Arizona cacti

Until now probably the most cacti I’ve ever seen in one place was in the backyard of the house where LeRoy grew up. LeRoy’s grandmother was a homesteader in the Cherokee Outlet and when she moved to town in 1942, she had the family dig up one of every kind of cactus in the pasture and plant them on top of the storm cellar at the new house in town. By the time I came into the family in 1965, they had grown to huge proportions. LeRoy rode a motorcycle over the cellar once and ended up with cactus spines in his face.

That was then, this is now. Arizona has more cacti in a few acres than I’ve ever seen, total! The landscaping in our RV park includes every variety that will grow in the area, I’m sure. And LeRoy can tell you from experience, even the little “fruits” left after the flowers are finished blooming are NOT to be played with. 

Tucson Mountain Park is just a short distance from where Liberty is parked. It’s a 20,000 acre wonderland for cactus lovers. The biggest and most attention getting are the saguaros, which are native to the Arizona Sonoran desert. A friend of our from Kansas calls them “man cactus” because of the tall central trunk with “arms” at the side. They may live as long as 150 years and it is usually at least 75 years before they develop one or more arms.

One rare formation is a “crown” growing at the very top, stopping upward growth of the trunk. We’ve been told that only 1 in 250,000 saguaros develop that crown, so we think we’ve probably seen about a million since we’ve seen 3 or 4 like that!

The only cactus I remember in the pasture at home was the prickly pear. Our time here this winter has shown us a new version of the prickly pear, a purple variety. We first saw them right after the cold snap and we joked that even the cactus turned purple from the cold!

I need to get a book of cactus varieties, I think. I see such pretty ones around and have no idea what they are. If you recognize this one, let me know!

Another interesting desert shrub is the ocotillo. The stalks can look completely dead but have flowers on their tips. They drop their leaves to conserve water, but within 48 hours of rainfall, they begin to leaf out again, as many as 6 times a year.

We attended the information meeting for residents on Monday and sat next to a message therapist who works here in the park, so I made an appointment and today was the day. I was so relaxed when she was done, I couldn’t open the bus door when I got back! She did a good job!

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3 Responses to Arizona cacti

  1. Joe Renfro says:

    The cactus in question is the Cholla. Very common, and will find the dried plant, or the “wood” a hot item for sale in gift shops in the area.

  2. Ed says:

    The Purple Prickly Pear is also called the Santa Rita Prickly Pear.

    You didn’t know it but when you said that the cold had turned it purple you were correct. It does become a deeper purple color in very cold weather or under drought conditions. It is a blueish purple in more favorable weather.

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