Students near San Diego get with the program and plant some cactus after all.

When their science teacher announced plans to make a cactus garden that would be a model of water conservation, students pictured an arid landscape.


Hey! That’s not fair. Kids can be so cruel.

But some eighth-graders at San Marcos Middle School embraced the after-school project after seeing pictures of an award-winning cactus garden with bright colors and resembling a coral reef. They perked up more after visiting Palomar College’s cactus garden down the street.

Students then decided to dedicate the garden that they would create to Lenny Preyss, a popular history and English teacher who is retiring in June after 31 years on campus. The school garden should be finished next week.

Oh. That’s better. Good for them. I wonder how that turned out?

"Ginger Lawson's Garden"

The Jackson Hole Star Tribune has an article about a local gardener and her extensive cactus collection.

Lawson has grown cactus for 20 years, but she never expected she’d love it this much or get so carried away: “I was a plant nut anyway. I just got very interested in their growth pattern, their looks, their uniqueness. And it snowballed from there.”

The part I liked best is where the writer describes the occupants of the house and where they like to hang out.

Lanky saguaros lean against her walls…..

Chollas hang out by the bookshelves….

An Old Man cactus sits… his silky white hair looking disheveled in the sunlight.

Now that’s classic quality writing. I once wrote an article about the L.A. River and the restoration of the riparian edge.

"Limited space for plants? Try succulents"

That’s the recent headline for the Sealy News. I wonder where Sealy is? I think it may be my new favorite town if everyone there with limited space follows through on the promise of the headline and buys succulents. It’s all good.

And it turns out that we’re talking about Texas. Texas! Who knew.

Here we have a picture of the Old West version of Sealy.

And here’s one of the New West. Sealy has something for everyone.

…confiscating my prickly pear jelly…

Yes, yes, we all have travel woes, like the time I forgot to take my tiny keychain knife off my keychain before flying (more below). So here’s someone with a column who has a cactus jelly tale to tell, a prickly run-in with the TSA.

Given the throngs of shoeless penitents getting themselves processed like so many heads of cattle, and the $15 check-in fee per bag, I opted for the TSA confiscating my prickly pear jelly.

I’m sure those TSAers had some nice toast for lunch.

As I was saying above, they were going to confiscate my small knife, which cost about $25, so I went to the newsstand, bought an envelope and put the knife in and gave the woman there $10 and asked her to mail it to me. And she did! Woohoo!

2nd Prize at the County Fair

Some of the stories we publish here on the Cactus Blog have international import (not many, I didn’t say most, but some) and some stories are primarliy of local interest. Like when someone’s agave blooms and the local paper prints a whole article about it. I love those stories! This story is also of the somewhat local variety.

Geri Maitlen’s four-part entry took second place in the “large” category at the Rock Island County Fair.

Congratulations Geri.

I wonder where Rock Island County is? The paper is the Quad City Times. To the google! And the answer is…. Read More…

40 Years of Succulents

…in Toronto.

Friends of Centennial Park Conservatory invite all to a special celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of their “treasure” in Etobicoke this month….

Meanwhile… the south wing arid house is filled with cacti, succulents and yuccas.

So there you go. Toronto wins. And what can you do to help celebrate?

On Sunday, Oct. 18, from 1 to 4 p.m. the Friends of Centennial Park Conservatory… will… (present) a framed print of a watercolour painting by Robert Hutchinson showing the Conservatory in its spring green glory…

The “Friends” will also be on hand with coffee and homemade apple pie, juice and cookies.

I love cookies! Maybe I should go. Let me check the airfares.

Oooooh…. not going this weekend to Toronto….

Toronto, ON Canada (YYZ)
7hrs 4min – 1 Stop
Change planes in Las Vegas, NV (LAS)

Flight #476 $1,017 per person

42 Years Old

A Cereus bought in a pharmacy 42 years ago is pretty big now. Since this happened in North Carolina, it’s big news and the newspaper is all over it.

Credit: Lauren Carroll/Journal

Forty two years ago, Beth Kerr walked with her mom through the snow to Bobbitt’s College Pharmacy to buy a cactus…. Beth had saved her money until she had 50 cents for the cactus….

The cactus is thriving on the back deck of the Campbell’s home in Pudding Ridge in Mocksville.

I love those place names. Say it out loud with me:

Pudding Ridge in Mocksville.


A Cactus Blooms in Arizona

The Arizona Daily Star lets readers take over the paper and publish articles, pictures, crossword puzzles, musings, meanderings, and mappings.

Here we have a cactus in bloom submitted by Melissa Bowersock.

Apricot Glow (orange) and First Light (pink) are among the varieties of hybrid Trichocereus growing in the Bowersocks’ yard.

A Cactus Blooms in Colorado

From the Boulder, CO Daily Camera.


Pediocactus simpsonii, Mountain Ball Cactus, Photo by Stephen Jones

We once saw more than 60 blooming in one spot near the Meyers Homestead Trail at Walker Ranch Open Space. The blossoms close on cloudy days, so go out in the middle of a sunny day to find them.

The globular cactus plants are especially abundant on dry, gravelly ridges where they receive the most intense light, but they also thrive on rocky soils in foothills canyons and have even been found on mountain passes.

A Cactus Blooms in Memphis

I love it when papers print articles about a cactus in bloom, like it was some kind of miracle, which it is. Here we have the Memphis Commercial-Appeal printing an article about a bloom.

M. Shah Jahan, professor and chairman of the University of Memphis physics department, recently succeeded in producing this night-blooming cereus plant bloom, which last happened four years ago. The Queen of the Night blossom produces a scent that seems to combine the magnolia and gardenia, with a citrus strain and a hint of spice.

Why should we care? Well, for the first time I’ve ever read, the local paper tells you why you should care.

Read More…

A Cactus Flower Blooms in Micronesia

Big News on the Marianas, according to the Marianas Variety:

A flowering cactus plant at the security counter of the Executive Building of the Capitol in Ngerulmud… is the second time that her plant has bloom with flowers. But instead of one just like two years ago, this time it has three flowers.

There are no pictures to prove the truth of the three-flower claim.

A Game of Guitar-Playing Cactuses

Hello Hero, a turn-based RPG for smartphones developed in Korea, is headed to the west. You control a team of five heroes across the planet of Armon, including quirky characters like a guitar-playing cactus and a spear-wielding shark.

Good to know. Here’s a video.

That’s not a very interesting looking cactus. I wouldn’t play that game.

A Good Reason to Plant Succulents in Hexham

The Hexham Courant has a list of very fine reasons why you should be planting succulents in your UK garden.

Well, not a whole list, mind you. Not even a list at all. More like one reason tucked into an article about something else entirely.

GARDEN pests are not all green and wriggly or brown and multi-legged. Some have just two legs, strong arms and an un-marked white van.

These garden pests are not after your tender succulents; they crave your top-of-the-range Hayter, your granite Japanese pagoda, and your bronze planters.

We in the North East spend almost £100m annually on our gardens – that works out at £100 for every household. And every year a percentage of us lose our carefully-selected garden additions to thieves.

One home insurer, Sainsbury’s, estimates its average payout for theft from gardens is nearly £300, and warns people to take action now.

That is something I never thought about, planting succulents because the thieves don’t want them. Good to know.

A New Fourth Street

They’ve finally gotten around to finally finishing up with the final coat of the repaving job of 4th Street in Berkeley! That’s us, our street that is, 4th Street, or Fourth if you prefer.

4th street berkeley

So pretty. So clean and pothole-free.

You can click on the picture to enlargen it and see just how clean and pothole-free it really is. You can look right into the individual particles of pavement and see how smooth and undisturbed they are. SO if you’ve been holding off visiting our store because of the horrible street or the construction, then hold off no longer! We are free!

A Story to Tell

An interesting story in the LA Times about long-time residents in Los Angeles. I think the newspaper is always interested in people who have lived in LA for a long time. I lived there for 6 years, and that seemed pretty long too. Not as long as these people, who are well known in the neighborhood for their activism and their cactus garden:

A colleague had told me a year or so ago about Tovar and her husband, both of them longtime activists and neighborhood historians. He told me about the amazing cactus garden at their 100-year-old Lincoln Heights home.

I’d always meant to go see Nancy and Rudy Tovar, sit on the front porch and hear their stories.

But I almost waited too long.

The cactus is still there, towering scarecrow stalks of it, and Nancy is feeling a little better after the last round of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. But Rudy has had to move into a home in Rosemead…

When the World War II veteran moved into Nancy’s house, which turned 100 this year, his first move was to get rid of the lawn. He planted cactus and a brown turkey fig tree and raised chickens that laid blue, green and brown eggs. The lone rooster was so feisty they named him Macho Man.

They loved sitting on the front porch with their antiwar signs, with the cactus flowers in bloom, neighbors strolling by and planes circling over City Hall on the long loop to the beach.

ABC's Advice

I told you it was going to get cold, and advised you to protect your succulents, and I hope you listened to me. But there’s still time, since it’s going to be near freezing again tonight.

This time, I’ll let KGO-TV tell you what to do.

The next wave of bone-chilling weather will hit especially hard in the North and East Bay. The cold will be good for grapes; it will send the vines into dormancy, but it will not be as good for nurseries or plants in many people’s backyards….

“A jade plant, (even) if it’s been on Grandma’s front porch for 10 years, it can be three feet tall, in the morning, if it’s a hard freeze, it will just be deflated like a balloon,” Eckles said.

Eckles suggests using a protective spray or covering plants with a light-weight cloth propped up on stakes so it does not directly touch the plant.

Now they go on to suggest watering before the freeze, right after discussing succulents, which is all wrong. They didn’t say to water succulents before the freeze but they sure suggested it. Well don’t do it! Dry is better in the cold for ALL succulents.

Also, we use a frost blanket that is spun fabric and can be draped right onto the plant without tenting it first.

Aeoniums Featured

Horticulture Week Magazine has featured Aeonium “Atropurpureum”. I suppose that makes it their Plant of the Week.

Whenever I talk to gardening groups or friends people never fail to mention how much they admire the ornamental value of Aeoniums. They belong to the family Crassulaceae, the genus contains about thirty species. These plants are a succulent with woody stems from the Canary Islands, Madeira, and North Africa.

Over the last three years I have really enjoyed propagating these plants from stem cuttings. I have tried propagating from leaf cuttings by nipping off the succulent leaves and simply inserting them into a John Innes number 1 compost, waiting for the leaves to take root. My brief trial at this stage has not yet been successful , but I will return to that method trying various techniques, temperatures, and growing mediums. It would be interesting to hear from anyone who has had success using this method.

I can assure you that we never grow these from leaf cuttings. It’s never worked for us even when a leaf has some aerial roots started. Stem-cuttings rule.

Here’s a sad picture of the Aeonium parent plant in question from Hort Week.

It’s a beautiful plant, just a sad picture.


After the Chelsea Garden Show finishes up, the subways are filled with plants.

Obviously, for residents of Chelsea and Kensington, they are used to seeing members of the public struggling through the streets and on the tube with large succulents and perennials and the occasional medium-sized shrub.

It ended this past weekend, so there must have been some good gardens this year.

The Canary Islands Spa Garden has lots of nice aeoniums, don’t you think?


That’s about all the succulents I could find from the Times. It does seem like there were a lot of English Gardens at Chelsea this year.

Agave Blooms; TV News Go Nuts!

They love them some blooming agaves in the news business.

I love me some news business properties newsing about agave blooms. So unique! And I love that they call themselves “Action News” in Yakima.

via Danger Garden

Agave Gas

Scientists believe the agave plant – the raw source of Tequila and mezcal – could produce cost-effective biofuel for farmers

As part of a science project at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, Australia, scientists have been growing the plants and discovered the leaves, that are currently a by-product, could be used to make bioethanol.

Of course it will work, you can make alcohol from it easily enough, but will it be a better source than switchgrass?

Agave Production Leads to Social Unrest

From Science Daily, we find out that your alcohol consumption has contributed to the loss of traditional living in Mexico. How do you feel about that?

(T)equila’s surge in popularity over the past 15 years has been a boon for industry, but is triggering a significant hangover of social and environmental problems in the region of Mexico where the once-notorious liquor (distilled from the blue agave plant) is produced….

more after the break…. Read More…

Agave Tequilana

From the L.A. Times website, after critiquing their modern cactus photo yesterday, I happened upon this Blue Agave photo and article.

At the Stanford Avalon community garden in Los Angeles, Norma Garcia picked up a blue agave leaf nearly 3 feet long that she planned to roast on a dry, hot griddle. Once she had burned the outside, she would juice the flesh, getting about 2 cups of liquid from the leaf.

This paragraph may be taken out of context from the whole article, but it kind of does that by itself anyway, so the mystery of the paragraph is real. Click through and check it out yourself.

Alaska Cactus

Hap is from Alaska. I wonder if the <a href=";entry_id=1593" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Anchorage Daily News</a> ever featured his greenhouse full of cactus in their paper.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><br /><img width="432" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/403-3358758.standalone.prod_affiliate.7.jpg" /></div><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Fran Flint at home in Anchorage with her collection of cacti and succulents. The barrel cactus she is holding is at least 20 years old, she says, and it’s her favorite.<br />
<br />
Photo: FRAN DURNER / Anchorage Daily News</span><br /></div><br />According to Hap’s sister, who stills lives there, there hasn’t been too much snow this year.<br /><br />


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…

Alien Cactus

Must have been found near Roswell, NM.

“I can’t say for sure, but given that it seems to be associated with the meteor, it probably came from outside our solar system,” (David) Salman says in a recent video interview released this morning on High Country Gardens’ YouTube channel.

Salman says he was on a routine seed-collecting mission west of Roswell – the undisputed locus of extraterrestrial preoccupation since the late 1970s, when the alleged UFO crash of July 8, 1947 was brought to the world’s attention – when he was drawn to the unmapped meteor crater by a “faint glow.” Closer inspection revealed the light coming from a colony of small cacti yet unfamiliar to Salman…

“(I)t’s very possible that this meteor that hit near Roswell, perhaps it broke up in the atmosphere and other pieces maybe crashed in South America or Africa or Eurasia,” he says.

OK, so I looked at the date of the article and it’s 3/31 – i.e. NOT April 1st. Plus, if it’s alien, it’s not a cactus. Just saying. But if it is alien, then that’s pretty big news. Too big for just the Las Cruces Times Picayune. Alert the New York Times! The Washington Post could use a scoop!

Aloe Gum

It’s winter in the U.S. which means it’s aloe gum season in Kenya.

The value of aloe gum is expected to double beginning next month with the planned roll out of a new policy allowing its export.

Export of the medicinal products was banned in the 1980s, confining growers to the low-paying domestic market.

Kavaka Watai, the coordinator of the aloe project at the Kenya Forest Research Institute, said the ban has seen most dealers revert to smuggling of the product, forcing the price to fall to as low as $2 per kilogramme.

I don’t know what this means. Do you? I thought not. But I am nothing if not a complete succulent blogger, including all kinds of things that you never knew you needed to know about. Like this aloe gum issue. Now you know.

Aloe Photo Exhibited

…in Duxbury. Have you ever been to Duxbury? It’s near Plymouth, where the rock is. They have a photography exhibition up and it’s all about photogrpahing things at night, including this Aloe dichotoma with colorful uplighting.

“Tree Agave at Night” by William Lasch is an image that uses light painting. Photo by William Lasch

Also in Colorado

From Channel 9 News in Denver


There are many dozens of fascinating succulents native to Africa. 

Indeed there are. However, I would recommend repotting that lovely Pachypodium into a terra cotta pot that will breath better than a glazed pot with attached saucer, and never use green moss as a top dressing! What are you thinking!

Alternative Cacti

At the Chicago Tribune they’ll try anything to cure their dandruff.

“I spent five years going into the mountains talking to old people about the remedies and native plants,” she said… The old ways were kept alive by the descendants of Curacao’s African slaves…. They brought their knowledge of herbal remedies with them but had to adapt to new plants they hadn’t seen before….

The seeds of the tromustok tree are used as a laxative… The calabash tree… is used for asthma and coughs… A concoction made from a cactus is good for backaches, she said, as well as for dandruff shampoo.

Dandruff remedies are all the rage these days, and now it turns out I’ve been growing my own dandruff remedies right here at home all this time and I never knew it. I could be a millionaire!

Amazing Scottish Blooming Cactus

The Selkirk Weekend Advertiser is amazed, amazed by Mary Lawrie’s blooming cactus.

Selkirk’s Mary Lawrie with the tiny cactus she bought 32 years ago and left it in the small toilet of her Castle Street home.

That is amazing! 32 years in a toilet, and it’s still alive! I assume she never flushed… Oh, wait, I think in Scottish-speak that must refer to the room, not the fixture… OK, so what else can you tell us, great Scottish Advertiser?

After 30 years, it suddenly produced a flower.

Nifty! Does Mary have anything to say about this?

“It has the most beautiful flower. It comes out first like a grey furry thing that grows and grows ’til it gets to about eight inches long and then it opens. It’s like somebody pulled your ear out and stretched it, that’s what it looks like. The flower is so heavy the plant can’t maintain the weight of it. It’s dead now.”

I can just hear her accent in that quote. Thank you Mary for your 30 years long persistence.

November 2021

US Constitution


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