SUPERIOR, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) – The oasis that is Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior is a sanctuary of colorful flowers and fragrances. There's even a unique spot that recreates a slice of wild Australia.
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But the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is not just all about the plants. It's also about the animals.
"The garden changes every day," Mark Siegwarth said. "Every day I come out, I see something different. Last week, we had zero irises blooming. This week, I've already seen three. And I think next week, we'll have some tulips. And as it changes from season to season, there's even greater changes you might see. You'll see fall colors. After the monsoons, you'll see the Queen Creek raging as a river. It's just always beautiful here, but you'll never know what you're gonna find."
Boyce Thompson was a copper baron and multimillionaire 100 years ago. He also loved plants and believed in their power to feed the world. His original mission for the Arboretum was to give the University of Arizona a place to study the plants of the deserts of the world.
But don't be turned off by those serious beginnings.
"We encourage people to have fun here at the arboretum," Siegwarth said. "So, if you're a kid or a kid at heart, one thing we encourage you to do is come here, and just start jumping up and down [on our suspension bridge]. And you can hear - it helps, if you have a school group, it goes a lot better than with just one person. But it's fun for even just a couple that likes to watch the water flow underneath the bridge."
"It's actually our third bridge," Siegwarth continued. The first two were washed away because either in the monsoons or maybe due to snowmelt in February, this becomes absolutely a raging river. You'd think we were in Missouri or something."
There's also a farmhouse that dates back to the time before the Arboretum opened when Arizona was still a territory, part of America's western frontier.
There are still a few edible things being grown on this land, but mostly the Arboretum is a feast for the eyes. With most desert plants, come bold, beautiful flowers. But the flowers aren't the only splashes of color you'll see here.
"Fall colors [are] big in November," Siegwarth said. "However, you know a lot of people love Arizona in June for the cactus flowers. However, we have a lot of South American cactus flowers that actually bloom in September."
All of these flowering plants attract people with cameras, and other, more fascinating creatures, like dragonflies. Throughout the summer months, you can join in on the Arboretum's dragon walks to find and photograph these bugs. There are even lessons on how to get one to land on your finger.
The plants, of course, bring bugs, but let's not forget the birds.
"Probably our most famous creatures are the buzzards," Siegwarth explained. "We have 'welcome back, buzzards' and 'goodbye buzzards' days. They're actually turkey vultures. But we'll have at least, you know at the top of the season, maybe over 100 coming in every night to roost. They have a few different places they like to land, and it's kind of like watching a busy airport because they kind of take turns swooping down and coming to rest either on the mountain or a tree."
Turkey vultures fly with their wings in that distinctive "V" shape while they soar. They usually build their nests high off the ground, so the spires of rock inside Boyce Thompson Arboretum make the perfect nesting neighborhood.
"We have foxes, skunks -- we don't like to talk about; we have occasional skunks," Siegwarth said. "But the coatimundi [aka kodamundi] is very popular; they come down maybe once a year to eat the myrtle berries."
So, is there a best time of year to visit the Boyce Thompson Arboretum? No! You can go out there all year long because different plants, different flowers bloom during the different seasons, so you can enjoy it spring, summer, winter or fall.