The Cactus Patch
Volume 15       February 2012      Number 02

A Fast Finish and Faster Beginning
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

We had a Christmas marathon beginning with a trip to Sacramento with Alice to meet with Karen who is convalescing. Then we had Christmas Eve supper at Anne’s. Polly served breakfast on Christmas Day and then we went next door to open presents at Anne’s. We ended with Dinner at Lora’s and now the doctor complains I’ve gained weight!

On the 26th we went to see Tin Tin in 3D. I liked the Belgian cartoon better (2D and flat characters like the books.) I especially like Captain Haddock – I knew a paleontologist from the Paris Museum of Natural History who looked just like him!

We watched the New Year in at Anne’s and then Anne and Lora (with family) went to Pasadena to watch the Rose Parade. Polly & I stayed in Bakersfield and watched proceedings on the TV. The most surprising part was the temperature – 82 in both places!

On the 5th we watched Mark Muradian’s tour of Peru in Fresno. It is great, although I would like more long shots and fewer close-ups. He flies us over the Nazca Lines and we took the train up to Machu Picchu. Be sure and be there when he shows it in Bakersfield. (Polly and I will be elsewhere then.)

The Fresno Club has begun a free magazine table -- a great way to get rid of unwanted ones and gain new ones. This time I picked up the Dec. Veld & Flora, the journal of the South African Botanical Society. Some of it may require a little translation. Veld, for instance, is Dutch for Field but it is used more in the sense of Field and Stream rather than cultivated fields.

I was fascinated by an article on the Karoo Garden. Did you know: 1) It is one of 5 internationally recognized succulent gardens, 2) 47% of all succulents occur in southern Africa, and 3) 20% of all plants found in South Africa are succulent? The Karoo Garden is now officially “The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden”, a name instigated by Ian Oliver. Ian was curator in the 1990s when I was head of the Botswana Garden. I had known him earlier when I was head of the Lesotho Garden and he was head of the Bloemfontein Garden. By sheer serendipity we happened to meet him at the Karoo Garden when he was hosting all the Garden Heads of South Africa. I joined in a most delightful tour which introduced me to five more garden heads. (There are now nine National Botanical Gardens in South Africa and, of course, most of the heads have moved on.)

The journal also has an article on the Mountain Pride Butterfly which is attracted to red flowers including the Red Crassula, Crassula coccinea. Another article tells of the Wild Potato, Plectranthus esculentus. I knew this tuberous mint in Malawi as the Livingstone Potato. I found it tasted a bit too minty. The name potato is further confused in an article on “Growing plant muthi in Limpopo”. (Muthi refers to medicine.) Among the plants mentioned is the African Potato, Hypoxis obtusa which is related to lilies and irises. It is said to enhance the immune system and hence is widely sold as a treatment for AIDS. (I argued at one conference that once the HIV has wiped out the immune response, you can’t enhance it!)

On the 10th we attended the joint meeting with the Audubon Society. I was jealous of Brigitte McDonald’s work. I don’t know of any succulent in the Antarctic, but it remains the one continent I have not visited. (And those baby penguins are darn cute.)

On the 14th Polly and I went to the open house at the Huntington. It’s always a pleasure to visit there (and purchase a few plants), but I was also curious to see how the garden was recovering from the recent windstorm. We did find a number of trees down as well as some of the succulents, but it wasn’t as bad as I imagined from the news reports. One interesting downed tree was Euphorbia ingens which was resting on a bush of Euphorbia tirucalli. Some, such as Aloe dichotoma, had merely had some branches trimmed.

We stopped by Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena and found that the author Elizabeth George was speaking nearby. We stayed for the talk (which also included Jefferson Parker, an author we didn’t know). Both authors live in Orange County, but Elizabeth writes about Britain and Jefferson writes about where he lives. I side with Elizabeth who says it is difficult to write about the familiar.

By the way, anyone driving to LA should allow time for the I-5, Highway 14 junction. It is under construction and delayed us going south. Coming north there was a longer delay due to an accident there. If anybody is going to the Aloe Garden in the Jurupa Hills (Riverside) at the end of the month, avoid LA.

Mark @ FCSS

Brigitte @ Penguin Talk

Polly & Fallen Euphorbia

Bruce & Aloe dichotoma

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