Thursday, March 24, 2016

Eagle Claws and Twisted Ribs

Eagle's Claw Cactus (Echinocactus horizonthalonius) also less romantically known as Devil's Head Cactus in twin bloom and many times also blooms with three flowers at a time.  Some how these plants have an internal clock that if you had 100 of these cactus planted in different locations roughly 90% of them would bloom on the very same day.

This cactus can be found every 30 feet in some parts of the .Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Certainly one of the most striking color combinations.  Some of the Eagle Claw Cacti found in Big Bend are rumored to be 100 years old based on the incredibly slow growth rate.  I would estimate the cactus in this picture maybe a old as 20 years.

Twisted Rib Cactus (Thelocactus setispinus) in habitat close to Lake LBJ.  Variety is most likely 'hamatus' given that it has long hooked spines.  Some of these can grow quite large, I remember seeing one at Enchanted Rock that was over 18 inches tall.

These cactus were growing in full sun on a small novaculite dome in an open field.  These fields had just begun to be mowed by the city of Horseshoe Bay.  I found several cactus that had been cut in half or uprooted by the mowing blades.  Just a few years later any remaining cactus with a height over a few inches had been extirpated.

Mammillaria heyderi (nipple cactus) in a protected location.  Apparently these small semi-dome cactus can have yellow flowers but the only ones I have ever seen are cream colored.  The fruits are sweet as strawberries and come in two colors that I have observed brick red or magenta purple.

Another Mammillaria this one missing its' top most likely due to mowing blade.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dasyacanthus and the Rattlesnake

Texas Rainbow Cactus
Texas Rainbow Cactus (Echinocereus Dasyacanthus) purchased in Alpine,TX at the One Way Nursery (now apparently out of business).

I believe the common name "Rainbow" is derived by the multicolor rings on the stem of the cactus.  The colors may have something to do with the variable growing conditions from year to year.  This particular cactus does not have much color variation but I have seen many that do (see pictures in more recent postings).

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
A not so friendly visitor to my back yard oasis.  I found this Western Diamondback Rattlesnake engaged in a pitched battle with our resident Rock Squirrels.  Rock Squirrels are the natural nemesis of the Rattlesnake apparently sort of like a Texas version of the mongoose.  Who knew these pesky plant destroyers had a good side.  (Rock Squirrels are fond of tasting each new plant in my garden, often by digging them up and taking a bite out of the roots).

Texas Lace Cactus
Here is an early attempt at a dish garden. 

Cactus Dish Garden
The garden did well for a while but then was over run with Red Spider Mites and possibly something that ate at the roots of the cactus.  I noticed that nothing seemed to be growing and then one day several of the Coryphantha became cactus shells almost over night.  Once a cactus begins to decline and loses its ability to retain water often it can become a shell almost overnight.  In Big Bend we saw several large cacti that evaporated leaving only the interlocked spines holding its original shape creating an "invisible cactus" effect.