Sukkulenten-Sammlung Zürich – Zurich, Switzerland - Atlas Obscura

When searching for succulents, most people would expect to find them sprouting up from the parched desert earth. But those seeking one of the world’s best succulent collections should head to a more unexpected spot. 

Every year, cactus lovers from near and far—think plant collectors, botanists, historians, scientists, and curious locals—journey to this Swiss botanic center, which is considered one of the world’s largest and most important collections of succulents. Seeing these desert-dwelling plants next to a lake and backdropped by distant mountains is a jarring sight.

About 6,500 different succulent species are displayed, all spread out between huge, airy greenhouses as well as outdoor beds representing different climate zones. There’s also an outstanding library, a seed bank, and an herbarium. During the summer, visitors are treated with a special nocturnal event: the rare bloom of the Selenicereus grandiflorus, a cactus dubbed the “Queen of the Night” that blossoms with large, sweet-scented flowers one night per year.

The city hasn’t always wanted this beautiful collection of desert plants. In the 1920s, a local cactus grower tried and failed to sell his cactus collection to the city. A local store owner then acquired the plants and proceeded to gift them to Zürich. The Sukkulenten-Sammlung Zürich (which literally translates to the Succulent Collection of Zürich) was then founded in 1931.

The municipality has since attempted to shut down the money-consuming garden it inherited, but local plant lovers rallied to save their beloved prickly place. Nowadays, the collection is part of the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance.

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Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Entry is free.

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