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Plant Collections

Arid Garden

The Arid Garden displays an extraordinary assortment of cacti, aloes, agaves and bromeliads that have unique adaptions to arid conditions. The collection is approximately 60 years old and comprises over 1,100 plants including 100 rare species. The Arid Garden is a taxonomic and evolutionary botanic collection with the following aims:

  1. To display a range of plants from around the world with adaptations for survival under arid conditions
  2. Support plant conservation through ex-situ cultivation of threatened taxa
  3. To highlight the ornamental qualities of cacti and succulents
  4. To interpret the unique morphological and physiological (function and form) adaptations of succulent plants and highlight parallel adaptations of plants from different continents

There are future plans to redevelop the Aric Garden. There will be an emphasis on telling the story of Robert Field and his collection along with the 1936-38 Harry Blossfeld expedition to South America where many of the plants were wild collected. These plants will become the core of the Arid Garden.

Key Plants

Yucca brevifolia - Rare and threatened

Euphorbia triangularis - Aesthetic

Dracaena draco - Aesthetic

Agave parviflora - Rare and threatened. Smallest species of Agave in Arizona.

Echinocactus grusonii - Rare and threatened in the wild

Furcraea selloa var. marginata - Aesthetic


  • 1987 - Cacti and succulent garden assessed. Plants in poor health, rotting, dead or had fallen over.
  • 1980s - Long-term development to convert Cacti and Succulent Garden into Arid Garden.
    • Theme list drafted by Peter Lumley (Royal Botanic Gardens Botanist) and Michael Looker (Superintendent), including Australian plants, halophytes, ephemerals and xerophytic shrubs, African and American arid plants.
    • Development brief was that hard landscape remains the same and above theme used.
    • Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens donated funds for new soil.
    • Soil depth increased to 30 cm, old soil dispersed, pond filled in (this area became the halophyte zone).
    • Collecting trips took place to Western Port Bay and to the Sunset Country and Mildura. 
    • Specimens donated to Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne as part of this development from Collectors Corner and Robert Fields Cactus Garden.
  • 1995 - Arid Garden was mulched with crushed stone from Yarra Valley Quarries.
  • 1996 - Arid Garden mapped with AutoCAD system.
  • 1997 - Large Pyrus pashia removed from front right hand side of the garden due to Fireblight outbreak.
  • 2000 - Phytophthera spp. Agavaceae discovered, infected plants removed.
  • 2001-02 - Cistus rockery planted out using succulent species and mulched with crushed stone from Yarra Valley Quarries to link with Arid Garden.
  • 2013 - Around 80 per cent of the columnar cacti and succulents in the Arid Garden damaged in an act of vandalism. 
    Due to ongoing theft in the Arid Garden, anything rare or botanically significant will not be used in the collection until security issues are sorted.
  • 2016 - Regular horticultural field trips to Robert Fields' property as part of the collection redevelopment.