The Cactus Patch
Volume 12       July 2009      Number 7

Easter at C.S.S.A.
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

The report on the trip to the Central Coast CSS was very good, but I’d just like to add a personal note. Polly and I returned via Highway 166 up the Cuyama Valley. There were beautiful chalky Dudleyas blooming on the cliffs as well as lots of blooming yuccas and prince’s plume. It was a great trip.

On 4th June we dove up to Fresno and heard Stephen Ingram at the CSS there. I had heard his talk on Cacti, Agaves and Yuccas at Huntington Gardens, but this time he showed it in fantastic colors – thanks to a computer error. Bright red flowers came out as fluorescent blue. (If someone could breed these they’d make a fortune!) Fortunately Polly’s sister Martha brought a friend who knew to reverse the connecting cord, so eventually the problem was solved.

On the 9th June we went to the Bakersfield Club potluck and watched hummingbirds on aloes and bees on cacti. We also ate too much.

On 13th June we retuned to Fresno for a production by the New Wrinkles called “Love & Marriage”. I never saw so many wedding gowns on such elderly people! This year also featured a heck of a lot of tap dancing. How do they keep it up? (Even when younger, I couldn’t have done it!)

Finally, on 14th June Anne returned from South Dakota.

But back to the convention in Arizona:

12 April was overcast and cool. We were reminded that it was Easter when we turned on the TV and watched the Crystal Cathedral over breakfast. They must have taken flowers from every florist in LA! We also found a packet of chocolates when we opened the front door. The Easter bunny found us even in Arizona.

At 9 we arrived at the CSSA Convention and checked out the books. They had altogether too many, but I spent my money on only one: The Ethnobotany of the Soqotra Archipelago by Anthony Miller & Miranda Morris (2004, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh). There is a preface by Stephen Blackmore, head of the garden, who was a colleague at the University of Malawi. The main body is an Encyclopaedia which covers all plants of Socotra, giving their taxonomy, ecology, distribution and uses. There is also a description of the islands, a key to the plants and some color photos; an amazing book. We then looked at the auction items. (A bit out of our range.) Outside we looked at sale plants (including Woody’s) and pots (including those of Mark Muradian of the Fresno club). Finally, there were fantastic display plants including a frankincense tree (Boswelia sacra). Unfortunately, two of the smaller plants were stolen right out of their pots later in the week.

At 10:15 John Lavranos spoke again, this time on the genus Adenium. Although it was said to be a taxonomic study, he came no closer than I did in defining species. (I had written that there are 1 to 14 depending on where lines are drawn.) He did have a lot of fantastic pictures.

We had an early lunch and then a talk by Alan Butler on the succulents of Arabia. I was delighted to finally meet him as I have long been corresponding with him in his role as editor of Asclepios (the milkweed journal). He covered a lot of other plants, but the milkweeds tended to predominate. I also felt that 196 pictures are a bit overwhelming. (He provided us with a numbered list.) There was supposed to be a talk on southern Africa at the same time, but Gideon Smith had visa problems and I didn’t have to choose.

At 12:45 Petr Pavelka took us on a tour of Madagascar (which I have seen in person) and at 1:45 Bruno Mies presented Socotra (which is top of my bucket list). At 2:45 Tom Van Devender showed us Sonora, Mexico (which is lower down on my list, but more practical). At 3:45 Alan Butler spoke again, this time on Sansevierias. This time he only showed 98 pictures, but it was not so interesting as many were just cultivars of the same species. At 4:45 Kelly Griffen gave an unscheduled talk on Agaves. This, too, was composed of too many variations on species, but at least they were wild plants.

At 5:30 the Fresno delegation got together for a portrait. Carol Clapp of Tucson (but by accent I would say Britain) not only took our picture, but two days later presented us with prints. We did not stay for the book signing or auction that evening, but we heard that the auction raised $12,500 for the research fund.

We had dinner back at our suite, watched This Week on BBC World News and then the movie “Australia” which we had rented.

On Monday we all went touring, but talks began again on Tuesday the 14th. Anne and Polly dropped me off at the conference (they were only registered for Sunday) and I had breakfast with Ernst van Jaarsveld (South Africa), Brian Kemble (San Francisco), John Trager (Huntington), James Laupin (Las Crusas) and Lee Bronson (Phoenix- an organizer of plant rescues).

Mark Dimmit began the talks with one on Adeniums. This time we were treated to a history of breeding and variations in these plants. Attila Kapitany was next with a talk on Australian Succulent Plants. Both his talk and his book are excellent, but leave out a few such as euphorbias. I told him I know they are there as I have been there and seen them. I was unable to buy the book (even if Polly would let me) because they ran out of copies. Fortunately the Fresno club bought one which I have borrowed. Ernst van Jaarsveld (an old acquaintance –we met at the Phoenix conference in 1987) took us on a rapid tour of South Africa, Namibia and Angola.

Polly and Anne picked me up late after lunch, but more of that later.

As a final note, the streets of Tucson abound in succulents. Most noticeable were the saguaros which surrounded the conference. Along the entry they were lit at night. The Hesperaloe parviflora plants had sprays of red flowers. Incidentally, I have a plant of Hesperaloe nocturna on Pryor St. in Bakersfield which started to put up a flower stalk just when we left for Tucson. It has bloomed through May and June, but the flowers are easy to miss as they open at night and are green!

Next month we’ll do a bit of touring with the CSSA.

Alan Butler

Fresno Club at the CSSA Convention

Ernst van Jaarsveld & Brian Kemble

Saquaros During the Day

Saquaros at Night

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