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The San Diego Botanic Garden began as Quail Botanical Gardens a 30-acre private estate of Charles and Ruth Larabee. The Larabees landscaped the property around their modest home with exotic plants they collected during their worldwide travels, including cork oaks, palms, cycads, aloes, cacti, hibiscus and unusual subtropical fruit bearing plants and trees.

As active Scout leaders, the couple sought to personally educate local young people about nature, using the estate’s gardens as their teaching site. In the spirit of continuing public environmental education, Mrs. Larabee left her private residence and its grounds to the County of San Diego in 1957. Quail Botanical Gardens Foundation was formed three years later to preserve and support this remarkable garden.

The county financially supported and managed the property for 32 years until the early 1990’s when serious economic challenges drove county officials to seek alternatives. In 1993, a group of dedicated members of the Foundation signed a long-term lease from the County and privatized the Gardens as an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission to actively participate in the conservation of rare, threatened and endangered plant species, to serve the botanical and horticultural needs of San Diego County and to exist as an urban retreat.

Julian Duval was hired as Executive Director in 1995, and has served as such ever since. He originally came to the Gardens from the Indianapolis Zoo and Gardens, where he was VP of Zoological and Botanical Collections.

Over the years many important changes and additions have taken place at the Gardens and in 2005 QBG announced its “First Best Step,” a significant undertaking in the growth of the Garden.


The mission of the San Diego Botanic Garden is to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature.

To carry out this mission, our goals are:


To conserve rare and endangered plants suitable for growing in outdoor habitats at Quail Botanical Gardens. The conservation effort will be guided by the World Conservation Strategy as formulated by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Plant Introduction and Cultivation
To introduce and cultivate plants that exhibit horticultural value in San Diego County.


To educate the public about plants and their importance in the natural environment by providing tours, nature walks, lectures, instructional programs and publications. Garden information and landscape advice will be available to the public at all levels of interest.

Wildlife Sanctuary

To encourage the presence of indigenous wildlife throughout the Garden. Two portions of native chaparral have been designated as a refuge for that wildlife.

Historical Preservation

To preserve designated trees and shrubs planted in the Garden which reflect its history and charm.

Urban Retreat

To provide a peaceful setting where the public may enjoy the natural beauty of the Garden. Activities in the Garden will be consistent with the preservation of a tranquil environment.



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