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Plant Collections

Arid Garden

A world of succulents awaits you at the new and improved Arid Garden which is now open for you to visit! Over a century in the making and with the help of generous donors, the new Arid Garden was designed by renowned Landscape Architect Andrew Laidlaw, and based on the internal cellular structure of a succulent.

The collection features more than 3000 arid plants including 400 different species, with many sourced from world-renowned international collections including the Field collection, created by Ralph and Robert Field in Tennyson, north-central Victoria. The Fields collection was brought to Australia in the 1930s by German Explorer and botanist Harold Blossfeldt, who wild-collected cacti and succulents from South America.  

A taxonomic and evolutionary botanic collection, the Arid Garden:

  • Displays a range of plants from around the world with adaptations for survival under arid conditions
  • Supports plant conservation through ex-situ cultivation of threatened taxa, highlight the ornamental qualities of cacti and succulents
  • Interprets the unique morphological and physiological (function and form) adaptations of succulent plants
  • Highlights parallel adaptations of plants from different continents. 

We can't wait for you to visit the new Arid Garden, it's sure to prickle your fancy! 

Key Plants

Bunny Ears (Opuntia microdasys)

Bunny Ears features dense clusters of tiny white or yellow ‘glochids’ beneath its small spines. Glochids are barbed and thinner than the finest human hairs, and they detach in large numbers upon the slightest touch. Glochids cause significant irritation and are very difficult to remove!

Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Commonly known as golden barrel cactus, Echinocactus grusonii is Native to Mexico which shares similar rainfall and temperatures to Melbourne, making it a great one to grow at home. In Mexico, it’s an endangered species, so the more we plant the better!


1945: The original Cacti and Succulent Garden was built at Melbourne Gardens. It was a post-war design which was constructed by returning servicemen and women.  

1980s: The Cacti and Succulent Garden was transformed into an Arid Garden. 

2013: Around 80% of the columnar cacti and succulents in the Arid Garden were damaged in an act of vandalism.  

2015 - 16: Gardens staff undertook regular horticultural field trips to Robert Fields' property as part of the collection redevelopment. Over 3,000 plants transported from Robert Fields' property to Melbourne Gardens where they were cared for in the Nursery by Horticultural staff.

2016: The Gardens publicly released the Landscape Succession Strategy, to guide the transition of the Melbourne Gardens from existing plantings to a collection better suited to the projected climate and environmental conditions of 2090.

2019: Work on the new Arid Garden began in December, and continued into 2020. Seating was built, paving was laid, and over 3,000 cacti of 400 different varieties were planted. 

2020: The new Arid Garden is open and ready for you to enjoy