If you love gardens as I do, then the Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden (“the garden”) is a special one to visit. Tucked away in the southeast corner of the UCLA campus, it is seven acres of frost-free terrain that supports approximately 5000 species of plants from all over the world.
Started in 1929 and named after Dr. Mathias for her years of dedication to the garden and many contributions to horticulture, the garden is a continually evolving environment where visitors can find collections of Malesian rhododendrons, bromeliads, cycads, ferns, chaparral and native plants of the Hawaiian Islands, among many others.
As a child I loved visiting this garden, with its many winding pathways to explore, gurgling streams to cross and towering stands of bamboo that made me feel as though I was in a jungle far from home. If you have young children who like to explore new places and surround themselves with nature, as mine do, then this is a place you should visit with the entire family.
While the garden seemed much larger to my child’s eye than it does to me today, it is large enough that you can easily spend an hour or two meandering through the garden’s different sections, identifying plants, watching the turtles that live in and around the stream and relaxing on one of the many benches that are found throughout the grounds. Food is allowed in the garden, so consider bringing lunch or just pack a snack to enjoy in these beautiful surroundings.
I’d love to tell you that the garden is an ideal place for quiet contemplation, but the noise from passing buses on Hilgard Avenue and the sounds of nearby construction somewhat intrude on an otherwise idyllic spot in Westwood. That said, if you’re looking for quiet, try finding a place to sit on the garden’s west side. You might even be lucky enough to hear the calming sounds of the Westwood Hills Christian Church bells, which toll at the top of every hour.
The Mathius Botanical Garden publishes a self-guided tour on its web site, which is an excellent way to get the most out of your visit. If you’re part of a group of 10 or more people, you can take advantage of free docent led tours. Just be sure to call ahead to make reservations. Anyone is also welcome to take a tour of the garden on a drop in basis the first Saturday of every month starting at 1:00 pm. For more information about these tour options, check out the garden’s web site.
The garden is located on the southeastern corner of the UCLA campus and has three primary entrances. The main entrance is on Tiverton Avenue near the UCLA Hospital’s Emergency Center. You can also enter the garden using one of several gates at the garden’s northern end behind the Botany building or the gate at the south end of the garden at the corner of Hilgard and Le Conte.
If you’re unable to find metered parking on the nearby city streets, I suggest you either park in one of the public lots in Westwood or in a lot on the UCLA campus. I parked at the south end of Parking Lot P2 on campus, which is located just north of the garden, and then made the short walk to the garden entrance on Tiverton Avenue. You can also park in the Center for Health Sciences (CHS) structure, which is located just west of the garden. UCLA makes an interactive map of the campus available online, which can be helpful when planning your visit.
Please note that all parking areas at UCLA require permits, which you can purchase at one of the information kiosks located near the major campus entrances.
While the garden does not have any bathrooms or drinking fountains, it is possible to find these facilities in the UCLA Medical Center, which is adjacent to the garden. Despite the availability of these nearby facilities, very young children may have trouble waiting to find them, so be sure to take this information into account when planning your visit.