What Are U Doing New Year's Day (or any other holiday)?

Dear Cactus and Succulent enthusiast,

Are you new to the "Valley?" or  Do you and your family and friends have a void of "tradition" during the holiday season?  Does this sound familiar?  Read this little item and start something that brings joy to your life!

We live in the unique "Four Corners" area of the US.  Moreover, we Las Vegas people live smack dab in a Mojave valley surrounded by "higher desert"  ranges.  We're a stone's throw from what's living in CA, UT, AZ, and even ID!  From a desert plant diversity perspective, it's just a hoot to some native C&S lovers. 

I'm suggesting that people think and act on a tradition that's been alive for years, but maybe not in your heart.  I'm going to quote from an article that appeared in the CSSA November/December, 1989, issue of the CACTUS AND SUCCULENT JOURNAL Volume 61, No. 6.  It's an article written by Carol Wujcik.  Many of us may know both Carol and Joe . . . certainly hundreds of C&S enthusiasts know Wujcik pottery.  Try this tradition.  Fill your lungs with clean air.  Fill your eyes with Mother Nature!  I begin the quote (in italics), with permission:

"Some people go to Grandma's house for the holidays . . . some people go to the desert . .


Visiting our local deserts in Southern California has become a holiday tradition for my husband and me.  A daytrip to visit spiny desert dwelling friends in their awesome homes of tumbled, sculpted boulders is soul-satisfying and fun.

Christmas in America is composed of many things - family and friends; presents; exhaustion; long, cold nights; firesides and song; garish displays; togetherness and smiles; and for some, profound religious joy.  The holiday season for me usually includes all these things, but ever since my first desert experiences at Anza Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Monument, Christmas and often New Year's day as well means the crunch underfoot of decomposed granite, cold winds, mittens and scarves and coats, towering rocks and winter meadows of Joshua trees, fuzzy-topped Echinocactus polycephalus, sun on the golden Opuntia chlorotica, and the warm gold and ultraviolet light of a late afternoon sun on the white/lavender flocks of Opuntia erinacea ursina.  The beauty of the holidays has become the desert for me.  Christmas, especially, is Joshua Tree National Monument - a place inviting spontaneity and poetry - a place many call "sacred."

For our Christmas '88 celebration, good friends joined our annual visit to plant friends in Joshua Tree.  The weather was cold and clear.  As we drove up into the high desert, Morongo Valley on State Route 62 was a basin of winter white.  Snow and frost sparkled on Joshua trees and Opuntia.  Every leaf and branch was outlined in ice, and the several Saguaros outside the cactus nursery beside the road were bejeweled.  Even the lowly Opuntia erinacea ursina were luminous.  Thinking we would have a chance later for photos of ice or snow-covered plants, we continued out of the enchanting little basin into clear, cold sun.  Cool but no ice or snow.  Our memories will serve as a remembrance."

The article continues complete with a desert poem written by Carol that points out the paradox of the very dry desert marked with washes and dry basins that have been carved by water . . . yet none is to be seen.  She laments that it is too cold and windy for the family to put up with decorating a Joshua Tree and certainly doesn't stand still long enough to sing a modified rendition of, "Oh Joshua Tree! Oh Joshua Tree!"  They visit their favorite plants to check on their well being and say hello to new little beings that might have surfaced.  The article closes with their list of visited plants.  When I recently visited the desert, I was happy to see most of the plants listed.  Take the checklist below, and see how many you can find! 

Happy desert holidays, Susan Kent

Opuntia basilaris (Beaver tail Cactus)
  • Opuntia erinacea var. ursina (Grizzly Bear Cactus)
  • Opuntia chlorotica (Pancake Cactus with yellow-gold spines)
    Opuntia phaeacantha var. major ("Prickly pear" type???)
    Opuntia snalyyi var. parishii (Devil or Dead Cactus)
    Opuntia ramosissima (Pencil Cholla)
  • Opuntia bigelovii (Jumping Choola or Teddy Bear Cholla)
  • Opuntia echinocarpa (Silver and Golden Cholla)
    Opuntia acanthocarpa (Buckhorn Cholla)
    Ferocactus acanthodes (Fire Barrel Cactus)
    Echinocactus polycephalus (Cottontop Cactus)
    Echinocereus triglochidiatus (Mojave Mound Cactus; Claret Cup)
    Echinocereus engelmannii (Hedgehog Cactus)
    Coryphanta vivipara var alversonii (Foxtail Cactus)
    Mammillaria tetrancistra
    Dudley sp (saxosa?)
    Yucca brevifolia (Joshua Tree)
    Yucca schidigera (Mojave Yucca)
    Fouquieria splendens (Ocotillo)



    Favorite Plants from Former CSSA November/December Publications

    Check this out!  Here's a short writing about the cover plates of a few back issues of the CSSA Journal.

    • 1967 - Cochemiea poselgeri - synonym Mammillaria poselgeri.  This is a clumping cactus composed of stems about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, but each can be lengthy.  The red flower occurs at the tip of the stems.  It grows in USDA zones 9b - 11.  It must be covered in the event of frost, and in Las Vegas should be placed in a warm corner with other plants that might help increase the humidity creating a litttle microclimate.  The yearly average minimum temperature should be around 55 degrees F.  (Sounds like it would thrive in San Diego!)  Check out this link.  Another link that's one of my favorites (desert tropicals) lists the plant with good info, too.
    • 1968 - Coryphantha vivipara  (Escobaria).  Many of us have this gem, or a close relative, in our collections.  The plant is very hardy here, but because it is small, I like to protect it from foot traffic.  As a result, it's usually in a pot under the edge of a shrub or near a small boulder.  This photo comes to us with permission from:  Gary A. Monroe @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.
    • 1984 - Zygocactus (Schlumbergera) A "Christmas Cactus!"  And depending on the bloom time, it is also sometimes called a "Thanksgiving Cactus" or an "Easter Cactus."    This is not really a cactus, but rather an epiphyte. The care is quite different from that of cactus, and more like the care of an orchid.   Unless over watered or left to sun burn or freeze, these plants are long lived and often passed along from one household to another.  To encourage bloomng, the plant enjoys a bit cooler weather beginning in September or October.  It also needs to have reduced light during the same period of time and NO LIGHT at night.  Fight the temptation to water frequently during this period as well.  You will be rewarded with many lovely flowers.  The colors range from white, slightly orchid, salmon, pink, and red.  They can be obtained from almost any floral shop or garden nursery or even grocery store!  If you want winter blooms, pick them up and start a little collection.  Life is not always about cactus!
    • 2007 - Arrojadoa eriocaulis.  This is not one that I've seen around, but surely one of our vendor/members either has it or can get it!  There are two photos included to show the unique form of the plant.  Humminbirds pollinate the flowers which are formed from a cephalium.  With the number of hummingbirds that frequent my gasteria, haworthia, and aloes, I'm sure the natural relationship would form with this plant as well.  The plant is a native of Brazil and should be a fun addition to our protected "bench" collections.
    • 1989 - The final plant selection is a monumental favorite.  Alas, due to copyright issues, the actual cover cannot be printed here at this time.  It brings me joy every time I see it.  If you read the following paragraph, just imagine: a cute white puppy dog wearing a smile and bright red Santa hat, sitting in the desert next to a great big Saguaro decorated in holiday wreaths, you'll grin and understand.  I will quote exactly from the journal:  "COVER PLATE:  We are pleased and honored to be able to present as our cover this marvelous Christmas greeting to the "CSSA members and friends" from "Spike", the desert dwelling cousin of Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, and Charles Schulz, the artist and creator of Peanuts, one of the most popular comic strips of all times.  We had teasingly remarked that for all the fun he had poked at cactus & succulent societies with Spike attending cactus society meetings in the desert in companionship with the resident saguaros, Charles Schulz in pennance should contribute a cover to the Journal.  Our firend, David L. Eppele of Arizona Cactus & Succulent Research Inc., Bisbee, Arizona, said that the artist was a very kind and generous person with a real love for the desert and that he was sure that he would, indeed, be happy to contribute a cover to our magazine, and through the intercession of Mr. Eppele we are able to present this charming Christmas greeting to you all.  Dave tells us that "Sparky" Schulz moved from his native Minnesota to Needles, California when he was 7, hence his real feeing for the desert comes quite naturally and from firsthand experience.  We are proud and deeply grateful and in turn send our best wishes and those of the CSSA to Spike, his saguaro companions and to Mr. Schulz and the entire Peanuts gang!"  

    So, if you can get your hands on the issue (maybe in your bookcase), have a look and enjoy, or call me!  I don't know if our CSSSN library houses old issues, perhaps it is there.  If you can remember how Snoopy dances around,  that's EXACTLY HOW I FEEL when I'm in the desert - - - I'm happy all over when I'm out there!

    Susan Kent