Plants via travel
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.
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.
While playing tourist in Los Angeles this summer we managed to take a quick visit to the California Cactus Center. I know it seems a bit strange, nursery hopping this far away from home, but I couldn’t resist. The Cactus Center is well known for their exceptional quality and obscure variety. There were so many interesting specimens, I don’t know where to start . Old growth rarities from all over the globe, beautifully staged, it’s truly a living art museum. It’s a good thing I don’t live here or I might have drained my bank account, fortunately discretion was must. For all my fellow cactophiles, don’t miss this stop if you find yourself in L.A. A short drive from The Huntington Botanical Gardens.
California Cactus Center
Address: 216 South Rosemead Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91107, United States
Phone: +1 626-795-2788
Hours: 10:00 am–4:30 pm
A rather lovely specimen of Deuterocohnia sp. You might have not guessed it but this plant is actually a member of bromeliad family. In time they form these incredible cushions of spiky foliage. Remarkably prickly, this one is beautifully staged in a bonsai pot.
What is it about strange euphorbias that are so appealing to me. Perhaps the obscure nature in which they grow? This Euphorbia abdelkuri is only found on one island in Yemen. Not often found in collections, with good reason, this plant has been on my wishlist for some time now. It looks like a pillar of rock, so strange!
Last but not least this TRE INCREDIBLE Euphorbia obesa cristate. This is beyond amazing, it’s colors, curves and form a true testament to the wonders of mother nature. Beautifully staged and definitely old growth. Well done Cactus Center…
The days are getting shorter, the weather wetter and like it or not, winter – IS – coming. Nothing makes you miss a summer vacation to a hot cactus wonderland like a couple weeks of good old fashioned British Columbia rain and gray. Let’s take a moment to forget the wet boots and mud puddles and reminisce of warmer days.
Add this one to your bucket list if you have a fascination in exotic plants, The Huntington Botanical Gardens is truly a national landmark. Famous for it’s large amassment of established rare flora, the garden has one of the finest collections of outdoor cacti in the world. Beyond succulents, the property also has many other incredible plant collections organized into over a dozen specialized gardens. Wander through a lush bamboo forest into a dry Australian prairie, up through a Camellia forest and across a bridge to the Japanese Gardens. Whether you’d like to visit a cloud forest in a glasshouse, indoor bog or art museum, anyone with good taste will find satisfaction in a trip to this awe inspiring location.
To start off I’ll share some of the photos I took in the succulent gardens. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my entire life.
Upon entering you’re greeted by agaves and aloe trees.
Large Agave attenuata in a sea of Aeoniums
In Canada we grow our aloes in terracotta pots, here they grow as big as trees.
This euphorbia was well over 15 feet tall.
A large Pachypodium (madagascar palm) in flower.
While my Cyphostemma juttae grows painfully slow, this one looks better than ever. I love fat plants.
Speaking of fat plants, Tylecodon paniculatus.
More aloes that rival small trees.
A favorite of many caudiciform collectors, one of the largest Dioscorea elephantipes in cultivation.
A twisted labyrinth of cacti and succulents.
The geometric shapes of euphorbia never cease to amaze.
I was happy to have encountered this clump of Haworthia forming these incredible emerald hills.
It looks as though these notocactus leninghausii are looking at someone. Is it something I said?
I’ve never seen so many specimen worthy succulents all packed into on location. This shot reminds of me a Richard Scarry picture.
A rather charming clump of a personal favorite, Parodia magnifica.
Impressive clumps of Echinocereus grusonii were abundant throughout the garden.
Although not exactly rare in cultivation, the size of these clumps is certainly impressive.
Need I say more?
Mammillaria compressa looks good on it’s own.
..but looks better in mass.
This one looks well defended.
There were also abundant large specimen agave in all shapes and sizes.
Lovely spiky rosettes.
An oldgrowth Queen Victoria Agave.
Please note the large agave bloom spike center stage.
They just grow bigger down here.
Field of echeveria
A towering yucca tree in bloom under the hot Californian sun.
Knobby Cactus. (ID PLEASE)
Fresh from Mars, they’ve landed.
Speaking of knobby cacti check out this impressive Lophocereus schottii var. monstrose.
…And now for some flowers
Stapelia gigantea in bloom, mind the odor and take it from me, do not get down on your knees and take a big whiff. You might want to eject your lunch, they don’t call it a carrion flower for nothing.
Whew. Are you’re legs sore? Hearts warmed? Heat Stroked and Sun Burnt? No… Oh wait, we’re still in Canada aren’t we.
Theres no place like good old wet home.
Thanks for joining me on this tour, and thank you Huntington Gardens for preserving such an incredible destination. Stay tuned for more photos of other parts of the Huntington Gardens.
More obscurities from my adventure down south, a quick tour of the arid house at the botanical gardens of UC Berkeley. I know I know, I’ve gone a little cactus crazy as of late, but I can’t get over how bizarre these plants are.
Here in a separate greenhouse we some saw Berkeley’s ‘real’ succulent collection.
A quick tour of some of my favorites.
What a treasure trove of succulent rarities. From cacti to caudiciform there was a lot to take in.
Here we have an exceptionally old Euphorbia horrida. What a living fractal!
Euphorbia duranii Var. Ankaratrae
Aztekium ritteri. Known to be the slowest growing of all cacti, this gnarled relic is an old one for sure. Add this one to the wishlist if it wasn’t there already.
I just love oldgrowth ariocarpus, so cool
Kedrostis nana Var. Zeyheri
An exceptionally old & large leuchtenbergia principis. Known as a false agave this is by far my favorite plant in the cactus family. It’s quirky, a little bit worse for wear yet still fascinating.
Welwitschia mirabilis wins the strangest plant award. This strange plant only ever produces one set of leaves, in which it continues to grow for it’s entire lifetime (which can sometimes be well over 1000 years). To add to it’s obscurity, it’s cone bearing and grows in arid conditions in which no rain may fall for over a year. If you’ve never read about these incredible plants before, do take a moment to be amazed and check out this article on the Plants of Africa website.
Beyond the public area they had a huge collection behind locked doors, viewable only through chain-link. Well I was disappointed to not be able to take a closer look I could also understand them not wanting just anyone poking about.
Next stop, The Huntington Botanical Garden in L.A.
I love living in Victoria, but it does have it’s limitations. What’s a plant geek to do when he exhausts his local sources? Head down south of course!
We took the 101 all the way down to L.A and what a pleasure it was to ride on new roads, unexplored. The coastal highway through Washington, Oregon and California is absolutely to die for and one couldn’t hope for better scenery. For someone with a botanical eye you’ll find extra interest in the large variety of unusual plant habitats. Driving through coastal forests, into dunes and deserts, sandy hilltops and subtropical jungles, it’s a tough ride indeed. Still through the arduous journey of greasy spoons and motel box-springs, we carried on in search of some of the most famous botanical gardens the West Coast has to offer. To start off on a high-note I’ll begin with one of my favorites, UC Botanical Garden @ Berkeley.
Being exceptionally shortchanged on enthralling botanical gardens, a Canadian needs to head south if he’s seeking the exotic. I’ve read about the botanical gardens at Berkeley for some time now and I’m thrilled to have finally been able to visit them. San Francisco is a Zone 10, making it just a little bit easier to grow a subtropical garden. Wouldn’t you know it I saw all my favorites, and some new things too. This place must be the holy grail for growing strange and unusual plants, the city’s lowest recorded temperature is a mere -3C ( 26.6 F). Bingo!
Let’s take a look at some strange specimens shall we?
A large impressive Dudleya brittonii (Chalk Dudleya) greeted us at the entrance. San Marcos Growers has a great description right here.
Perhaps the people of the south are no longer impressed by giant opuntias, but this one had me shocked and amazed. This one was so old growth it had branches like an old tree. Needless to say it was bigger then the car that got me down here, it must have been quite old indeed.
Every this way and that I saw another impressive succulent display. Here we have a very large clump of Euphorbia coerulescens growing happy as can be outdoors. Sure makes you feel silly for nursing along a small cutting in a windowsill. I digress…
Oh? And then there were the agaves. So much larger then the ones we grow at home.
Thank you for joining me on this tour.