Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘cactus

Life and death in Saguaro National Park

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Behold a fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) in the eastern sector of Tucson’s Saguaro National Park as we saw it two years ago today:

Hardy as desert plants are, they all eventually meet their demise. Here’s what a barrel cactus look like then:

Oh, all right, it was Saguaro National Park, so I guess I’ll have to show you a saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea). This one had two particularly enfolding “arms”:

And here are the stately remains of a saguaro with upraised “arms”:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 8, 2018 at 4:49 AM

Cholla cactus near sundown

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How about this backlit cholla cactus in Tucson Mountain Park near sundown two years ago today?

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 7, 2018 at 5:01 AM

A red theme

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Wanderers through countryside with lots of prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri) know that the cactus often attracts certain bugs. This is one of those, Narnia femorata, on a tuna, or fruit of the prickly pear cactus, in the Zilker Nature Preserve seven years ago today. The bug is a nymph in one of its early instars, which are the developmental stages that the larva of an insect passes through. Click below if you’d like a closer look at the bug as it appeared in a different frame.

Although Texas in the summer of 2011 was suffering one of its worst droughts in decades, when I recently looked back at my archive for August 12th of that year I saw that I went photographing in four locations that day and ended up with hundreds of pictures, like this one along Scenic Drive of ripe snailseed fruit (Cocculus carolinus):

I also found from looking at my archive that I went out taking pictures on 19 of the 31 days in that torrid August of 2011. You could say that I lived up to the motto of the USPS (United States Photographic Service): “Neither heat nor drought nor sun nor sweat stays these intrepid image gatherers from the due documentation of their appointed rounds.”

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2018 at 4:49 AM

Cactus wren nest in cholla cactus

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On November 8th of 2016 in the eastern section of Tucson’s Saguaro National Park I saw what I take to be the nest of a cactus wren, Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus. The cactus is either a staghorn cholla, Cylindropuntia versicolor, or a buckhorn cholla, Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2017 at 4:56 AM

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Eight minutes later

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During my 2014 trip to Arizona I encountered two fasciated saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea). The 2016 trip led me to just one. I found it at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on November 7th, eight minutes after I’d photographed the copper ore you saw last time. Rising at the left are the branches of an ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2017 at 4:49 AM

Cottontop cactus

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When I got out of my car for the first time in California’s Joshua Tree National Park on November 5th last year and walked into the desert a short distance, I soon caught sight of this red cactus, the likes of which I’d never seen. Neil Frakes, Vegetation Branch Chief at the park, later identified it as Echinocactus polycephalus, known as the cottontop cactus. Even if there was no cotton at this stage, the red was rich reward enough.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2017 at 4:57 AM

Desert mistletoe

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The custom of kissing under mistletoe on Christmas, which some of you may have enjoyed yesterday, became popular in England in the 1700s and has spread to other English-speaking countries. While most Christmas traditions come from countries with cold winters, genera of mistletoe grow in warm climates, too. On our recent trip through the American Southwest, I was surprised at how common desert mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) is there and how conspicuous its hanging clusters of red fruits are in those dry surroundings. I saw this desert mistletoe in a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia spp.) at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on November 7th.

And from earlier that morning in Tucson Mountain Park, here’s a closer look at some dense desert mistletoe branches and fruit.

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2016 at 5:00 AM

Saguaro slant

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In today’s picture it’s not the saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) themselves that slant, but the land on which they grow in Tucson Mountain Park. After yesterday’s close-up of a giant saguaro, I felt you should have an overview showing a dense colony of these giant plants. Back on November 7th I thought this was a good way to begin my photo-taking day.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, you’ll find that point 18 in About My Techniques applies to this image.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2016 at 5:09 AM

Opportunistically epiphytic*

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The subjects of two recent successive posts—one from California and one from Texas—were epiphytes, organisms that grow on animate or inanimate objects for physical support but not for sustenance. Once in a while the seed of a plant that normally grows in the ground manages to take hold on something above the ground and survive, thus becoming an epiphyte. That was the case with the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.) that I saw on November 8th in the cleft of a giant saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) in the eastern section of Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona.

Given the huge size difference between the two types of cacti, you can’t see the prickly pear well in the photograph above, but you’re welcome to click the excerpt below to zoom in for a closer look.

prickly-pear-cactus-in-cleft-of-saguaro-2478-detail

* In spite of my hope that the phrase “opportunistically epiphytic” would be unique, an Internet search turned up one other example.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Small grasshopper on prickly pear cactus by ripening tuna

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Place: greenbelt along the upper reaches of Bull Creek.

Date: September 12.

Reminder: tuna is the Spanish (and now English) name for the fruit of the prickly pear cactus.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 30, 2016 at 5:14 AM

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