The Cactus Patch
Volume 17       September 2014      Number 9

Old Friends
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

The Bakersfield cactus was once a separate species Opuntia treleasei.  It was then decided that it was just a variety of the beaver tail and was renamed Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei.  In the recent issue (July-Aug 2014) of the Cactus and Succulent Journal (US), it has once more been returned to its status as a separate species.  In an article on “Diploid Opuntia hybrids from northwester Arizona”, Marc Beckstrom, A. Dean Stock, Chris Ginkel and Nancy Hussey have decided that the Bakersfield cactus was originally a hybrid  between Opuntia basilaris and Opuntia erinacea, the grizzly bear cactus.  Although grizzlys (both bear and cactus) have long been extinct in Kern County, they surmise they were once here.  They base their case on hybrids found at Mormon Mesa, Clark Co., Nevada where both beaver tails and grizzlys still co-exist.

Another old friend I found in the news recently is Dr. Gerald Barad.  He is being honored at the 18th Eastern Cactus and Succulent Conference in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania from 12 to 14 Oct.  I wish I had a ticket to fly out to see him honored.  We met the Barads in the early 70s when I was a graduate student at New York University and we were active in the N.Y.C.S.S.  We met them recently at the National Convention in Tucson and more recently when he and I were both speakers at the Huntington Gardens Succulent Symposium.

The ride “It’s a Small, Small World” at Disneyland is celebrating fifty years.  Polly and I met this ride at the Worlds’ Fair in New York on our way to Peace Corps training.  Very appropriate.

On 7 Aug we heard a talk by the FCSS treasurer, Robert Scott.  He spoke on cultivation Basics and his talk was indeed very basic.  It would have been better as a workshop. 

We also went to Robby’s Nursery for the BCSS meeting on the 12th.  It was much more interesting, but an outdoor meeting in August is guaranteed to be HOT! I think a word of explanation is due on the so-called Lady’s Slipper Plant.  This is, of course, not the orchid of that name!  It is Euphorbia macrocarpa (formerly in the genus Pedilanthus) and it does, indeed have a slipper-shaped flower.  They grow in Baja where I have seen them in the wild.

I was sorry to hear of Robin Williams death.  He was a great actor.  Although I did not like Mork and Mindy as a show, I did admire the sartorial splendor of Mork. (I still have a pair of suspenders in his style.) I especially liked “Good Morning Vietnam”.  There are a number of reasons I find his suicide upsetting, not the least of which was the much earlier suicide of my cousin while he was a student at Berkely.  His was a third generation suicide and was probably due to hereditary depression.  He and his sister lived with us after his mother died.  When I was a graduate student at UCNC we socialized with his sister who was at nearby Duke University.  She watched our baby John and wondered if it would be wise to have a baby.  I told her environment was probably more important than hereditary and she went on to have a child.  But this was before her brother’s death! 

We might even be related to Robin Williams since my great grandmother was a Williams.  It is said that Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and the Baptist Church in America was an ancestor. (Although I have run across a note stating that we are probably descended from his brother Robert.)  On the other side of the family, my maternal grandfather had Parkinson’s disease, although he did not die young, nor was he suicidal.

Robert Scott

BCSS @ Robby's Nursery

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