Nestled in Oro Valley as a lush oasis of eclectic flora and fauna, Tohono Chul Park beckons to passersby.
The park, at 736 N. Paseo del Norte, houses an art gallery, shops and bistro in addition to its vegetation displays and sales, and continually changes up its exhibits in an effort to keep things fresh.
Because Tohono Chul is always evolving, even frequent visitors may not know much about what makes the place blossom.
Here are six little-known facts about the park, according to spokeswoman Marcia Ring.
1. What’s new: The park opened a garden exhibit called “The Desert Palm Oasis” Tuesday. It’s meant to replicate native palm canyons that can be found throughout the Sonoran Desert. Ring says Tohono Chul’s is the only exhibit in the world of its nature.
It features native palms species, including brahea, sabal and Washingtonia, which are found in oases and canyons along the coast of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Rock fig, sea grape and Nacapule jasmine are also part of the exhibit, which includes a stream populated with endangered native fish.
2. Art lovers: Tohono Chul operates as a collecting museum, having gathered more than 350 pieces of art and artifacts in an indoor permanent collection, as well as throughout the gardens. With four galleries and rotating exhibits by local artists, the park’s art sticks with the themes of nature and regional culture.
“All of the objects in our permanent collection illustrate the park’s core mission of connecting the Sonoran Desert region with works by regional artisans and artists,” said curator of exhibitions Ben Johnson.
“It’s representative of the culture of the region and focuses on work that references the Sonoran Desert, specifically birding, nature, art and culture of the region — tying that all together.”
3. Strictly arid-adapted: Tohono Chul only sells plants that have adapted to arid climates and are hardy enough to withstand the desert’s hard winter freezes. The policy ties in with the park’s mission of spreading plants that are appropriate for the area’s environment. Plants bought from the park do not include sales tax because Tohono Chul is a nonprofit.
4. Luxurious roots: The Exhibit House, which was the original structure on the property, was built for $60,000 in 1937, when the average cost of a new home was $2,000. The home boasted one of Tucson’s first in-ground swimming pools.
5. Mall? No, thanks: Developers originally pegged Tohono Chul as the site of the Tucson Mall, but the park’s founders turned them down.
6. What is “Tohono Chul”? The English translation for the park’s name is “Desert Corner.” Tohono Chul literally translates from Tohono O’odham into “Desert Elbow” because there is no word for corner in the O’odham language.