Patricia and Chester Morteen established the family-owned Moorten Botanical Garden in 1939, which comprises various cacti and other succulents from the world’s various desert ecosystems. It’s a wonderful place to observe, study, learn and photograph great plant life within the city limits of Palm Springs.
The Botanical Garden are about an acre in size and have an estimated 3,000 desert plants, according to Clark Moorten, son of Chester and Patricia and an expert in this field. The Garden encompasses regional groupings that contain examples from the Sonoran, Yuma, Mojave and Colorado Deserts. There’s also a clustering of plant life from Mexico, South Africa and South America.
Poor health issues led Chester to Palm Springs in the early 1930s. Patricia was a biologist, and her inclination to botany led her to collect desert plants from around the area, ultimately turning their property into this unique Botanical Garden. Furthermore, the couple was also friends with Walt Disney and consulted designers on the desert theme of Frontierland at Disneyland.
The Garden Walk
Along the narrow path, visitors will discover agaves, euphorbuas, jojoba, yuccas, aloes, prickly pear cacti and boojum, among many others. Despite warning signs and parents telling their children not to touch the plants, kids still couldn’t resist tapping the sharp cactus spines with the tips of their fingers, releasing a chorus of “ouches” along the way. The designated path amid a rainbow of blooming plants continues over a small creek with desert pupfish, and there are a few leaf-munching turtles that have also become a small attraction in their own right, too.
A tent-like structure marks the world’s first cactarium, which consists of a wide range of special cacti in beautiful colors. It’s overwhelming to see such a variety of plants growing in all sorts of directions along the narrow pathway in this small space. Visitors will be surprised to see how many species of cacti there really are.
The Moorten’s residence, named “the Cactus Castle,” is across from the cactarium in the Palm Grove Oasis. This gorgeous, Mediterranean-style home overlooks the San Jacinto Mountains and though it’s a remarkable feature and attracts many admirers, it’s still private property.
There’s something of interest for everyone at the Botanical Garden, be it sparkling crystals, petrified wood, colorful rocks, ancient fossils, handmade items and gold-mine relics. Visitors can take a little piece of the Garden home with them by purchasing nursery-grown plants and cacti. The prices are reasonable, and it’s a nice gesture to show appreciation for this one-of-a-kind botanical garden.
Moorten Botanical Garden is also a perfect venue for private events, such as weddings and birthdays.
Admission: $4 per adult and $2 per kid over 5 (proceeds go to the maintenance of the Botanical Garden)
Opening hours: daily from 10 am to 4 pm (closed Wednesdays)
Location: 1701 S. Palm Canyon Dive, Palm Springs, CA.