The Cactus Patch
Volume 17       March 2014      Number 3

Monarchs and Elephants and Succulents, OH MY!
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 20th of January the Hargreaves Clan set off in two vehicles for the far distant shores of Pismo.  There we dined picnic style amidst vast numbers of monarch butterflies.  I had long known of monarchs at Monterey, but did not know until recently that they also gather at Pismo Beach.  The grove of trees was a disappointing bunch of foreign blue gums.  Most of the butterflies, however, were gathered on a cypress tree which is natural.  The blue gum leaves are being eaten by a tortoise beetle and seedling cypresses have been planted.

Next we traveled north to San Simeon hoping to see whales which had been reported.  Instead we were treated to a mass of elephant seals with pups.  January is the time they give birth. The mothers were constantly throwing sand over themselves (and the babies) to protect them from the strong sun. We ate at El Charito with its succulent garden still in bloom with humming birds hovering.

Proceeding south, Lora pulled her van into Cambria for gas.  Our car spotted zebra which Lora said she had not seen there so we told her to turn back and join us.  Just before she got there the last zebra left!  (It reminded me of James and Emily who toured all over Botswana with us and never saw zebra or giraffe.)

Back in Cambria we visited the Nitt Witt house which was built in 1928 from scrap material by a janitor. Then it was back down to Main Street for clam chowder at the Old Stone Station.  Although it claimed to have the best, it was disappointing.  On a cheerier note, the planters in front had beautiful blue-flowered Plectranthus (which smelled like a skunk) and the pocket garden next door had masses of crested Euphorbia lambii. (Unfortunately many were dead or dying.)  From there we returned to Bakersfield.

On the 5th of February I went to BC to hear Gerald Haslam speak on the book “The Grapes of Wrath”. He speaks as well as he writes and explained a lot of the misconceptions about the book.  It is not, he said, a history book, but rather a work of fiction in a historic setting.  He said that none of Steinbecks later books were as good.  I rather liked “The Sea of Cortez”, but that’s probably my biologic bias speaking. I found it interesting that most of the audience was my age.

Thursday we drove up to Fresno and heard Petra Crist speak on Baja.  She focused on three generations of her dogs to emphasize the time period of her visits.  I do wish she had included more names on her pictures, although most of them were boojums, elephant trees and dudleyas. Only her dogs were named on the pictures.

Friday instead of returning home we checked into the Doubletree courtesy of James and Emily.  We went to Red Lobster for dinner and celebrated Valentine’s Day a week early. That night we watched the opening of the winter Olympics.  I was not impressed.  Breakfast was included so we overate again the following morning.

We were back in Bakersfield for the meeting on the 11th.  Richard Shiell obviously knows a lot about bromeliads, but he doesn’t share his knowledge well.  Again, some names would have been useful.  He was downright insulting when he said that “airplants” was a stupid name since they are not all related.  For that matter succulents are not all related!  In this regard I’ll quote Madeleine Mitchell from the Fresno Club.  In the February newsletter she says “I was overwhelmed at the first meeting (1982) because the speaker used all Latin names for the plants… I believe Bruce Hargreaves was the speaker.”

On Valentine’s Day Polly and I went to Hooters for lunch even though we had celebrated the week before.  They had a two for one price special on wings. (I hope they weren’t owl wings.)

On the 15th I joined the BCSS for the trip to Cambria.  Nick was present at Grow Nursery and I bought a gorgeous piece of Madagascar polychrome jasper which has just been discovered recently.  We the had lunch at Linn’s Easy as Pie Café.  Next stop was the Cambria Shores Inn which is run by Nick’s parents.  It is heavily planted in succulents.

We then went to the Cambria Nursery and bought more plants, though their succulent selection was poor.  It was getting late, but we pushed on to Cayucas to see a magnificent succulent garden next to a public access path.  We met the owner and she says she has no trouble with vandalism.

On the 16th John, Polly and I went to Kernville for the Whiskey Flat Days celebration.  (Every year we said, “Oh, we should have gone.”) We started with the museum followed by frog jumping, fancy dress contests and a shootout on horseback at the saloon.  We had lunch at the Blue Bear Café and the returned to Bakersfield.


Petra with Rusty

Cayucos Garden


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