The Cactus Patch
Volume 12       June 2009      Number 6

C.S.S.A. Opening
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On 26 April we took Anne to the “Concert that never was” which featured “Blue Eyes” & Barbra. This was a birthday present, even though Anne’s birthday is actually 6th May. The actors did a good job and brought back lots of memories. This was emphasized by the TV special on Streisand which aired the night before. On the 2nd of May we also had a nostalgic evening at “Brighton Beach Memoirs”, a play at BC. The actors had great Brooklyn accents. It reminded me of the time we did “Major Barbara” at BC and I had a tutor to learn Cockney.

Mother’s 92nd birthday was 29 April and we celebrated at Milt’s on the 26th. We celebrated Mother’s Day and Anne’s birthday at Red Lobster on the 10th of May.

On 7th May we went to Fresno for the CSS meeting where there was an illustrated report by three of the dozen members (including Anne, Polly & I) who were at the CSSA convention in Tucson. We learned of some of the events we missed such as the tissue culture course and local garden tour which were on the 10th of April. Next day, 8th May, Anne took the train back to Fresno and Polly & I helped set up the Fresno show and sale. We stopped in briefly on the 9th (to buy a couple of plants from the huge sales area) and then rushed to Bakersfield for the yard sale (which Anne had helped set up).

We then heard Joe Clements on desert hot spots at the BCSS meeting on the 12th -- great pictures. Incidentally, I looked up my previous CSSA convention pictures from 1987: Joe and I sat at the same table for the opening banquet.

On the 17th of May we took Anne to the bus to LA to catch a plane to see her son Daniel in South Dakota. The schedule on the web was wrong and the bus had left! We then drove to LAX. There were red penstemons in flower 1 mile south of Ft. Tejon, poppies south of Gorman, bushes of blue ceanothus at Pyramid Lake, yellow broom and white yuccas north of Castaic, orange monkey flowers just north of the LA City Limits, and dudleyas and prickly pears (not in bloom) north of the Getty Museum. All this and we got Anne to the plane on time. Polly and I had to return to Bakersfield. I still haven’t been to the Dakotas.

But back to the CSSA Convention:

We left Indio early on the 11th of April and drove past the Joshua Tree National Park area where there were beautiful ocotillos in bloom. We stopped at Denny’s in Blythe and then crossed the Colorado into Arizona. This was the first time Polly & I had been out of California since we returned to Bakersfield in 2007. We had, of course, been to Arizona a number of times in the past. (In 1987, I went to the CSSA Convention in Phoenix.) Immediately across the border there were saguaros, desert poppies and purple borage flowers. At a rest stop there was a small daisy bush related to tidy tips. We had lunch at Subway in Buckeye and turned south on highway 85 to bypass the Phoenix area. Some of the road is under construction but the delay was not bad. I was interested to see the care they took with saguaros which had wooden frames to hold them up. At Gila Bend we turned east on I-8 which took us right through Sonora Desert National Monument with its large saguaro population. We saw some enigmatic birds which had long tails and curved beaks! (I looked up Arizona birds and found there is a Crissal Thrasher which fits. Anne will report on birds later.) At Casa Grande we rejoined I-10 and got to Tucson at three just as it rained! I was dropped off at the convention and Polly & Anne went on to check us into World Mark in Oro Valley to the north of Tucson.

As I checked into the conference I was offered a free copy of the 1975 supplement to the CSSA Journal. This contains my first succulent publication (on Chitipa, Malawi) and here they were giving them away! There had been an official opening in the morning and lots of talks on the Sonoran Desert and agaves & yuccas. (Many of the talks were held at the same time as another talk to fit them all in. I hope this is not repeated.) At any rate, I was in time to hear a talk on the sex life of columnar cacti of the Sonoran Desert by Ted Fleming of the University of Arizona at Tucson. It seems these cacti avoid competing by blooming at different times. The most unusual is the senita which is pollinated by a moth in the same manner as yuccas with their moths. (I entered a science fair exhibit on yuccas and yucca moths while at BHS and got an honorable mention. Not bad considering I skipped high school biology.)

David Yetman of the SW Center of the Univ. of Arizona then showed a film on the making of Tequila. This was followed by a special Tequila event. We had to compare five flavors. Polly and Anne arrived just in time for this. This was followed by a magnificent opening banquet. Anne sat next to Brad Neugebauer from Anchorage, Alaska. There are few succulents there, but Anne discussed the spiny Devil’s Club with him. (I had to look this up. It is a shrub in the ivy family.) After dinner John Lavranos gave a rambling talk on his 50 years collecting succulents. (I now know what the accent is. He went to South Africa from his native Greece and learned English there.) He had depressing slides on which he commented, “Everyone here is with the angels”. There was an amusing slide of Jerry Barad with his pants stripped off to carry aloes. I was glad to see he was in the audience and not “with the angels”.

The next day was a long one with many talks. I will cover that next month.

The CSSA Banquet


John Lavranos

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