Easing into Collecting Cacti

By Dan Bodine

This little cactus produces more flowers than any other in the Casa Verde Gardens. It’s name? Would you believe Pudge? And the encroaching succulent coming in on the left? This could be a hint on my raw naming system. In Mexico folks call this crawler “Chisme” — Spanish for gossip — because of the way it spreads. (Desert Mts Enterprises photos)

By Dan Bodine

Yeah, I have a cactus garden, too — today’s landscaping thing, no? But three years into it hasn’t rattled off a lot to write home about. Maybe posting this will draw enough comments for me to either step it up and expand my thinking somehow, or turn it over — one way or another. Cold turkey!

No doubt my health and advanced age are factors keeping the excitement thermometer down in this new hobby. And some of it could be, indeed, that part about old dogs can’t learn new tricks!

Names of most common landscaping shrubs, flowers and trees in North Central Texas (D-FW area) where I grew up, I learned as a boy, i.e. — by working many years after school in a plant nursery. But were cacti in landscaping plans then? Uh…

Cactus is a plant, too, yes. But 60-65 years ago that region was heavily farm & ranch land — with prickly-pear cactus flaring throughout it like acne on teenagers.

Oh, there was more than one type of cactus then? Few people discussed the topic.

Now cacti and succulents together are the rage of the globe, and learning the names of these strange critters is more than a bit difficult to a flatlander. Thus in the mountainous desert I usually shift to my default naming position — e.g., what does it remind me of? The first thing that jumps in my mind?

I started the cacti collection like this 3-4 years ago now, I think, after attending an El Paso Garden Club sale one weekend.

And then, it turned out, (like thousands and thousands of others, no doubt) I fell victim — e.g., I HAD TO ASK, about an image I saw online somewhere. And thus I gained 3-4 more plants.

Where it ends? Who knows? These things are more serpentine than Mother-In-Law Tongues! (The plant, of course!)

Daughter Maiya Kareli, i.e. (to family, Kareli [goes by middle name, like Noemi and I]; to friends — her 1st name, Maiya) bought me a Cactus of Texas Field Guide last year, and it’s been helpful. But it’s limited to Texas.

So, as I go thru these few photos below of my little collection, be aware my personal naming system is at work. Don’t scream I’m desecrating or belittling in some way.

You want to know the real name of them? Type in “cactus photos of the southwest” in your search engine? And happy hunting for that one, identifying photo!

More-‘n-likely you’ll be hurdlin’ a Latin naming system whose different names on papyrus Cleopatra used to rotate daily with a little clip at the end of her backscratcher. Damn thing burnt out when she was 38 and supposedly she hadn’t even gone thru half of the alphabet yet!

Maybe some glorious day I’ll get more personal with these critters and actually learn what types of cacti they really are! And respect their history, too, etc., etc.! But don’t bet on it. I’d probably have to give up watching Sunday and Monday night football or sumpthin’!

Part of a cactus collection
WHO ELSE BUT ‘SLIM’? Listen, this cactus already has caused Noemi and I a “world of hurt” just protecting it from the wind! Maybe I can get other photos in here to show some other methods of keeping it standing, This is a mop handle, I think, Noemi attached to it. And you can’t propagate it using those blooms either. I actually planted one (It’s a cub, right?), and watched it as it withered away… to dust! Shhh…!

Nobody notices it!
“Y’all come!” Catnabber says. This little cactus gets little attention! But a few times I’ve noticed ornery nighttime cats around here have attempted to pass over it unnoticed, too, until they felt…”Whoops, what is that I’m hung up on?!” Either that or those tiny pieces of fur I’ve found on it just happened to be blowing in the wind and were nabbed by the Catnabber!
PUDGE with FLAPJACK REDS (bottom, supposedly a high-class prickly pear). Duh…?
These, as a group, are the Tres Amigos I got as cubs from a friend online. Of course I’ve lost all information on them. It was my understanding he lived in New Mexico, though. Below, I’ll show you the two on the right again. I just can’t remember the name I gave the little guy on the left. And if not mistaken, the front two will grow 4-6 ft. in height, too!
OK, the two upfront themselves. I’ve got a little Indian blood in me and sometimes I’ll lean on it a little — as in these two names. That’s the great Chief Quanah on the right, and his sidekick, Heapin’ Ugly Stick, on the left beside him.
Naming a cactus the way you see it!
Here’s Slim again, this time sprouting two of those big white blooms. The wind kept messin’ with ol’ Slim here this spring, tilting that brace-pole to various angles; and actually blew this weird-looking cactus loose from its mop stick (above) one night; and uprooted it — putting Slim flat on the ground — and a bare root sticking up in the air. Luckily I got to it the next morning and set it up; and fashioned a new holding system — actually what I think were someone’s wire, lawn cocktail glass holders at one time Noemi brought in from a garage sale. Anyway, they fit around Slim’s trunk sturdily, and then I anchored both to a makeshift fencepost of sorts. And presto Slim was flying high again! (All photos Desert Mts Enterprises)
Strange-looking pair!
Early Cool (l) and Fishhook: Who’re you calling “Fatty,” “Squatty”?

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