Less than a mile from the frenetic end-of-quarter activity on campus is a quiet sanctuary: UC Irvine’s 12.5-acre Arboretum – home to flitting gnatcatchers, coastal sage scrub and a South African bulb garden in peak bloom.

The unusual wildflowers in an array of colors, shapes and sizes were the Arboretum’s focus when it was established, in the 1970s. More recently, researchers have introduced habitats representative of California.

There are exhibits devoted to Baja California, the Channel Islands, California native grasslands and wildflowers, maritime succulent scrub, the Mojave Desert, southern maritime chaparral, Otay Mesa and oak woodland.

Peter Bowler, Arboretum director and senior lecturer in ecology & evolutionary biology, notes that the space is practical as well as pretty. As part of the School of Biological Sciences, it hosts numerous research projects and is the only site on campus where “common garden” experiments can be conducted.

“It’s one of UCI’s most magnificent blends of a restorative, restful setting while at the same time sustaining vibrant research opportunities and being the home for a number of classes,” Bowler says. “It is a site that is much loved by the UCI community, and brings visitors back again and again.”

One of the Arboretum’s occasional Saturday plant sales is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon March 19. A variety of easy-to-grow succulents, perennials and bulbs suited to Southern California gardens will be offered.

Plants in bloom for March typically include cup of wine babianas, painted ladies and heartleaf geraniums. Admission and parking are free.

The Arboretum is located (pdf) just south of the corner of Campus Drive and Jamboree Road on UCI’s North Campus. For more information, call 949-824-5833.