Friday, September 21, 2012

The Compass of the Desert

Sometimes in the heat of summer, a cactus will shine above the rest.  While most cacti bloom in spring, the Fishhook Barrel Cactus decides to bloom in the middle of monsoon and will make desert dwellers say, "OOoooooo!" Or "Dios Mío". Or "Mot$#^$#@@!" if they get stabbed because they got too close or weren't paying attention.  Now I would never say such things, but my friends have because they were walking a trail and didn't look where they were stepping.  In the desert, that's usually guaranteed to ignite an "F Bomb". In my classroom, that would be a "-5" and call home:)
Why "Fishhook"?  Look at the barbs on this beast.  In fact while snapping this pic up close, my camera strap got hooked.   This was taken at my school site and on my way to the car, I grabbed the camera and took a couple shots:)
A great choice for your desert garden here in Tucson, the Fishhook Barrel cactus should have some space around it and really never be watered unless there are large periods of time without rain.  It thrives here in the Sonoran desert and is extremely xeric, but do keep away from walkways as the spines do jab and draw blood.
This particular cactus thrives in FULL sun.  And hey, some of you may not know this but this plant is also known as the "compass of the desert".  In adulthood, fishhook barrel cacti generally leans southward, toward the sun, earning it the nickname "compass barrel cactus."  Now think about this plant in relation to the history of the desert and native peoples who lived here.  Pretty cool stuff.
The barbs are tough and strong.  It's a slow grower and the lifespan is around 50-100 years.  Inexperienced humans tend to shorten the lifespan by putting a drip line near the base.  Eventually it will grow so large that it will tip over to the side because of its sun preference.  And who digs this cactus besides the gardeners?  Well Mule Deer, Javelina, birds, and other critters enjoy the fruits from this plant.  And yes, you can eat these fruits by making delicious jelly and candy.  That's if the birds don't get to them first:)
And this grasshopper knew where to go and stay safe:) Plants are as cool as the critters that need them.  More from the garden and around Tucson tomorrow.....

27 comments:

  1. I always like running into these barrel cacti around town or on the trial. A few years ago a bird gifted me one which is now growing and blooming along the side of my house. Great pics

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  2. Fishhook is my favorite with the wonderful red curved spines and late flowers. I didn't know about the southern lean, but now that I think about it that's very noticeable in the larger cacti. I love the fruit.

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  3. Beautiful though they are i can imagine them being responsible for a few expletives.

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  4. Wow, the Fishhook is gorgeous. A very pretty bloom. Thanks for sharing the info, this would be a new plant for me. Have a great weekend!

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  5. Nice details we were passing by without too much attention I must say...

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  6. What a beautiful flower :) Don't like the look of those spines though! Love the grasshopper picture :)

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  7. How special that it blooms during the monsoon! I love how the grasshopper found itself a very safe place.

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  8. What a strange, dangerous, yet wonderful plant.

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  9. Lovely photo's and great colors.....i like this.

    Greetings, Joo

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  10. They do say that beautiful things can often be the most dangerous Chris and this Fishhook cactus is very beautiful, fascinating to see the buds opening at different intervals. The grasshopper has this 'minefield' of spikes worked out no worries!!

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  11. What a beautiful cactus, but the spines do look painful. I've been stabbed by cacti before, and it's a really unpleasant experience, to say the least. Because of our heavy tropical rains, cacti rot easily in Malaysia if you're not careful where you place them.

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  12. All cacti blooms are so beautiful. The fact that they bloom at all is amazing to me. The epitomize the desert...harsh, dangerous, but giving and beautiful.

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  13. Wow! It looks like an Olympic flame Chris :-)

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  14. Those are some beautiful blooms. They sure do look dangerous! I enjoyed reading the info about these plants; I always learn something on your blog:)

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  15. They are beautiful, what an unusual summer this has been. We had blooms on a couple of barrels last week too. Best avoided when hiking of course.

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  16. The most beautiful cactus i've ever seen!
    amazing orange flowers!
    Have a great weekend!

    xoxo, Juliana
    [pjhappies.blogspot.com]

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  17. It's neat how it leans over toward the sun. The coolest. Not those spikes though. I have some cacti in my garden (Opuntia)and love it but never go near it unless I have to. It bites too. Wow, could not imagine putting this in my garden but I bet in the desert it is beautiful. Ouch on stepping on it. Hopefully you got your camera strap out without picking up a spike or two!

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  18. Oh the flowers are so beautiful. I get so enmeshed with the Epiphyllum oxypetalum and now i am nursing an Epiphyllum hookeri which i found at the show with only about 3in. Now its growing nicely, ric-rac cactus i am told. I confess i find cactus beautiful, but they seldom flower here, because maybe i've seen only the smaller ones in garden shows. I don't plant them because of those nasty spines.

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  19. Love the cactus, they are superb and photogenic.

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  20. Me encantan como a Bob los cactus.. Pero son como algunas personas bellos por fuera pero cuidado que pinchan!!!... Un abrazo

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  21. It has lovely bright orange flowers,but those barbs look nasty.
    Interesting about the compass aspect of this cactus.
    Have a nice weekend.

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  22. I have one of these in my front yard and I didn't know anything about it except it was a barrel cactus. This is so interesting. I learned so much!

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  23. Thanks so much for the information you gave me on the saguaros when you commented on that post...I think it's wonderful that the crested ones are rare and special. The one I photographed is right on Ina Rd. in someone's yard. They are very lucky.

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  24. I love coming here. I get my daily dose of humilty in nature. An invisible grasshopper because there is a place to become invisible. Plants that protect themselves. BTW, I am fascinated with cactus. So many different ones.

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  25. The colorful blossom must be inviting to insects !

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