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Cacti from Arizona: Then & now

Guest blogger Katie, along with commentary from Mary on cactus #4, #10, and #11, share updates on their beloved Arizonian souvenirs in Week 4 of Day in the Life: Katie Shelters At Home series.

The theme of this trip was living on the edge

In fall 2018, Mary, Lauren, and I traveled to Arizona to celebrate Lauren’s birthday. Highlights for Lauren were seeing the Grand Canyon and getting her first spa massage in Sedona. Highlights for Mary and I were visiting a cactus farm.

One of the many greenhouses at the nursery with rows upon rows of cacti

Not wanting to miss the opportunity while in the Arizona desert, we stopped by The Old West Cactus Farm north of Phoenix on the way to the airport. It truly was a wonderful place full of cacti of all shapes and sizes. We immediately fell in love with the baby cacti.

Here’s our cacti haul – not yet thinking about how we were going to get these suckers home:

The numbers refer to the cacti updates in this post

Thanks to Lauren, she was able to find a box actually made for cacti at a random airport gift shop while Mary and I got stopped by TSA for a reason I won’t get into. We transferred them from our makeshift packaging consisting of a paper plate and plastic bag and headed back home to California.

The rest of this blog post details which of our beloved cacti have survived until today, and which ones have sadly faltered. Note: I do not really know the true scientific names for most of these cacti but have tried my best to identify them.

1. Name unknown

I really love this simple cactus. It has grown a couple of inches!

2. Opuntia microdasys (bunny ear cactus)

We always referred to it as the “hand” cactus. Overall, this one seems to be doing okay, but isn’t growing as much as the other similar one (see 11). Also, the little fuzz on this cactus is superrrr annoying if it touches your skin.

3. Name unknown

No longer exists. Likely cause of death: too much sun.

4. Name unknown

Mary: I thought this was dead for the longest time (and almost threw it out) but it doubled in height recently. I’m cheering this one on to get even taller.

5. Name unknown

Pretty proud of this guy. For a long time, the tips were brownish and limp and I thought it wouldn’t survive. But with less frequent watering it has really started to flourish, with many new little buds growing.

6. Lapidaria margaretae

This isn’t a cactus but I LOVED this little lapidaria (or is it a lithop / living stone?). This was the first time I saw this type of succulent (they look like little Pac Mans to me) and apparently they are pretty rare. After initially starting to shrivel, this baby really started to grow and even open up. However, a couple months after this photo was taken in May 2019, I accidentally knocked it off the window sill. Unfortunately, it could not recover.

7. Lapidaria margaretae #2

The counterpart to 6, except 3 for the price of 1! This one sadly wilted away shortly after we got it (you can already tell from this photo).

Mary: apparently you’re supposedly to rarely water them. Instead, we gave them weekly baths.

8, 9, and 12. Name unknown

The little balls. We’re not sure why we got so many because they’re not even that cute. Two have already died and the remaining one never looked so hot.

10. Name unknown

Mary: I’m wondering if this one is dead.

11. Opuntia microdasys (bunny ear cactus)

Mary: Of my remaining cacti, this one’s my favorite. It’s donning these pretty marble rocks I borrowed from New Zealand. Katie says the new fingers that it grew can be cut & propagated but I don’t dare touch this healthy baby.

Bonus cactus: Mammillaria melanocentra

I went back to the same cactus farm on a work trip in October 2019 and picked up this larger mammillaria melanocentra. It has recently started to flower and is so pretty.

Cacti make great souvenirs (‘cause they should hopefully live a long time)! These cacti certainly remind me and Mary (if I can speak for her) of the amazing trip to Arizona. The vast deserts (with the huge saguaros) and the other diverse landscapes (rivers, canyons, red rocks, volcanoes, etc.) were truly unforgettable.

Also highly recommend Wupatki National Monument, known for its ancient pueblos that are easily accessible and fun to explore.

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