The Future is Cactus

According to

We’ll All Be Eating Cactus in the Future Thanks to Climate Change
by Katie Valentine

…the prickly pear cactus, a humble plant that, according to a new book co-published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, can serve as a lifesaving crop for many countries…

“It’s actually a fairly amazing crop that can grow in most dry areas of the world,” Makiko Taguchi, a cactus expert at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, told Earther. “And the dry areas of the world are expanding in some places.”

Oh, and it’s delicious!

Prickly Pear Margarita


coarse salt as needed
2 fluid ounces tequila
2 fluid ounces sweet and sour mix

1 fluid ounce triple sec
1 fluid ounce lime juice
1 fluid ounce prickly pear syrup

Click thru to see the rest of the instructions.

The Mystery of the Galapagos Islands

The NYAS traveled to the Galapagos Islands to find out why certain cacti species there are starting to disappear.

With tourists swelling in number each year the Galapagos have now been put by UNESCO on the list of endangered World Heritage sites. In March of 2007 a team of four, led by Darwinian expert Frank Sulloway, and sponsored by the Charles Darwin Research Foundation, focused their investigation on the destruction of endemic Opuntia cactus. They used old photographs and a repeat photography technique during a 16-day field trip.

Dr. Julianne Chase will describe some of the policies and quarantine procedures intended to protect the fragile ecosystem and native species

It turns out that you had to have attended a lecture on April 21 in New York to have found out what was going on. For the rest of us, the Mystery Remains…

Unless you attended Dr. Chase’s lecture yourself and want to update us on the results yourself, which would be lovely. I’ll send you a box of cookies…

Threatened Species and Poaching

Poaching is a problem throughout the world. Many countries may have tough laws against poaching and yet lax enforcement. Many of these countries are far far away. <a href=";entry_id=1711" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Others, not so far</a>.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Cactus poaching is booming in Mexico, helping to make wildlife species trafficking the third-largest smuggling industry in Mexico behind drugs and guns.<br />
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The trade is fueled by private collectors and the burgeoning xeriscape movement in the U.S. South and Southwest.<br />
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Rare cacti species can fetch hundreds of dollars on black markets from the United States to Japan.<br />
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Mexico’s deserts are so ravaged by cactus poachers that researchers no longer publish the location of new species they find, lest eager collectors plunder the newfound cacti….</span><br /></div><br />more after the break…. <br /><br />
<br /><a href="">Continue reading "Threatened Species and Poaching"</a>

Threatened Species in California

Yesterday I posted on a report on the loss of desert habitat in Arizona and Nevada. Today the San Francisco Chronicle looks at soon to be lost habitat in California.

The Woolyleaf ceanothus would be at risk if California’s climate becomes much hotter, a study says. Photo by Michelle Cloud-Hughes, special to the Chronicle…

If temperatures rise rapidly in California this century, up to two-thirds of the state’s native plants might lose large swaths of suitable habitat, according to a new study….

“The pace of climate change in the next 100 years poses a very serious threat to California’s native plants,” said David Ackerly, a UC Berkeley biology professor and an author of the new study published in the PLoS One, the Public Library of Science.

Scientists know that plants can respond to changing climate over thousands of years, Ackerly said. “But in less than a century, there is very little chance for plants to establish new populations and to migrate to keep up with these dramatic changes.”

What can you do? Smallstuff and big stuff.

Interesting how such beautiful pictures can really change a discussion. Usually we see pictures of bears and tree frogs and other endangered animals. But plant pictures can be just as powerful. I’m really kind of dazzled by the blue.


The endangered cactus wren is now moving into urban environments, or rather the urban areas are moving into the wren’s habitat.

Urbanization turns large areas of wild land into cities and suburbs, and has a profound effect on native speicies, changing where they live and how they interact,” says Paige Warren, an urban ecologist…

“The cactus wren is usually associated with the desert, since it builds nests in the protection of cacti and other thorny plants,” Warren explains. “However, this native species was able to penetrate the urban ecosystem more successfull the phaniopepla, and has been seen nesting in satellite dishes and other man-made structures.”

Nice job, little wren.


We don’t use vermiculite in our soil mixes because it is energy-intensive. Turns out there are other problems with it too. The Straight Dope tells all.

The trouble with vermiculite has nothing to do with the substance itself, but rather with a contaminant that’s sometimes found in vermiculite ores: asbestos….

Technically, it’s not just insulation that poses such potential threat, as there are plenty of vermiculite-bearing gardening products around too — it’s added to potting soils to help them hold more water. In 2000 the EPA tested 54 of these: 22 contained asbestos, it turned out, with 8 containing significant amounts and 1 actually releasing asbestos fibers into the air when used. Overall, though, the exposure level for the average gardener was found to be quite low

Very Green Roofs

Can you plant a roof with sedums and sempervivums and other green roof succulents AND still have room for solar panel? Well, they’re doing the research in Oregon, and the picture seems to imply they’ve already reached an answer.

Heather Noddings/Portland State Vanguard
Eco-roofs: Eco-roofs are being studied at PSU through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Water Rationing

It looks like we’re in for some water rationing in the East Bay. Reservoirs are moderate, but it seems that erratic rainfall has made the water board worried about 2 bad years in a row on water levels. They’re considering restrictions and rationing this summer. From the SF Chronicle.

EBMUD… said that although January and February were wet months, March was the second driest March in the district’s 85-year history and April is the driest to date.

That means the Sierra snowpack, which melts into the Pardee Reservoir where 90 percent of EBMUD water comes from, is yielding half its normal runoff….

More from the Chronicle

“All the research around the impact of climate change in California shows potential prolonged droughts, drier winters, more wild swings between drier years and wet years,” said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which provides water to residents of the city as well as communities on the Peninsula. “As water agencies and as consumers, we need to manage our water more wisely. There will never again be a period in California where we don’t have to think about water conservation.”

Winnicker and officials from 10 other regional water agencies met Wednesday to renew a campaign urging consumers to use less water. The meeting came one day after the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides water to 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, announced that its board is examining mandatory water restrictions, price increases and even water allotments in an effort to stretch its dwindling supply.

This is sounding like serious stuff. We’ve already had customers (yesterday) mention changing over to low-water gardens because of this.

Weedy Problems

The New York Times discusses weeds and climate change today.

But enhancing CO2 levels, Ziska has found, not only augments the growth rate of many common weeds, increasing their size and bulk; it also changes their chemical composition. When he grew ragweed plants in an atmosphere with 600 p.p.m. of CO2 (the level projected for the end of this century in that same climate-change panel “B2 scenario”), they produced twice as much pollen as plants grown in an atmosphere with 370 p.p.m. (the ambient level in the year 1998). This is bad news for allergy sufferers, especially since the pollen harvested from the CO2-enriched chamber proved far richer in the protein that causes the allergic reaction.

September 2021

US Constitution


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