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Berkeley Natural History Museum Logo University of California Botanical Garden at BerkeleyUC Botanical Garden at Berkeley --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, CA 94720-5045 |P:510-643-2755 |F:510-642-5045garden@berkeley.edu|

Garden Sections

This worldwide collection features plants of documented wild origin from nearly every continent, with an emphasis on plants from Mediterranean climates (California, Mediterranean Basin, Australia, South Africa, and Chile). The arrangement of the outdoor collections is primarily geographic by continent of origin or by region including Asia, Australasia, California, Eastern North America, Mediterranean, Mexico/Central America, New World Desert, South America, and Southern Africa. The Garden holds one of the largest and most diverse collections in the United States.

The current holdings of the Garden include:

300+ families
2,710 genera
9,670 species
12,800 taxa
19,300 accessions (each accession represents one or more plants in the Garden).

The five best-represented families are:

Cactus family (2,029 accessions; 1,198 taxa),
Sunflower family (1,002 accessions; 771 taxa),
Orchid family (1,030 accessions; 711 taxa),
Lily family (1,097 accessions; 675 taxa), and
Heath family (979 accessions; 614 taxa).

The remainder are distributed among the other 303 families in the collection, including approximately 550 accessions of ferns and fern allies.

Nearly all specimens in the garden have been brought in from the wild. Detailed records are kept concerning their place of origin, which enhances their scientific and educational value considerably. Each accession is accompanied by a public display label including accession number, family name, scientific name, and place of origin, and where appropriate, common name.  

Voucher specimens for many of the collections are filed in the separately administered UC and Jepson Herbaria on campus. Vouchering of woody species and other long-lived perennials is on-going.


Housed Collections
Orchid, Fern, and Carnivorous Plant House
Tropical House
Xerophytic Fern Collection

Special Collections
Chinese Medical Herb Garden
Japanese Pool
Garden of Old Roses
Herb Garden
Cycad and Palm Garden

The Asian Collection

The collection area includes much of the Asian continent.  The majority of this collection comes from temperate climate and subtropical areas of China, Japan, Korea, Siberia, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the Himalayas.

The topography within this area accommodates plants from incredibly diverse wild habitats.  Sunny, relatively dry areas, contrast with damp, shaded places, which are often ten degrees cooler than the surrounding Garden.  Temperate climate plants from across the Asian continent thrive here.

The Rhododendron collection is diverse, representing the many colors and growth forms of the genus, which includes azaleas.  Other well-represented groups include the witch hazel family, maples, hydrangeas, and epimediums.

Dawn redwoods, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, once thought to be extinct for millions of years, were rediscovered in western China in 1944.  The dawn redwoods in this collection were among the first grown outside of China.

Many favorite garden plants from Asia were introduced to Western horticulture by late 19th- and early 20th-century collecting expeditions.  These include magnolias, rhododendrons, camellias, peonies, maples, and bamboos.

Find out more about the Japanese Pool here.


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The Australasian Collection

Plants in this collection are native to New Zealand, mediterranean and subtropical regions of Australia, and high elevations of South Pacific islands. 

As in coastal California, southwestern Australia has a mediterranean climate, characterized by moderate temperatures, rainy winters, and long dry summers.  Plants that have adapted to these conditions form the dominant vegetation types in Australia. Members of the myrtle, protea, and pea families are prominent in this flora.

The islands of New Zealand have year-round rainfall and a temperate climate.  Evolution in the extreme geographic isolation of these islands has resulted in 75% of the plants being unique to New Zealand.  Ferns and conifers are prominent in this flora and featured in the collection. 

Many Australian plants thrive in California gardens due to similarities in climate.  The moderate San Francisco Bay Area climate also favors New Zealand plants, though many need additional water in summer.

Many members of these floras, such as podocarps and southern beech (Nothofagus species) have close relatives in South America or South Africa.  Their ancestors are found in the fossil record of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, which began breaking up 130 million years ago.


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The Californian Collection

Horticulturist, Ken Bates, talks with Director, Paul Licht, about the Californian Collection HERE

California is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, with more plant variety than any other US state. One-third of the more than 3400 native plant species are found only in California.

The great variety of plant communities in California has evolved in response to the state’s vast geological, topographical, and microclimate diversity.  In this collection we group plants by community, such as redwood forest and vernal pool.

The Garden contains one of the largest species collections of California native plants. It includes a rich diversity of manzanitas (Arctostaphylos), California-lilacs (Ceanothus), and geophytes--plants from bulbs or corms. The Garden's conservation program includes propagation of many endangered California species for reintroduction into the wild.

In fire-adapted ecosystems, plants may have adaptations that require fire for survival.  Some species need fire to open closed cones or to stimulate seed germination.  Others vigorously sprout from root crowns after burning.

Many beautiful selections of California natives are popular in gardens, including Pacific coast iris, poppies, manzanitas, and flannel bush.  They typically require little water or maintenance.  Native plants provide resources for wildlife, including hummingbirds and insect pollinators.

Check Native Plant Sale Availability List

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The Eastern North American Collection

Plants in this collection occur east of the Mississippi, from the Canadian provinces through the Gulf states. They represent mixed coniferous-deciduous forest communities, meadows and prairies.

Eastern forest communities vary in composition according to year round rainfall patterns, topography and soil. Some of the prominent canopy trees represented here are birch (Betula), oak (Quercus), maple (Acer), tulip tree (Liriodendron) and sweet gum (Liquidambar).

Before trees leaf out in the spring, many understory species take advantage of high light levels reaching the forest floor. These spectacular floral displays include carpets of Trillium, Erythronium and Tiarella. Shrubs such as Rhododendron, witch hazel (Hamamelis) and mountain laurel (Kalmia) also flower at this time.


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The Mediterranean Collection

Plants in this collection are from the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. The meeting of three continents, Europe, Africa and Asia, in this region results in a particularly diverse flora. The Mediterranean climate is characterized by cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers.

Featured here are plants from the maquis, a plant community of shrubs and low trees with small, leathery leaves, similar to the chaparral of California and the matorral of South America. Rock-roses (Cistus), heathers (Erica) and brooms (Genista) are widespread in the maquis.

Plants from the Canary Islands and other Macaronesian islands are featured because of their proximity to the Mediterranean Basin and for their similar growing conditions. Aeonium, Echium and Sonchus are common in Bay Area horticulture.


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The Mexican and Central American Collection

This area highlights plants from the Sierra Madre mountain ranges of Mexico south to the higher elevations of Central America and includes many species used in Aztec and Mayan medicine and ritual.

Evergreen cloud forest and pine-oak woodland communities are recreated in this collection.  Evergreen cloud forests occur at high elevations where low-level clouds reduce temperatures and provide abundant moisture.  Ferns, epiphytes, and mosses thrive in these wet, cool conditions.

Pine-oak woodlands occur in many types of terrain, including plateaus, foothills, and rugged mountains with deep canyons.  This community varies from distinct stands of pine and fir trees to areas dominated by oaks.

Pines, oaks, agaves and salvias are major components of this collection.  Rare species of magnolias, pines and spruces displayed here are threatened by habitat loss in Mexico and Central America.

The floras of Mexico and Central America have contributed many wonderful ornamental plants to Bay Area horticulture.  These include salvias, fuchsias, agaves, dahlias, and marigolds. 


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The New World Desert Collection

Garden expeditions from the 1920s to the 1960s yielded many of the specimens in this collection, including desert plants from the southwestern United States, Mexico, and as far south as Chile and Argentina.  Several beds feature plants from Mexico's Baja California peninsula.  This collection is one of the oldest in the Garden. 

Deserts receive 25 cm (10 in) or less of rain each year.  Many desert plants cannot tolerate our winter rains.  Positioning the collection on a southwest-facing slope provides warmth and drainage critical to the survival of these plants.

Habitat loss and over-collecting for the horticultural trade have endangered many cacti and succulents.

Plants from desert environments in different parts of the world may have similar structural forms, resulting from a process called convergent evolution.  Compare the leaf rosettes of agaves with those of the southern African aloes.

Plants in the cactus family naturally occur only in North and South America, with the exception of one species of Rhipsalis in Africa.  In the tropics some cacti are epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants.


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The South American Collection

Plants in this collection represent the floras of temperate and mediterranean climate areas of South America, featuring plants from the matorral of coastal Chile.

The matorral plant community is characterized by shrubs and small trees with leathery leaves and is similar in appearance to California’s chaparral. Both share a mediterranean climate with summer drought and winter rainfall. Common plants of the matorral include olivillo (Kageneckia) and soapbark tree (Quillaja), as well as terrestrial bromeliads (Puya).

Members of the South American floras, such as Nothofagus and Araucaria, have close relatives in South Africa and Australia. Their ancestors are found in the fossil record of the ancient southern supercontinent Gondwana.


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The Southern African Collection

The plants of this region are famous for their diversity of flowers and forms. The range of microhabitats created by topography and climate fosters this plant diversity.  Many species are found no where else in the world. 

Our collection is especially rich in mediterranean-climate flora of the Cape region.  We feature the karoo and fynbos plant communities as well as plants of the Eastern Cape region.  Some adaptations found in these communities include water and nutrient storage, such as succulent leaves and carbohydrate-rich bulbs.

Plants from the Cape region are well-suited to conditions in California gardens and have become popular in horticulture.  A large number are of ethnobotanical importance.  Demand for medicinal plants from the wild threaten many species with extinction.

The Cape region and California are two of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.   The Cape region contains more than 2½ times the number of species in 1/3 of the area.


Cycads of South Africa

Cycads are scarce now, but during the time of dinosaurs they dominated the landscape. Although they resemble palms, which are flowering plants, cycads are thought to be related to conifers (e.g. pines and redwoods), which bear cones. Individual cycads are either male or female.

In southern Africa, the cycad genera Encephalartos and Stangeria are represented by about 63 species. They grow in diverse habitats, including grasslands, dense scrub, woodland and coastal dunes.

Adaptations of cycads have contributed to their long-term survival. These include underground stems that protect plants from wildfires; coralloid roots that fix nitrogen, allowing them to grow in nutrient poor soils; and poisonous parts which provide protection from predators.

Cycads are generally slow-growing and long-lived. Given a sunny, well drained site and some supplemental water in dry periods, South African cycads are excellent ornamental subjects for home gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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The Orchid, Fern, and Carnivorous Plant House

The plants displayed here are largely from tropical habitats; they need a warmer and more humid environment than can be provided outdoors.  These are a small subset of the Garden's extensive collections.  We change this display regularly in order to show the great diversity in flower and leaf forms.



The orchid family (Orchidaceae) has the greatest number of species of all plant families, and is known for showy flowers, though many are small and inconspicuous.  Orchids occur in a wide range of habitats all over the world.  Many orchids are epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants. Epiphytes are not parasites.



Ferns are an ancient lineage of non-flowering plants that reproduce by spores.  There are many families of ferns found all over the world.  Ferns occur in a variety of habitats from the tropics to the desert; they can be aquatic, terrestrial or epiphytic.


Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous plants are not from closely related plant families, but we group them together because of their fascinating ability to capture and consume animals. Carnivory in plants may have evolved as a means to colonize nutrient-poor environments.  They are found all over the world in bogs, fens, and other moist habitats.  The carnivorous plants on display show a variety of traps and forms.


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The Tropical House

The surface area of the Earth between the Tropic of Cancer (latitude 23.5° N) and the Tropic of Capricorn (latitude 23.5° S) represent the Tropics, or the Equatorial Zone. The Equator is at 0° latitude.

The word “tropics” might conjure images of lush, steamy rainforest, but surprisingly over 75% of the tropical belt endures periods of annual drought.

The Tropics include desert, savanna, woodland, wetland, and rainforest, each with its own distinct climate, flora and fauna. Prevailing wind conditions, elevation, and distance from the ocean are all contributing factors in the different tropical climates.

Rainforest plants grow in four distinct layers: the giant emergent trees, the towering canopy of broadleaf evergreen trees, the shorter understory (or lower canopy) trees intertwined with vines and shrubs, and the shady forest floor.

Step into our Tropical House to see some of the extraordinary plants found in the tropics, especially those growing in the tropical rainforest. You will get a sense of the density of the plant growth as well as the temperature, humidity, and extravagant beauty of this magnificent ecosystem.


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The Xerophytic Fern Collection

Xerophytic (drought-adapted) ferns live and thrive in very dry conditions.  Unlike many desert plants, such as cacti and agaves, these plants do not have succulent, water-retaining leaves, roots or stems; neither do they have sharp thorns or spines. They have adapted to the prolonged dry spells frequent in their native habitats in unique ways.

Some species have waxy coatings on their leaves that reduce water loss. Others have silvery scales, which protect leaf tissue and deflect harsh sunlight.  Some plants go dormant during periods of prolonged drought.

During dry weather, you may notice that several of these ferns, such as species of Pellaea, appear to be dead.  Plants dry out and go dormant until heavy rain enables them to function again. Such plants may survive up to five years in this dormant state.

Tips for gardeners:

Xerophytic ferns have proven to be quite adaptable in the Garden, suggesting that they have good potential for use in Bay Area landscapes. In general, they require porous, well-drained soil, with bright light and good air circulation. Xerophytic ferns can be used to enhance succulent and cactus displays.


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The Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden

Celebrating its 25th Anniversary

This is a special collection of over 100 herbs used in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. The garden was developed in 1986 as a cooperative effort between the Guangzhou College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Guangdong Province, China, the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, and the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. In 1987 Professor Xu Hong-hua of the Guangzhou College spent six months in Berkeley designing the garden and supervising its installation.

Medicinal herb gardens are common at medical colleges in China, but this collection is the only U.S. medicinal garden arranged by function group.

Function groups include:
Surface relieving herbs
Purging herbs
Clearing heat herbs
Herbs for promoting the flow of water
Herbs for eliminating wind and damp
Herbs for warming interior and eliminating cold
Fragrant herbs for dissolving wetness
Herbs for regulating Qi
Herbs for regulating blood
Tonifying and nurturing herbs
Astringent herbs
Herbs for pacifying the spirit
Fragrant herbs for opening orifices
Herbs for dissolving phlegm and relieving cough
Herbs for removing congestion
Parasiticides (destroying parasites)
External uses (not represented)
Anti-cancer herbs


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The Garden of Old Roses

RosesThis collection highlights plants that are beloved for their beauty and history. Roses have been hybridized for hundreds of years, derived from the native roses of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and China. Other ornamental plants in this “English-style garden” include hollyhocks, foxgloves, petunias, and penstemons. Drifts of color change with the seasons and enhance the view of San Francisco. Plants in this garden are grouped according to rose classes.

The term “Old Roses” refers to hybrids developed prior to 1867. They were derived primarily from the Asian species Rosa chinensis, R. damascena, R. foetida, R. moschata, R. multiflora, R. odorata, R. rugosa, and R.wichuraiana. Hybridized extensively, the resulting forms are grouped into “classes,” including Centifolias, the favorite roses of the early Dutch painters; Damasks that are used in perfumes; Teas, Chinese roses that scented tea shipped to Europe; and Hybrid Perpetuals, popular in Victorian times. Roses

Also found here are “modern” roses, which have wide appeal and illustrate their richness in current horticulture. These roses were developed after 1867 when a Hybrid Perpetual was crossed with a Tea. Subsequent hybrids bore larger flowers in more colors with multiple bloom cycles. Many popular modern roses are classed as Polyanthas, Hybrid Teas and Floribundas. 

Roses have symbolic meaning in many different cultures.  Economic uses include rose water, a flavoring in Middle Eastern cuisine, and teas made from rose hips, high in vitamin C.


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The Herb Garden

An “herb” is a plant with a history of human use, often from ancient times. Plants in this collection are mostly European. The Mediterranean is a particularly rich source of culinary herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage.

The Herb Garden is assembled into beds based on plant uses. Leaves, flowers and roots are used for culinary flavorings, liquors and teas, as well as fragrances, perfumes, dyes, cosmetics, tinctures and other medicines.

Magical properties for good or ill have been attributed to plants. Modern analysis has substantiated the medicinal properties for many herbs that have been used since ancient times. Some culinary herbs used for flavoring have been found to contain antiseptic and antibiotic chemical compounds.

Although “natural,” herbs are not necessarily safe. Do not eat any part of the plants in this garden.


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The Cycad and Palm Garden

Cycads and palms look alike in many respects, but are not closely related. Their physical resemblance caused early botanical confusion about their relationship. This confusion led Victorian era collectors to create cycad and palm gardens similar to the one displayed here. These plants are also represented in the Garden’s geographic collections.

Cycads, members of an ancient group of plants that include conifers (e.g. pine trees), reproduce through male and female cones. Palms, which evolved later, reproduce through flowers. Both groups produce pollen that is carried by insects. Both have fleshy fruits that attract birds and animals, aiding in seed dispersal.

Palms and cycads are found in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions of the world. This collection includes palms and cycads from warm temperate zones.

The plants in this garden demonstrate the wide variety of species that can be successfully cultivated in this climate.


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