Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca (Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca) – Oaxaca, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca (Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca)

A 16th-century monastery boasts a lush array of plants native to Mexico’s most biodiverse region. 


The Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca is a botanical garden in Mexico that sits on 2.32 acres of the former monastic grounds of the Church of Santo Domingo. Officially opened in 1998, this ethnobotanic garden is an example of Oaxaca’s unparalleled biodiversity, particularly its cacti variations.

The Mexican military once occupied the 16th-century Santo Domingo monastery and used the surrounding land as a home base for more than a century. But two decades ago, the military moved out and the Mexican government wanted to build a luxury hotel in its place.

Many public artists protested and advocated to use the space to celebrate the flora native to Oaxaca, the most biodiverse region in Mexico. In fact, the earliest evidence of squash and corn plant domestication in the Americas was found there. 

Their efforts paid off. The public garden, which was designed by famed Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo, is meant to tell the region’s history via its plants. The flora is arranged according to cultural and ecological themes, and is named for its interest in exploring the relationship between people and plants. There’s also a library which regularly hosts talks, conferences, and workshops that speak to these themes as well.

Walking through the garden reveals a whole world of cacti and other vegetation. Interestingly, all the plants are watered manually by water collected from part of the old monastery’s roof. 

Know Before You Go

Visits are by guided tour only. Tours in Spanish happen Monday through Saturday; English tours are on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; French tours are on Tuesday evenings; and German tours are on Wednesday evenings. Tours typically cost 100 pesos per person, though are free for children under 12 years old.

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