Spain's Unique 'Desert City' Brings Cacti To Urban Madrid

The "Desert City" complex in Madrid, Spain, is like a museum of cacti. From luscious cacti displays to a restaurant and activity center, "Desert City" has everything visitors need to spend a day celebrating these beautiful desert plants. 


May 24 2019, Updated 10:14 a.m. ET

Cacti and other Xerophytes (desert plants which require very little water) are some of earth's most incredible living things. From the tiny Blossfeldia liliputana, the world's smallest cactus species, which usually stands just 12-16 mm, to the mighty Saguaro, which can reach heights of nearly 50 feet, cacti vary widely in size, shape, and color. One thing they all have in common is that they are excellent at retaining water, which allows them to grow and thrive in some of the harshest desert conditions on earth. For example, after a rare desert rainfall, a fully-grown Saguaro cactus can soak up and store over 200 gallons of water.

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Such amazing plants deserve to be celebrated. Which is exactly the idea behind Madrid, Spain's "Desert City" complex. This sprawling facility, which includes over 54,000 square feet of botanical gardens, is like a museum of cacti. Visitors can walk through greenhouses, buy cacti-themed items in Desert City's shop, participate in special, cactus-centered activities and even dine at a cactus-themed restaurant inside. According to Curbed, Desert City's main building includes long glass hallways, through which indoor and outdoor gardens and other cacti displays can be comfortably viewed. Desert City's impressive greenhouse, where seedlings and other particularly fragile cacti are housed, sits beneath a unique cable tension roof. 

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Desert City offers a host of special activities throughout the year, all centered around educating the public about the wonders of cacti. Their "An Illuminated Garden, a Change of Perspective" exhibit lets visitors walk through the facility's LED-lit cacti gardens at night, and even includes cocktails. The "Workshop of Seedbeds" is a hands-on educational workshop in which participants can plant their own cacti, and learn about caring for cacti throughout their life cycles, from seed to adult.  

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The biggest draw for visitors to Desert City is obviously the facility's beautiful plants. This is particularly true during times when certain cacti species are flowering. Blooms range in color from green to yellow to orange to neon pink and red, depending on species. The Desert City website includes a helpful "flowering now" sidebar, which breaks down of which cacti species are flowering and when, so that visitors can be sure to never miss their favorites. 

Desert City is also home to several offices, including that of the company which did all of the landscaping and gardening for the complex. According to the Desert City website, this company practices a special kind of landscaping called xeropaisajismo, in which desert environments are created in a way that is as true-to-life as possible. This company will install cactus gardens, similar to those found at Desert City, at homes and businesses, which means that visitors who fall in love with the gardens at Desert City can choose to have their own miniature versions created on their own property. It's easy to imagine that Desert City could make just about anyone yearn for a cactus garden of their very own. 

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