Riverside’s Living Oasis: The UCR Botanical Gardens

Between 10,000 and 100,000 species go extinct each year – 1000x higher than the background extinction rate. This rapid decline in species is attributed to rising global temperatures, increasing amounts of air pollution, and most importantly, habitat loss.

Riverside, like many other cities in the state of California, experiences unhealthy levels of air pollution. Another critical issue Riverside faces is fragmentation (the building of roads, highways, and buildings), which results in isolated habitats. These isolated habitats confine animals and plants in a smaller range than what they are meant to live in.  Riverside’s natural beauty is slowly being killed by human impact. Nevertheless, there are still hotspots of protected biodiversity remaining in Riverside, one of them being the UCR Botanic Gardens. 

The UCR Botanic Gardens are known as Riverside’s “living oasis,” located in the campus of the University of Riverside, California. The Botanic Gardens are a must-visit, with over four miles of scenic trails and 40 acres of nature. Whether a relaxing stroll in the park with family or a strenuous hike for one, the park offers a trail for everyone. 

The UCR Botanic Gardens hosts a magnificent array of over 3500 plant species from across the globe, categorized into four main gardens: woodlands, desert, thematic locations, and open area.  Within the gardens are different geographical collections ranging from Australia to Baja California. The themed horticultural collections consist of the butterfly garden, herb garden, iris garden, lilac lane, Native American plants garden, rose gardens, and a subtropical fruit orchard. These flourishing plants showcase the vast amount of biodiversity that is possible with human conservation and protection. 

The Botanic Garden is not only home to a wide variety of beautiful fauna, but to a multitude of wildlife as well. Lizards such as the alligator lizard or western skink can be seen soaking up the Sun on sunlit rocks. Gopher snakes, rosy boas, treefrogs, and slender salamanders are just a few of the hundreds of amphibians that call the Botanic Gardens their home. As for mammals – kangaroo rats, opossums, coyotes, and even bobcats travel throughout the Gardens. The Botanic Garden is also a hotspot for bird-watching. Nearly 200 different types of birds have been observed in the Garden, some of them being the mockingbird, raven, red-tailed hawk, roadrunner and scrub jay. All these animals remain protected in the havens of the Botanic Gardens and can still be appreciated by the human eye from a distance. 

The Botanic Gardens also host a variety of workshops and guided tours, providing thorough education about the importance of conservation, especially in a time of rapidly decreasing biodiversity. Check the Botanic Gardens’ calendar for information about upcoming events! 

The Botanic Garden is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 am-3:30 pm (last entry at 3:00 pm, gates locked at 3:30 pm) and the 1st & 3rd Sunday 8:00 am-2:00 pm (last entry at 1:30 pm, gates locked at 2:00 pm). There is a parking lot located right outside the Botanical Garden entrance. Parking is 2 dollars an hour. More information about parking and garden hours can be found on the website here.

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