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Arizona Native Plants and the Urban Challenge


This paper explores how Arizona landscape architects have promoted the use of Sonoran native plants in Phoenix, Tucson, and surrounding desert cities and examines their strategies to create ecologically minded communities in challenging surroundings. In promoting native plants, landscape architects have not only created a vernacular landscape for Arizona’s cities, but have helped find solutions to rising summer temperatures and excessive use of borrowed water. In their planning and design for native plants, they have integrated native plants into the diverse functions of cities, both societal and ecological, creating multifunctional landscapes. While these endeavors have widely entrenched native plant design as part of major urban initiatives in Arizona’s desert cities, they have also revealed radical obstacles for native plant designs. Landscape architects have had to find a place for native plant systems amidst the diverse sets of needs of arid cities, from city-wide infrastructure systems to commercial interests and popular preferences, and in light of an overall energy balance within a desert region. This encounter marks yet another chapter in the history of landscape architects’ work with native plants.

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