Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium – Palm Springs, California - Atlas Obscura

The Moorten Family Botanical Gardens was created to share the beauty and extraordinary varieties of desert plants with everyone who visits. It was established in 1938 by Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten and his wife, Patricia, and features desert trees, plants, and cacti come from around the world and range in size from miniature to giants.

Before he was a cactus curator, Moorten was an actor. He was one of the original “Keystone Cops,” actors who played incompetent policemen in a number of comedic silent films. After Moorten came down with tuberculosis, he moved to Cottonwood Springs to recover. While there, he began collecting beautiful succulent plants. Eventually, Moorten turned his collection into a business.

Nestled in the back of the grounds is a long garden greenhouse. If you weren’t paying close attention, you might overlook it, thinking it was a storage bunker. But inside this nondescript building sits what the owners describe as the world’s first Cactarium. 

When you walk in, you’re greeted with an overwhelming sense that you might be picking cactus splinters out of your arms and legs for the next two weeks if you make a wrong move. The place is covered with cacti, ranging from something called the Agave horrida to a cactus whose arms hang from the ceiling like the residue from a ticker tape parade. Dozens, if not hundreds, of cactus species can be found here.

Besides the Cactarium, the Moorten family has a wide array of tortoises roaming the grounds, hundreds of varieties of succulents. The Moorten’s Mediterranean-style family home—known as “Cactus Castle”—sits in the Palm Grove Oasis and has often been described as a haven of tranquility steeped in the charm of old Palm Springs.

Know Before You Go

There's a $5 fee for visiting (adults; children under 5 are free). Parking available on the street. Bike parking located inside. 

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April 14, 2021

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