Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's all Thorny…

"Arizona's riparian habitats are shrinking.  One hundred years ago, perennial rivers like the Santa Cruz and the San Pedro were lined with thick groves of cottonwood or mesquite, while grasslands and cienegas were plentiful in the surrounding valleys."

 "Today, it's a different scene.  (The one thing that seems to grow with little effort, or water, is cactus).  Increasing urbanization, falling water tables, over-grazing by cattle, dams, development on floodplains, and a changing climate have all contributed to the loss of riparian communities throughout Arizona.  No more than 10% of our riparian habitats exist in their original condition. "

Even, however, the majestic Saguaro cactus is threatened.   Did you know that this particular cactus is so slow growing that it takes 75 years for it to develop  its first arm?  After that the arms sprout much more quickly but many of the cactus seen growing around Tucson are upwards of 200 years old.  These great sentinels of the desert were the main backdrop of the old western movies.  Whenever one of the cactus appear on the screen you will know that the film was shot in Arizona; these guys do not grow anywhere else other than a 1/2 dozen in California.  

They are accordion pleated and after a rain the pleats will suck up and store water for dryer years.  The circumference of the cactus will change greatly with plentiful moisture.  But right now, they are all pretty skinny.  We have not had a good rain since November.

This is another saguaro boot, or shoe (described in the posting on DeGrazia's gallery).

And this is the famous "Jumping Cholla".

The thorns are very painful and many a pet has been 'attacked' by one of the vicious flying clumps.
(I'm kidding, of course)

This cactus drops little clumps of thorns at the base and pets and little desert animals will wander on to them.  The local tale around here is that the thorns are so hard to remove that they cause infection and some desert animals will die and leave behind  their bodies to act as fertilizer for the next generation of Cholla germinating in the fur.  There is some truth to the tale I am sure as seeds, are imbedded in the clumps and the darn plants are everywhere throughout the desert. I am always finding 'volunteers' in my yard. 

This cactus is downright creepy as it grows, snakelike, along the ground.


But this is one of my favorites.  I don't know the name but I love the way it grows--Willy Nilly.

And with wonderful faces peeking out.  I believe that if we ever step onto another habitable planet, the vegetation  most likely to be found will be some form of cactus. 

The cactus in the above photo (slightly to the right of center) is almost as tall as the pear tree that lives behind it.  It is a 'thornless' cactus that sits in the center of my backyard and grows almost as fast as Jack's Beanstalk.  The thing has frozen to the ground twice in the last ten years but it continues to come back--with a vengeance.  I will be pruning it back along with all the other overgrown stuff in the yard in an attempt to get the house ready for sale.  I hope to have the house ready to list within the next two to three weeks but it is taking every bit of my energy right now. 

In the meantime, I will put the blog on hold until March 1st--so check back then for an update.