Explore the Ghoulish Gardens at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden
Remember the Killer Tomatoes? This Halloween, find the “root” of all evils in the botanical world on a 2.5-mile self-guided tour through the Ghoulish Gardens at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia. Download the guide and map, for fun facts and explanations of each encounter, marked onsite by some rather friendly looking scarecrows. Park and pay (it’s $15 per adult; or get an annual pass), then peek at the peacocks before entering the grounds.
Immediately after entering, check out the pumpkin patch in front of the Peacock Cafe before heading north through the Garden of Seasons, for the first of several scarecrows. The Carnivorous Plant Collection has frightening flora, and the epiphytic cacti are pollinated by bats! Continue west to reach the road and the serpent trail, weaving through the eerie Australian gardens. Stay south on the main road to reach the Madagascar Spiny Forest. Thorns and spikes are ever present, but this garden actually features endangered offerings, including the mouse trap tree, whose sharp hooks latch onto passing animals to disperse seeds. Reconnect with the road and continue through the aloe trail and south along the Bauer Lawn.
Onto the next scarecrow where you’ll encounter the aptly named Bloodleaf plant outside the prehistoric forest. Turn right here to go to the Crescent Farm. The white sage featured here was first burned by Native Americans in rituals to banish evil spirits. Head to the Herb Garden, now simply labeled “potions.” Learn about witch’s brew ingredients before heading up the stairs to get an expansive view of the gardens - this is the Tallac Knoll and the locale for your next grave discovery. Find the flor de cacao, a plant used to preserve deceased bodies in Guatemala, earning the nickname “funeral tree.” Head to the narrow trail at the southeast and pass the pond, descending back to the main road.
The path flanks the lake and Lucky Baldwin’s Queen Anne Cottage, passing by bamboo, both green and black varieties (some Bengali people believe they harbor ghosts!). When you reach the adobe (currently under construction) head off the path to your right, passing under palms (remember to look for the scarecrow) to find the ghoul-de-force: The strangler fig is a parasite tree that literally chokes its arboreal hosts by cutting off nutrients and water. You’ll find it … devouring a palm tree!
BONUS BEER AND FOOD: Whether you’re sweet or sour, there’s a treat for you nearby. Head south 1.5 miles to check out Hui Lau Shan, a Hong Kong staple that dishes up fruity drinks and tong sui (dessert soups); go for one that features mango, pomelo, and sago (a palm starch).
Or head north 1.8 miles to stop by RT Rogers Brewing Co., an awesome local watering hole with growlers to go (or a cozy outdoor beer garden when food is served).
Stay in ghoulish garden spirit and get a Wassergeist Sour (named after a creepy German water spirit), or a Woodchopper IPA, or opt for anything; they’re all good. All treat, no trick!
To get to the Los Angeles County Arboretum, take the I-210 to the Baldwin Ave. exit and head south. The park entrance and lot will be at the first light on your right (you can’t miss it!). Don’t forget to download the ghoulish gardens tour guide and map! No dogs.
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