botanical garden contains several smaller gardens that mimic environments from around the globe, from Andean cloud forests to temperate Asian ecosystems.

Its mission is to connect people to plants, the planet, and each other. It also aims to instill a deep understanding of the need for environmental conservation.

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Missouri Botanical Garden

Missouri Botanical Garden dome structure.

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Known informally as Shaws Garden after its founder Henry Shaw, the Missouri Botanical Garden is the second largest botanical garden in North America. It’s located in St. Louis, Missouri, and is home to a herbarium with more than 6.6 million specimens.

One of the Missouri Botanical Garden’s signature events is the Green Living Festival, which takes place each June. The festival encourages people to incorporate eco-friendly practices in their daily lives through workshops, children’s activities, panel discussions, and exhibits that explore the connections between sustainability, energy efficiency, conservation at home, and a healthy environment.

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Washington Park Arboretum

A Japanese Maple.

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The Washington Park Arboretum is part of a public park in Seattle. It’s a joint project of the University of Washington, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and the nonprofit Arboretum Foundation.

The arboretum is known for its stretch full of colorful azaleas known as Azalea Way, which is a popular attraction come springtime. Also of note is the Japanese Garden, a 3.5-acre traditional stroll garden located inside the Washington Park Arboretum. The Japanese Garden is one of the oldest in North America and many say it’s one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan.

The science conducted at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens focuses on environmental horticulture, conservation biology, and restoration ecology. Their Rare Care program builds partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies to provide information and assistance in the recovery of the state’s native rare species.

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The Huntington

Visitors among cacti at a botanical garden.

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The Huntington is made up of the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. Located in San Marino, California, The Huntington is a research institution  that includes about 120 acres of landscaped gardens that showcase plants from around the world.

The Huntington has a conservation program that maintains an active seed bank and tissue culture lab, essentially a botanic library. This way, it can help protect any endangered species, variety, or breed.

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Fort Worth Botanic Garden

A wooden bridge in front of fall foliage.

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If you visit the beautiful Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, you’re in luck—another stunning botanical garden is only about a 45 minute drive away. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden, located in Fort Worth, Texas, is the oldest major botanic garden in the state. Its 100-acre property is home to more than 2,500 species of plants.

Like the Washington Park Arboretum, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden boasts a stunning Japanese garden. It is also home to a beautiful rose garden, which was built with 4,000 tons of Palo Pinto County sandstone in 1933, as well as a lush 10,000-square-foot rain forest conservatory.

The garden is operated by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, an organization committed to environmental sustainability. The institute seeks to reduce its environmental impact and protect and restore ecosystems through careful site design, landscape management, and conscientious human behavior.

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Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Palm trees above a waterway.

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Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is not only a gorgeous public garden, but it’s also a museum, laboratory, learning center, and conservation research facility. Its mission is to preserve biodiversity by harnessing the power of plants for humankind and sharing the beauty of tropical gardening with everyone.

Fairchild is an 83-acre botanic garden near Miami, Florida, that boasts extensive collections of rare tropical plants including flowering trees, vines, palms, and cycads. There are nearly 30 exhibits with different landscapes to explore.

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Chicago Botanic Garden

Crabapple trees along a walkway.

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With the largest membership of any U.S. public garden, the Chicago Botanic Garden aims to cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich lives through its living classroom. 

The garden is located near Glencoe, Illinois, and sits on 385 acres spread out among nine islands in the Cook County Forest Preserves. It features 27 display gardens that focus on four natural habitats: Dixon prairie, lakes and shores, Skokie River corridor, and McDonald woods.

The Chicago Botanic Garden conserves rare species and works with major organizations on plant conservation. It offers multiple degree programs at the School of the Chicago Botanic Garden as well as adult education, youth and family, teacher and student, and wellness and fitness classes.

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Botanic Gardens at Balboa Park

A reflecting pool and botanical building.

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If you take a leisurely trip to San Diego, California, you can’t miss Balboa Park. Along with a magnificent zoo, thought-provoking museums, and several theaters, Balboa Park contains multiple gardens and walking paths to encourage visitors to interact with nature.

Throughout the historical and cultural park, there are multiple individual botanic gardens. They include Alcazar gardens, the Botanical Building and Reflecting Pool, the Cactus Garden, Palm Canyon, and more.

The 1,200-acre park contains thousands of species of plants. Its main goal is to provide a beautiful space for the public to see and learn about both native and exotic plant species.

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Bartram’s Garden

A pond surrounded by trees.

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Bartram’s Garden was founded in 1728, making it the oldest surviving botanic garden in the entire United States. It’s a 50-acre public garden and National Historic Landmark in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, located on the banks of the Tidal Schuylkill River.

The garden is home to a community farm and several educational programs, as well as a horticulture program that teaches participants the importance of nature.

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New York Botanical Garden

A decorative floral centerpiece in a forested pond.

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Located in the Bronx, New York City, the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) rests on a 250-acre property that is home to over one million plants.

The NYBG has established itself as a major educational institution. Through interactive programming, the garden teaches visitors about plant science, ecology, and healthy eating. In addition, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, also part of the botanical garden, is one of the world’s largest collections of botany-related texts.

A research institution, the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory, also sits on the grounds. It was built with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration along with New York State and New York City. Its emphasis is on the study of how genes function in plant development, otherwise known as plant genomics.

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International Rose Test Garden

A garden with rows of rose bushes.

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The city of Portland, Oregon, is often referred to as “The City of Roses.” So, it’s no huge surprise that you’ll find a plethora of rose gardens there. One of the most popular is the International Rose Test Garden in Portland’s Washington Park. It contains more than 10,000 rose bushes spanning over 600 varieties.

The International Rose Test Garden is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the United States. In 1889, the Portland Rose Society was established as a nonprofit to offer educational programs on rose culture and to encourage the use of roses in the landscape.

Roses are gorgeous flowers that can only be described as natural wonders. The rose garden is undoubtedly beautiful, but it also works to foster relationships with the natural environment as visitors ogle at the flora.

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Manicured bushes and flowers along a pathway.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation owns the public estate known as Filoli, located on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California. It’s also known as the Bourn-Roth Estate after its original owners in the early 1900s. 

Filoli contains 16 acres of formal gardens and a 654-acre estate. Over 75,000 spring bulbs are planted on the grounds each year. Additionally, there are hundreds of fruit trees, Irish yews, water features, and unique botanical centerpieces.

Filoli’s mission is to connect our rich history with a vibrant future through beauty, nature, and shared stories. Its goal is to encourage people to honor nature and appreciate the planet’s beauty.

View Article Sources
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  3. "Explore the Campus." Fort Worth Botanic Garden.

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