Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cacti at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

with 51 comments

Four years ago today we spent time at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. Above is a mature teddy bear cholla cactus, Cylindropuntia bigelovii; the second picture gives you a closer look at a younger one.

To top things off, below is a fasciated saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea.
You might say those cacti do everything in a big way.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “Take the rose—most people think it very beautiful: I don’t care for it at all. I prefer the cactus, for the simple reason that it has a more interesting personality. It has wonderfully adapted itself to its surroundings! It is the best illustration of the theory of evolution in plant life.” — Charles Proteus Steinmetz.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 7, 2020 at 4:41 AM

51 Responses

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  1. how unusual and pretty


    November 7, 2020 at 5:45 AM

    • We actually saw not one but two fasciated saguaros in Arizona on that trip.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 6:54 AM

      • Hi … will you check the article I published about Arizona ??? and let me know what do you think 😏😏😏


        November 21, 2020 at 6:10 PM

        • Ah, if only we could travel again I’d gladly visit many of the places in your compendium.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 21, 2020 at 6:19 PM

  2. That saguaro has a great sculptural look to it. The furrows look a bit like Irish fisherman’s sweaters

    Robert Parker

    November 7, 2020 at 6:15 AM

    • For me the recognition will go the other way: if I ever see an Irish fisherman’s sweater, it will no doubt remind me of a fasciated saguaro.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 6:57 AM

  3. Not the sort of teddy bear you would want to hug!


    November 7, 2020 at 6:17 AM

  4. The fasciated saguaro was quite a find! I agree with Robert’s thoughts on it. I’m not all that fond of cacti, but I do like your quote of the day. Adapting to any change is the path to survival and perhaps even flourishing.


    November 7, 2020 at 6:40 AM

    • In addition to this fasciated saguaro we saw another one on the same trip; who’d have expected that? Are you not fond of cacti at least in part because they spring up on your land all too easily?

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 7:03 AM

      • You guessed it! Ha ha! Some day I will take time to understand their value in my particular area and perhaps I’ll appreciate them more than I do now.


        November 7, 2020 at 8:37 AM

        • I figured that was most likely the reason. I’ve had my run-ins with prickly pears but I still enjoy photographing them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 7, 2020 at 8:39 AM

  5. Love this place. Used to ride my bicycle there from Tucson, over the mountains


    November 7, 2020 at 9:05 AM

    • We drove out there from downtown. What a scenic area. I’d gladly go back, and so, it seems, would you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 9:11 AM

  6. From the blue sky in the background, I understand that this is an outdoor museum, something I haven’t heard before. As my mother used to say when she encountered something new: Man wird so alt wie eine Kuh und lernt immer noch dazu. Haha!

    Peter Klopp

    November 7, 2020 at 9:15 AM

    • Ah, but a cow lives on average only 18–22 years. Wouldn’t it have been better to pick an animal with a longer life? But it would probably be harder to find a rhyme for elephant or tortoise in German.

      Much of this “museum” is outdoors, but there are interior sections, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 9:32 AM

      • Here is a two-liner using ‘elephant’ with rhyme and rhythm:
        Man wird so alt wie’n Elephant,
        Doch dieses ist mir unbekannt.

        Peter Klopp

        November 8, 2020 at 5:16 PM

  7. I remember the other photos you posted after your visit. I especially like this view of the saguaro because of the symmetry between the cloud streaks in the sky and the curves at the top of the fasciation.

    I never hear “Teddy Bear” without remembering the old jump rope rhyme. It certainly could be adapted for use with the cactus:

    “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
    Spines abound;
    Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
    Watch that ground!
    Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
    Touch my shoe?
    Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
    That will do.”


    November 7, 2020 at 9:17 AM

    • I agree with you that the clouds made a great backdrop for the fasciated saguaro. Sometimes we luck out.

      When it comes to jump rope rhymes, I’m afraid they’re completely outside my male purview. I looked up the standard version of “Teddy Bear” to see how you adapted it to cactus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 7:03 PM

  8. I love how the clouds appear to be radiating from the cacti fingers or arms in the top image and the last one…Oh my! It’s so artistic, interesting, and well, beautiful!


    November 7, 2020 at 9:20 AM

  9. That last cactus looks like a living sculpture! Nice shot, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    November 7, 2020 at 9:58 AM

    • I think you’ve hot on something: a saguaro is a living sculpture. The fasciation at the top of this one made it even more like a monument a person might have crafted.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 7:20 PM

  10. One of the many things I miss about living in southern Arizona is the periodic trips we used to take to Tucson and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I thought they did a great job of showcasing both animals and plant life in as natural a setting as possible, letting us get close to things we might not as easily be able to otherwise. As the songs say, thanks for the memories!

    Todd Henson

    November 7, 2020 at 1:39 PM

    • You’re welcome for the memories, which for me go back four years, and for you a lot longer, it seems. From our experience that day, it does seem the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum does a good job showcasing plants and animals in a rather natural setting. But for our visit, I’d never have known there’s such a thing as a chuckwalla, much less have seen one:


      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 7:25 PM

      • 🙂 I don’t specifically remember the chuckwalla but I do recall a number of interesting lizards and other reptiles. As a kid I loved seeing those.

        Todd Henson

        November 8, 2020 at 5:57 AM

  11. The teddy and the saguaro make a prickly pair of pretty portraits. I would so love to see a time-lapse sequence of a fasciated saguaro in its main growth phase.


    November 7, 2020 at 9:06 PM

    • Some might say that you and I also make a prickly pair (as opposed to a prickly pear). It might take a long time to make a time-lapse showing the growth of a fasciated saguaro.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2020 at 9:13 PM

      • I dare say it would, and how early does fasciation start to manifest itself in a plant like this?


        November 8, 2020 at 11:51 PM

        • I’m afraid I don’t know how fasciation unfolds (or more literally folds) in a saguaro. Even in the fasciated plants I’ve found close to home I’ve never witnessed the process, but rather have found fasciation a fait accompli.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 9, 2020 at 5:53 AM

  12. Familiar favorites from the times we’ve been in that area – and they’re so very well photographed! Thank you!


    November 11, 2020 at 6:38 PM

  13. I agree with Mr. Proteus Steinmetz. I at one time had a few fasciated cacti and always found them the most interesting of my collection. Perfection is overrated. The term I learned for those cacti was “monstrose” although I did not find them monstrous at all.

    Steve Gingold

    November 15, 2020 at 4:53 PM

    • One person’s monstrous is another person’s treasure. Did your cacti become fasciated after you bought them, or did you buy them because they were fasciated?

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2020 at 9:00 PM

      • Because. It’s been a while since I’ve gone cactus shopping but haven’t seen any in the local garden center. Maybe next time.

        Steve Gingold

        November 16, 2020 at 2:51 AM

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