Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bubble Gum Cacti of the Desert Garden


I don't know why I dislike them. . .maybe because they represent a willful altering of something naturally beautiful to obtain something personally attractive. I'm referring to hybrid cacti grown from nursery stock that has been twizzled with the soft bristles of a paintbrush loaded with pollen from another genetic variety or species.

This creative endeavor seldom produces a fruit with viable seeds (or any fruit at all), the plants are less resistant to disease and insects, and they are less hardy in a desert or high desert environment.

I guess all this is OK so long as the "varieties" don't mix with the native chollas, barrel, prickly pear, and hedgehog varieties that thrive in the arroyos, washes, and cuts in this arid region.

Apparently they don't intermix, so-o-o no harm, no foul...but the foolishness goes on.

Silly Latin names are made up, attempts made to persuade the Department of Agriculture to recognize a "new" species, and the nurseries that propagate them continue to tell people, "That one? It's called an Amazon Giant (top left)...comes from South America."

Fortunately, at least in Arizona, a hard-to-get state permit is required to dig up or possess a native species. It ensures that native cacti in this high desert will continue to exist and remind us when they bloom that there is a wisdom lurking in the mix of spines and flowers


It's always a delight when we're on an evening walk to keep an eye out for a particular cactus species that should be blooming.

It's even more fun in the backcountry to scramble over the rocks and hills and find among the mesquite, juniper and manzanita that single cactus flower that makes a perfect picture.