Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

I’m home safe and sound from the Baja California and all I’ve got to say is “what a trip”. We sampled local tacos and drank numerous blended drinks, it’s nice to get away once in a while. Coming home I feel refreshed and ready to tackle another season at the nursery. Although a tad colder, there’s no place like home. This is the second time I visited the Cabo area and I couldn’t be more in love. Giant 20+ ft Mexican Cardons and year round warm temperatures, I think I was born in the wrong climate. I love how agaves grow practically everywhere and it’s not a question of if but when you’ll see the next incredible cactus. In the Baja you can forgo winter protection of tropical species as the weather is just perfect for palms, bougainvillea and barrel cactus.

The news might have you believe Mexico is a dangerous place to visit, but from my experience the people couldn’t be friendlier. I feel safer roaming Cabo’s nightime streets than Vancouver. As for the food, there is no such thing as a bad taco, should you like chicken or fish or salsa fresca. Try them all, trust me! All in all my trip went on without any foibles, I come home with a fresh glow of relaxation.

Last time I visited the Baja it hand’t rained in almost 2 years, this season they had a lot of rain in November. What was once a dry desert had transformed into a lush jungle of tall cactus and xeric shrubs. Lots to see for an aspiring botanist and plant geek.

While the main beaches in town are mostly crowded it’s only a short drive away to find pristine and untouched white sand beaches. In January and February humpback whales travel towards the Sea of Cortez and spend much of their time in these waterways. You can’t miss them.

Although considered a threatened species Organ Pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) are still quite prevalent in the south Cape.

I’m used to collecting small specimens in pots, I just love these giant sized cactus in their native habitat.

The baja is home to the tallest cacti in the world. Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum reaches for the sky.

After expressing an interest in cacti a friend of mine brought me out to see this old-growth specimen. Predicted to be many hundreds of years old it went through a stage of cristate mutation, creating these incredible ripples in it’s mid-growth.

It’s quite uncommon for cacti to revert back from cristate growth to regular, but it’s not unheard of. I wouldn’t mind having a couple of these giants planted around my future home.

Speaking of cristate cactus, this Organ Pipe Cactus (stenocereus thurberi) is starting up something strange.

I always pictured the desert as lifeless and still, all to the contrary. There’s all kinds of wildlife running about, here on this hillside we found a small family of chipmunks.

While camping in the Sierra De Laguna Biosphere I wondered off to ‘take a leak’ and stumbled upon this incredible community of snake cactus.

My guide book leads me to believe it’s Morangaya pensilis, any thoughts? It seems it grows tall until it falls down by it own weight and shoot up again, thus slowly creeping along. In this population it had began to climb the tree over 15ft vertically. Impressive.

Todo Santos beachside lagoon.

There were numerous agaves planted in landscapes…

But they almost looked happier out in the wild.

If you had enough money, you could do some truly incredible landscaping.

Mega sized Ferocactus.

I want to print this up on a canvas, look at the incredible textures.

There was no shortage of healthy looking Opuntioids.

The moths loved these purslane.

In the south Baja these bougainvillea are practically ditch weeds. Exotic, prolific, ditch weeds. They love the hot temperatures.

Beautiful sunsets.


Stay tuned for more photos of my Mexican adventure. A hike up through the Sierra De Laguna Biosphere and San Jose cactus gardens Wirikuta.
Thanks for stopping by.

7 Responses to Baja beaches and giant cacti

  • Eric says:

    Hi Nat, My name is Eric… I just discovered your blog yesterday. You have a great eye for plants and it seems you are as obsessed with hoarding a collection of plants as I am. I think I have around 400 species at this point. I need to create a website for all of my shenanigans… I think I must have 500 starts of different plants (mostly succulents) just on my front porch (its a sun deck so it is surrounded in windows and heated from the house furnace. I have a ton of huge specimen parent plants in my glass greenhouse in the back yard. Huge 10′ tall brugmansias, a few 5 ft tall jade plants, 6 ft tall aloe veras, tons of agaves. lots and lots… the list goes on an on. Good luck with your adventure. Travel safe and bring home lots of seeds.

  • Ed Myhro says:

    What a wonderful trip it must have been. The pictures are magnificent and, if your not offended, your a hot looking guy and that doesn’t hurt either.

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Mr Nat. Gardener, Plant Nerd
Tips and tales about gardening in one of the most mild climates in Canada. Specializing in rare and strange plants from far out destinations, this is the story of an obsessed young gardener in Victoria B.C. Let's create more tropical gardens in the garden city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.