Spring’s in bloom at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park


Boyce Thompson Arboretum provides center stage for a bunch of barrel cacti in a spotlight of sunshine



Hedgehog cactus in bloom


From wildflowers to wildlife, if you’re in Arizona in April, you must go to the Arboretum. Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, that is. Almost any spring day between mid-March to late April, depending on temperatures and rainfall, is prime time for wildflower watching.

Hedgehog, barrel, prickly pear, saguaro cacti blossoms come alive with color at various times throughout the spring season. Also look for lupine, poppies, mallow and many other wildflowers. The state park provides several wildflower walking tours this month — upcoming walks are scheduled for April 14, 22 and 28.

Ayer Lake

Rock formations reflect in Ayer Lake's still waters



Don’t forget your camera! Even if you’re a novice at wildflower photography, just research some photo tips online: here’s one website. Or perhaps you’d like to simply stroll along the Main Loop trail and enjoy the colorful sights, knowing that you’ll find plenty of guide books, postcards, brochures and pamphlets in the park’s gift shop.

Remember to pack plenty of drinking water, and if you’re like me; also bring some tissues and Zyrtec. Wildflowers, blooming trees can also mean sneezing, wheezing and watering eyes. Although springtime visits to the arboretum bring many visitors for wildflower watching, there are additional tours, classes and exhibits happening at the park throughout the year. Check the website’s calendar for upcoming events and plan your trip accordingly.

old truck

An old truck on the Arboretum's grounds makes an excellent background


Not too keen about memorizing all those wildflower names? You could download an identification app such as those available from Audubon. Or obtain a copy of an Arizona field flower guide from your local library or while you’re in the Arboretum gift shop. I found this handy online identification guide from delange.org, but I found its formatting to be a bit outdated and rather tedious to view on mobile. What I did like about this site however, was its color key index for searching and cross-reference index for both scientific and common flower names.

cactus flowers

Pink blossoms of the fishhook cactus


It also helps to get your head out behind the camera lens once in a while to simply “take it all in,” especially before the Arizona temperatures will reach 100 degrees. All ages will enjoy much about the park: the many species of birds, small mammals and reptiles, unique rock formations, historic park buildings, picturesque creek crossings and huge eucalyptus trees.


Vibrant red blossoms sprout from the rocks at Boyce Thompson Arboretum



Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is located west of Superior on U.S. Highway 60 and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults or $4.50 for children 5-12.

Also check out the Boyce Thompson Arboretum Facebook Page.

Readers: I would love to see your comments about other spring desert wildflower locations around Arizona. What are your favorite places? Have any photography tips to share?