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.


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.


Succulent gardens on Alcatraz are blooming.


Today, thanks to dozens of green-thumbed volunteers and Garden Conservancy staff, Alcatraz is blooming again. (Provided by the Garden Conservancy)

Here’s my photo of the leading edge of the island covered by Agave americanas, many of them in bloom.


Closer… Read More…

Cactus Census

Saguaro National Park makes the news every ten years or so.

Saguaro National Park counts its saguaro cactus population every decade.


Good to know.

“In the past, we had more of the very tall ones, the older saguaros,” Swann said.  “But a lot of those older saguaros have died over the years.”

That can’t be good.

“The population seems to be coming back,” Swann said.


(I)t will take time… “A saguaro that’s about an inch tall, is about seven years old,” Swann explained.

Indeed that is so. Sooooo slooooowwww….

When people used to regularly take saguaros out of the desert to put in their yard, they actually took a whole generation of medium-sized plants out. That’s why with the oldest saguaros dying, they’re not being replaced with new giants yet. It will take years for the newly protected babies to fill in behind that lost generation.



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.

Cactus Among the Grasslands

High desert among the grasslands of Colorado? Pawnee National Grasslands are a bonanza for walking and birdwatching and flower spotting too. This is a long excerpt, but there’s even more if you click through. More pictures, more interesting descriptions. It makes me want to go visit, you know.

This spring brought downpour after downpour of rain, making the prairie burst into bloom. The pioneers who came here in the 1880s learned that plowing the sod in the arid high desert shouldn’t have been done and when the Dust Bowl hit in the 1930s, the farms were abandoned.

After the people gave up on their dreams and forfeited their land, it reverted back to its natural state. Remnants of homesteads, windmills and cemeteries can be seen from the trails near the Buttes…


Whenever we’d see a photo opportunity, I’d say, “Stop!” Wild flowers were everywhere we looked, a sea of lavender, Vetch, Yellow Evening Primrose, Ball Cactus, Prickly Pear Cactus, Sand Lilies, bright pink Locoweed, Penstemon, lavender, Fleabane, and yellow sweet clover.

Just watch where you step, OK?

East Cape Poker


Kniphofia rooperi

Big shaggy leaves, but really it’s all about the blooms, as it is with all these aloe relatives. What sets this one apart is that the flowers are a fairly dense pyramid, unlike the regular red hot pokers you see everywhere. And they have both the yellow and the red together, in one fell swoop.

Also, they are from the East Cape unlike the red hots, which are not from the East Cape.

I wonder what East Cape it is they’re talking about? I’ve been to the east side of Cape Cod, but it’s not usually called the East Cape there, it’s usually called the Outer Cape, or the National Seashore. Really, they’re my favorite beaches in the whole world, those easterly beaches of Cape Cod, but then I’ve never seen any of these kniph’s over there, so it must be another East Cape they mean.

Probably not this one either.

Maybe this one.

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.

Expanding Parks

What with the new President coming in and all (soon…), the Senate has passed a bill to expand wilderness areas, including a larger Joshua Tree National Park:


In California, Joshua Tree National Park (above) would expand under the legislation along with two other areas in the state. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images)

Nice picture of yuccas. Any cactus being saved too? Indeed!


Joshua Tree National Park cactus garden is one of many wonders in the high desert. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images)

But is there anything the SF Chronicle can tell us to go along with these pretty pictures? Why, but of course!

This bill would designate as wilderness some 190,000 acres of scenic and ecologically sensitive desert land in the mountains of Riverside County adjacent to Palm Springs, including large chunks of Joshua Tree National Park….

The designation of 80,000 acres of additional wilderness in Joshua Tree National Park would protect the high, moist Mojave desert habitat, which supports Joshua trees, and the lower, warmer Colorado desert ecosystem, where Cholla cactus is prevalent.



Epiphyllum species hanging off a tree in Carara National Park, Costa Rica

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.

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.

Guess-the-Plant Blog Entry and Photo-of-the-Day

From National Geographic’s Photo of the Day

Grazing Eland, Drakensberg Range, South Africa, 2001

Photograph by Kenneth Garrett

The rich foliage, roots, and bulbs on the slopes of South Africa’s Drakensberg Range attract a wide variety of mammals, including eland, the world’s largest antelope species. Logging, overgrazing, and soil erosion, however, threaten this critical African habitat.

What plants are there in the Drakensberg Range? Read on…
Read More…

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.

Campaign Suspension Quote of the Day

From my Senator:

Now, how about a cactus?

Here’s a good one from Joshua Tree National Park:

Suszan Standing Next to the Cholla Cactus
A cholla cactus stuck to my elbow while I was taking pictures. Removing it from my skin was a painful process because each thorn consists of microscopic, jagged edges that tore my flesh.

That’s an Opuntia bigelovii, aka Teddy Bear Cholla, or Jumping Cholla. Photo borrowed from Joshua at

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.

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.

Have GPS Will Travel

The LA Times sends their intrepid reporter an hour’s drive away to Joshua Tree NP armed with all the latest gadgets, and he survives.

The Times’ Dan Neil scans the gorgeous, punishing terrain of Joshua Tree National Park, site of his recent solo hiking and camping trip. He was armed with some of the latest in backcountry electronics — the tools of “e-survival,” as he calls it. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Apparently there were 2 people on this trip, the reporter and the photographer.

More from the article:

Going solo into the backcountry — or on a sailboat around Catalina, or on a mountain bike in Moab, Utah, for that matter — always implies a trade-off, the exchange of safety for reverie. Nearly always, the risk is worth it…

Is navigating always about being certain where you are, or is there magic in getting lost and finding your way again, much like life itself?…

Life abounds at Joshua Tree: jumping cholla, candelabra cactus, pinyon and juniper pines, lizards and rabbits and hawks, life everywhere. But it’s all so close to the margin. When a cactus dies in Joshua Tree, it doesn’t just shrivel but suddenly collapses, an ashy skeleton of itself. There are no fat jack rabbits. I take this as an object lesson.

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.


Denver Mint

The Arizona quarter is finally being released, with the famous Saguaro design.

Isn’t it lovely?

I see some Opuntias on there too, plus what is that I see in the background? Why, I think it’s a sunset! Yes! Yes it is a sunset! And here I thought the sun set over the Pacific, as viewed from California, not over the Grand Canyon. What were those numismatists thinking?

Grand Canyon

The Blue Mountains Courier-Herald from Thornbury, ON, Canada sends out travel writers to visit US National Parks on occasion. The Canadian travel writers don’t stay in lodges, they tent it.

Just got back from hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon Sunday night and I have to tell you the place is amazing….

Flowering cacti was the subject of our amateur yet brilliant photography.

Our eyes screened the rocky desert hoping to sight a blooming prickly pear cactus or the violet flowers peeping from a barrel head or hedgehog cactus. Although only April, pictures were snapped for our aspiring wall galleries at home.

It does seem to be a good year for cactus blooms everywhere. Even the National Parks are getting in on the act. And yet these Canadians didn’t publish any of this chap’s photos for me to “borrow.” How rude of them.


…among the Saguaros!

“We had our first rattlesnake sighting today,” she announced….

Hikers on the Cactus Forest Trail in Saguaro National Park were startled Sunday by a sign warning that aggressive mountain lions had been sighted in the last 36 hours….

All this, and more, signal that the Sonoran Desert spring is full upon us, with all its ambivalent blessings.

So goes the Arizona spring. Via the Arizona Daily Star. Click through to see the Palo Verdes in bloom.

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 />

Helena Montana

The Helena National Forest has a lovely <a href=";entry_id=1552" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Lewis and Clark Expedition</a> page, and in the frosty winter I thought I’d share a cactus bloom with you.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;"><img width="142" hspace="5" height="212" border="2" align="left" src="/blog/uploads/misc/lc_prickleypear.jpg" />The Three Forks, the headwaters of the Missouri River offered the exhausted travelers a short reprieve. The men hunted, fished and worked skins into leather for clothes and moccasins. The captains took map readings and scouted ahead. For Sacajawea, this was the place where she had been captured and taken to the Mandan village. Recognizing her homeland and assuring them that her people were near, boosted the men’s spirits.<br />
<br />
The expedition did eventually find the Shoshone and obtained horses, thanks in large part to Sacajawea. After several more months of strenuous travel through the mountains and down the Columbia River, in November 1805, they finally reached the Pacific Ocean.</span><br /></div><br />


September 2020

US Constitution


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