Drought tolerant gardens from the 60s in Arizona were a bit more sparse than today’s fine upstanding cactus and succulent gardens.


Green Gravel Lawns, Arizona
Photograph by James P. Blair

Images From the National Geographic Archive

Green gravel lawns dress homes in Sun City, a retirement community that opened in 1960 near Phoenix. Arizona’s 65-and-over population rose 104 percent between 1950 and 1960.

A New Danger to Endangered Cactus Wrens

Glue traps for mice and rats.

It started innocently enough as an attempt to get rid of some pack rats around my home – a frustrating process as many Tucsonans know well….

I purchased two large glue traps, which are coated with a scented sticky substance that attracts rats or mice, which then get stuck.

The traps worked as advertised, catching three small pack rats. But I was horrified to discover that one trap also held a Western screech owl, an adorable species about 8 inches tall, which has had its habitat hammered by development. It wildly flapped its wings, trilled and barked, in a futile effort to escape.
Now what to do? An Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum staffer told me to call Janet or Lewis Miller at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northwest Tucson. Janet told me to carefully wrap the bird in a towel and bring it in….

Lots of human activities maim birds and animals but one of the worst, according to the Millers, are glue traps, which ensnare screech and elf owls, Gila woodpeckers and cactus wrens….

Lewis first used mineral oil to dissolve the sticky substance on the screech owl’s feathers and beak; then Janet used a small dropper to feed it liquid electrolytes to replace those lost by the bird during this horrific experience. A volunteer readied a cage in a warm area. A wash with Dawn dish soap will follow and plenty of feedings over the next couple of days. As of this writing, I don’t know whether my screech owl will survive.

Austin Gardeners go Green for 2008

It turns out that cactus and succulents are the latest &quot;green&quot; plants, what with all the low-water requirements and all. In Austin, they take their &quot;green&quot; gardens seriously. <a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1753&amp;entry_id=1557" title="http://www.statesman.com/life/content/life/stories/gardening/12/29/1229garden.html" onmouseover="window.status=’http://www.statesman.com/life/content/life/stories/gardening/12/29/1229garden.html’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">At least, for 2008 they will…</a><br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">In 2008, Bering has an ambitious project at his home — a rock wall that houses cacti and succulents — that sounds like it should be called the Hanging Gardens of Beringdom.<br />
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Conrad also promises to encourage us to plant more tried and true natives in the coming year. </span><br /></div><br />Good for them.<br /><br />

Australian Weeds

There’s been some big news in the <a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1900&amp;entry_id=1737" title="http://nqr.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/deadly-cactus-alert/57379.aspx" onmouseover="window.status=’http://nqr.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/deadly-cactus-alert/57379.aspx’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Australian Weed</a> business. A cactus has escaped and poses dangers to wildlife and cattle too.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Department of Primary Industries (DPI&amp;F) Biosecurity Queensland land protection officer, Jodie Sippel, said the Hudson pear cactus, a native of Mexico, has been found growing in Mundubbera Shire with a potential second site in the Monto area.<br />
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“Hudson pear (Cylindropuntia rosea), is declared a Class 1 weed, which means it must be eradicated,” she said.<br />
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“It is highly invasive and spreads whenever an animal, vehicle or person brushes against it and dislodges plant segments that take root on contact with the ground.<br />
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“The spines from Hudson pear pose a serious threat to people, horses, dogs, cattle, sheep and most wildlife….<br />
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Hudson pear was first detected in Australia, in NSW, in the 1960s.<br />
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According to some reports, its spread was aided by opal miners who deliberately grew them around their diggings to keep prowlers and thieves away. </span><br /></div><br />It has been in all the papers in Australia. This is just one reasonable article describing the mess that can happen when people take a pretty and/or functional ornamental plant into a new territory where it has no natural barriers to growth, and then it takes off causing problems far and wide. Even a cactus. A delicious cactus.<br /><br />

Bakersfield California

A big Bakersfield development threatens an endangered cactus. From the <a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1810&amp;entry_id=1629" title="http://www.bakersfield.com/102/story/343145.html" onmouseover="window.status=’http://www.bakersfield.com/102/story/343145.html’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Bakersfield Californian</a>:<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">The Canyons, perhaps the single most controversial development in Bakersfield today…. would put about 1,300 homes on 890 acres atop the bluffs overlooking the Kern River in northeast Bakersfield….<br />
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In particular, they’ll look at the effects the development would have on the endangered cactus preserve downhill from the proposed development.<br />
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Right now, the Bakersfield cactus thrives because it gets rainwater from the whole area, but changes to the drainage patterns there could put them in jeopardy, she said.</span><br /></div><br />Court cases are pending as we speak. Any protests?<br /><br />

Biowall New Jersey

“With living walls, you’re recycling air. In many ways it’s better because, first of all you don’t know the quality of the air outside a building that you’re pumping in with normal heating and ventilation systems. By pulling air through the wall and recycling it you also don’t have to re-heat it or re-cool it.”

And there’s a Green Roof too!

The roof was built with special drains and an added liner, with grasses such as succulents and sedum being planted on top, all to absorb rainwater.

Awesome. Now you have a reason to visit Morristown, NJ.

Video after the break… Read More…

Cactus in Antartica

Well it’s not a cactus, properly speaking. It’s a “Cactus Sponge”! and not just any cactus sponge, but the Cactus Sponge, Dendrilla antarctica, which I guess makes it more of an animal than a plant, too.

Pretty creature. It would probably be hard to keep it alive in a fish tank.

Cactus Wren

Every now and then a new article about protecting the Cactus Wren from destruction comes across my desktop, and I blog it. In fact, I’ve blogged about that little wren so many times that by now I just look for cute little pictures. I’m sure the article is just as entertaining as this photo, so click through, but really, I mean, awwww….  sooooo cute…..

UCI biologists are creating a welcoming habitat near campus that they hope will help the cactus wren thrive. Credit: Steve Zylius / University Communications.

California Living

Could these heavy rains presage even heavier rains to come?

Discovery News has this story of a team of scientists modeling a, “MONSTER ‘FRANKENSTORM'”,

The recent California storms left the state battered and bruised, but that could just be a taster of things to come.


And what has a monster storm looked like in California in the past? Like this one:


Oy, that’s not good. The Great California Flood of 1862,

transformed the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea, covering the tops of telegraph poles with steamboats passing over the farmlands to deliver goods and rescue survivors. The Santa Ana River formed two large lakes – one in the Inland Empire and another in the flood plain of Orange County. Probably the only definite high water mark in Southern California is at the Aqua Mansa, just south of the present city of Colton. Hydrologic studies at Aqua Mansa, document a discharge in 1862, three times the magnitude of anything since.

Of course, driving to Sacramento in winter normally the Sacramento river basin is usually flooded and looks like a lake. Even if that hasn’t happened in the last few drought years, it’s not uncommon. That’s why they don’t build houses on flood plains. Or shouldn’t.

California Native Plants on the Move

How quickly can plants migrate? We heard this report on the radio, and they have a slide show to go with it.

Scientists say the state’s plants are at risk of collapse unless they migrate or are moved to refuges. According to a new study, two-thirds of California’s unique plants, some 2,300 species that grow nowhere else in the world, could be wiped out across much of their current geographic ranges by the end of the century because of rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.

Marin will look Baja. Berkeley like Bakersfield. That’s the projection of climatologists for the end of this century.

I’d guess that California cactus and dudleyas and sedums are probably going to be able to increase their range. But Berkeley will look like Bakersfield??? Oy, the pain.

Climate Change

The LA Times references a USDA Climate Change report in passing.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report that found that global warming could cause both the Joshua tree and the Sagauro cactus to disappear as desert ecosystems change.

Here’s the USDA’s summary from the report.

Arid Lands: The West’s arid lands comprise one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions, and include the cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. Predicted impacts include “continental-scale impacts on downwind ecosystems, air quality, and human populations” from increased wind erosion; major losses of signature desert species, such as saguaro cactus and Joshua trees; and increased drought, severe rainstorms, and erosion, which will help spark widespread desertification.


Arizona Public Service Co. employees mowing down the cacti in the Black Canyon City area.

BLM… says… they do feel that if the saguaro is salvageable, it should be moved.

Endangered Cactus Burned

So I’m reading this article about a wildfire in Arizona that was not a controlled burn, and how it may have damaged populations of endangered cactus. But it’s all good because the endangered cactus had prevented them from starting a controlled burn in the first place, so an uncontrolled burn that damaged the endangered plants was ideal for them. Or something like that.

Since the early 1990s, she said, “We have been unable to (use a prescribed burn) because of the listing of the Pima pineapple cactus.”…

It burned close to the Tohono O’odham’s most sacred site and may have killed some endangered cacti.

It was mostly a good thing, say fire managers.

People really don’t care about endangered species. Anything to get around protecting them.

Endangered Cactus Still Endangered

This review shows that the Obama administration has not substantially improved the dismal record of the Bush administration in providing protection to the nation’s critically endangered wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity….

“Continued delays in protection of these 249 species is a failure of leadership by Interior Secretary Salazar,” said Greenwald….

Florida semaphore cactus: The Florida semaphore cactus has been waiting for protection for six years. It is a large prickly pear cactus from the Florida Keys that was thought to have been driven extinct by cactus collectors and road construction in the late 1970s, but was rediscovered in the mid-1980s. Much of its historic habitat has fallen prey to development, destruction, and fragmentation. Only two populations remain.

Endangered Species Act

Species are once again starting to get protected.

The Obama administration issued a new “candidate notice of review” today identifying 244 plants and animals that need the protections of the Endangered Species Act to avoid extinction….

Florida semaphore cactus: The Florida semaphore cactus has been waiting for protection for six years. It is a large prickly pear cactus from the Florida Keys that was thought to have been driven extinct by cactus collectors and road construction in the late 1970s but was rediscovered in the mid-1980s. Much of its historic habitat has fallen prey to development, destruction and fragmentation. Just two populations remain….

and also…

Sonoyta mud turtle: The Sonoyta mud turtle has been a candidate since 1997. In the United States, it has been reduced to a single reservoir in Arizona that is isolated from populations in Mexico. The turtle eats insects, crustaceans, snails, fish, frogs and plants. Females bury their eggs on land.

Poor turtles left to live in the mud of just one reservoir.


Accuweather says you should,

Forget the Whales! Save the Pollinators

Indeed. They suggest planting native Milkweeds, Sunflowers and Berry bushes.

We agree. To encourage you, here are photos of California native milkweeds and sunflowers.

Asclepias tuberosa

Encelia californica

And a bonus Achillea “Paprika”

Now that’s how you attract native butterflies and bees.


Scientists from the University of Arkansas announced at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting the results of a study that showed genetically engineered pesticide-resistant canola growing like a weed in North Dakota. They found that up to 80 percent of wild canola in their sample from various North Dakota roadsides contained genes that conferred resistance to either glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready pesticide) or gluphosinate (from Bayer’s LibertyLink seeds).

But it gets better, er, worse. The scientists also found wild canola with both properties. And as lead scientist Cynthia Sagers observed in an accompanying news report, “these feral populations of canola have been part of the landscape for several generations” — plant generations, mind you, not human generations. Still, this is not a new phenomenon. It’s true that biotech companies do sell seeds with multiple forms of pesticide resistance, so-called “stacked trait” seeds. But these wild canola plants managed this interbreeding feat all by their lonesome.

So, these genetically engineered plants — which, when out in the wild, are considered weeds — are cross-pollinating and transferring “alien” genes that confer pesticide resistance. The next step in the chain is for the canola to interbreed with other related weeds. Suddenly, the prospect of our nation’s bread basket infested with superweeds becomes very, very real.

Frog in the Greenhouse


It’s the VERY LOUD little Pacific Chorus Frog in the greenhouse, trying to poach flies from the carnivorous plants. #cute #frog

Photo by Rikki

Garden Advice

<a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1787&amp;entry_id=1595" title="http://www.sanluisobispo.com/151/story/242952.html" onmouseover="window.status=’http://www.sanluisobispo.com/151/story/242952.html’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">San Luis Obispo</a>, like many California towns, is recommending you go drought-tolerant in your garden. Here are some of their tips:<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;"> <img width="432" hspace="5" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/381-slo-20080111-F020-field-29594-MI0001.slideshow_main.prod_affiliate.76.jpg" /><br />A succulent garden spot <br />
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Mounding the soil into berms creates dynamic focal points and allows you to add good soil, increasing the drainage essential for succulents.<br />
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MIX IT UP<br />
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Contrast the bold colors and diverse forms of succulents to create striking combinations throughout the garden.<br />
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ROCK OUT!<br />
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Whether it’s boulders, flagstone or rock mulch, stone gives a natural feel and creates structure in the garden. </span><br /></div><br />Nicely done. I don’t have any snarky comments to add to such a simple and straightforward set of recommendations.<br /><br /><br />

Garden Outlaws Rule the World

Gardening as an act of revolution? Believe it. Rogue planters push the law to sow the city.


Guerilla gardener “Scott” stops for a minute to lo(o)k over his median garden along Loynes Drive in Long Beach May 13, 2008. Scott has been tending the median garden since the 1990’s, planting succulents from his own home garden.

Some may ask if I approve of this outrageous and illegal and highly dangerous activity.

I do approve. Here, I wrote a poem about it:

Gardens appear
plantings in medians
trees in abandoned lots
making fresh air

Good News

…for the environment. 4 Baby Cactus Owls were hatched in captivity. The Tucson Citizen is all over it.

A nonprofit group that rescues birds of prey in Arizona has hatched four cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, the first ones bred in captivity, a researcher for the Arizona Game & Fish Department said….

Though the new owls will remain in captivity, the long-term goal is to replenish the dwindling population of the birds in the Sonoran desert, said sanctuary director Bob Fox.

“The plan will be to get the birds released to the wild at some point,” said Fox, who cares for about 150 owls and hawks at Wild at Heart.

I’d like to add my 2 cents worth:


Green Prefab Home

Clayton Homes has just launched a line of green prefab homes (called the i-house) that start at under $75,000 (or about $105 / square foot) excluding site costs and shipping. 


Well, what about the green roof? Where’s the optional green roof, I wanna know. I’m a bastard that way.

Green Roof

One of our customers sent us this photo of a green roof they made. And just 2 days ago I mentioned we like getting these photos, in a post featuring another customer’s photo!

Woohoo! We also love green roofs!

Goat house with plants from Cactus Jungle. It has been a year. Sorry I meant to send sooner. I lost the name of the gal that works there that helped me. She wanted to see it complete. This photo does not do it justice. I love it!

Thank you for your help with this,

Susan Nightingale
And it’s a goat house! I love goats!
October 2021

US Constitution


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