Sunday, January 10, 2010

Save the Garden

In our travels, we have learned about the visionaries, who can see the beauty and value to the community or the nation of a restored theater or hotel, a re-invigorated downtown, or the establishment of a national park, historic site, or, in this case, the Phoenix Desert Botanical garden.

Looking for like-minded residents who saw the need to conserve the desert environment, Swedish botanist Gustaf Starck, posted a sign, "Save the desert," with an arrow pointing to his home. In 1936, they formed the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society (ACNFS) to sponsor a botanical garden to encourage an understanding, appreciation and promotion of the uniqueness of the world’s deserts, particularly the Sonoran Desert.

Then Gertrude Webster joined the Society, offering her encouragement, connections and financial support to establish the botanical garden in Papago Park.

Nearly 1200 volunteers provide over 70,000 hours of their time, sharing their interests, talents, and professional expertise.

Nearly 370,000 people visit the Botantical Garden each year to see the nearly 50,000 plants on display, including the Red Torch Cactus (above) and the Green Desert Spoon (left)

The Senita--"old one" in Spanish--is so named because of the long bristly spines that look like gray hair. The spines help shade the plant and also break up the flow of wind, lessening the wind's drying effect.

This cactus, the Totem Pole Cactus, has become one of my favorites because of its unusual form. It is an aberrant form of the senita cactus; it has irregular bumpy stems instead of the regular pleated stems of the senita.

This is the Old Man of the Andes.

Called the Chain Fruit Cholla (CHOY-uh), it is this cactus' other name that I find more interesting: the Jumping Cholla. Its "jumping" quality is evident when the plant is touched ever so slightly; the stem with its barbed spines will detach from the plant so easily that it is as if it has jumped to whoever or whatever touched it. The stem eventually falls to the ground and may take root.

The many stems of the Candelilla (can-deh-LEE-ya) or Wax Plant are as thin as the thinnest candles. However, the plant is called candelilla because candles have been made from the wax that coats it stems.

By the time our all-too-short visit was over, we had developed an appreciation for the first of the Garden's core values:

Plants and people need each other--our destinies are woven together.