Desert Legume Program


The Taylor Family Desert Legume Garden
at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum

The construction of the Taylor Family Desert Legume Garden at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum was funded by the family of the late Keith Taylor Sr. and contributions from the green industry in Arizona. The purpose of the garden is to demonstrate to the public the diversity and utility of legumes drawn from deserts around the world. The garden provides educational exhibits showing the existing and potential utility of desert legumes as food crops, forage crops, sources of industrial products, medicinal products, fuel crops, ornamental plants, sources of nitrogen, and cover crops for soil stabilization and improvement. The Desert Legume Garden also provides illustrations as to the importance of wild desert legumes as a source of genes for existing domesticated legumes.

Formal planting of the garden began in 1989. The Desert Legume Garden occupies a roughly elliptical site with a long axis of 320 feet and a short axis of 140 feet. The area of the garden is about ¾ of an acre. The site occupies a terrace along the south side of Silver King Wash just west of the Cactus Garden, and is relatively flat with the exception of the rather steep slope dropping off to the wash along the garden's north edge.

The overall layout of the Desert Legume Garden presents a large, circular entrance area/patio surrounded by four major spaces or rooms each devoted to a specific aspect of the economic botany of the desert legume. These "rooms" are separated from each other by either barrier plantings of desert legumes appropriate to the room in question or by architectural features. The featured rooms include: food and nutrition, medicine, industry, and forage. Six colorful interpretive signs are placed throughout the garden. The signs convey information to the visitors on legumes as 1) food, 2) medicine, 3) industry, 4) forage and 5) ornamentals. There is also an entrance sign.

 The garden has posed some challenges in the process of its establishment. The soil in the food section proved too rocky and sandy and had to be replaced with a finer soil of higher clay content. The food section attracted wildlife and had to be fenced off to protect the plants. After 12 years the garden is filling out and taking on the appearance the designers intended.




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