3 Reasons to Visit the Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Nestled among the towering redwood trees and rolling hillsides of UCSC is an extraordinary garden filled with rare and exotic plants from around the world: The Arboretum & Botanic Garden at UC Santa Cruz. Showcasing remarkable flora from near and far, the Arboretum’s variety of blooms and greenery is an excellent habitat befitting the many pollinators and other wildlife in the area. After taking a stroll around this serene sanctuary, stop in at Norrie’s Gift and Garden Shop, where you can browse the nursery plants and goods that bring a bit of the Arboretum’s botanical magic to your home. The spectacular flora, abundant fauna, and delightful gift and garden shop are three fantastic reasons to visit the Arboretum & Botanic Garden at UCSC!


The Arboretum is home to over 300 rare and unique plant species from all around the world! Stretching across 115 acres, the grounds are covered in an assortment of micro-climates, soil types, and topography, allowing a diverse range of plants to thrive here. The Arboretum has a world-class collection of unique, endangered, and exceptional plants from all over the globe. Begin your world tour close to home at the California Natives garden, highlighting local species which range from Ponderosa Pines and California Poppies to Coast Live Oaks and Wild Lilacs, many of which flourish here naturally. Continue your botanical adventure through the South African garden, which features the distinguished King Protea plant, whose colorful inflorescences can grow to a significant size! The proteas reach their peak bloom in mid-winter, bringing vibrancy to gardens all year round. More spectacular blooms in the South African garden include the dazzling jewel tones of leucadendrons and pincushions, as well as the largest collection of Erica flowers outside of Africa, with over 600 species growing.

Many of the rare and endangered blooms on display are actively being preserved by the Arboretum to protect the world’s biodiversity. Discover the botanical beauty from around the globe as you continue through the remarkable New Zealand and Australian gardens, with rarities like a young kauri forest and Fireballs, “whose botanical name, Telopea speciosissima, roughly translates as ‘most spectacular object seen from afar.’” The gardens bloom throughout the year, with enough horticultural diversity to fill you with wonder and delight with every visit!


The expansive horticultural space at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum is also home to an abundance of wildlife: hummingbirds and butterflies, as well as other fauna, like scrub jays and rabbits. It’s truly a birdwatcher’s paradise! Keep your eyes peeled for the flitting of the delicate Anna’s Hummingbirds, which live in the garden year-round. Springtime and early summer bring Allen’s Hummingbirds, which tend to hang out in the Arboretum’s Hummingbird Hot Spots, found in the Australian and South African gardens. Avian admirers may catch a glimpse of some  California quail, which thrive in the garden’s shrubbery, red-tailed hawks, which search for prey in the great meadows just outside of the gardens, and western bluebirds, which have been encouraged to live at the Arboretum through a Nest Box program (read more here: UCSC Arboretum). Other winged creatures flourish in the park too: butterflies can often be found tucked between the California and New Zealand gardens, in the part of the garden dedicated to providing them nectar and refuge. Common sightings include Monarchs, Common Buckeye, and Cabbage Whites. If you’re lucky, you may spot a Western Tiger Swallowtail! Other wildlife to be found around the expansive property include Western Fence Lizards, rabbits, and snakes. The gardens are brimming with life: their year-round blooms create a spectacular habitat for all kinds of wildlife!

Norrie’s Gift and Garden Shop

A visit to the Arboretum wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Norrie’s Gift and Garden Shop! Browse the shop’s outdoor nursery, which stocks Mediterranean-climate-friendly plants for your home garden. Support local pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, by planting these in the nearby community. The gift shop is a treasure trove filled with garden art, jewelry, homewares, books, and more. Peruse the botanical offerings at Norrie’s Gift and Garden Shop and pick up something unique to add a bit of character to your home!

Bonus: Tours

With so much land to explore, it can be a challenge to know where to start exploring the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. Good news: on the first Saturday of each month, there is a docent-led tour of the gardens at 11 am. For one hour, learn all about the Arboretum’s plant collections, deepen your knowledge of how this ecosystem interacts, and consider the adaptations these plants and animals have evolved to continue thriving amidst a changing climate (read more here: UC Santa Cruz Arboretum). If exploring solo is more your style, try one of the Arboretum’s self-guided tours.

Take Note:

  • Admission is $10 for adults, with discounted rates for seniors and children.
  • The garden is open from 9 AM – 5 PM daily.
  • No pets are allowed at the Arboretum.

The Arboretum is a botanic wonderland brimming with spectacular flora, fantastic fauna, and a charming gift and garden shop to help you remember your visit. Discover rare plants, spot wildlife, and seek out serenity in the living canvas of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Gardens!