Desert Botanical Garden Employee Celebrates 50-Year Tenure

This year, Wendy Hodgson, Desert Botanical Garden’s herbarium curator emerita and senior research botanist, is celebrating her 50th year with the organization.

The longest-tenured employee at the Garden, Hodgson’s journey began in January of 1974, when she watched the Garden transform from staff working in makeshift trailers outside of Webster Auditorium to the world-class organization it is today.

Hodgson, an expert on the plant life of the Grand Canyon, has researched, documented and helped conserve the Grand Canyon’s nearly 2,000 plant species, including agave, cactus and yucca.

“It’s always an adventure,” Hodgson said. “Botanizing in the Canyon is no walk in the park, so to speak, especially when studying spiny, hard-to-access plants. The challenges are many but they are worth it. I enjoy that I get to share and discover more details about the Grand Canyon’s diverse ecosystem to the world.”

Her extensive research and knowledge served as a catalyst for her 2001 award-winning book, “Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert,” which is still used as a resource for researchers 23 years later. Hodgson’s dedication to her craft takes inspiration from the botanists who came before her, like Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter, who risked their lives in 1938 by navigating the Colorado River to study and collect plants in the Grand Canyon.

While Hodgson’s career at the Garden is in its latter years, she hopes that critical research and conservation work will continue for generations to come.

“The Garden has always stayed true to its great mission and will only become more important,” she said. “The Garden has to play a big part in research and be a model for living in environments like Phoenix as a desert city. As our environment shifts, we are in an important place to be a laboratory to understand what is happening and what will or could happen.”

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