The Cactus Patch
January 2019

A Sparking Thanksgiving
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

It all started with my grandfather’s plant of Agave americana. When I was growing up in Stockton it bloomed and my grandfather took daily pictures of the fast growing flower stalk. They were published in the Stockton Record and I was impressed. When we moved I took a shoot with me. I still have plants from that original clone, in fact the one in the garden at our house in Bakersfield is the third “generation” here. (The previous two bloomed and died as Agaves do.)

I cleared out some of our lawn and began planting more species. I have about 50 now, but I’m not sure what some of them are, so I was thrilled to get the book Agaves of Continental North America by Howard Scott Gentry at the club Christmas auction this year. I was interested to learn that the first species named (by Linnaeus) was Agave americana! It was a bit discouraging to read, however, that “Bafflement among botanists in understanding the species in Agave continues to the present…” Part of the problem is that they reproduce by suckers, by bulblets on the flower stalk and by seed. Another problem is that a lot of them (like Agave americana) were described from plants cultivated in Europe. These do not resemble the wild ones! Finally, it is difficult to preserve a specimen of Agave, so there are few in herbarium collections.

Another example is Agave desmettiana. Jacobi originally described it as three species because of the variability. I have one which is in bud right now and I checked the leaves. On the same plant I find leaves with no teeth, teeth on half the length of the leaf and others with teeth the full length! But enough on Agaves.

On the 20th of November we went to Fresno and on the 21st continued on to Sparks, Nevada where our grand kids now live. There was just a flurry of snow at Donner Summit.

On Thanksgiving we gorged ourselves and watched the Macy’s parade. Next day we took a family picture, watched the kids play in piles of leaves and walked around the huge Legends shopping center next to where our son James and his family now live.

On Saturday we went to the Fleishman Planetarium at the University of Nevada in Reno with Matthew’s Cub Scout pack and watched a great show with animated Greek gods (though not quite up to Disney).

Outside, Polly was impressed with a sundial that could be adjusted for daylight saving time! We then had lunch at Archie’s which claims to have the best hamburgers in Nevada. (They were good, but I think Calif. has better ones.)

That evening we went back to Legends Shopping Mall and watched the Christmas tree lighting and fireworks.

Then we went inside Scheel’s sporting outfitters (it was good to get in out of the cold) and Polly and James took the kids on the giant indoor Ferris wheel there On Sunday we returned via 395 to avoid traffic, stopping at Katie’s Kitchen in Carson City for Breakfast and Nicely’s in Lee Vining for lunch. An exhausting trip..

On the 2nd of Dec. we saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the Edwards and then watched the lighting of a giant menorah for the start of Chanukah.

On the 6th of Dec we went to Fresno for the FCSS pot luck dinner. The silent auction was good (lots of old books), but the bids were too high for me. On the 9th we saw my sister Lora as the wicked stepmother in a Christmas(?) play of Cinderella at the Parkside Church. And on the 11th we were at the BCSS potluck. Too much Christmas already.

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