Happy Pineapple Cactus Day!

July 25, 2007

Pima Pineapple Cactus

Today was “bloom day” for the endangered Pima Pineapple Cactus.  The plant pictured above is the largest of several that grow in the desert near my house (my cactus website has more photos).  All plants usually bloom on the same day, three to five days after the first significant monsoon rain.  This year, the past five days have been rainy enough to spread the bloom out over several days (they have to have sun at midday for the flowers to open fully), and about half the plants will bloom tomorrow.  The cactus bees – fuzzy gray and harmless – will be delighted.  I’ve been watching these cacti for seven years, and the bloom is a very precious (and nearly solitary) celebration:  The desert hushed and dreaming at midday in the soft, humid sunlight.  Thunder over the mountains, sprinkles of rain, the knobby green cacti scattered like jade carvings over the bare pinkish-orange soil…and the luminous, slightly fluorescent glow of the flowers, the yellow light pouring up out of the earth.

baby barrel cacti

baby barrel cacti

Another cactus discovery made today even more special – FIVE bouncing baby barrels in my yard!  These are Arizona barrels (also called compass barrel or fish hook barrel, Ferocactus wislizenii).  The two in the picture are about an inch in diameter and are probably a year old already, they were just shrunken and hidden in the gravel until the rain.  I love prowling the yard at this time of year, looking for new “volunteer” desert plants.  When we moved in, there were almost no plants here – all the previous owners had “zeroscaped” with weedkillers and thirty years of indifference.  Over the next few years, we added rocks and boulders, searched local nurseries for native plants, accepted gifts of agave and prickly pear from neighbors, and rejoiced with the appearance of each tiny wild yucca, ocotillo, or shrub.  I have planted several salvaged barrel cacti already, but the appearance of seedlings is a sign of true healing for this piece of land.  In this part of the desert, the Arizona barrel reaches its greatest size and abundance, and spectacular “barrel gardens” and dense ocotillo forest are a special feature of the Santa Rita Mountains bajada.  The cacti are typically one to four feet tall and up to a couple of feet in diameter, but a really ancient barrel (well over 100 years old) can be more than six feet tall.  Now that I know they’re here, I will enjoy caring for these new arrivals.


5 Responses to “Happy Pineapple Cactus Day!”

  1. Karin said

    Nine years ago I wrote in a notebook, “You’re always naked in the desert.” (Random thought, I was just browsing that notebook tonight.)

  2. Karin said

    And today I saw the first aromo (huisache) blooming in a street nearby. They’re the very fist sign of spring, when you sense that unmistakable sweet scent in the air, and then you look and the yellow flowers are somewhere in the neighborhood…

  3. Debbie said

    I have lovely memories of the land around your house and how carefully and lovingly you and Dan have worked to restore it. The picture of the baby barrels brought a smile to my face. Just lovely.

  4. judithornot said

    The baby barrels made me smile, too. 🙂 It is such a good feeling when we’ve worked to make land healthly again, and then Nature rewards us with new growth like that. It’s as if Nature is saying, “Thank you!”

  5. ironwing said

    The barrels got more cactus company today – I visited my neighbor last night and traded her some mesquite bread and a baby agave for a huge branch of beautiful purple Santa Rita prickly pear. It went into a specially prepared spot in the front yard, where it contrasts beautifully with its ring of white marble and green copper ore rocks.

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