Wildflowers of the Colorado Plateau
The Arboretum at Flagstaff
Flagstaff, AZ
September 2022

Photographing at an arboretum can feel like cheating. Like photographing animals at a zoo, game park or aquarium. At an arboretum, a team has expertly collected flora when it would have taken me a whole season of travel to see the same plants in the wild. And it may have been impossible to see some of them at all.

Part of what draws me to nature photography is the opportunity to hike into natural places and discover plants and wildlife in their native habitat. The exploration and unpredictability of the hunt is part of the thrill. And I like any excuse to be outdoors.

In actuality, cheating or not, the curated beauty of an arboretum is a welcomed treat. Since my stay in northern Arizona was relatively short, I relished the chance to see so many flowers at once. I had already walked across hillsides and meadows around the Flagstaff area seeking late summer and early fall blossoms. There were many more flowers at this time of year than I imagined and I knew I would see even more at the Arboretum. Local birds, butterflies and other creatures also find their way there.

The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden – which I have visited numerous times – specializes in the flora of other countries with a similar Mediterranean climate, particularly Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. In contrast, the Arboretum of Flagstaff focuses on local, native plants of the Colorado Plateau. The Plateau is a broad swath of the four corners region of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. This dry, high altitude climate has its own particular variety of plant life.

The Arboretum of Flagstaff was started in 1981 by one woman, Frances McAllister. She had a love of native plants and gardening and wanted to share her enthusiasm and knowledge. Frances donated her home and land to create the Arboretum.

Haiku: The Arboretum

Yellows, reds, purples.
A diversity of blooms
Live in harmony.

Please leave a comment if you feel so inspired!

Share this story with your online network!