Joshua Tree

Auntie R is still 4-wheeling it through the desert and sent along this photo.


We think she should clean her lens, but it is a spectacular Yucca. We’ve tried to grow them in Berkeley, and people keep asking for them at the nursery, but no such luck.

Microchips Go National

We told you previously about efforts to keep people from stealing cactus out of gardens. Now the National Park Service is getting into the act of microchipping plants. This is good, but won’t actually help find the plants, only track plants that are already found back to their original source.

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

TUCSON (AP) — Anyone swiping a saguaro cactus from the desert could soon be hauling off more than just a giant plant.

National Park Service officials plan to imbed microchips in saguaros, Arizona’s signature plant, to protect them from thieves who rip them from the desert to sell them to landscapers, nurseries and homeowners.

I wonder if you can microchip a tomato plant? The possibilities to track your produce as it travels could be quite entertaining.

More on Electronic Tagging

Now it seems like Saguaro National Park is going to tag cacti to discourage theft. A timely opinion column in the Tucson Citizen tells the story.

These are tough times for the saguaro cactus. The Goliaths of the desert have been besieged in recent years by non-native plants. Invaders such as buffelgrass choke off young saguaros and increase the likelihood of a habitat-scorching wildfire.

Man, of course, also has proven to be a nemesis. Thieves, while rare, have made off with young cactuses, sometimes taking a dozen at a time.

Thankfully, technology offers a way to fight back.

Saguaro National Park plans to tag young cactuses with tiny microchips to help in investigations of missing cactuses and to make robbers think twice before striking.

Saguaros are a living symbol of the Southwest and lure visitors from around the world to our city. Keeping the cactuses alive and well should be a top priority, and we’re glad to see that Saguaro National Park has found a high-tech way to stick it to thieves.

I hope they don’t mind that I quoted it in full. It’s short, and relevant.


From the current issue of National Geographic,

A city of limestone towers rises in western Madagascar…. Unexplored passages shelter some of the island’s—and the world’s—strangest species, from the ghostly Decken’s sifaka, a lemur, to a host of reptiles, insects, and plants….


Photograph by Stephen Alvarez

Spiny, drought-tolerant Pachypodium plants… thrive in… Tsingy de Bemaraha national park and reserve in western Madagascar.

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!

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?

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.

Poachers Tracked

In Saguaro National Park they’ve come up with such a simple and elegant solution to poaching, that one wonders why it wasn’t thought of before.

Bob Love, the chief ranger says “Saguaro National Park was set aside to preserve the saguaro cactus if we can’t protect them here where can we can we protect them.”

So he’s come up with a plan to deter plant poachers. A microchip will be implanted in the saguaros…. Each chip costs $3.50

I like it. Maybe we can also microchip my sunglasses, since they keep getting stolen too, or lost, hard to know which.

Poetic License

From the Arizona Republic.

A stiff wind blows out of Alamo Canyon on a sunny day. It whistles past organ-pipe-cactus needles and sends ripples across pools of water in a rocky wash below.

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…

Rafting Through the Cactus

Permits now available from the Tonto National Forest.

Rafting permit applications for the Upper Salt River Canyon Wilderness are now available from the Tonto National Forest.

The Salt River… flows through oak and juniper woodlands down into striking Lower Sonoran desert vegetation with its giant multi-armed saguaro cactus as well as cactus of every description.

Several side canyons reveal oasis-like microhabitats.

Saguaro National Park

The <a href=";entry_id=1609" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Arizona Republic visits</a> their local National Park, Saguaro National Park, and comes away the better for it.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Even if you haven’t been to the western part of this park, you can imagine what it looks like. Massive stands of the namesake cactus are everywhere.<br />
<br />
But fewer people are familiar with the park’s Rincon Mountain District, 30 miles east of the more visited Tucson Mountain District.<br />
<br />
There are fewer saguaros in the eastern section, but it’s thick with other cactuses: cholla, prickly pear, barrel, hedgehog.</span><br /></div><br />There are some nice back roads too. It’s all so dense with so many different types of cactus you could just collapse from all the spiny goodness.<br /><br />

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.

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.


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.

Ute Canyon Cactus

The Grand Junction (CO) Sentinel goes trekking for cactus.

Ute Canyon is one of four main canyons within Colorado National Monument. It’s not the longest, nor does it contain the most spectacular rock formations…

Well, that’s not promising. What else are you offereing?

Last year at this time, I found… Ruby Red Claret Cup Cactus and common pink prickly pear preparing to pop.

We’re a little behind this year. Nonetheless, I spied a handful of colorful wildflowers already in bloom… The cactus are just beginning to bud, so you’ll have to wait a while to photograph them.


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…



Claretcup Cactus Blossoms
Photo Credit: Elizabeth R. Rose

Earlier this year I was hiking at Navajo National Monument near Kayenta in the Four Corners area and found… an amazing Claret cup cactus flower.

That is a very nice picture indeed. Cactus are pretty…

Have you ever been to Navajo NM? It’s got amazing cliff dwellings. As are many of the extant cliff dwellings, it’s near the Four Corners part of the country, or so they tell me. No, wait, actually I’ve been there, so I can tell you this myself. Interesting name since there aren’t any corners there at all, unless you’re looking at a map.

Did You Know?
Hisatsinom is the Hopi name for their ancestors that lived in the Four Corners region of the Southwest.

Well, no I did not know this before today, but now I do.

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.

September 2021

US Constitution


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