Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Had No Idea

Cactus variation Too Mean to Die (what it's called at our house, since we all bear scars from it)

Last year was my first experience with planting cacti. I bought my plants from a local nursery and assumed that they could survive any weather in our high desert climate--the cold winters, the baking summers, and the temperature extremes ranging from 10 to 100+ degrees F.

This past winter was a difficult one with a prolonged spell of 9 degrees F. In a "normal" winter (do we have these anymore?) we might occasionally get down that low in the night, but the temps usually rise well above freezing during the day. Not this winter! 

Everything suffered, plumbing was a mess, and a good many plants were killed off. My barrel cacti were victims--you can see them here, back when they were thriving. However, all three of the prickly pear cacti survived and are making huge strides this Spring.

Opuntia basilaris (Beaver Tail Prickly Pear)


I have never watched a cactus grow up close and I thought it might be a very slow process--but look at this little guy! Funny little red buds appeared along the base of the single pad after the top "leaf" fell off in the freeze. Within days, they grew and grew until they started looking like pads themselves. They tell me if the plant gets too big, goes in the wrong direction, or if I want another one somewhere, I only need to break off a pad, let it callus over, then stick it into some sandy soil. You can see that this little single pad will soon turn into a bush

If you want to know more about prickly pears, you should check out this DesertUSA page, which includes all kinds of information, photos, and even a video that shows prickly pear food products (and margaritas!). I also found an article on Wikipedia that explains, among other things, that parts of the plant can be used as a binder in the making of adobe. Obviously, these surviving cacti were the perfect choice for growing along our south-facing adobe wall. 

5 comments:

Deb said...

You're right...Who Knew?? I love looking at the different things that grow all over via blogging. I also assumed that that was no "wrong weather for a cactus" when planted in the desert!

JC said...

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Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

A great name for your cactus. Did you ever meet up with one of those jumping chollas? (My arms are hurting just thinking about my meeting with one.)

I think you're exactly right about 'normal winters'....climate change is happening everywhere.

Diane AZ said...

Those cacti look great! They're really thriving and I love the colors of the new pads. :)

Nan said...

Did I ever tell you when we went to visit our cousins in Texas years ago, they were 'burning pear' so the cattle could eat them?

For us, this winter was a 'normal' one. In fact, I've heard it described as a 'good old-fashioned winter.' Lots of snow and cold.