Friday, March 16, 2012

March [Spiky] Foliage Follow-Up

My quick take on Pam's monthly tribute to foliage and form, though I missed the preceeding flower day! ("my bad")

Opuntia macrocentra santa-rita X someotheropuntia - not planted, a volunteer:

Nice color variation, with spring here but enough chill at night + dryness to keep some pads (stems) purple or rosy.

The Dave Ferguson, El Cactosero de Burque, just spoke up, "This is typical Opuntia macrocentra, just not a very spiny one...I doubt this plant has any connection to your Tubac plant". I guess he's right. We have a few Opuntia macrocentra growing near the garage, just 50 feet north and higher up. With all the birds and squirrels that eat the tunas (prickly pear fruit), that makes sense. Some of those are from cuttings I took off nearby wild plants, before development happened along Tramway.

There used to be several Opuntia santa-rita 'Tubac' on this baking hot, west-facing ledge below our house, inspired by the rock ledges W of Carlsbad, enroute to Queen NM or Carlsbad Caverns HQ. A freakish 18" snow, followed by a few recent cold winters, damaged them severely (so much for microclimates). But the ocotillos, verbenas, and nopales continue to thrive and grow. There wasn't enough room, anyway.

My guess is this volunteer cactus is a natural cross of the O. santa-rita and one of the umpteen other Opuntia species around - maybe the nearby O. engelmannii, or O. valida, or O. phaecantha. (it appeared as a small, singular pad a year before the Tubacs were damaged) Got me!

Anyway, it went through a brief -11F last winter unscathed, while the Tubac cannot take much below 5F. So,  it deserves to stay.

How about the above and below color variations on the same plant?

Long spines & a respectable amount of golden glochids say, "back off!"

And assorted foliage form and color variation for the spiky plant aficionado, in outlying parts of our property. And that sky:

Above - Cane or Spiny Cholla (tallest - R), green Texas Sotol (behind slope), powdery-blue Mescal Agave (L), green Lechuguilla (front and pupping all over), and some unpruned-as-of-yet Green Brittlebush.

Both areas might get a soaking of water by hand once a year.

Below - bare Ocotillo waiting to for flower buds and then leaf-out (L), green Engelmann Prickly Pear (L), Blue or Wheeler's Sotol (R), and Ma Huang (rear on ledge - R). Our property top-of-ledge; Open Space below wall:

And serious weeds mixed in with the verbenas on the ledge, and about 10' / 300 lbs of falling cacti one can't see from here, meaning my maintenance work is cut out for me. But monetary-type work, first.

Thanks, Agave Compadre de la Estrella Muerta (aka Pam) for the 3/2012 Foliage Follow-Up! Visit it ASAP - here.


  1. The first time I saw purple prickly pear, was on the road between Lordsburg, NM and Globe, AZ, on our way to see our new grandson. It was Dec. '05, and there were lots of them along the road.
    They were pretty vicious, though...unlike yours with just a few spines.
    I picked up a pad from the ground (yeah I know, but it was just laying there), brought it home to DFW, and it did well..but, never turned purple. Dug it up and brought it down here to our daughter-in-law...she had more room for it. It's doing really well and turns purple every
    winter. Go figure. 250 miles south.

    Estrella Muerta sounds nicer than Death Star, somehow..hahaha....

    Have a good weekend.

    1. Quite common in that area in SE AZ. I asked a cactus expert friend here what it is, so perhaps he might enlighten me! Perhaps drier, hotter down there might help...last summer, many cacti here stayed purple to orange!

      Spanish can sound more melodic on some words...

  2. How about O. Christianii? Or is that one already used on the other opuntia discovery?

    I have one out by the street, not sure if it is Santa Rita. It gets attention from passersby in the winter with its bright purple tint.

    You have quite the fun collection of spiky plants there.

    1. Sorry I misspelled your name.
      I meant Cristianii!

    2. Opuntia cristianii could be cool! If they don't name that cool spineless one with fat pads from Langtry after me, ha ha! I bet your's is a O. santa-rita (AKA O. violacae).

      Fun, though tip-toeing between spiky plants on loose grit on a slope a challenge to maintain. But that's next!

  3. Oh I love them all of course! My Santa Rita brought home from our SW vaca is doing well, although a friend lost hers this winter. I guess I'll not risk it and plant it in a container rather than the ground.

    1. I'm seeing here in Nor Cal, that though their winters are much milder than Abq, the wet periods compensate on desert plants...good idea to plant in a container, that you can cover if it is to get super wet, or bring in.

  4. It's really cool to see prickly pear in a foliage post and then Croton from Hawaii. What a diversity! This is the first year I'm doing spikey in the garden. I brought back two plants from West Texas, they were both grown at mountain states nursery. I also brought back a spineless pear pad, but it succumbed to rot. Nice post, I hope you are busy in your business.

    1. Diverse posts so very true! I can't wait to see what spiky plants you are going to try it should be fun, with some good options.


  5. I love the purple prickly pears and just saw oodles of them in Big Bend. Very purple -- likely because of the terrible drought. I love the name "someotheropuntia" -- I have a few something or others in my garden too. Thanks for joining in, David.

    1. I think I tok some cuttings of the Big Bend O. macrocentra my one trip there...that's what I found out I really have, and some wild and many cultivated ones in my area of Abq.

  6. Great blog David

    I'm ever so glad I found it. I was doing a Google of some photos and pics of Redshank or Ribbonwood (Adenostoma sparsifolium) for an article I want to do and ran across your blog by a stroke of chance. Glad I did. I live in Sweden now and have for the past 6 years. Really miss the Southwest. I lived up in the high mountain community of Anza California for 24 years which is itself above Palm Springs. The climate and environs are similar to yours I believe.

    I saw your pic of the Redshank on a road trip you had on I-8 from the Desert to San Diego.

    BTW , that purple Prickly Pear is very common around Tucson Arizona. It's everywhere.

    Once again thanks for your blog. My blog mainly deals with some scientific research on things like Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution and mycorrizal networks. I'm hoping to create something interesting for the average folks that would make otherwise boring subjects of real interests to those not aware of some of the amazing architecture found in the natural world and practical applications for gardeners, urban landscapers and land restoration sites.
    I'm not at all a fan of ANY chemical fertilizers or Pesticides. I was at one time a Landscape head gardener/supervisor for a Property Management Firm in San Diego and though many of my philosophical practices were a bit unconventional at first to my employers, they eventually came around. Especially when I could save them money.

    Take Care and keep up the good articles. Such topics as these recharge my batteries when I long for warmer climates.

    Thanks again, Kevin

    1. Thanks for visiting! I look forward to seeing what you create blog or website-wise on the topic. The future of horticulture will depend on a minimum of artificial inputs...chemical, water, etc. Regenerative systems!

      Yes, and my friend in NM showed me all I have is a wild O. macrocentra, found from just N of Abq, to near Tucson, and especially common by the Big Bend of TX.

      Glad you liked the Redshanks...that was a favorite plant of that area, when I lived in San Diego and took hikes or camped near Mt Laguna.

  7. I just ran across your blog - great stuff. I, too, have some "volunteer" Opuntia - and they are a lot tougher than their species say they should be.


    1. THanks for stopping by...lots of past posts on high desert plants, landscapes, etc, so you might enjoy some of those. Here in the desert SW, the winter dryness helps some plants, even Mediterranean species, take more cold than they are rated for. Much to this hardiness issue.

      Thanks for your link - I'll check out your site.


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