|Prickly Pear Cactus Nopal from Tenerife - Canary Islands|
Well first before I get to the Saguaro story, here is the progress of sorts on my wanting a potted Prickly Pear Cactus in my house here in Sweden. We collected it in February when my wife and I went to Tenerife again. Brought it home, let the wound callused over and planted it in a sandy potting soil. Then I waited.
Here's that parent Cactus plant
We had a lousy Spring which didn't truly come at all until early June. That's when I put the pot outside on the back porch. Even June was horrible as we had to have our heater on the whole month. Towards the end of June it did great as you can see in the above shot and progressed wonderfully until the slugs and snails took their toll on the little pad. Notice below as I took this photo today.
On a positive note in the background the Lavender & Strawberry plants are doing wonderfully. Although the giant brown imported Spanish Slugs did get most of the berries which were very few this year.
My other cactus collection which truly has never progressed beyond what you see here, but it decorates our Spanish Styled dining room table nicely.
On another Tenerife note: Here is a little type of an Agave looking plant that we saw a lot of in most of the Tenerife neighbourhoods. Some of the pups fell from the flower stalks and root nicely in potting soil. I had this in a bag back hidden away in a drawer until we came back from Dänemark and in late June or early July and I planted it. Maybe someone will officially recognize it for me. Interestingly many of the fringes of neighbourhood gardens had the large agave like leaves of these plants eaten off by some animal like maybe a deer, cow or perhaps goat, but not sure what animal. Only know that something out there finds them edible.
Okay so none of that has anything to do with a Saguaro growing on Rattlesnake Mountain in El Cajon California. Just wanted folks to see some failures as well as successes with my cactus growing experiences. Most readers will remember this Torrey Pine tree on the mountain but without me in the picture. I took a friend up there to see what I had only vaguely alluded to for decades. This is his photo.
This photograph was taken in June 2011 - First year after 30+ years the tree has developed pine cones. You may also remember the photos of San Diego Coastal Cholla which I rescued from development over in Santee near the Lakes area which is now a housing tract. Very few San Diego Coast Cholla stands remain intact. Some that may be seen are along some of the roads leading up into Sierra Mesa and Linda Vista on south facing slopes of Mission Valley. Update (2013): The tree at the upper left has been cut down by angry residents at the Sky Ranch Housing Development on Rattlesnake Mountain in Santee who were upset over the presence of the Torrey Pines and the imagined fire hazard which could result. They did this despite the fact that this is protected Conservation Area land with No Trespassing signs.
Colonies of this San Diego Coastal Cholla cactus with Coastal Cactus Wren nests no doubt led to the partitioning off of this area with Conservation Protected Area status before final approval of the housing development boundaries. Wish I had photographed the area when they first taped off. I was blown away by the sight of this protection status. What astonished me more was the presence of Cactus Wrens in the first place as I had never even seen them before as a kid.Below is what I didn't show you. My friend took this photo of me standing next to what use to be a large over six foot high Saguaro in early 1990, before some couldn't care less gun happy louts blew it away with either a shotgun or numerous rifle bullets. Either way it was blown to bits to the ground. You can still see the former outline of the previous girth at the base where to my surprise new growth came rocketing back with two arms to replace the single that was lost. This regrowth event happened around 1995. Notice the Rattle Snake Mountain Sky Ranch Housing Development in the background up on the ridge ? Both stems are tough and healthy. Amazingly this plant was never pampered and I established it the same way I did the Coastal Cholla which I'll explain below.
To give some perspective of just how big the size was on the original growth, here is a photo taken during the same time period last summer, but in Anza Borrego State Park. The Cactus here is not a Saguaro, but a rather a typical Desert Barrel Cactus which can grow quite large. Although I would have to imagine very very slowly. Now my height is about 6 foot 3 inches, so that will illustrate the length of this cactus photo as far as height and just how large the Saguaro on Rattlesnake Mountain was previously. I believe Saguaros are much faster growing as they acquire far more moisture by being located within the direct pathway of the entire Summer Monsoon season's airflow.
Opuntia (Cylindropuntia) prolifera
This photo is from a website called "The Cactus Jungle" which is being used here to offer a close up illustration of the jointed nature of this type of cactus. Like other Chollas it has joints which easily break off either to roll down a hill away from the parent or get itself caught on some animal or human only to be shaken off and rooting itself somewhere new to create another Cholla plant. The Cholla Cactus Community on Rattlesnake Mountain is well over an acre in diameter in it's spread from the originals.
What I did was collect numerous Cholla Arms or rather joints that had broken off and load them into a brown paper bag. The key to successful plant establishment is to disconnect yourself from that self taught nurturing gardener nursemaid thing you love to do so well which wants to baby everything and practically keep the yard on life-support. You'll be surprised how many plants actually don't necessarily need nor want this. Simple find a dry hot location on your property (you know, where the soil is rocky and shallow and nothing else will grow there ?) where you want to establish a permanent colony and dig a hold with a spoon only a couple inches deep. Then with tongs clasp the cactus joint and place it in the hole UPRIGHT (I hope I don't have to explain which end is upright. I'll be obvious) and proceed to push some soil back up against the cactus joint. Use the spoon for this, not your fingers.
Well for the moment that is it. I've been convention busy for a month and sick this past week.
Update: Nice article from Southwest Trees and Turf which was contributed by Juan Barba a consulting arborist in Tucson, AZ on transplanting "Dos & Don'ts" of Saguaro removal, transplanting and general health care there after.