The UCR Botanic Gardens is a 40-acre living plant museum with more than 3,500 plant species and thousands of specimens from around the world, with a focus on plants from Mediterranean climate (dry summer) and arid lands similar to California and the desert southwestern US. As a part of the UC Riverside campus, the Botanic Gardens is utilized for teaching, research, and demonstration purposes, as well as for enjoyment and appreciation of nature. The variable elevation and topography of the Gardens and Riverside's subtropical climate create numerous microclimates that allow for the notable diversity of plantings as well as an abundance of wildlife.
About one-third of the Gardens' 40 acres remain unplanted and consists of native plant communities including coastal sage scrub and annual grassland. Common native plants on the site include brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), California sagebrush (Artemisia californica) and deerweed (Lotus scoparius).