Executive Update For You from Christine Conte

May 27, 2021

Dear Tohono Chul Family,

New joy in the gardens today! Your smiling faces!

Now as the public health safety allows, and for those fully vaccinated and who are comfortable shedding masks outdoors, I am delighted to see the big smiles. And that brings an even bigger smile for me.

A while back I wrote that my Mission is to bring you Good News. Not good news dressed in unrealistic optimism. Or good news graded on a curve. Real honest-to goodness Good News. And it’s here.

As of today, we have nearly reached the finish line of our $200K challenge grant goal with 5 weeks to go to meet the June 30 deadline!

In my April letter I reported that we were approaching the half way mark. And now in the home stretch and ONLY because of YOU (drumroll please) we’re 90% to the $200K goal and being able to match the gifts you have made!

When we complete the challenge offered by this matching grant, Tohono Chul will step confidently through the long hot summer months and into early fall with adequate funding to nurture and sustain this desert garden oasis.

More good news behind the scenes:


We’re launching a new project later this month and want you to be the first to know and give it a test run. Called Birds in Our Backyard, it’s one that encompasses the nifty new virtual skills we’ve acquired to enlighten and entertain homebound folks during the pandemic and to enhance the on-grounds visitor experience.

Birds in Our Backyard is a “virtual” window on the bird life you might be seeing in your backyard or here on the grounds at Tohono Chul. Many of you, I am sure, did a lot of backyard birding this past year, even those who don’t consider themselves birders. Since many of us were working or confined to our homes, getting outside was a welcome respite and an opportunity to see daily life in outdoor spaces during the day—something we missed while at work away from home.

Birds in Our Backyard is designed to reacquaint you, or introduce you to 45 of the common birds seen in and around greater the Tucson area and in Tohono Chul. Over the next several weeks, we’ll send you links to sets of nine birds, both migrants and permanent residents, providing common (in English and Spanish) and scientific names, some interesting factoids and a link to their recognizable call or song.

Your backyard neighbors will no longer be anonymous. As you learn more about them, you will see them as fascinating individuals busy going about their lives – enriching yours along the way.

I hope you’ll enjoy this sneak preview: tohonochul.org/birds-in-our-backyard


After almost a year of being on “life support,” the Propagation Department is back in full swing and sending plants to the retail greenhouse as fast as we can grow them. We focus on plants that are unique and not often found in the commercial nursery trade.

One example is the Rio Grande Butterfly Bush, Buddleja sessiliflora in stock from cuttings taken here at Tohono Chul. A member of the Figwort / Scrophulariaceae Family it’s found secreted away in the most vulnerable ecosystems, seeps, floodplains and riparian edges of canyons and rivers. Its northern distribution is limited to the lower Rio Grande, Cameron and Hidalgo counties of Texas, Pima and Santa Cruz counties of southern Arizona and south through central Mexico.

Covered in glistening silvery green lanceolate leaves, this 4-6’ high shrub grows rapidly in part shade and moist soil. A perfect understory shrub, it is evergreen to the low 20’s when it will drop some foliage. The prolific yellow-green sessile flower clusters emit a rather interesting and peculiar scent, one of heavy sweetness and perhaps sour cream!?! Nonetheless, insect pollinators of all kinds are attracted in droves to this lovely shrub.

As we anticipate Memorial Day celebrations with family and friends, we’ve learned how our love and appreciation for the nature, art and culture of the Sonoran Desert could overcome the angst and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

We’ve learned that TOGETHER we can do more than any of us can do on our own. Your overwhelming support of unrestricted gifts, both small and large, membership renewals and renewals at higher levels or with additional gifts that has seen us through.

Thank you—each and every one of you—for helping Tohono Chul thrive.

Now, with but five weeks until June 30, we are within 10% of reaching our $200,000 challenge grant. If you are able, please help us cross the finish line and keep Tohono Chul blooming into early fall.

Your gifts buoy us, inspire us and remind us that YOU are Tohono Chul!

Warm Regards,

Christine Conte, PhD

Executive Director