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The Back Story: Baepler Xeric Garden

Nestled in the center of campus is a peaceful retreat for visitors. The garden's plants are a showcase for the beauty that thrives in arid climates.
UNLV History  |  Feb 12, 2013  |  By UNLV News Center

Paths wind through the Baepler Xeric Garden. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Some call it the "heart of campus." To others it's a living laboratory of high desert plant-life, both native and not. Completed in 1988, UNLV's xeric garden is studied by landscape architecture and biology students, as well as ornamental horticulture students from nearby College of Southern Nevada (CSN).

The name "xeric" is taken from the Greek word "xeros," meaning "dry." The site serves as a tutorial for how drought-tolerant plants married with efficient irrigation systems can create sustainable and attractive landscape systems.

Local landscape architect Jack Zunino designed the 1.5-acre site located directly east of the Barrick Museum of Natural History. Zunino also helped bring xeric designs to valley locations like Las Vegas Premium Outlets, World Market Center, Southwest Gas Demonstration Gardens, among others.

Designed to be an extension of the natural history museum and Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies, the garden features plants from Australia, South America, Mexico, the Mediterranean and plants native to the four desert regions of North America. Some of the plant-life found at the site includes: blue yucca, agave, eucalyptus, jojoba, and the creosote bush.

The garden has more than 9,000 square feet of paved pathways, benches, covered ramadas, and wooden bridges. The Klinkhammer Bird Viewing Ramada at the north end of the garden is a favorite spot for visitors and campus walking tours. A pool and wall were designed into the site to create a water supply for migratory and local birds. Sandstone boulders were supplied from the base of Mt. Potosi.

The site was proposed by former UNLV facilities manager, Dennis Swartzell, who embraced the idea of growing of the campus arboretum, a designation given to the campus by the state legislature in 1985. It was later named for Donald Baepler, a former UNLV president and higher education chancellor who became a low-key champion.

About the Xeric Garden

  • Designed by: Jack Zunino & Associates
  • Date Completed: February 1988
  • Purpose: To monitor drought-tolerant plant life's suitability in the Las Vegas desert environment.