National Parks

Drought in the Desert

People think that because cactus and succulents may come from a desert that they can handle the California drought. But it’s a record drought! Even desert plants need some water. For instance, the Joshua Trees…


LOS ANGELES (AP) — In the California desert, Joshua tree seedlings are shriveling up and dying before they get the chance to put down strong roots, and ecologist Cameron Barrows wants the details.

The University of California, Riverside scientist knows that hot weather and lack of rainwater hurt the iconic species…

Crested Saguaro


Genn sends a photo from the Arizona desert. And it’s a crested Saguaro!

Visiting a Particularly Large Saguaro


Although it’s not the largest saguaro ever discovered, the colossal specimen along the Dutchman’s Trail in the Superstition Wilderness is a commanding presence. Balancing a massive, Medusa-like crown of spiny arms and isolated in a landscape where neighboring saguaros sport more modest profiles, this impressive plant grabs the spotlight.

But, it might not stand for much longer. An ominous gray scale on its north side and what appears to be a lightning strike in its core may spell its doom…

And then there’s the whole location and hike and map and description information so you too can go and see this mountainous cactus before its gone.

The hike begins at the Peralta Trailhead on Bluff Spring Trail…

Saving Cactus

In Arizona they are saving the Saguaros one RFID tag at a time.

(S)eeing saguaros disappear from federal lands, Saguaro National Park came up with a modern solution: radio frequency chips.

With the territory so vast and little chance of catching thieves in the act, land managers insert tiny chips into cactus bodies so they can track them down if stolen.

“We’ve literally chipped hundreds of saguaros we think are in at-risk areas — the size and location that could put them at a high risk of being poached,” said Paul Austin, chief ranger at Saguaro National Park, who said cactus poaching has declined since chipping began about five years ago.

Saguaros are Carnegiea gigantea of course. Named for the Robber Baron Carnegie, they are the only plant in the genus and no one has the courage to move it to another genus of plants to which they are closely related. Of course, most botanists would refer to Andrew Carnegie as a Philanthropist, which might be why they’ve kept the name.

Endangered Cacti

Citing everything from grazing to insects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday granted endangered species protection to two cacti found in Arizona.

The Acuña cactus, found in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties, is one of two Arizona cacti granted endangered species protection Monday….

These plants, the Acuña cactus and the Fickeisen plains cactus, are the latest two to go through the process and be put on the endangered list.

That is one pretty plant which is the main criteria the government uses for determining what species get protected. I would protect that! The Acuña Cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis), also known as the Pineapple Cactus, is found in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

The Fickeisen plains cactus (Pediocactus peeblesianus fickeiseniae), also known as the Navajo Pincushion Cactus, is tiny and also cute and also worthy of protection in my aesthetic opinion.


If a cactus can be “cute,” the Fickeisen plains cactus qualifies. “Cactophiles” are smitten by this petite plant with cream-colored flowers. Unfortunately, illegal collection by enthusiasts and commercial cactus dealers has contributed to the decline of many species in the genus Pediocactus.

Cactus Products

I see that a major corporation has decided to use a cactus flower.


The flower shown is Echinocereus triglochidiatus which is actually found in the Grand Canyon. Do you think they actually extracted a scent from this particular plant from this particular location? We’ll never know for sure, but at least they got their marketing materials correct.

Striped Bromeliads in the Tree Tops

Beautiful striped bromeliads among the orchids high up in the jungle canopy of a Kapok tree, from National Geographic’s Photo of the Day.

yasuni ecuador winter

Yasuní National Park, Ecuador

Photograph by Steve Winter, National Geographic

From the bromeliads, ferns, and orchids that cover a kapok tree 160 feet above the forest floor to the jaguars that prowl below, Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park is home to countless plant and animal species.

Click through for the full picture.

Barrel Cactus, Joshua Tree NP

Hanging off the side of a cliff! Nestled in a rock!


Ferocactus cylindriceus, also known as F. acanthodes or California Barrel Cactus or even Miner’s Compass (because it always leans to the South.)


In case you were wondering, I also had to climb up the cliff to get that picture. No tricks were involved.

And next to it was this cute little baby cactus! Also growing in rock.


Endangered Species May Get Protection After All

It’s been a decade since the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to have this cactus listed.


Acuna cactus at Organ Pipe National Monument. Courtesy National Park Service

Tony Davis Arizona Daily Star

A small, little-known cactus found in Organ Pipe National Monument west of Tucson faces a “high and immediate” threat of extinction, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in proposing to protect it as an endangered species.

The Acuña cactus, topping out at about a foot high, is declining fast, having dropped in numbers by more than 50 percent since 1981, the service said….

The service also proposes to designate 53,720 acres, including 29,500 acres of federal land and 14,266 acres of state land, as critical habitat for the Acuña cactus.

That is one very cute little endangered cactus. Cuteness is not the only factor the government considers when reviewing petitions for listing of species, but it doesn’t hurt.

Chollas in the Park

While it’s true that you can tend to dig up cacti and move them, this is not going to go as well as the article suggests.

Prickly Job Ahead At Joshua Tree National Park
Upwards of 800 cholla cactus plants will be dug up to be returned to the area near the Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park after a road-straightening project is completed.

Kurt Repanshek photo.

This is one thorny job.

So first of all, moving the larger plants will cause a lot of them to lose branches. They do come off rather easily, so a large plant will ennd up being a small plant by the time its put back.

Secondly, this is being done in winter when these chollas will be dormant. There will be a lot of root loss, and a lot of the plants won’t come back after that.

California Barrel Cactus

Interesting! Someone has found a Ferocactus cylindriceus, aka a California Barrel cactus, in Joshua Tree ie in California where they are normally found, and documented it.

Project Noah



Fenway Park turned 100 yesterday. For those who stop by the nursery regularly you know I often wear a Red Sox hat which wears out after a few years. So off to Fenway to get a new hat. This one Celtics green.


That was Thursday. Here’s from 100 years ago.


(via TPM) Nice!

Have Cactus Will Travel

Exciting news in the world of national park cacti!

A crew surveying plants at Saguaro National Park west of Tucson has made a “shocking” discovery: a mature organ-pipe cactus growing among the saguaros….

The find is significant because the big cacti – with arms somewhat resembling organ pipes – are almost completely limited in this country to warm, low-elevation deserts at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument south of Ajo….

Hubbard said a crew from the monitoring network, which is a part of the National Park Service, found the Saguaro Park specimen in February in a “sort of protected micro-site.”

The plant is big, but clearly not in its ideal environment. You can see the really pronounced yearly variations in width and the most recent growth is not looking healthy, probably a very cold couple of winters.

Nevada Spring Beavertail Cactus Bloom

From the Desert Wildflower Report, we find there are Beavertails in bloom as reported by Rick and Margarita in “Lake Mead NRA between mileposts 7 & 8.”

Opuntia basilaris

Very vibrant colors.

I wonder what the mountains in the background are called? Do you think they’re called the Spotted French Peaks?

Presidio National Park

We walked around the park with my parents in town visiting. Crissy Field, Civil War houses, Goldsworthy Spire.

And Yoda, as recommended by Far Out Flora.

I didn’t get a very good shot of the fountain with my phone, so I made it “artistic” in photoshop instead.

An “artisitic” shot of the Spire after the break. Read More…


Since we’re on about what to do in Texas this weekend, here’s another suggestion – a walk into Big Bend National Park. That’s about 10 hours away from Dallas. I know, since I had to hurry off when I was visiting the park a few years ago to pick up my sister at the airport in Dallas. We visited the Book Depository 6th floor museum, and then made our way to the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Anyway, back to Big Bend…

Lost Mine Peak Trail, Big Bend National Park, Panther Junction (West Texas)

This walk is much more of a hike than a walk, but it is one of the best in Texas. This 4.8-mile round-trip trek is not for those who are out of shape, but if you walk regularly, it should be no problem since much of the path consists of switchbacks. Just go at a pace that’s comfortable. The rewards are phenomenal. First, you have the walk itself, through thick forest and by cactus and ocotillo and agave. Second is the panoramic view at the top that will take your breath away — guaranteed — if the walk itself hasn’t already done that. It’s the most strenuous walk listed here, since it begins at about a mile high and ascends for an additional 2,000 feet. Getting to the top is part of the fun, since the trail takes you through two very different ecosystems as you gain elevation. At the end of the trail is the supreme reward, where you can relax on one of the rocks and gaze out over what seems to be the entire world below your feet. On a clear day you can see for more than 100 miles. If you get lucky, you might even spy an eagle soaring below. The trail also has a self-guided brochure available at the trailhead to identify all the plants and trees you will pass along the way.

Big Bend is one of my favorite parks, and I hope to make it back.

Wyoming Wildflowers

From the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, we find out where to find blooming cactus in Wyoming.

That would be the Medicine Bow-Routte National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland.


Blue Columbine Holmes Miller/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Viewers will be treated to a number of wildflowers such as Indian Paintbrush, Kitten Tails and Simpson’s Ball Cactus.

I wonder what Simpson’s Ball Cactus looks like? From the USDA Forest Service’s Coloring pages for kids, we find it looks something like this:


Click to enlarge, and then please print out and give to your local children so they can color the cactus, and then you’ll find out what color the flowers are. Or you can click through here to see a picture of one in bloom in Washington. I don’t know if the Washington and Wyoming populations look the same.

National Park Trails

SAGU-Teddy Bear Cholla kjr

Hike along the Douglas Spring Trail to Bridal Wreath Falls, Saguaro National Park. Kurt Repanshek photos.

Besides cactus, the author also came upon snakes. And in a national park, no less!

It's a Blooming Desert

And the San Diego Union-Tribune takes you into the heart of the wildflowers.

The heavy rainfall this winter has given us an outstanding wildflower bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park…

Nothing is as exciting to me as the bright fuchsia blooms of the beavertail, and they’re sticking out all over now. Besides the barrel cactus, you’ll also see the blooms on the fishhook cactus, as well as the cholla.

Among the amazing discoveries in a spring desert wildflower season are the tiny blooms that cover the sandy desert floor. You have to look closely for these little wonders. See if you can spot the yellow and pink sand verbena, the bright yellow gold poppies, and the tiny white rock daisies.

What? No pictures? I’ll find some for you.

From the State of California, no help from the SD Union-Tribune, we have a brand new wildflower map (pdf)! Now that is awesome.

And they have pictures too.

ocotillo buds monkey flower mt palm spring web barrel cactus

I must say I haven’t appreciated the State as much as I should. I went looking for wildflower photos and the private enterprises, like the local newspapers in San Diego, failed me. But the State came through. Good stuff.

DesertUSA also has good wildflower updates, right up to the minute.

Water When Dry is also a good place to find out about what’s blooming in the cultivated deserts of Arizona. Todays blooms include Mammillaria and Baileya.

A Cactus Flower Blooms

in Joshua Tree, they’ve got a good amount of wildflowers this year, what with a wet winter and all. Plus they’ve found the first cactus blooms of the year.

Ample winter rains and gradually warming temperatures are stimulating the annual desert wildflowers at Joshua Tree National Park, naturalist Joe Zarki reports.

While the great carpets of wildflowers seen in 2005 and 2008 have yet to develop, concentrations of up to 50 species are starting to appear in some park locations, Zarki stated in a news release….

The season’s first cactus blossom in the park, the lovely orange-red Mojave mound cactus, was found in the Lost Horse Valley area.

Wish I could get out there, but not this year. It’s still a little early for us, though the buds are forming…

Rock Formation… or Mesemb???


From Tripadvisor, we find this mystery rock formation that looks a lot like this crazy little succulent:


Pleiospilos bolussi

Coincidence? I think not.

[polldaddy poll=”2924856″]

Desert Pronghorn Endangered

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

In 2002, there were only about 21 Sonoran pronghorn left in the United States. But their numbers are rising as researchers have collaborated to carve out a home on a wildlife refuge, expand the herd with a captive-breeding program and help the animals reclaim their range….

in 2002, their entire range went dry… Pronghorn can also eat cactus to survive, researchers have found. They will eat chain-fruit cholla, which is 85 percent water, Hervert said, but it doesn’t provide a lot of nutrition.

In 2002, biologists watched as the last of the herd was reduced to eating cholla, slowly starving to death and more than likely within a few weeks of dying, Hervert said. “It was hard to watch.”


When rains finally came, the herd stabilized, but the agencies watching the animals knew that something had to be done.

Paintings on the Hills

Since we’re going to be having some big storm fronts moving in over the next day/weeks I thought I would feature this spectacular photo of the Painted Hills in Oregon under a rainbow.


Painted Hills Rainbow
National Geographic Photo of the Day
© 1996-2010 National Geographic Society.

Photograph by Larry Andreasen

Taken at the Painted Hills National Monument in Central Oregon near sunset. Having been here numerous times before in the summer months, seeing a rainbow on a 100-degree day was the last thing I expected … usually the skies are clear on hot days.

Cactus Kids

Kids ride bikes in the desert, Newspaper takes notice.

26 ESS BIKING gb-p1

Rider Cassie, 11, negotiates the Cactus Forest Trail during a Trips for Kids Southern Arizona group ride through Saguaro National Park East.
Photos by Greg Bryan / Arizona Daily Star

Fortunately, nobody fell into a cactus, so all’s well that ends well.


March 2018
« Feb    

US Constitution


We Get Questions

Email your questions to:

blog [at] cactusjungle [dot] com